Friday, 22 March 2013

Saxon's 'Sacrifice' - Album Review

British heavy metal legends Saxon seem to have had a new lease of life over the past few years. With a fine string of albums released recently, culminating in 2011's fantastic Call to Arms, the band have been touring and playing to sold out audiences world wide. Sacrifice is their twentieth studio album, and it is another winner. While it is not quite as strong as Call to Arms in my opinion, it is still a real belter - full of great old school metal anthems with great riffs and pounding drums. As usual with Saxon, melody is at the forefront of the compositions but it remains hard-hitting and heavy. There are no ballads here, just nine furious metal songs straight out of the early 1980s. As always with this band, it is a group effort - bringing out the individual strengths of the members. Whether this is the distinctive voice of frontman Biff Byford; the loud, pounding bass of Nibbs Carter; or the simple yet effective drum beats of Nigel Glockler - the band is always firing on all cylinders and always having a damn good time!

After the orchestral introduction Procession, the album kicks off in style with the rousing title track. Sacrifice also acts as the album's first single and contains all the hallmarks of a classic metal song. The guitars have a certain rawness about them, yet are still well defined and the bass rumbles away beneath constantly audible and powerful. It would make a great concept opener with it's furious energy and fist-pumping chorus where Biff could lead crowd through their paces. Made in Belfast follows, and it is one of the best tracks on the album. Opening with an Irish melody, the song soon becomes another riff-heavy beast. Again, the song boasts another anthemic chorus that will great live. The aformentioned Irish melody is used again throughout the song and creates a nice contrast between the heavy guitar riffage. This a real monster of a song, and deserves to be heard live! The next highlight is Guardians of the Tomb. This is more of a mid-paced rocker that has a great lead guitar intro before and solid verse and chorus emerge. Standard stuff, but it is extremely catchy and well executed. Like Made in Belfast incorporated some Irish melodies, this one does the same with Chinese ones. Little things like this just help the songs stand apart from the rest and give them a unique identity. There is also a really melodic guitar solo!

Stand Up and Fight is next and the quality remains high. This song has a really old-school sound about it and would not have seemed out of place on the Demin and Leather album from 1981. It roars a little less, yet has bags of melody - it just feels like it belongs it in the 1980s. Again, there is plenty of great guitar work from Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. The pair have been working together for almost twenty years now, and it shows. They play off each other well, each taking turns to solo and show off what they bring to Saxon. There is an excellent melodic passage in this song that shows off their playing. The next highlight is Night of the Wolf. The intro is great with a really rocking guitar riff and some powerful drumming from Glockler. Biff said in an interview that this was loosely based on the Jack Nicholson film Wolf from 1994, and this song is a good companion piece for the film. A great song for a great film! Wheels of Terror is another mid-paced stormer. The bass seems to really drive the verses here and some great Iron Maiden-style twin lead guitar work adds some melody into the relentless pounding off the bass and drums. The album ends with the rather throwaway Standing in a Queue but it does not take anything away from the album. Overall, this 40 minutes of pure heavy metal mastery. There is nothing fancy going on here, just pure unadulterated metal. Worth a look for anyone who likes it heavy!

The album was released on 1st March 2013 via UDR GmbH. Below is the band's promotional video for Sacrifice.

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