Saxon // Sacrifice
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — The power sans the glory
Label: UDR Music
Websites: saxon747.com  |  myspace.com/planetsaxon
Release Dates: EU: 2013.03.01  |  US: 03.26.2013

saxon_sacrifice_cover_300pxThere’s no better example of a hard-working, determined, but ultimately second tier act than Saxon [Ouch.. that smarts. - AMG]. They were part of the original NWoBHM and have been churning out traditional metal albums since 1979. They’ve had classic platters like Wheels of Steel and Denim and Leather and a wealth of classic songs (“Crusader” is so damn good). Still, most metal fans wouldn’t put them on as high a pedestal as Maiden or Priest in the Pantheon of Metal Kings (ov Steel). To me, they occupy the same space in the NWoBHM world that Exodus occupies in relation to the “Big Four” of thrash: right up there, but forever outside looking in. Since 1997’s Unleash the Beast, they’ve had a pretty consistent run of decent to good albums, albeit with little variation from the typical 80s metal sound. Unfortunately, Sacrifice is a slip up  and some of the tunes are rather lackluster. It still sounds like Saxon (i.e. no frills, simplistic, bluesy NWoBHM), but a flat and generic version. That’s ironic and a quite the bummer, since some of this stuff is considerably heavier than any of their recent material and the band sounds plenty fired up, despite the group AARP plan.

The newfound heaviness is immediately on display with the title track, and while it’s still a traditional Saxon tune, the riffing is jacked way up and bordering on thrash. Biff’s classically whiney voice is in fine form and it’s nifty to hear him singing over some really ballsy music. Still, something about the song just feels blank and boring. This same problem affects other tracks like “Walking the Steel,” “Night of the Wolf” and especially the dreadful “Standing in the Queue.” All have the trademark Saxon sound and style, but all misfire and drop the dreaded Meh Bomb on the listener.

Even some of the decent songs like “Warriors of the Road” and “Wheels of Terror” don’t floor me like they should, despite some interesting riffs and vocal hooks. Take the former for example: it’s lively, energetic and pretty much exactly the type of traditional metal I’ve always loved, but I just can’t get too fired up over it and I’m at a loss to explain why. It just doesn’t move me to metalize.

Despite my ambivalent feelings for much of Sacrifice, there are worthwhile numbers here. “Made in Belfast” is a solid, enjoyable mid-tempo stomper about the famous Irish shipyard that forged the Titanic. It has the classic Saxon “it factor,” a palpable working class, blue-collar grit and you can almost smell the hot iron, blood and sweat (and there’s riffing that approaches Fear Factory heaviness at times). It’s an added thrill to find a Titanic-themed song which isn’t about ice, lifeboats or drawing dirty pictures (oh that Kate Winslet!). Also worthy is “Guardians of the Tomb,” which has good, crunchy riffs, quality vocals and a hooky chorus full of old school ethos. Lastly, “Stand Up and Fight,” is an anthem with attitude which could have been on any of their classic albums.

As a band, everyone sounds good, with Biff in particular sounding feisty and full of prunes. Paul Quinn has been slinging the axe sincesaxon2013band 1977 and he has a knack for crafting vintage riffs, of which there are a fair amount scattered across Sacrifice. He has some interesting harmonies with co-axe Doug Scarrett and most of their playing is pretty cracking, even if it doesn’t always translate into great songs. I appreciate the way they experiment with heavier riffing and tones and hope this continues in the future, as it adds an interesting element to the tried-and-true Saxon sound.

It’s worth noting Sacrifice is a surprisingly short album at just under forty minutes and that makes me wonder if this was a bit of a rush job release. Regardless, after a million albums, a slightly underwhelming Saxon platter isn’t that big a deal and they’re entitled to the occasional minor flub. Sacrifice may not be up there with albums like Call to Arms or Lionheart, but it has moments and it won’t piss anyone off. And there’s the beauty of eternal second tier status – there’s so much less pressure to excel! Keep those feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/luis.coutinho69 Luís Pedro Coutinho

    One more note that I TOTALLY disagree…’Sacrifice’ theme is really awesome, but I never listened to Saxon in my life so I don’t know what they did in the past…

  • James

    Angry Metal Guy must be high. He probably thinks Metalhead sucked, too.

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      Angry Metal Guy didn’t review this, I did. I like Metalhead and think it’s way better than this.

  • http://twitter.com/heresjohnny99 Johnny Anderson

    jeez oh not steel druhm again. second tier? saxon are fucking legends and deserve to be as big as maiden. its sad they are not but i dont think of them as second tier. your wrong with this review too its a really good album. but as i said 2.5 seems to be an addiction of a score on this site

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      Yeah, they are legendary as the “other” NWoBHM band after Maiden and Priest.

      • James

        Purely subjective and probably the belief of a small minority.

    • James

      I agree, Johnny; it seems a bit low. However, in their defense, it gets old when EVERYTHING seems to get a good review (i.e.: the new Dew-Scented got a stellar review by some rag).

      • http://twitter.com/heresjohnny99 Johnny Anderson

        i agree everything getting a good score is just as bad, like some movie, game mags. just seems like low scores are the way here especially for albums that are return to forms for popular bands.

        • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

          We score based on our personal opinion of an album. Some months we have high scores, sometimes low and others there is a mix. Not sure what your complaint is exactly.

  • James

    I don’t give a rat’s ass WHO reviewed it. The text of your review stated they’ve had a “pretty good run of decent to good albums” starting with Unleash the Beast – implying that said record was only “decent” as far as you’re concerned. Of course, your credibility was shot out the window when you’re virtually the only person who’s given a lackluster review of Sacrifice; also, 2nd tier? They’ve headlined many festivals, young man. Generally speaking, band below the top of the hierarchy don’t headline events – ever!

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      I’m well aware of their history and I’ve been listening to them since the 80s. They are a good band with some great albums, but in my opinion, they are still a second tier act with more than their share of clunky albums.

  • James

    How on earth you can give their latest such a low score is beyond me. And yes, they’ve had a few clunky albums. Very few.

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      I said it was OK. We grade pretty tough and I have to feel I will be returning to an album in the future to give it a good or very good. That’s how the cookie crumbles I’m afraid.

      • James

        I hear ya. What did you think of “Call to Arms”, Steel Druhm?

        • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

          I like it better than this. My recent favorites are Unleash the Beast, Metalhead, Lionheart and Call to Arms.

          • James

            What did you think about Into the Labyrinth and The Inner Sanctum. I really dig both but think the latter is better. I agree with your recent favorites, too. I just wish their last record was a little heavier.

          • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

            I didn’t really like much on The Inner Sanctum, but thought Into the Labyrinth was okay.

  • Ron

    This latest Saxon release is sub-par. Production is excellent, but there’s nothing special about the material here. Saxon have had many up & down releases over the years, & I think the review is quite accurate. This will keep them on the road (where there always great live) for another tour, but these tracks may be a bit disappointing to other long time fans. Of the recent release prefer the Inner Sanctum, Lionheart, & Call to Arms had it’s moments, but this reminds me of the lesser half of Into the Labyrinth, or Killing Ground.

  • samrock

    Saxon again deliver a solid cd that will only get better after repeated listens. They will always have new releases compared with their stellar back catalog which I find unfair. Nevertheless, Sacrifice delivers on all fronts and hopefully more music from one of the all time great English metal bands will continue for years to come.