Let me feel your POWER!!
Saxon have seen it all over the past thirty years, one could say they've been there, seen it, done it, got the t-shirt, washed it, ironed it and over the years watched it go from black to grey due to cheap non colour detergent. They perhaps don't receive the accolades they deserve, but thankfully, after a crop of solid albums including the critically acclaimed 2004 release 'Lionheart', they release their new album, 'The Inner Sanctum' on SPV.
The Barnsley Metallers are one of the best live acts I've ever seen, for the simple reason that they play their best songs in their set. It just so happens that Saxon arguably wrote all their best tunes on their first six albums, which is why their set lists concentrate on their early works. The bottom line is, it's going to take one hell of a collection of tracks to worm their way into the Saxon bread and butter, and I think with 'The Inner Sanctum' they may have just written them.
After such a long career covering 17 studio albums, what can we expect from 'The Inner Sanctum?' Saxon know how to deliver to the converted, they haven't deviated from the winning formula for a while and rightly so. At this stage in their metal careers the last thing the band would want to do alienate their audience, their only and perhaps best goal is to write the best goddam heavy metal album they can, and to this end they have succeeded admirably.
I have a compilation folder in my MP3 player that is devoted to Saxon. After placing the new tracks in amongst the classics and hitting 'random play' I quickly noticed how seamlessly these tracks blended in with songs such as '20,000 Feet' and 'Motorcycle Man'. 'State of Grace', 'Need for Speed' and 'Let me feel your power' are the best three opening tracks to a Saxon album I've heard since 'Strong Arm of the Law', the latter severely kicking my butt.
The first six tracks are wonderful, they are varied yet totally Saxon. 'Need for Speed' demonstrates their true metal characteristics, 'Red Star Falling' is anthemic and well put together, whereas 'I've got to rock (to stay alive)' harks back to the early days when the band had that AC/DC rock n roll side to them.
'Going nowhere fast' is another upbeat rocker but perhaps isn't as strong as the songs that preceded it, the same could be said for 'Ashes to Ashes' but both tracks are strong, just not as strong as the others on the disc. The album closes with the awesome 'Atila the Hun,' an eight-minute epic that really shows Saxon on top of their creative game. All these great tunes are topped off with a fantastically tight and crisp production courtesy of Charlie Bauerfiend (Helloween, Primal Fear).
Apart from the dip in the latter half of this album, the only other thing that lets this album down are the complete crassness of the lyrics. Perhaps I'm being a little too picky, but after 17 albums I think Biff has finally stopped trying, for example, "What you sow is what you reap, you can't stop now, you're in too deep, " and "We'll make a stand and give it all when our backs to the wall." The album is littered with such lyrical clichés, it's as if Biff has consulted the Puffin book of heavy metal lyrics and bashed out all ten songs within an hour. Having said that, they don't detract from the actual music and after three listens I stopped caring.
Every fan of Saxon should pick this album up as soon as possible and I would go as far to say that anyone not a fan of Saxon could do a lot worse than making 'The Inner Sanctum' their starting point with this band. I've not enjoyed a Saxon album as much since 1984's 'Crusader', most albums since 'Crusader' have had a couple of good songs on them, but for myself 'The Inner Sanctum' has been the only one to have a mark of quality all the way through it. Get it now!