Clientelle- Destination Unknown (1981)

Hard rock and heavy metal music was born in the late 1960s from three distinct genres that blended together to create something the world had never heard before.  According to most rock historians, those genres would be blues-rock, psychedelic/acid rock and garage rock.  Of course, everyone knows that the bluesy stylings of Cream and the psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix provided the foundation on which heavy rock was built, but garage rock has often been neglected to be celebrated as metal’s third parent.  This is probably since garage rock is more better remembered as the movement the spawned punk, and indeed punk takes more influence from this style, but one listen to the Kink’s “You Really Got Me” and it becomes evident that garage rock must be given credit for metal’s existence too.

Clientelle were one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Bands whose garage rock influence is very pronounced.  Their 1981 debut full-length, Destination Unknown, gives some perfect examples of this, and one of them would be “Can’t Forget.”  The simple, laid-back riff that repeats as the vocalist speaks with a forced, sarcastic tone uttered over is reminiscent of 60s garage rock groups like the Standells and the Small Faces.  By the early 80s, most metal bands had diverged well away from these influence, but Clientelle were the exception to the rule.

Some of their more overtly metal songs include “Nice Girl” and “Sky Flyer,” the latter which sounds almost Iron Maiden-esque in its riffing.  “Bike” is another metallic number that showcases what a riff-driven band Clientelle are, although songs like “Destination Unknown” and “Missing Presumed Dead” surprisingly rely on a mysterious atmosphere to keep the listen interesting.  The lead guitar is used to maximize this effect, not only playing the solos, but also well-crafted leads throughout these songs with each note bringing the current mood to life.

What can be said about this band, is that no matter what approach they take, they seems to always succeed in being captivating.  For this reason, Destination Unknown is an eclectic release that is fascinating as a near-forgotten piece.  This is why I have chosen to give this release a perfect five stars.  Unfortunately though, I should warn you that there are commercially available copies of this album that contain damaged recordings.  I own one myself.  I am fairly certain that there are copies of these songs available that are undamaged and true to their original form, but if you try to purchase this release you might wind up with songs that are full of clicks, scratchy noises and inconsistent volume levels.  I guess this is just the reality of being into independent garage metal bands from the 80s.  But of course, this irritation plays no role in my scoring of this album as a work of art.

-John Mahon III

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