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Praying Mantis - Biography




PRAYING MANTIS provided a bastion of AOR sensibilities amidst the NWoBHM Heavy Metal thunder. Although contemporaries of acts such as IRON MAIDEN, SAXON and ANGEL WITCH, the London based band pursued an American, melodic brand of Rock. First formed by the Troy brothers whilst still at college in 1974 with guitarist Peter Moore and drummer Chris Hudson, the line-up remained stable until 1978 when new drummer Mick Ransome, previously with BASTILLE, and guitarist Bob 'Angelo' Sawyer joined.

The first commercially available recording was the 'Soundhouse Tapes' EP sponsored by DJ Neal Kay, quickly followed by the 'Praying Mantis' single on Gem and an inclusion on the February 1980 EMI compilation album 'Metal For Muthas' with the track 'Captured City'. In fact, PRAYING MANTIS toured Britain together with IRON MAIDEN promoting 'Metal For Muthas'. The band put in more dates with IRON MAIDEN before supports to GAMMA and TRIUMPH. 1980 was rounded off with a batch of headlining shows.

PRAYING MANTIS was picked up by Arista Records and subsequently replaced Ransome with ex-TEN YEARS AFTER and SKIP BIFFERTY drummer Dave Potts and Bob Angelo with former LITTLE BO BITCH and MIDAS vocalist / guitarist Steve Carroll. Potts had in fact been a member of OZZY OSBOURNE's band playing alongside Randy Rhoads in the formative stages of the group. His stay lasted little over a week. Ransome allied himself with American female vocalist Electra Macleod, previously with Progressive Rock act TWELFTH NIGHT and LONE WOLF guitarist Paul Ward in the short lived RICH BITCH. The ex-drummer later turned up in Glam act TATTOOED LOVE BOYS then retro 70s Rockers the FIREBYRDS. Meantime, this revised version of PRAYING MANTIS would release the highly commended 'Time Tells No Lies' album in 1981. Early releases are noted for their exquisite Rodney Matthews cover art.

However, managerial problems soon enveloped the band and, as a result, PRAYING MANTIS was dropped by Arista. Signing to Jet Records in 1982 the band now comprised of the Troy brothers, Potts, keyboard player Jon Bavin and new Canadian vocalist Bernie Shaw, previously with GRAND PRIX, Carroll having left for the NERVOUS GERMANS. The band had actually toured previous to enrolling Shaw with former TURBO and S.O.S. singer Tom Jackson but after a few disastrous gigs Shaw was enrolled. Jackson later joined German act ZENITH.

However PRAYING MANTIS split after two singles on Jet failed to rekindle their career. Potts went into management looking after the affairs of WISHBONE ASH.

The Troy brothers opted to team up with ex-IRON MAIDEN drummer Clive Burr's new band ESCAPE, later evolving into STRATUS, in 1983 before Burr joined French Rockers TRUST. This ESCAPE line-up reformed for a one off London Marquee show in 1987.

As Bernie Shaw went on to become vocalist with URIAH HEEP former PRAYING MANTIS drummer Mick Ransome turned up again with ex-DESTROYA and TRANZZAM guitarist Paul Jax in a band titled TEXAS. Ransome then formed JOKERS WILD then much later TATTOOED LOVE BOYS, whilst Robert Angelo enjoyed a stint with WEAPON and HIGH ROLLER.

The status of PRAYING MANTIS remained high in Japan however, a nation with a particular fondness for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal', and, in 1990, ex-IRON MAIDEN and BATTLEZONE vocalist PAUL DIANNO joined PRAYING MANTIS for a 'Tenth Anniversary Of The NWoBHM' tour of Japan. These dates would be captured on the 1990 'Live At Last' record. This album features half IRON MAIDEN and half PRAYING MANTIS songs. Dianno departed in early 1991 leaving a line-up of the Troy brothers, guitarist / vocalist Dennis Stratton (yet another ex IRON MAIDEN member!) and former STATETROOPER and WEAPON drummer Bruce Bisland.

