Three Albums that Changed My Life – Jamie Nyx (Millstone)

South East England-based heavy metal unit, Millstone, are a band of subtle complexities. They formed in June 2020 during the height of the Covid-10 lockdowns and had to wait until March 2022 to play their first show. Their bassist listens to Joy Division and enjoys the slap and pop techniques of funk; their guitarist looks and plays like he belongs in Anthrax; the drummer ought to be in a progressive rock band; and vocalist, Jamie Nyx, aims for the higher registers as if challenging Rob Halford to a duel.

One listen to the band’s latest single, ‘Path to the Grave’, reveals an epic canvass of burgeoning emotions and desires set to a crunchy thrash metal rhythm section. Think Queensrӱche with the bite of early Megadeth and the power of Bruce Dickinson at the microphone. Millstone make all six minutes and fifty-two seconds count on this track with galloping riffs, expressive solos, emotive bass scales and dramatic vocal uplifts.

We spoke to singer, Jamie Nyx, about the three albums that influenced him to take the microphone and join a traditional heavy metal band.

3. Jeff Wayne – Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)

I bet you weren’t expecting this one from a heavy metal singer, but it will make sense, I promise! I first heard the album when I was very young, no older than four or five, on an already slightly worn-out cassette, and it really grabbed me. The mega-guitar-fuzz Martian heat rays terrified me, and I had more than a few nightmares about tripods looming in my bedroom window, but I would still listen to the tape whenever we visited my uncle (who’s tape it actually was) until eventually it was gifted to me, presumably to stop me bugging him for it.

The original tape has (sadly) not survived the two-and-a-bit decades that have passed since then, but I still listen to the album on a regular basis. It still stands out to me as one of the best concept albums ever, especially with that silky smooth Richard Burton narration tying it together. Musically, it set drama and vivid storytelling into my brain as the essence of what makes good music and opened the door a little further down the line for me to step into and appreciate the universe of musical theatre, which only intensified those feelings and my love for a good story well sung. Whip all that together and you get my penchant for (melo)drama in my own writing.

2. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

Sort of the sliced bread of any list like this I suppose – yes, great, but still just bread – but I can’t not include it. As a boy, the first non-pop, non-Atomic Kitten, non-McFly bit of music that I heard was an AC/DC track that I discovered on my dad’s phone (Sony Ericsson, all the rage then and very cool) and developed an instant obsession with. While that kickstarted me down the road to becoming a rock fan and eventually a teenage metalhead, it wasn’t until I heard Iron Maiden and Number of the Beast that I really fell in love with what the human voice could do.

I didn’t fall in love with singing, mind you – I never thought for one second that I could do that. I would eventually pick up the guitar in my third year of high school, but I didn’t have the talent to sing. I fantasised about it, but singing was clearly something you either had or you didn’t, and I didn’t. C’est la vie.

Still, Number of the Beast was my gateway drug into heavy metal, along with Iron Maiden, Killers, Piece of Mind, Powerslave… Young Jamie was a Maiden fan first and foremost, but anything heavy and pre-2000s was fair game pretty soon after that (yes, I was that anti nu-metal elitist in high school – I got better, I swear). While these days there are some other vocalists that might impress me more on occasion, the shivering excitement I got from hearing that famous Number of the Beast scream for the first time will always be the moment that sparked the fire:

“I wish I could do THAT.”

1. Rival Sons – Pressure & Time (2011)

A friend of mine showed Rival Sons to me in high school – the song ‘Sleepwalker’ in particular – and they blew me away. I was still a big guitar player, so was particularly into Scott Holiday’s fantastic playing, but it was Jay Buchanan’s voice that really stood out. Ridiculous power, expression, and intensity bordering on the feral. It would have taken a lot to sway me from metal at the time, but Rival Sons were exactly the band to do it – Jay didn’t sing as impossibly high as Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford, but God was he good anyway.

We became convinced pretty quickly that they were the next big thing and that, surely, they’d be topping the charts any day now. How could they not? They were just that good! They haven’t quite gotten there up till now, but there’s time yet!

That same friend and I would eventually start a hard rock band, and I ended up taking half of the singing duties – not because I wanted to or thought I was any good, but because someone had to. However, with tracks from Pressure & Time circling around my head, I started to experiment with “Just Going for It™”, and stumbled myself into a few moments of “Woah, that was kind of cool…” that led to, “Maybe I could actually get good at this?”

Thankfully a friend-of-a-friend was on standby to stop my initial excitement and over-enthusiastic attempts from turning into lifelong vocal damage – she knew a thing or two and gave me some basic lessons in vocal technique. From there, I kept improving until I was a pretty good hard rock vocalist – setting the stage for me to circle back around years later to heavy metal and really stretch myself to the limit. Without Pressure & Time, I would never have become a singer at all, never mind a good one.

*** Millstone released their latest single, ‘Path to the Grave’, on 16 January 2023. You can stream it on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, YouTube and all major platforms.