Salem – In The Beginning

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On 31 December 2015
Last modified:31 December 2015


17 NWOBHM blasts from the past chronologically showing Salem's progression from 1981- 1983.


With a new album in the can for Feb. 2016 entitled Not Guilty following the 2013 release of Forgotten Dreams, Salem fans can now listen to how they crafted their songwriting with In The Beginning, a superb 17 track compilation album of demo songs recorded between 1981-1983. Released via High Roller Records for a mere snip at £10, it contains 5 songs that feature in their current live set.

Founding in 1979 from the ashes of Ethel The Frog by vocalist/guitarist Paul Tognola and drummer Paul Conyers, they had recruited current Salem bass player Ade Jenkinson and guitarist Paul Macnamara by early 1980. Simon Saxby joined on lead vocals in March 81 and the rest of the line up of Paul Mendham on drums and Mark Allison on guitar was complete by September 1982.

   In The Beginning is made up of 3 different eras. January 1981, September 1982 and March 1983 with the songs having a rough and ready magical charm. Being an avid tape trader in the 80’s, listening to the album brought back a lot of memories of listening to music that had not been given the Hysteria treatment in the studio for years on end. Proceedings kick off with the raw, in your face, foot to the floor NWOBHM clatter of ‘Coming For You’ with the music/lyrics written by Paul Tognola. A strong opener but I must admit to preferring the rougher vocal style of Simon Saxby. Other highlights are an early run through of Salem’s 1st single ‘Cold As Steel’ with it’s crushing riffs and melodic chorus followed by the Sabbath like grooves of ‘Fool’s Gold’, 1 of the 5 songs previously mentioned that Salem still play live.

     ‘Make The Grade’ is a bottom heavy headbanger containing some over the top cheesy lyrics and another live favourite ‘Reach To Eternity’, (b side to ‘Cold Steel’ single) is a real belter with some glorious air guitar heaven work midway. Said single ‘Cold Steel’ released later in 1981 with a better production than the demo, pushes the vocals to the forefront and makes the riffs crisper. It also got Paul Macnamara an interview with Kerrang magazine at the time. The album now moves onto demos recorded in September 1982 with Salem penning a Rush like trilogy, although the third part was not recorded until 6 months later.

‘The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy I – The Keeper’ features an almost funky bassline throughout the verses containing some epic Dio era Rainbow like lyrics. The guitars go into overdrive to end the song. ‘The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy II – The Revenge’ is a much heavier monster. The first 2 verses remind me of ‘Something For Nothing’ by Rush and the raging instrumental sections hurtle along like ‘A Light In The Black’ by Rainbow. The 1982 demo ends with 3 reworks from the 81 sessions. ‘Coming For You’ has a new lease of life running through it with the guitars sounding sharper. ‘Fools Gold’ is a trimmed down, punchier take and pick of the 3 is a powerhouse ‘Make The Grade’, coming across like a heavier ‘The Seeker’ by the Who.

The March 1983 demos kick off with ‘Rock Fever’, another setlist stalwart with Simon’s lyrics portraying the dedication to joining a band and keeping it on the road. Some fiery lead guitar work close this heavy chugger. ‘The Other Side Of Hell’ has some exquisite Lizzy like guitar work weaving through atmospheric, slow burning heavy rock. The album closes in fine metal style with ‘The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy III – The King’ with Simon’s most intense vocal so far as the songs heavily builds up to a guitar overload finish.

Salem will be opening their 2016 touring schedule with a NWOBHM night on Saturday, April 30th in Northwich, Cheshire as part of a 4 band bill alongside Diamond Head, Witchfynde and Spartan Warrior. Tickets are only £16.50!

Salem band members for In The Beginning :-

Paul Conyers – Drums.

Paul Tognola – Vocals/guitar.

Paul Mendham – Drums.

Ade Jenkinson – Bass guitar.

Mark Allison – Guitars.

Paul Macmamara – Guitars.

Simon Saxby – Vocals.

Album track listing :-

Coming For You (Demo, January 1981).

Cold As Steel (Demo, January 1981).

Fool’s Gold (Demo, January 1981).

Make The Grade (Demo, January 1981).

Reach To Eternity (Single, January 1981).

Cold As Steel (Single, January 1981).

The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy I – The Keeper (Demo, September 1982).

The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy – The Revenge (Demo, September 1982).

Fighting For The Cause (Demo, September 1982).

Coming For You (Demo, September 1982).

Fool’s Gold (Demo, September 1982).

Make The Grade (Demo, September 1982).

Rock Fever (Demo, March 1983).

Save The Night (Demo, March 1983).

The Other Side Of Hell (Demo, March 1983).

Hangman’s Noose (Demo, March 1983).

The Keeper Of The Keys Trilogy III – The King (Demo, March 1983).




17 NWOBHM blasts from the past chronologically showing Salem's progression from 1981- 1983.

About Dennis Jarman

Full time downtrodden album/gig reviewer and part time rock God!