Saxon - Into the labyrinth 3.5/5
1. Battalions of steel
2. Live to rock
3. Demon Sweeney Todd
4. The letter
5. Valley of the kings
6. Slow lane blues
7. Crime of passion
8. Premonition in D minor
10. Protect yourselves
12. Come rock of ages (The circle is complete)
13. Coming home (bottleneck version)
From the inception of NWOBHM, Saxon has maintained themselves in rarified air, and despite a recorded history of 30 years, the band’s last 6 CDs have demonstrated even more metal glory and consistency than their earlier work (with no disrespect to their earlier classics), especially given the regularity with which the most recent decade’s work has been poured. With vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn still with the band from its very first CD, and bassist Nib Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler having played with the band since the 80s (although the latter with some hiatus), and Doug Scaratt on the guitarist as the newcomer with “only” 12 years invested in the band, it’s a pretty remarkable portrait.
But whatever the history, all that matters is the metal put to record, and, like its immediate predecessors, 'Into the labyrinth' serves up instantly enjoyable heavy metal. The CD wisely opens up with one of its very best tracks, “Battalions of steel”, a lush, massive anthem, and other strong points include the devastating speed of “Demon Sweeney Todd” (which, don’t forget, was legend and story long before the musical if Sondheim gives you the jitters), and more glorious anthems in “Valley of the kings” and “Come rock of ages”. In the past especially, Saxon had some inconsistency or variety, depending on your outlook, and there feels like more of that then on the past few CDs, with songs like “Slow lane blues” (which lives up to its name in every way), “Live to rock”, the twanging “Coming home”, and songs a bit slower and simple like “Protect yourselves” and “Crime of passion”, all of which veer towards the hard rock side of metal. You can have fun with these tracks, or you might find them simply less powerful and inspiring than the other work.
Still a very strong CD, that diversity in songwriting, at least for me, takes the CD down just a bit below the last few we’ve seen from mighty Saxon, though, like in their earlier work, the great stuff is really great and up there in quality.
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