I was raised on classic rock. My three favorite albums as a 7 year old were To You by Dutch blues rockers Brainbox, Aqualung by Jethro Tull and Deep Purple In Rock. I heard the phrase “Aren’t you a little young for that?” so often in conversation, hearing it on the street didn’t even surprise me when someone caught me whistling “Stairway to Heaven” or wearing a Deep Purple shirt. That love laid the foundations for where I am in music today, and it never went away. But while a lot of bands these days harken back to the age of hippies and vinyl, not many of them manage to truly nail the sound. Swedish rockers Saturn are among the minority.

Opener “Orbital Command” demonstrates why within the first minute. The production on this album is wonderfully crisp and clear and it’s infused with a warm fuzz that adds four decades to the music in the best way. If I didn’t know better, I’d estimate Beyond Spectra to have been recorded in 1973 in a good London studio, possibly with The Rolling Stones or The Who jamming next door. The band accomplished this by using old-school analog recording and evidently did not tamper with or compress the result too much. While the drop in loudness from ordinary modern music means you have to crank up your set a bit to get the full dosage, it’s well worth doing so. The only thing that would have improved this aspect further is a more prominent bass. The body lies lower in the mix than I would have preferred, and as such the bass is felt more than heard. However, putting too much stock into that blemish would be like returning a gift because the wrapping paper isn’t pretty.

The music is far from shabby as well. There’s an ease and looseness in the guitars, not focused on playing tight and technical but pushing fun and energy to the foreground. This doesn’t mean sloppiness, however; the riffs are excellent and playful, the solos even better. Of special note are the extended midsection of old-school Judas Priest ersatz “Helmet Man” and the energetic opener. The entertaining boogie rhythm on “Wolfsson” might have come from Foghat and “Electrosaurus Sex” contains a cheeky goose-stepping chorus that glanced at the blueprints for Blue Öyster Cult‘s “Godzilla.” Easily the best song here is the snappy “Still Young” which bounces through its Deep Purple slash Status Quo rock ‘n roll at such a high speed it threatens to fly off the rails. While all this name dropping makes the band sound derivative, it comes across more as a loving tribute to that age of rock and early heavy metal, injecting little homages into a style wholly their own.

A few drawbacks keep the album from being listed among its inspirations, however. While the vocals have a pleasant timbre and enunciate with an engaging drawl, they trip up on the falsettos, missing notes and shaking unevenly. It’s the one thing that keeps me from fully engaging with “Helmet Man” which is laden with them. Furthermore, the tail of the album doesn’t keep up with the rest, with the final two tracks simply lacking the hooks to hang around. It’s the only tracks I can’t recall even with effort, which is the opposite of what a hook-reliant album is supposed to accomplish. It makes for a disappointing climax to an otherwise entirely satisfying spin.

But these quibbles don’t come near to breaking the album. Saturn have crafted a loving tribute to the seventies without becoming a glorified cover band. Their passion shines through loud and clear, not in the least thanks to the wonderfully dynamic and classic production. Too many bands play retro music and slap a modern mix and master onto it, but these Swedish younglings demonstrate how to live and breathe retro in every aspect of your music. The demerits mean it’s not going to be spinning in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame anytime soon, but if you grew up with the classics, Beyond Spectra is a lovely throwback.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 13 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rise Above Records
Websites: facebook.com/saturnsweden
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2017

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  • Ein Sophistry

    Are we at a point now where we can agree that all these conspicuously minimalistic drumkits (look ma, no toms!) are just as pretentious in their own bass ackwards way as the Alex Van Halen-esque monstrosities of yesteryear?

    • Robin

      Nope. We just couldn’t fit more drums in Linkans small living room where the video was shot . / Robin (Saturn)

      • Ein Sophistry

        Aw, jeez…this is one of those “I’ve been an asshole” moments. Apologies, sirs.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        So, there are toms in the song that didn’t make it into the video?

        • Robin

          We had to leave them behind.. it was a really hard decision but sometimes you have to be a douchebag.

    • Ivan E. Rection

      Better than the Ulrich opposite. I think Lars hit his toms a total of 17 times throughout the entire last double album. Lost track of how many of his “fills” were nothing but snare triplets. These guys are meat and potatoes, and drum kit matches.

    • Óðinn

      I generally find the guys with unnecessarily large drum kits to be pretentious personally. Listening to this song by Saturn, the drums felt right, regardless of the size of the kit. Plus, the video is not where they recorded the album.

      • GardensTale

        Thanks, Óðinn.

  • Scourge

    Bill Watterson wants his dinosaur back.

    • madhare

      I know, it’s just a joke. But as a comic book fan, I can’t resist. :D

      No, not Watterson. Al Williamson or one of the other 1960s and 1970s comic gurus. Watterson was deliberately doing “retro” and referring to those guys. So calling it Watterson’s dino is like praising Saturn for inventing this music style.

  • Asral

    This sounds pretty fun.

    Also, “Electrosaurus sex” is a fantastic song title.

  • RuySan

    DR 13! I can see right away that these guys are no poseurs

  • GardensTale

    I am still wondering why that guy on the left is about 85% neck though.

  • aaron bergman

    I totally Radar Love it!

  • ssorg

    Loved the Maiden-esque solos!

    • Tofu muncher

      Yep. Early Maiden is right.

  • Nola Trash Talk

    No mention of Budgie? Because this is Budgie.

    • GardensTale

      I haven’t heard them, sorry!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Go fix that for your own sake! Their first two albums are classics.

    • Linkan Lindgren

      Thx alot! Its an hounor to be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys :)

  • Wilhelm

    Good take on proto-metal, the production/mastering is HOW IT SHOULD BE for the style

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    And so GardensTale has become candidate number 1 for doing a “Yer Metal is Olde” on Deep Purple albums.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “Electrosaurus Sex”? We have a strong candidate for Best Song Title of 2017.

  • Bas

    Whow. Love this!!! Spring music 2017 found !

  • rumour_control

    “The demerits mean it’s not going to be spinning in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame anytime soon…” — actually, that’s a merit.

    • GardensTale

      Hah, ain’t that the truth.

  • Kronos Sr.

    Now there is an album cover that Kronos is secretly admiring.