With Japanese interest still high, a new studio effort followed in 1991's 'Predator In Disguise', produced by noted Japanese Metal guru Masa Itoh. PRAYING MANTIS were invited to tour in Japan once more before recording the Neal Kay produced follow up release, 'A Cry For The New World' issued in 1993, with former CANNES and SCARLET vocalist Colin Peel.

However, Peel quit the band upon the release of 'A Cry For The New World' to throw in his lot with the cast of the West End 60s musical 'Hair' and marrying 'Big Breakfast' TV presenter Gabby Roslin! Peel's position was filled by ex-IDOL RICH, TOUCHE, FLIGHT 19 and AFTER HOURS vocalist MARK THOMPSON-SMITH as the band toured Japan again. Thompson-Smith's tenure was brief however. The vocalist left, later releasing a solo album 'A Far Cry From New Jersey' in 1998.

In 1995 PRAYING MANTIS recruited ex-MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP and STATETROOPER vocalist Gary Barden and released the 'To The Power Of Ten' album in Japan during August. As Bisland suffered a broken arm he had his position filled by old colleague Clive Burr. PRAYING MANTIS still remain a force to be reckoned with in Japan, with a further live album arriving in 1996.

PRAYING MANTIS now found themselves fronted by ex-TORINO, HIGHWIRE and ONSLAUGHT singer Tony O'Hora. Bisland also moonlighted as drummer for ANDY SCOTT'S SWEET. O'Hora also operated the covers band BEFORE THE STORM, an act also including the erstwhile CYNIC rhythm section of bassist Neil Orgee and drummer Tim Batkin.

Barden briefly joined THE SNAKES for a one off gig at the German 'Wacken Open Air' festival in 2000. The singer would lend vocals to the 2001 SILVER project album and contribute to a THIN LIZZY tribute. The high profile SILVER venture, an alliance with former OZZY OSBOURNE and GILLAN guitarist BERNIE TORME, journeyman keyboard player DON AIREY, DEMON DRIVE bassist Michael Voss and H-BLOCKX drummer Marco Minnemann certainly put the singer back in the spotlight.

PRAYING MANTIS re-inducted former vocalist Colin Peel for recording of a new studio album during 2002. The band bounced back in 2003 with the album 'Nowhere To Hide'. The band utilised the services of two singers for this release in URIAH HEEP and LONE STAR veteran JOHN SLOMAN and ex-RAINBOW and present YNGWIE MALMSTEEN vocalist Dougie White. Meantime, former PRAYING MANTIS frontman TONY O'HORA was announced as the new frontman for fabled 70s Glamsters SWEET and subsequently enrolled into STATETROOPER as bassist.

The 2004 compilation 'The Best Of Praying Mantis' would include a re-recorded version of the song 'Naked' and the rare 1982 single B side 'Turn The Tables'. The band, alongside DIAMOND HEAD, JAGUAR, WITCHFYNDE and BRONZ would unite for the 'The 25th Anniversary of NWOBHM' concert on 4th November 2005 at the Astoria in London.

TONY O'HORA issued his debut album, 'Escape Into The Sun', through the Italian Frontiers label in January 2006. Acting as guitarist and producer for the project would be Swedish Magnus Karlsson of STARBREAKER and RUSSELL ALLEN / JORN LANDE repute.

PRAYING MANTIS announced work had begun on the album 'Touch The Rainbow' in July 2008, recording this opus in Atlanta, Georgia during September. The group line-up for these sessions, subsequently re-branded as 'Sanctuary', comprised founding members Tino and Chris Troy on guitars and bass respectively, Benjamin Reid on drums, Andy Burgess on guitar and Mike Freeland on vocals.'Sanctuary' saw release in June 2009, launched with a May 3rd concert at The Bush venue in London. The band united with fellow NWOBHM act TANK for a 24th May concert at The Peel in Kingston Upon Thames.

Garry Sharpe-Young
(Source: Rockdetector)