Sweeney Todd

The rejuvenated Barnsley classic metallers, Saxon, return with their new album 'Into The Labyrinth'. I for one have been looking forward to this release after almost wearing out their last album 'The Inner Sanctum'. 2004's release, 'Lionheart' was a solid piece of work, which was critically acclaimed and rightly so. 'The Inner Sanctum' eclipsed it in style, song writing and attitude and thankfully the metal media were beginning to take notice again. After eighteen albums and thirty years in the music business Saxon have seen it all. They've hit upon a winning formula of straight down the line heavy metal with touches of good time rock n roll. After living with this album for three weeks I think 'Into The Labyrinth' suffers with a little too much rock n roll at the expense of the metal.

'Battalions Of Steel' is as fist thumping as its sounds and is the best opener the band have produced for a while. The production is first class thanks to the Helloween knob twiddler Charlie Bauerfeind. The top end is crisp, Byff sounds great and the bass simple rumbles adding depth and substance. Sadly, the next song, 'Live To Rock', doesn't live up to the quality of the opener. It’s the lead single but it's Bon Jovi 'Bad Medicine' start and mid tempo simple rock flavour is a little, well, dull for the want of a better word. Thankfully, 'Demon Sweeney Todd' makes up for lost ground by having that metal tinged style Saxon excel at. 'Valley Of The Kings' is another metal infused epic and another highlight. Its layers of keyboards, vocals and cutting guitars all add up to a Saxon mini masterpiece.

From this point, I'm ashamed to say, I always begin to drift off and wash up or brush the dogs because the second half doesn't contain the same class of song. It's all very much mid tempo and you start to ache for something with a little more balls to it. As nice as 'Slow Lane Blues' and 'Crimes Of Passion' are they don't boil the senses or pump the blood round the body. 'Voice' is a nice tune and the best in the second half but the word 'nice' shouldn't really describe a metal song. 'Protect Yourselves' is an Ozzy hand-me-down and 'Hellcat' is left too late in the running order to inject any real pace or excitement into the proceedings. 'Come Rock Of Ages' finishes off the album with some dis-satisfaction because, like 'Live To Rock', its just too boring. There's a bottleneck version of 'Coming Home' (originally found on the Killing Ground album) and is quite irritating even as a bonus tune tagged on the end.

After 'The Inner Sanctum' I was half expecting something a little more low key but I must admit 'Into The Labyrinth' is a little disappointing. It sounds great and there are four brilliant songs. But whereas the last few Saxon albums have been consistent around their highlights, 'Into The Labyrinth' doesn't have the ideas, the fire and the attitude. Don't get me wrong, it's still an enjoyable listen but compared to their previous form this album just lacks that spark of life. But if you're a Saxon fan it's still worth investing time in it even if it's just for the song 'Demon Sweeney Todd'.