Savage Grace – Sign of the Cross Review

Savage Grace are a band now relegated pretty deeply into the dustbin of history, with only a small cadre of elder metal aficionados remembering their brief but entertaining forays into speed/traditional/NWoBHM from 1983 to 1987. They appeared on Metal Massacre II in 1982, but unlike other acts on that compilation like Warlord, Armored Saint, and Overkill, they never got to that next stage of their career, though they should be famous for some of the worst album art in metal history.1  They did however release two very solid albums (Master of Disguise and After the Fall from Grace) showcasing a proto-speed sound that helped expand the American power metal style. 1986s After the Fall from Grace was their best work product, rocking a regal, epic sound and I still spin it regularly. After that, the band collapsed, though guitarist/vocalist Chris Logue made multiple efforts to resurrect it over the years. This even lead to a homage act called Master of Disguise forming from the ashes of an ill-fated Savage Grace comeback by Logue, with this new entity sidelining Logue to essentially release 2 platters of solid Savage Grace-core on their own. After all that jiggery pokery, Logue is finally back with a new Savage Grace platter, some 37 years after they last graced our earholes. Is grace a perishable commodity or will savage determination grant this most cult of 80s act a second chance?

With Logue the sole original member, it’s unrealistic to expect Sign of the Cross to sound exactly like the golden olden days, but at times the classic sound is indeed present, as on rousing opener “Barbarians at the Gate.” This is 100% classic 80s metal reeking of the pre-thrash days, with speed levels still stuck in the same gear as what Judas Priest and Accept were doing at their most aggressive. It’s plenty urgent and punchy though and Gabriel Colón (Lynch Mob, ex-Gothic Knights) does a fine job wailing and screaming. It’s got a healthy dose of nostalgia pumping up the overall effect and some wild guitar work seals the deal. It’s not amazing, but it’s plenty entertaining. Better yet is “Automoton” which is a rocking, socking classic metal anthem ripped right from the pages of Painkiller and the works of Riot City. Other winning moments include the epic Maiden-meets-Agent Steel fury of the title track and the Manimal-esque “Slave of Desire.”

Then there are the misses. Several tracks depart from their bread and butter style to dabble in a borderline hair/sleaze rock sound, and “Stealin My Heart Away,” “Branded,” and to a lesser extent,  “Star Crossed Lovers” feel like they don’t belong on the same alum as the aforementioned ragers. Besides these tracks not being especially good, they create a severe identity crisis on an album full of straight-up metal chargers and they drag the overall energy level down at key moments. The album goes out with a whimper with 2 such cuts in a row, all but extinguishing the flame of classic metal the band stokes so furiously on the front half, leaving the listener flummoxed and perplexed. I will give props to the authentically retro sound the band captured here. This album sounds like something you found in the dustiest corner of a vintage vinyl shop and there’s nothing the least bit modern in the production.

Savage Grace do a bunch of things well here, especially guitar-wise, with Chris Logue tearing things up with beefy riffs and wild, shreddy solos. He channels the best parts of the early 80s British and American metal sound and there are some very solid moments scattered across the album., especially on “Automoton,” the title track, and “Slave of Desire.” Gabriel Colón anchors things with a convincingly over-the-top vocal performance ripped from the Rob Halford, Ralf Scheepers school of brutal ball constriction. The overall package screams 80s metal and screams it loudly, and that makes olden Steel happy. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t more consistent and focused.

I didn’t come into Sign of the Cross expecting the next After the Fall from Grace, and there are definitely some rough spots here to deal with, but for a band dead in the dirt for 37 years, Savage Grace still has some fire and fury left. If they can kick the writing up a bit next time, they may be onto something I can fully support. My suggestion: Go track down the original 80s albums and sample a forgotten piece of metal history. There’s gold in them there ancient vaults ov metal.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 5th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. A trend that they clearly wanted to bring into modern times.
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