Tony Dolan/Ian Swift: vocals
Steve White/Rob Redhead: guitars
Tony Dolan/DC Rage: bass
Paul Spillet/Ged Wolf: drums
Rob Thompson: drums
ATOMKRAFT – TOTAL METAL
Taking their name from the famed ‘Nuclear Power? No Thanks’ slogan that was omnipresent as the Seventies became the Eighties – the German version read ‘Atomkraft? Nein Danke’ – Atomkraft is the creation of Tony ‘Demolition’ Dolan, a man who had a clear vision as to how metal should evolve as the lifeblood of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal began to ebb away. Not that he ever felt part of the NWOBHM, that is. “The thing about the NWOBHM…” he says now; “well, to be honest I never wondered whether we part or not part of it at the time. We were just doing what we did back then. But Atomkraft are largely ignored by those naming NWOBHM bands, as it seems we weren’t considered part of it and were seen more as proto thrash. Then when the thrash scene broke we were kind of ignored as we pre-dated thrash so therefore must be NWOBHM “So what were you? He laughs and shrugs. “We were Atomkraft!”.
And what was Atomkraft? Atomkraft supported Slayer at their debut UK appearance but thrashed their gear just three songs into their set, Atomkraft released a forward-looking album ‘Future Warriors’ which was awarded one of the lowest and most ridiculous scores ever by a Kerrang! Journalist who had no grasp of the direction in which metal was heading; Atomkraft fought on The Longest Day, opening the mighty Hammersmith Odeon bill and taking no prisoners: Atomkraft was a quantum leap across the musical chasm of what might be. Led by this group of future warriors, image, concept and power chords collided as the hard-nosed thrash bands battled for supremacy with more melodic metal acts, pretty much as Tony had seemingly predicted with his band’s early demos. And despite the reputation that’s grown up over the years, the band did virtually all their professional recording between 1985 and 1988 – just three short years. Asked now for three highlights that sum up Atomkraft, Tony thinks long and hard before counting these off on his fingers: “One: being able to release ‘Future Warriors’ in ’85, even though I thought it could have been better as an album. Looking back now with the wonders of hindsight the excitement took over and we lost perspective a little. Two: playing the Spodek stadium in Katowice, Poland in ’88 to something like 20,000 people behind the Iron Curtain. That was a thrill. And three: meeting Paul Baloff of Exodus and hearing how he and his friends would drink and blast out metal on Saturday evenings in California and how our ‘Total Metal’ demo from was part of their listening rota. We had no idea we’d even reached beyond Wallsend where we were living at the time,” he laughs.
Atomkraft date back to 1979, but it was with the released of that Exodus-approved ‘Total Metal’ demo in 1983 and its follow-up ‘Pour The Metal in’ that things started to gear up a notch. Neat Records offered a deal and the result was ‘Future Warriors’. By this time Atomkraft featured guitarist Rob Mathew and drummer Ged Wolf alongside Tony on bass and vocals, and the album inner sleeve featured a slogan which could have been Tony’s mantra – “metal has never been so total.” Kerrang! Hated ‘Future Warriors’ – possibly the ultimate seal of approval – and a follow-up EP was scheduled one of the wheels well and truly fell off the Atomkraft wagon when control over the band was wrested (albeit temporarily) from Tony’s grasp. “A disagreement over management led to me walking out but I hadn’t thought about Neat and being under contract, so although I thought I’d left with the name it transpired that the rest of the band kept it with the Neat and went on to release ‘Queen Of Death’, although we came back together for the follow-up ‘Conductors Of Noize’. I think perhaps looking back, I was always kind of stubborn – and still am,” he laughs – “and I should have just kept with it and kept the focus but I felt we were making a mistake and in the end I was proved right. At the point we stopped we had the world at our feet, best tour we had ever done, a bunch of new recordings for an album which was to be called ‘Atomized’ and a great lineup. So that was sad, but it had done its thing, it seemed.”
‘Queen Of Death’ began life as an EP featuring ‘Your Mentor’ as the lead cut with ‘Demolition’, ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Mode 3′. With Tony splitting away from Rob Mathew and Ged Wolf the pair enlisted ex-Avenger singer Ian Davison Swift and bassist DC Rage and cut two new songs ‘Queen Of Death’ and ‘Protectors’. ‘Your Mentor’ – a song which showed the band going in a completely different direction – was ditched and the now five-track EP appeared with Tony’s bass lines intact on the three older songs. ‘Conductors Of Noize’ came in 1987 and with Tony back on board the mini-album was a thrash-fest of gargantuan proportions, rush-released in time for pre-arranged dates and a taster for the ‘Atomized’ album which unfortunately never came to fruition. Tony famously was recruited for the bass/vocals vacancy in Venom and since then has had a varied career as a musician, now working alongside Mantas in M:PIRE OF EVIL, and as an actor too. But Atomkraft has always been lurking somewhere in the background, never far from Tony’s mind.
“These days,” he continues, “since Atomkraft isn’t full time, and as the last days (way back when) were a kind of floating island for members, I haven’t really kept the same players since releasing the ‘Cold Sweat’ EP in 2011. But for the last few years now my guitarist has been Kræn Meier (from Sacrificial) from Denmark on guitar, Paul Caffrey (Gama Bomb) on drums and from time to time Rich Davenport (ex-See Red) on guitar, and then myself on bass and vocals. Atomkraft was a three-piece originally and I kind of try to keep it like that, but the later version had me on rhythm guitar to fill out the sound so having Rich helps with that.”
This race through time with Atomkraft features an eclectic collection of live material from 1985 (the Marquee with Slayer), 1987 (London’s The Longest day Fest with Onslaught, Agent Steel and Nuclear Assault) and 1988 (Poland) as well as more recent live material from 2004; in addition, demo tracks from 1981 and 1983, together with original ‘Future Warrior’ demos show how the band evolved. Featured artists are Steve White, Paul Spillett, Ged Wolf, Rob Redhead, Ian Swift, DC Rage, Payre Hulkoff, Steve Mason, “and last but not least,” laughs Tony, “me on bass and vocals, and guitar at various points!. I’ve been lucky with Atomkraft: there’ve always been the most amazing players and fun people in the band and it’s always been a pleasure to work with them. Yes, there have been bumps along the way but in the end for good or bad, Atomkraft’s members have put their hearts into it, and that’s what counts.”
© John Tucker January 2014