Review Summary: English Dogs' career-defining moment, but that isn't saying much.
To begin with, English dogs were no different to the likes of The Exploited or Suicidal Tendencies. They started from the very bottom as a band who depended on raw, visceral energy constructed around rushed albeit energetic riffs which were always based around punk-influenced structures. However, whereas English dogs' contemporaries went on to produce heavier, more aggressive content, the band itself had gone down the route formerly taken by Cirith Ungol and Manowar, basing the majority of their songs on epic myths and legends as opposed to the harshness of British life and politics.
Arguably the band's most successful album, Where legend began
is by no means perfect, yet it frequently comes across as an ambitious record which, unfortunately marred by various flaws, is generally well written. Although it seemed that the band had shaken off their crust punk beginnings prior to recording this album, the vocal style of Pete Wakefield was still very much rooted in English dogs' previous two records, Invasion of the porky men
, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Forward into battle
. His voice is unfortunately for the most part weak and rather hit and miss, largely affecting songs such as the average "The eye of Shamahn" and "Flashback". Even when the instrumentation is strong and consistent, as in both "Calm before the storm" and "Premonition", it is still very hard to ignore Wakefield's sub-par vocals, and you almost wish that the band had recruited a vocalist more fitting to this particular album's style.
Nonetheless, the musicianship on Where legend began
is powerful in most of the songs. "Calm before the storm" is introduced beautifully with melancholic guitar leads and an acoustic melody that soothes the listener before exploding into a speed metal style which strongly resembles Angel Witch and Cirith Ungol. The solo work which proves extremely fluent in both "A tomb of traveller's past" and "Middle earth" offers aural delights for a pure metalhead, and the heavier, more mid-paced likes of opener "Trauma" gives you a chance to nod your head in great appreciation. What is also strong on Where legend began
is the fact that many songs have a well-written structure, particularly epic closer "Epilogue" and the often enchanting "Middle earth", both of which easily eschew the well below average vocals in favour of consistent instrumentation. "Calm before the storm" is largely helped by this, as is the album's definite highlight "A tomb of traveller's past", yet you could be put off by the sudden transitions from punk-influenced speed metal to the harsher, heavier rhythms found in standard thrash metal.
All in all, English dogs were never quite a special band, and their most successful album Where legend began
proves that point. However, if you really do love relatively solid metal music from the 80s, then this could certainly be for you. This album therefore marks the band's career-defining point, even if it isn't particularly significant compared to the other countless metal bands formed in the 80s.