Back To The Past (8):

I remember very well, that I was on holidays in Luxembourg, when I first read about this American outfit, SAHARA. Seeing the beautiful cover of their debut album, I read the story of the band and I knew they might become huge in the future. They did became quite huge as a cult band, although never really being the mega act every musician wants to be in. This is what happened and we give you a full update in our "Back To The Past" story on SAHARA. Starting this peek back in time, we are gonna set back the clock about nine years to 1988, where the band recorded their first demo tape.

A demo tape, which did very well in the underground scene. But how come that it took so long to come to a record deal? Well, it was especially the unstable line-up, that had a lot to do with that. People went and people came. They had John Spittle on drums, Orion Lindemann on bass and Butch Carlson on drums (yes, the same Butch Carlson, you'll find back later in the line-ups of JAG PANZER, DRIVER and TERRIF). However, the faces of the band were the metal maidens in SAHARA, namely the beautiful singer with the golden throat, Liz Vandall and keyboardplayer Diane Arens, who a few of you might know as the bassplayer in the first WARLORD line-up. Because William Tsamis (now LORDIAN GUARD) didn't want a female bassplayer, Diane left the band to settle herself on keyboards and piano in SAHARA. For the record labels, SAHARA was a female-fronted band, which sounded far too heavy. They looked beautiful, but they played melodic rock with fast axe work and no soft A.O.R. ballads, like the labels wanted them to do. It was in '92, when Dream Circle finally released the nine tracks debut album of SAHARA "Going Crazy". And the title already tells you the whole story: SAHARA didn't make any concessions towards commerciality or whatsoever. They simply went crazy with this great debut album. Three old demo songs ("Going Crazy", "Wasteland" and "Dreaming") are to be found on this first CD, which is further full of new stuff. The Japanese CD version contains two bonus (demo) tracks, namely "I Will Be Loney" and "Will You Remember Me?". This first song was also used for the "Metal Queens II" compilation album. By the way, the name SAHARA was chosen because of its mystic sound. With SAHARA, you'll think of pharaohs, Egypt, pyramids, which is always kind of mystic. But back to their debut album. The band makes a video clip for the first single "Wasteland". The single was not meant for airplay on TV, but it is to be found on the Rock Hard video sampler no.5. SAHARA, consisting of Liz Vandall- vocals, Phil Woodward-guitars, Diane Arens- keyboards, organ and piano, Pat Kara-bass and Kevin Millar- drums, got great reviews and they were put on tour as support to VIRGIN STEELE. Holland was forgotten again and it was a cryin' shame you had to go to Germany to see the band. The shows went very well indeed.

But life goes on and the band had to prepare themselves for a follow up CD for "Going Crazy". A few line-up changes completed the new formation: bringing back Orion Lindemann on bass after the absence of about six years. This team formed the base for the second release of SAHARA, and "The Seventh House" sees the light in '94. What an album! Ten songs with almost one hour of music, which best can be described as 'ten diamonds on a silver disc'. It contains nine self-written songs and a cover called "Aquarius", originally from the musical Hair, sung by a band called ZEN. "The Seventh House", ZEN, "Aquarius", the theme is definately astrology on this second CD. A concept which fits the band perfectly well. "Aquarius" should be the first single from this second album. It was a highlight for guitar player Phil Woodward to record the song, because he'd the privilege to use the prototype of ULI JON ROTH's 'Sky Guitar".Reason enough to chose "Aquarius" as their next, second video clip. From that day on, the glorious future of SAHARA takes its turn and a black shade appears over this desert of talents. You name it and it happens to the band. The video couldn't be completed due to financial difficulties. Kevin Millar quits the band, being replaced by Trevor Thornton (who worked with KIM WILDE, DEF LEPPARD and ASIA) and Orion's marriage came to an end. Worst of all was the appearance of the grunge sound, which killed the (melodic) rock scene. Everybody, who played in a band went into the alternative direction, closing the market for SAHARA's music. "The Seventh House" didn't sell too well and Diane Arens left the band. SAHARA disbanded that very same day. The chemistry didn't work anymore, just as simple as that. The loss of Kevin was already a huge shock, but like I mentioned before, Diane was one of the faces of SAHARA together with Liz. Their press release, dated July 1st, 1995, stated that Liz was working with Trevor Thornton, Phil Woodward and Orion Lindemann.

From that day on, our information is blank. Till the day, MM got in contact with Elizabeth (Liz) Vandall. She was very busy, but took the oppor-tunity to provide us with some more information. We heard that she and Diane had teamed up together again, working on a project playing dark music, centered around piano and keyboards. Away from where SAHARA stood for all these years. A musical experience combining Gothic, New Age and Renaissance elements with bluesy vocals. Besides that, Liz is also working in England with ULI JON ROTH to lay down some vocal tracks for his new album. This information came to us in July '96. Our latest updates are from October last year, whem Liz told us that she and Diane were still writing together and she was still working with ULI JON ROTH in England. This new ULI JON ROTH album will be finished this year ('97) and presumably will be released under the name of "Soldiers Of Grace". It's still a dream come true, I imagine. When we asked her for a full update on the other bandmembers, she replied that Phil Woodward and Orion Lindemann are now working together in a Southern rock band called LEIGH CATES and they are in the studio recording a CD. Kevin Millar is still working with various groups, but he's doing nothing real 'serious' at the moment. Our 'Back To The Past' ends here for now.

But I can already tell you, that MM has contacted Liz for an exclusive interview [MM#8] and we can provide you with even more information than we already did. Can we ever expect a SAHARA reunion? How will this collaboration between Liz and Diane sound? Only time will tell, I guess.... For now, I'd like to thank Liz Vandall for her great contribution setting up this well earned 'Back To The Past' story, dedicated to the ever lasting memory of SAHARA........
written by: Toine van Poorten/copyright Metal Maidens

GOING CRAZY (Dream Circle Records '92)
THE SEVENTH HOUSE (Dream Circle Records '94)
METAL QUEENS II compilation (u.w. SAHARA "I Won't Be Lonely")