The Inner Sactum

Saxon

SPV Records, 2007

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/16/2008

The late 1970s saw a hotbed of heavy metal activity in Great Britain known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, which launched the storied careers of bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, and (biggest of all) Def Leppard, all of whom continue to have enduring popularity in the present as touring and recording acts.

But there were many other bands that were part of this large musical movement that have since faded from the scene or never quite managed to establish themselves, and this includes Saxon, to a degree.

Although they were very much at the forefront of the NWOBHM and even had mainstream success in Britain and Europe in the early 1980s with several albums that are considered classics of the genre today, their popularity faded within a few years and they never secured a foothold in the US, which has unfortunately relegated them to the status of a historical footnote. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

None of that has however discouraged the band, as Saxon has stubbornly soldiered on continuously in the decades since (despite many line-up changes – only vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn remain from the original band), touring often and recording new albums at a consistent pace to maintain their cult following.

This brings us to The Inner Sanctum, Saxon’s 17th studio album, released early in 2007. In typical fashion, the band’s writing style remains largely unchanged from their early 80s heyday, though that seems to work in their favor. By bucking the myriad of musical trends that have come and gone in their 30 years of existence, Saxon has remained true to themselves.

Far from the type of uninspired, half-assed mess one could logically expect from a band this far into their career, The Inner Sanctum is a fresh, energetic disc seemingly meant to deliver the very loud and clear message that it would be a big mistake to dismiss Saxon’s metal prowess.

Indeed, the opening trio of songs (“State Of Grace,” “Need For Speed,” and the Iron Maiden-esque “Let Me Feel Your Power”) explodes forth with ferocity, blasting rapid-fire riffs, soaring vocals, and melodic guitar solos in grand traditional style.

Also present are songs that reflect some of their own influences, sometimes sounding like a heavier Deep Purple (on the refined epic “Red Star Falling”) or AC/DC on the wonderfully catchy mid-tempo stomper “Going Nowhere Fast.” And of course, no self-respecting metal album is complete without at least one bombastic, lengthy track referencing a historical person or event – in this case it’s the Eastern tinged opus “Attila The Hun.”

The Inner Sanctum sees Saxon firing on all cylinders, deftly managing to create an album that is solid throughout with a tasteful approach to songwriting in a genre that all too often winds up plunging into the realm of overblown cheese. And all this decades past their supposed peak. Savvy, very savvy.

This is the sound of a band that’s still hungry and has something to prove. Fans of traditional heavy metal from a time before such sub-genres like thrash or power metal had even been invented will certainly find a lot to like here.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of SPV Records, and is used for informational purposes only.