The British legends Saxon release their new album, which must be their 22nd (or something like that) effort during a nearly 30-year career. Unlike Iron Maiden and Def Leppard among others, Saxon never reaped the true benefits from the NWOBHM upsurge. By mid-1980’s disastrous attempt to go commercial in order to crack the US market, Saxon’s day had already passed and albums like “Rock The Nations” were filling up the bargain bins.
But the band soldiered on despite failing sales and several personnel changes. 10 years later with few marginally better records behind them the band roughed up their sound considerably for 1997’s “Unleash The Beast.” With only mainstay vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn remaining from the early line-up, this was crucially right move. Thus begun Saxon’s second golden era and between 1998-2004 they released three killer albums with each topping the one before that. The songs were heavy and most importantly they grooved, production was also brought to a different level. They even went in the studios and re-recorded bunch of their old classics for “Heavy Metal Thunder” CD (2002) and every single one of them was better than original version. Not many bands could accomplish this.
So on to year 2007 and “The Inner Sanctum.” Nigel Glockler is back on drums after 20-something years and the album comes straight off their 1980’s themed tour (club dates where only songs from that decade were aired). Quite naturally then, the album tries to draw its inspiration from such milestones as “Wheels Of Steel” while retaining the more modern touch successfully applied on latest records. Results are somewhat mixed.
After crushing “Lionheart” the main guitar riff on the opener “State Of Grace” is simply not heavy enough. Song itself rocks nicely and boasts a catchy chorus in typical new millennium Saxon-mode. Elsewhere things more or less remain the same. Song titles should tell you everything, “Need For Speed,” “Let Me Feel Your Power,” “Going Nowhere Fast…” Sound wise, it harks back to albums like “Solid Ball Of Rock” or “Forever Free” and features solid playing from the whole team. The essential aspect of it, the song writing is – well again – solid. “The Inner Sanctum” is an album without too many highs or lows. In fact were this released in late 1980’s, it probably would have been viewed as brilliant come back.
Nowadays though, the bar has been set higher by the band themselves. Fast songs dominate, but the biggest rush comes at the end with “Atila The Hun.” A silly topic it might be, but this kind of mid-tempo melodies are very much needed by this point. The only is complaint is, once again more heaviness could have been added to it.
The limited edition also includes a nice bonus DVD with few songs from the club tour in Germany plus interviews. Apparently this will be released as full double disc later this year.
If you love metal as Saxon have been delivering for past 30 years then this new album will no doubt please you. It keeps the light shining and there obviously is more fuel left in the engines to produce more good quality material in the future.
For someone like myself, who enjoyed Saxon’s latter day gems enormously “The Inner Sanctum” is indeed a slight letdown.
1. State Of Grace
2. Need For Speed
3. Let Me Feel Your Power
4. Red Star Falling
5. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
6. If I Was You (album version)
7. Going Nowhere Fast
8. Ashes To Ashes
9. Empire Rising
10. Attila The Hun