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SAVAGE MASTER - Myth, Magic And Steel EXCITER - 3 Classic Titles
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MANDRAKE "Breaking Out" [12" LP, Gatefold]

2014 - Heavy Metal from Denmark
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Along with the legendary Mercyful Fate and some considerably more obscure acts such as Alien Force and Crystal Knight, Copenhagen's own Witch Cross must rate as one of the best Danish heavy metal bands ever. Their 1984 album 'Fit For Fight' is surely one of the Top 5 albums in the history of Danish metal. One of the two guitarists on this masterpiece is a certain 'Cole Hamilton'. Well, his real name is Ole Hamilton Poulsen. He had joined Witch Cross after the recordings of their 'Are you there' debut 7" single.
However, not a lot of people know that Ole had his own little band going for quite a while before being asked to join Witch Cross. Mandrake were formed in Copenhagen in 1979 (under the name of Zyndactyle) and lasted roughly until 1982. Songs such as 'We Will Be Strong' (aka 'Rockin' The Night away') and 'Alien Savage' were truly superb compositions with massive New Wave Of British Heavy Metal leanings. Both tracks were later re-arranged and appeared on Witch Cross' ?Fit For Fight? record. Ole Hamilton Poulsen explains: 'As you can see, the 'Alien Savage' track came from our second demo with Mandrake, and was actually chosen by original Witch Cross singer Alex Savage who heard the demo and liked the number. It was him who suggested to play it live when I had joined Witch Cross. The same goes for the track 'Rockin' The Night Away'. Of course, the original Mandrake title of the song was 'We Will Be Strong'. Alex liked it but he re-wrote the lyrics and changed the name of the song for the ?Fit For Fight? album. Both numbers were received very well, and although I thought Kim was a splendid vocalist in Mandrake, I think I like the Witch Cross recordings better than the Mandrake versions.'
Whereas Ole was only one of two guitarists in Witch Cross, Mandrake had been one hundred percent his baby: 'The Mandrake material was mainly written by me, both music and lyrics, and then presented to the rest of the band, who added some minor contributions. But I mainly wrote all the lyrics and music and also 'coached' or suggested how to sing it (to our first vocalist Kim). I formed Mandrake in the early days of 1979, together with Lasse Hvidman. We got other members through adds in a nationwide paper. I actually remember that even Mercyful Fate in their very early days searched there too. We had a lot of people come to auditions, we even at one time had a female vocalist out to try. While a couple of the other guys were a bit skeptical and made fun about it, I believed that she should also have a chance to try, like all the others before her. And we were in for a surprise indeed. She totally blew us away with her voice, a very powerful, clean/rough voice that would have been a dream to work with. But sadly, after only a couple of days she called me and had to cancel as she had a small baby to take care of all on her own. She just didn't have the time. Eventually, we decided on Kim who originally was a pop singer but had a very versatile voice with a wide range, that suited us very well? We all had different influences, but mine have always been Judas Priest, Dio and Queensryche. The NWOBHM movement also had a huge influence on us all, with bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden. Add to that AC/DC and the German band Accept.'
As you will hear on the anthology album, Mandrake was a band far ahead of its time. Ole Hamilton Poulsen comments: 'As I recall, the Danish metal scene first started around 1980 when Brats began playing something that sounded like early heavy metal or hard rock. Mandrake was around a year earlier, so I guess we were indeed a bit ahead of our time, heavily influenced by Judas Priest, but with our very own sound and ideas? The Danish heavy metal scene in the very early 1980s was not large, but not small either. One could think though that there was some kind of 'competition' going on. Actually, a lot of the musicians knew each other. Bands all over Denmark supported each other, as metal was not accepted by the mainstream back then. We felt as being some kind of 'outcasts'. People laughed at us and had weird thoughts about us going around attacking old people and drinking blood and all those crazy things, ha, ha? I recall some of the bands we met in the early days: Hero, Maltese Falcon, Jackal, Evil and of course Pretty Maids. The main scene was happening in Copenhagen, but a lot of quite good bands came from the provinces as well, again to mention only one band, Pretty Maids from Horsens?'
In 1979, the punk scene in Denmark was much bigger than the evolving metal scene: 'Yeah, the punk scene was quite big in the late seventies. Mercyful Fate started out as Brats, they were a semi-punk/hard rock band who in 1980 released their famous 'silver' album. It was about that time that I got to know Hank Sherman, but also Michael Denner and Yenz Leonhardt, starting a friendship that lasted until King Diamond take over on vocals (whom I also met and visited a couple of times in private? indeed a very nice and sympathetic guy, in spite of his image).'
Ole Hamilton Poulsen recorded three demos with his band: 'The first one in around 1979. The band was still called Zyndactyle, the tape included four tracks, just prior to our name change to Mandrake. Then we recorded another demo tape in 1980 in Copenhagen's 'Rock Tape' studios, produced and mixed by Peter Brander. And last but not least we recorded another demo in 1982 with Noel De Castro Tofino on vocals, who in spite of his name, was all Danish, and a new drummer, Claus H Johansson.'
However, playing live was a totally different matter: 'I actually think that we only did two gigs in our career. One at a competition (complete with with judges) when Kim was vocalist, and one in Drag?r, where the other 'famous' HM band Wasted was located. They actually were good friends of ours, and still are to this very day...'
In around late 1981/1982 Mandrake and Witch Cross were both active but Ole never ended up playing on the same bill with the band he was about to join: 'No, not once. Mandrake was located in the Copenhagen area, and Witch Cross were located in the Hiller?d area. As none of us were known or famous at that point in time, we had no knowledge of each other whatsoever. My auditioning for Witch Cross was a sheer coincidence as they had an add in the same paper that Mandrake used back when we started...'
Ole auditioning for the up and coming Witch Cross in 1982 marked the end for his own band Mandrake: 'I felt at a point that the other guys in Mandrake maybe didn't take the band serious enough. After a lot of patience and thinking it over, I decided to audition for Witch Cross, who had called me a number of times to get me to join them, which I eventually did. It was a very hard and tough decision for me, as it was kind of my 'baby'. But I felt that the will to succeed was not big enough for the other guys in the band. Noel for example was having personal problems. In addition to that, our drummer played in about four different bands at the same time. All that led to my final decision to call it quits. It was a really tough decision, especially because Noel had become a very close personal friend. I felt I was letting him down. I believe he could have become an awesome vocalist, but I felt like getting nowhere and had to do it. Unfortunately, later I found out that he was killed in a hit and run 'accident' by a jealous ex-boyfriend of his new girlfriend. Truly very sad. He is dearly missed. And yes, you could say that Mandrake was perhaps ahead of its time. At least we believed that we were quite different in sound. We had quite a healthy following. A lot of our fans thought that Mandrake was a breath of fresh air in a stagnating metal scene.'
But the time was not right for an album back in 1982: 'No, we all had our dreams about getting something out on vinyl. But then as now, times were very hard for new bands in the business. And all of a sudden, at the beginning of the 1980s, there were a lot of new HM bands appearing on the scene in Denmark, a lot of them very good. Although we felt we had something different to offer musically, nobody was ever really interested enough to put out an album.'
Matthias Mader

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