Britain's Cloven Hoof were among the brightest hopefuls from the second generation of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands; but like so many of their peers, their worthy submissions to the movement arrived just a tad too late to capitalize on its once flourishing, then fast declining appeal.
Originating in the English Midlands, singer David Potter, guitarist Steve Rounds, bassist Lee Payne, and drummer Kevin Pountney first began working together in 1979, when they billed themselves as Nightstalker. Their development over the ensuing two years was both slow and inconspicuous, but word of the group's increasingly theatrical performances eventually started spreading after they changed their name to the more distinctive Cloven Hoof. Even more unique was the quartet's decision to adopt stage names based on the four states of matter -- water (Potter), fire (Rounds), air (Payne) and earth (Pountney) -- a questionable move that would earn them much unwanted derision in years to come. Nevertheless, Cloven Hoof had become impossible to ignore, and they soon pooled their efforts into recording a very professional four-track EP, this being 1982's well received The Opening Ritual (later a popular item with N.W.O.B.H.M. collectors). Clearly impressed, all-important U.K. metal rag Kerrang! was moved to support the band's cause, and a steady battery of local club gigs eventually landed them a 1983 session on the popular Friday Rock Show. The following year finally brought Cloven Hoof their much anticipated recording contract courtesy of Neat Records, and the band wasted little time cutting their eponymous debut -- an excellent representation of their strongest material from the previous four years. Strangely, though, the LP was given a warmer reception by European fans than those in the U.K., so Cloven Hoof duly toured on the continent before returning home and announcing their plans to begin work on a follow-up LP with the addition of second guitarist Mick Grafton. But vocalist David Potter threw a monkey wrench into these plans when he quit suddenly to join up with French rockers H-Bomb. Understandably stunned, Cloven Hoof went to ground for much of 1985, first hiring and then swiftly disposing of one Derek Hodd (along with Grafton) before securing the services of the more experienced Rob Kendrick (ex-Budgie and Trapeze). When it finally emerged via Moondancer Records in 1986, the band's live sophomore effort Fighting Back couldn't disguise the deep confusion that had set within the group's ranks; though on a positive note, they'd seen fit to finally drop that pseudonym nonsense. Only bassist Lee Payne remained from the original Hoof lineup at this stage, and after finding a new crew of willing musicians in vocalist Russ North, guitarist Andrew Wood (both ex-Tredegar), and drummer Jon Brown, 1988's semi-return to basics Dominator and 1989's less inspired A Sultan's Ransom were recorded in short order. All for naught, however; despite managing to sneak into the Friday Rock Show for a second session, Cloven Hoof's 15 minutes were well and truly spent by the dawn of the '90s, when they finally went their separate ways. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi