BRONZ

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

STYLE: AOR
PhotobucketBronz began life in early 1980s in Bath, a rural British backwater that the band themselves dubbed “Wurzel Land”.

Granted, it was a favourite area for American tourists, but the place had absolutely no rock’n’roll pedigree save for an early club gig by Led Zeppelin. Co-founder and bassist Paul Webb, who also briefly worked with fellow west country rockers Lautrec, put his finger on the  problem when he said: “We quickly went through the best musicians that Bath had to offer -there were only about  three of them, and their hearts weren’t in it anyway”.

So Paul Webb and guitarist/keyboard player Chris Goulstone relocated to London, where they had already played well-recieved support slots with Magnum and Angel Witch. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was well underway, and eventually Bronz fine-tuned their line up to include second guitarist Shaun Kirkpatrick and new drummer Carl Matthews.

The band’s sound was quickly developing and a 1983 demo that featured “Send Down An Angel” began to find its way into the enthusiastic hands of A&R men. Eventually, although the label had turned them down twice before, Bronz inked a contract with Bronze Records, home to Uriah Heep, Motorhead, Girlschool, Hawkwind and Robin George. in fact, the deal with Bronze arrived in somewhat unsual circumstances. It was a typical night at famed watering hole the Funny Farm, Heep’s Mick Box had fallen down the club’s stairs – followed by a wad of 05 notes! – and being the youth opportunists that they were, Bronz demanded the DJ to play their demo tape on the club’s sound system. As luck would have it, a representative of Bronze was propping up the bar on that fateful night, and was sober enough to recommend them to label boss Gerry Bron the following morning. The company’s one stipulation was that a permanent, more dedicated vocalist should relieve Paul Webb of fronting the group.

Enter Max Bacon, who was lured away from Manchester band Nightwing and the alleged “ungliest man in rock”, bassistGordon Rowley. After making their live debut with Hawkwind, the new-look Bronz began breaking in their songs withthree well-attended gigs at London’s legendary Marquee Club in Wardour Street. “We were starry eyed”, recalls Chris Goulstone now. “Def Leppard were huge and we were to be marketed the same way, same production, haircuts and all!”

Despite the NWOBHM era exploting around them, Bronz opted to describe their own music as soft rock. “Everything depends on how you use the keyboards”, pointed out Webb in 1983. “We aim for classy synthesizers and strings. Plus we also balance the sound with plenty of heavy guitar”.

With the hugely impressive Bacon on board, the band’s sound had gelled by the time they hooked with AC/DC engineer Mark Dearnley to begin work on “Taken by Storm”. However, no less than four other producers are credited on the sleeve (Ritchie Cordell, Glen Kolotkin – both of whom had come from Joan Jett’s/Love Rock’n’Roll album –  Gerry Bron and Richard Bron), and the band later complained that there had been “too many cooks in the kitchen.” The album’s timing wasn’t perfect either, and it hit the racks on almost exactly the same day as Bon Jovi’s own import debut. No prizes for guessing which of those two bands the press were more interested in…
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Kerrang! magazine enthused about the album, commenting: “From slick, commercial pop/rock through to the roughest raunch’n’ roll, Bronz have all bases neatly covered. Appropriately titled, “Taken By Storm”, is one of those records that sacrifices none of its naive aggression in the search for that little bit extra, something above and beyond the basic heavy metal drive. All Bronz require is the ability to cut it live, then they’ll have made it –  but for now revel in the delights of a very fine debut”.

Nevertheless, despite the irrefutable quality of songs like “Send Down an Angel”, “The Cold Truth”, “Harder Than Diamond” and their version of the New England classic “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya”, the Taken By Storm album set few sales records in the UK, and the company made it plain they saw American success as a priority. The US edition of the album was tweaked slightly, and “…Angel” was issued as a single on both sides of the Atlantic. A video was  also filmed that included a then unknown actress Emma Thompson as its star! But after three months of touring the States – including a short stint with Ratt – the band began to call into question the commitment of their label, and the management ability of Richard Bron.

Carl Matthews was the first of several members to throw in the towel, but finally even Goulstone and Bacon decided to cut their losses. There were rumours that a second album would see the light of day in 1985, and farcically Bronz stumbled on, minus any original members, but the demise of Bronze Records sounded the band’s death knell. Bronz had sold over 200,000 albums worldwide, been on of the first hard rock bands to appear on MTV and played to 30,000 seater arenas throughtout America, so their legacy was assured.

Bacon eventually teamed up with the ex-Genesis and Yes pairing of Steven Hackett and Steve Howe in GTR, before lending his immaculate tonsils to the all-star Phenomena project. He currently works as a solo artist. Chris Goulstone played guitar for former Strangler Hugh Cornwell before opting for a TV and film production career, and he still composes. Chris currently has more than 30 CDs to his credit (including one of the American WCW worldwide Wrestling themes!). Paul Webb is a sought after session singer, Carl Matthews manages a studio and rehearsal complex in London, and Shaun Kirkpatrick now writes production music.

ALBUMS

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– Taken By Storm [1984]
– Unfinished Business [2001]
– Live: Getting Higher [2003]
– Carried By The Storm [2010]

By Dave Ling

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