This was always going to be a tough review for me. Why you may ask is that? Well, I’ll tell you. Saxon are by far and away my favourite band and have been since 1982. I have a voracious appetite for collecting their albums in various formats (over 300 at the last count) and have seen them more times live than I would care to admit; therefore I have to balance my love for them whilst passing on an informative and hopefully unbiased review of their latest and 20th studio album, ‘Sacrifice’, especially as a certain forum and its members will be more than slightly interested to hear what I have to say (I hope)! Need I have worried? Absolutely not, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘Sacrifice’ is a beast of an album from start to finish, their heaviest in quite a few years and continues a very long run of excellent releases. Saxon have never been a band to rest on past glories and, even during some lean times in the 1990s, have released new products regularly to keep us fanatics satisfied and they show absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Initially, what you will notice with this album is the sound quality. Being beautifully produced by Biff and engineered by Jacky Lehmann would usually be a good enough team by itself, but this time they’ve only gone and got the master Andy Sneap to mix everything and, wow, can you hear it. There is a night and day difference between this and previous album ‘Call To Arms’ and that was no slouch when it came to sound either. There is just something about the way Sneap does his job that screams quality. As for the songs themselves, well, it’s difficult to know where to start. “All killer, no filler” is an overused cliché but it really does apply in this case. ‘Sacrifice’ opens with ‘Procession’, a perfect intro piece that you just know is going to explode into something special. It duly obliges, launching into a title track that may well be one of the best Saxon have written in quite some while. This has already been played a few times live and will certainly become a firm favourite at gigs. Follow this with ‘Made In Belfast’, ‘Warriors Of The World’, ‘Guardians Of The Tomb’ and ‘Stand Up And Fight’ and there is absolutely no let up in the quality of songs, although my favourite (at the moment) is ‘Walking The Steel’, a medium-paced burner that has me wanting to stomp around my music room headbanging at full tilt (not good for someone my age)! It continues with ‘Night Of The Wolf’ and ‘Wheels Of Terror’ before the album properly closes with ‘Standing In A Queue’. Only Saxon could write a song about this most mundane of subjects and make it metal; it’s absolutely brilliant and very funny.
I then hurriedly insert disc two into my stereo (I was lucky enough to get this version to review) to see what they’ve done with some older songs and it is a revelation. ‘Crusader’ has always been one of my favourite Saxon tracks but the boys have outdone themselves with this new orchestral version. It is quite simply stunning. Follow this with re-recorded versions of ‘Just Let Me Rock’ and ‘Forever Free’, and brilliant acoustic versions of ‘Requiem’ and ‘Frozen Rainbow’, and you have the icing on a heavy metal cake. Biff sounds better with each release; how he does it I do not know and his lyrics always deserve close attention. Paul Quinn & Doug Scarratt’s guitar work is quite easily some of the best they have ever recorded; Nigel Glockler once again shows that he puts most drummers in the shade and Tim ‘Nibbs’ Carter’s bass thunders like a steam train. Saxon are now more popular than they have been for many years, thank goodness, and they show with ‘Sacrifice’ that ‘The Eagle’ is flying in very safe hands. I also urge you to go out and see them on their upcoming UK Tour in April; it’s going to be killer.
Review by Rick Tilley
39:30 & 22:50
4th March 2013
1) Procession; 2) Sacrifice; 3) Made in Belfast; 4) Warriors of the Road; 5) Guardians of the Tomb; 6) Stand Up and Fight; 7) Walking the Steel; 8) Night of the Wolf; 9) Wheels of Terror; 10) Standing in a Queue
BONUS DISC: 1) Crusader (Orchestrated Version); 2) Just Let Me Rock (Re-recorded Version); 3) Requiem (Acoustic Version); 4) Frozen Rainbow (Acoustic Version); 5) Forever Free (Re-recorded Version)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a beast of an album from start to finish, their heaviest in quite a few years and continues a very long run of excellent releases."