Chevy- The Taker (1980)

Exactly where do the roots of southern metal trace themselves back to?  Most people think of it as a phenomenon that really took off in the 1990s, but in a way it’s sort of been around since the 70s, perhaps even earlier.  Just listen to Cactus’s first album from 1970, and the country sounds and themes can be distinctively recognized.  By the late 70s, groups like Molly Hatchet had developed a blend of hard rock and southern rock to make a signature style.  Of course, most of these bands were not really metal by any modern definition, more of just hard rockers wearing a pair of cowboy boots.  But the idea is that heavy rock and country/western have a long history together that people are often completely unaware of, and Chevy’s 1980 debut entitled The Taker is an excellent example of what prototypical southern metal was like back in that time period.

Now, what makes Chevy much more of an anomaly compared to Molly Hatchet and their peers is that Chevy were not from the southernUnited States.  Actually, they weren’t even American.  Chevy were fromWarwickshire,England, and were associated with the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene.  There really was no other British band in the scene doing what Chevy were doing, and surprisingly, Chevy were doing what they did quite well.  The album’s eponymous opener immediately hooks the listener in with a sad, southern-style boogie riff that manages to elicit those country/western blues as their Martin Cure howls the tale of broken heart.  By the way, it should be mentioned that Cure has an incredible singing voice that manages to be emotional ad versatile, fluctuating naturally between wolfish barks and gentle cooing.

The other songs are more uplifting, especially “Turn on the Light” with its catchy, pop-style love chorus that’s just there to bring a smile to the face and keep things generally happy and fun.  “Skybird” is a beautifully written power ballad about observing a bird flying overhead and envying the freedom she enjoys, and like many well-written ballads transitions from an acoustic intro into the typical heavy chords that Cure tranquilly soars over, his voice like a peaceful sparrow.  The closer, “Rock On,” is by far the heaviest song offered here, beginning with the typical southern rock vibes that eventually build and explode into a crescendo, meaning the album goes out on a very metal ending.  It’s very apparent that Chevy were a group of hard rockers who thought about what they were doing on every song, and closing The Taker with their most metal moment really makes for an invigorating finale.

I would rate Chevy’s The Taker with a solid four-and-a-half stars because it really accomplishes everything it sets out to.  My only minor complain is there are a few songs here that stray a bit too far from heavy rock, so many metal fans including myself will find they need to be in just the right mood to enjoy them, since they are not typical of the genre.  However, they all still manage to be quite enjoyable for what they are, even if they are just southern rock songs to bob the head to.  Sometimes, that kind of music is a nice break from the typical NWOBHM stuff, which isn’t exactly known for being highly varied in the case of a vast majority of outfits.  Obviously, Chevy are for sure an exception to this rule.

-John Mahon III