“N.W. Metalworx Vol. 2 – Lake Hills Revisited” Compilation (2019)

N.W. Metalworx is doing god’s work in keeping the history of northwest metal alive by reissuing lost classics by hard rock and metal bands that, while popular locally, never quite made it to the big time. I can’t wait for their forthcoming book Rusted Metal: A Guide To Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Music in the Pacific Northwest (1970 – 1995) for even more NW metal goodness. I’ve picked up few of their releases and follow them on Facebook, so it wasn’t a surprise to learn that they were putting out a new NW metal compilation. What was surprising, however, was the connection to Lake Hills.

Lake. Hills.

My parents moved quite a bit while I was in grade school, and that included three different periods of living in Issaquah, which during the 1970s and early 1980s was a one-traffic-light kind of small town on the other side of the lake from Seattle. And we didn’t even live in Issaquah proper, but instead on what was known as “The Plateau”, which is now the city of Sammamish and full of ridiculously expensive houses. We sometimes went to Lake Sammamish State Park in the summer, the same park where Ted Bundy picked up some of his early victims. There’s something about the northwest that seems to breed serial killers. Maybe it’s the dark, rainy, gloomy winters. I don’t know. But I digress. What does any of this have to do with the Lake Hills neighborhood of the city of Bellevue? Well, I went to grade school in Lake Hills.

I spent a fair amount of time in Lake Hills, both at school and sleepovers with friends who lived there. We’d walk to the K-Mart, play video games at the pizza place, shoot BB guns in the woods, and sometimes make it over to Crossroads Mall, alongside of which was the Lake Hills Roller Rink, a combo roller skating rink/music venue that hosted a ton of hard rock shows. We were too young at that point to be interested in the rocking happening there. Did I ever go roller skating at the rink, though? I feel like I probably did… but honestly can’t remember. And I never did see a show there. But the idea of an album that orbits around local bands that played in Lake Hills still feels awfully close to home.

Will you know any of these bands if you’re not from the Northwest? Maybe TKO and Rail… but after that I’m not sure. Hell, most of them I didn’t discover until the last few years, bands like Q5 and Wild Dogs who have made appearances on the blog. I know of some of the others, mostly due to the good works of the guys at N.W. Metalworx and the 1984 Northwest Metalfest compilation that includes four of the bands on Lake Hills Revisited. Regardless of whether or not you’ve heard of any of these guys, if you’re into the early 80s style of hard rock/metal you’re going to find things you like here with ten bands and a combination of live and studio tracks.

N.W. Metalworx Vol. 2 – Lake Hills Revisited opens with the painfully overlooked Q5 doing a live in-studio performance (from KZOK) of “Missing In Action”. It’s the perfect way to kick things off, with one of the region’s best bands doing one of their best songs. I’m also partial to the other side A live track, Overlord’s “Had Enough”, which while slightly flat in terms of recording quality is another burner. The flip side opens with the one number actually recorded live at the Lake Hills Roller Rink, Rail’s “Gangbusters” from 1979, and it’s one of the best sounding songs on the record – it’s almost hard to believe it was live given how tight the band sounds. “Dehumanize Me” by Bondage boys is the most intriguing tune, one leaning towards a more morose style of heavy, a little post-punk but also a bit of slower metal.

In addition to the kick-ass music, N.W. Metalworx provides some solid liner notes both by the label team and from Craig Cooke who used to book bands at the venue. You can also learn a bit more about the Lake Hills Roller Rink HERE in an article written by Howard Monta, who’s family operated it for decades. It includes a list of band who played there over the years, and some of them will be familiar to you if you’re a rock fan – Heart, Iron Maiden (!), The Lovin’ Spoonful, Moby Grape, the Sonics… a fair amount of talent made the trek across the lake to little ol’ Lake Hills.

There are three versions of N.W. Metalworx Vol. 2 – Lake Hills Revisited available – CD, black vinyl in an edition of 400, and splatter vinyl in a hand-numbered edition of 100. All of them are still available through the label’s website HERE, so check ’em out. I splurged on the splatter vinyl and it both looks and plays great. In fact I’ve been impressed with everything N.W. Metalworx has put out – they make sure the product is always high quality.

Q5 – “Steel The Light” (1984)

How has Q5 escaped my attention all these years? An early 1980s metal band from Seattle… I don’t understand how they managed to stay under the radar. Sure, their output was minimal, only releasing two LPs in the 1980s before coming back together in the nostalgia-fueled present to unleash a new record on us in 2016 (New World Order), but still. I live in Seattle. I love 80s metal. I should have heard of these guys before now.

I lucked across a first pressing of this underground metal gem the other day over at Silver Platters, the only version that has this particular cover. And it was the cover that first caught my eye, that “drawn by your best friend who is a good, but not great, artist” quality that seems to have been the mainstay of metal bands for decades. It just screams 1980s metal. And, my friends, it delivers.

I was stopped cold as soon as the opening lick on the first track, “Missing In Action” (which you can play at the bottom of this post), blasted through my speakers. This song shreds in an early 1980s thrash kind of way. Driving rhythms, ripping guitars, solos, soaring vocals… Steel The Light has it all. Full speed rockers like “Pull The Trigger” fit in well alongside metal ballads like “Steel The Light”. Honestly, if you asked me to create the most perfect representation of 1980s metal, I couldn’t come up with anything better than Steel The Light. I mean, just look at the band!

And that was just the A side.

The reverse opens with the blistering “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” moves on to the Whitesnake-ish “In The Night,” then takes it down even further with the moody, searching “Come And Gone” before bringing us home with the sleazy blues rocker “Rock On” and the teen angst of “Teenage Runaway.” I have to say that the A side rocks harder, but the B side shows off Q5’s versatility by giving them more stylistic range while still staying within the hard rock/heavy metal framework.

I’m going to have to track down a copy of their sophomore album, 1986s When The Mirror Cracks. If it’s even half as good as Steel The Light it’ll be well worth it.