Many moons ago, I made a list of the rarest hard rock, metal and AOR albums of our time. Some I have got, some not. Always at the top of the list was an album called 'Hard Attack' by Dust, an early 70s American band. Years have come and gone and to an extent I had forgotten about it. But while looking at some CDs at an obscure store recently, I found it. And now the story can finally be told.

During the early 70s it was not unusual for American bands to sound more advanced than their British counterparts. While Britain spawned the likes of Deep Purple, The Who, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Budgie and Led Zeppelin, the U.S. languished with talented, yet dated, sounding acts like Bang, Bloodrock, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad and Banchee. It seemed the British were leaving them behind, in terms of production values and heavier sounds.

Fitting in the middle of this were Dust. Their self-titled debut was released in 1971, a time when 'Who's Next' was changing the face of rock 'n' roll. But not to be outdone, the next year's 'Hard Attack' showed the Americans were catching up. It was just a matter of time. 'Hard Attack' is a tremendously varied album. It easily fits into the particular time space it was recorded in, 1972. But for an album nearly 30 years old it still sounds crisp and more importantly, relevant.

Opening song 'Pull Away/So Many Times' is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, in both melody and music. Dust were fond of using strings and acoustic guitar, giving it that Tull feel. This is far heavier than Tull though, Dust utilizing Marc Bell's explosive drumming to put it on another level. A far more imposing one than Tull could ever have achieved. Dust were capable of tearing it up on the same level as Purple, evidenced here and on 'Learning To Die', 'Suicide', 'Ivory' and 'All In All'.

The power trio, also comprised of vocalist/guitarist Richie Wise and bassist Kenny Aaronson, adapt to any style of rock, whether it be hard, soft, even folk. But when they let it go they come across as more sophisticated than Heep and as advanced as Purple for the time. It has the feeling of a live studio effort, noticably on meaty instrumental 'Ivory' a tour de force of instrumental mayhem from all concerned. This could easily be mistaken for a live Who jam, although nowhere as fulfilling. Hardly Dust's fault though. That is an impossible standard to match. Dust slow it down frequently to emphasize atmospherics. 'Thusly Spoken' is a track which uses a lush style favored by many bands of the time. It could pass for King Crimson, Black Widow or Wishbone Ash, think 'I Talk To The Wind', 'Come To The Sabbat' or 'Warrior', by each act respectively.

Hard to decipher lyrics fit with the dreamy music. For better or worse this has an intense 70s vibe. You can picture 1972 just listening to it. The folksy acoustics further get the point across. But then Dust take another tangent and go in a Southern rock direction on 'How Many Horses. The guitar solo sounds like embryonic Skynyrd before they were on vinyl, just over a year later.

Tragically Dust split after the release of this classic. For years it has been in held in high regard by hardcore rock buffs and rightfully so. Its power and execution show just how far American bands were progressing. Its cover art was also something of a first: perhaps-three axe wielding warriors at war on a mountain. Surely Molly Hatchet took their cue from this, as did dozens of Black Metal bands. As for the band members, Bell would later join The Ramones, while Aaronson had spells in Derringer and HSAS. Just how far Dust could have gone is anyone's guess. A year later Montrose hit the scene and things were never the same for U.S. metal. It had been changed for the better.

I went into 'Hard Attack' thinking it would be another dated affair of the time. I am glad I was wrong. It is influential in its music above all else. You could not find a more suitable album title. Dust helped shape rock and metal as we know it. While Montrose and Kiss made the world stand up and notice American metal, Dust did as well. It's just not many people know it.

From The Vaults: Ever heard of Axtion? I never had until one day I received a package from my brother that contained a copy of a tape of theirs, 'Look Out For The Night'. So appalled at owning this was my brother he offloaded it on me. In the time I have had it I have learned nothing about this band, even after deep research. But as for the band's music I know why my brother hated it.

It is faceless, predictable 80s rock/metal. Axtion were one of thousands of bands who never made it during the boom years of that decade. They recorded songs called, 'Road Runnin', 'Spread The Axxion', 'Fury Of The Tempest', 'Shoot For The Stars' and Stand Up (For What You Believe In)'. Get the picture? The production is horrific. It sounds more like 1976 than 1985 when it was recorded. And like other flops, Axtion can't decide what style they prefer. One moment it's Montrose, then UFO, or maybe a bit of Maiden thrown in to keep up with the times. And the cover Š Five guys (the band I presume) corner a helpless wench in an alleyway, anticipating a gang rape. At least that's what it looks like.

But for all its faults, it still amuses. How could anything this bad not? Its heart was in the right place. But nothing else was. An unfortunately titled song here is 'Your Number's Up'. When 'where are they now' candidates like Axtion title songs like that, they set themselves up. But I'll just let them be.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online January 24, 2001

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