TSA – “Heavy Metal World”

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting consistently as of late. That’s because I’ve been doing a ton of travel for work – or at least a ton by my standards. I’ve been on the road for each of the last four weeks, making it back home just long enough to do some laundry, listen to a few records, then repack my bags for the following week. But don’t cry for me, Argentina. That’s life, and I’m working with a pretty great bunch of people on a big project, so it certainly feels worth the sacrifice (most of the time).

The last three weeks of my quest to gain airline MVP status have seen me in Los Angeles, the birthplace of hair metal and home to one of the very best record stores in the US, Amoeba Music. While I’m not working in the Hollywood area, the other night I decided I’d had enough of working emails in my hotel room and I drove out to do a couple of hours of digging. The session started slow, but before long I had a healthy stack of vinyl in my arms.

What I failed to realize until later was that my shopping had been very international in scope. Heavy metal and rockabilly from Japan; industrial from France; English punk; German mod; and some mid 1980s Polish metal.

Wait… mid 1980s Polish metal? I didn’t even know that such a thing existed! But in fact it does. TSA. And it’s legit.

My guess is that the powers that be in Poland in 1984 weren’t too tolerant of heavy metal, but that didn’t stop TSA from putting out their third LP, Heavy Metal World. (♠) And for eight bucks I had to find out what it was all about. I almost missed out on it though, as the cover screams prog rock, but it was the title that got me to take a deeper look.

Heavy Metal World falls squarely into the hair/glam metal sound (though, as you can see from the jacket, not the look) that was prevalent in the US at the time, leaning perhaps just a bit more towards the rock end of the spectrum than the metal one. Cut ‘em some slack though – they were in Poland, man. Behind the Iron Curtain. Yeah, sure, I get it, you were rebelling against The Man when you were that age too. But in 1984 Poland The Man could make you disappear. Permanently. Falling outside the mainstream wouldn’t get you dirty looks and snide comments; it might get you dead. So these guys were definitely bucking the status quo. Plus their shadows are throwing the horns on the jacket reverse, which is pretty sneaky.

I don’t know specifically what the guys from TSA are signing about on Heavy Metal World, but I like the sound. The album’s best song is the B side opener, “Maratończyk” (“Marathon Man” according to Google Translate), a killer sleaze track, with driving guitars, chord changes to alter the mood, and some vocals that ooze a sort of “yes, I’m going to try to make it with your daughter” attitude. If you told me this was a Polish language cover of Ratt or Mötley Crüe I wouldn’t doubt you for a second. That’s followed by some fancy guitar work on “Koszmarny Sen” (“Nightmare Dream”) and soaring vocals on “Metal Swiat” (“Metal World”) that reminds me more than a little of the Icelandic metal masters DIMMA. In fact, the entire B side of Heavy Metal World kicks all kinds of ass, so if you’re going to start somewhere, just go right to the flip side.

I’ve heard some Eastern Block 1980s rock and metal on compilations before, but this is the first time I can think of that I’ve actually gotten my hands on an actual OG album. I’m glad I gave this one a second look and didn’t pass it by.

(♠) The original release is in Polish, but supposedly there was an English language version of the album that came out in 1986 as well.