Thirty-four years is a long time. It’s a long time any way that one thinks about it in terms of regular time. IN terms of the world of music, thirty-four years is an exceptionally long amount of time. That’s how long the British hard rock band Saxon has been making music. In an era when the music world is top heavy with flash-in-the-pan bands, it says something special about Saxon that the band is still making music and is still a fan favorite. Over the course of those three decades plus, Saxon has crafted some nineteen albums. And now on its twentieth (yes, twentieth) full length record, Sacrifice, Saxon shows once again why it is still so popular and successful.
Sacrifice is pure guitar driven hard rock. The album’s ten-song set will impress anyone that is a fan of the band’s British brothers in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. If there is one song that best exemplifies the album’s title, it would have to be ‘Made in Belfast.’ This song pays tribute to the Irish workmen who built so many of the world’s great structures. That includes both buildings and sailing vessels. The band sings proudly in the song’s chorus, “Pulling all together boys/Salving for the boss’s boys/Got to meet the deadline now/Pulling all together boys/Made in Belfast/Made in Belfast.” The song goes on sounding more like something that audiences might expect more from the likes of Boston’s own Celtic punk rock band Dropkick Murphys than from any hard rock act. Regardless of this, it proves that even hard rock bands can cover more than the standard lyrical themes in their songs.
Just as fitting an addition to Sacrifice as ‘Made in Belfast’ is ‘Walking the Steel.’ This song is an obvious tribute to all who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 from the innocent victims to the first responders that died trying to save the innocents. It also pays tribute to those that have made so much sacrifice to help “Ground Zero” return to its former glory as they build the aptly named “Freedom Tower.” It’s a different form of sacrifice. But it still fits quite well within the album title’s general theme. Front man Biff Byford (who co-produced this album alongside famed producer Andy Sneap—Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engage, Fozzy) sings proudly in this song, “Rising from the ashes floor by floor/Reaching up into the sky/Where the eagles soar/The city sleeps/Life goes on/Hope is still alive/Born again the towers rise above the New York skies./Rising from the ashes for all the world to see.” This single verse, which opens the song, is certain to become a fan favorite both on the record and in a live setting. It is so easy to close one’s eyes and see fists breaking the air with pride, and the audiences in attendance singing along with the band as it reaches the chorus, “Walking the steel build them high/Walking the steel you touch the sky/Remember the heroes/Remember them all.” Anyone that is left unmoved by this song is simply not human.
‘Made in Belfast’ and ‘Walking The Steel’ are both excellent additions to Sacrifice. They were perfect choices for the album, considering its lyrical themes. There is much more for audiences to appreciate about this album, though. There is the traditional song about living life on the road in ‘Stand Up and Fight’, and the completely original song, ‘Guardians of the Tomb’, which comes across as being about the famed “terracotta army” of China. Go through the annals of hard rock and one will struggle to find many bands that have decided on this as subject matter for a song. Saxon’s members get major credit for that originality and for crafting a song that rocks at the same time. There are even more songs on Sacrifice from which listeners will be able to choose proving why these old dogs still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. They alone are more than worth picking up this album, which is available now.
If the songs on Sacrifice’s main disc aren’t enough for fans, then maybe the bonus EP will impress listeners. The bonus EP boasts five re-recorded songs from the band’s catalogue, anchored by the beautiful orchestral take of ‘Crusader.’ The cellos used throughout the song conjure thoughts of Apocalyptica. The album’s liner notes don’t’ make mention of whether or not it is the band in question. Regardless, they are a nice touch. The way that the song starts out with the gentle acoustic guitar alongside Byro’s vocals before building into the pounding rhythms of the re-recorded song makes for huge effect. The effect of that mix is made even better with the inclusion of any number of string musicians. It may not be the first time ever that a band has incorporated strings into a rock song. But it still works nonetheless. The bluesy ‘Just Let Me Rock’ is slower than ‘Crusader.’ But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less enjoyable. There’s almost a certain ‘Ace of Spades’ vibe about this song. Even Byro himself sounds a little like Lemmy Kilmister. Were someone to hear this song without knowing that Byro was singing, one might actually believe for a moment that it was in fact Kilmister singing. The guitar solos are just as blistering as anything that Motorhead could put out, too. To say that this album is that impressive is a tribute to both Byro and his band mates. It proves just how good this album is and how worth it is for any true hard rocker to pick up or order online. The band is currently on the road in support of Sacrifice. It is winding down the U.S. leg of its tour before taking a little time off in October to get ready for the European leg of its tour. More information on this latest release from Saxon, its tour dates, and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/saxon and http://www.saxon747.com.
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