Monday, February 11, 2013

SAXON: "Sacrifice"

Rating: RRRR
Label: UDR 2013
Review by Alan Holloway

37 years and twenty studio albums… you’d think that Saxon didn’t have any more heavy metal left in them, but faced with the mammoth task of following up the excellent “Call To Arms” they’ve stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the fookin’ park yet again.

Whilst I enjoyed Saxon’s more heavy metal output that kept them afloat for much of the late nineties and noughties, I always preferred their more melody led output, where they mixed ball achingly heavy riffs with catchy choruses and a natural flowing style. As with their previous release, “Sacrifice” takes what’s best about Saxon in their NWOBHM days and Saxon as a heavy metal band and squeezes them together to hopefully keep everyone happy.

With that said, you’re not going to get anything really new here, as Saxon are one of those bands that aren’t prone to too much experimentation. Regardless, whilst bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath have their copycats, I have still never heard another band that have a sound quite like Saxon. This is partly due to Biff Byford’s unique vocal sound, a sound he will be lending to Avantasia in a couple of months. He sounds as good as he ever has here, and I can vouch for the fact that he can also carry it off live as well, a true metal god if ever there was one.

The only skippable moment on the whole album is that old bugbear the unnecessary intro. A pointless minute and a half at the beginning of the album, all “Procession” manages to do is piss me off, but at least it can be skipped rather than being bolted on to the first song proper, the belting title track. It kicks in with a crunchy riff, some neat wah wah work and Biff riding the lot like a surfer on a wave. It’s a heavy song, but never sacrifices (no pun intended) melody for simple power. From here on it’s non stop, without any ballads or plodding metal grinders in sight. “Warriors Of The Road” is worthy of extra attention, a fast and very melodic piece that should kick ass live, and even when things slow down a bit for “Night Of The Wolf”, it’s all about atmosphere, bringing to mind the likes of “Dallas 1pm” or “Crusader”. I have a felling that this one might just get it’s claws (pun definitely intended) into the live setlist for a few years to come. The only sort of let down is the album closer “Standing In A Queue” which is a good song musically but is let down by some pretty naff lyrics about, well, standing in queues.

In closing, “Sacrifice” is as good as any Saxon album of the last thirty years (and a bit). It’s everything you love about the band musically and lyrically, and it really is astonishing that they can keep making such exciting music after all this time without sounding tired or repetitive. Simply put, this is a must buy for any Saxon fan, even those who drifted off years ago. Saxon are still here, so stand up and be counted with them.

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