Saxon’s Latest Live LP Shows Why It’s Still One Of Heavy Metal’s Elite Acts

Courtesy:  UDR/Militia Guard Music

Courtesy: UDR/Militia Guard Music

British heavy metal band Saxon released its latest live recording St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester this past April. The band’s first live release since 2012’s Heavy Metal ThunderLive: Eagles Over Wacken and its ninth live recording overall, this live recording presents a band that is just as strong today as it was in its earliest days. There is plenty for Saxon’s fans to appreciate in this album beginning with the set list itself. While it obviously doesn’t cover every single one of the band’s now twenty (yes, twenty) albums, the concert presented here covers quite a wide swath of the band’s career. The band’s stage presence also plays a role in the overall enjoyment of the concert. Needless to say the band’s impresses in this arena, too. And last but not least is the concert’s audio mix. The audio mix starts out a little choppy. But it improves rather quickly, making the overall concert experience presented here enjoyable. All things considered the only downside to the whole presentation is that Saxon didn’t provide this concert in either a DVD or Blu-ray presentation. Perhaps the band and its label will take that into consideration and release the show’s video side for fans before 2014 winds down. Regardless, of whether or not that happens, it still remains that St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is a must hear for any Saxon fan.

The central point of the success behind St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is easily its expansive set list. It goes without saying that there’s no way the band could have possibly covered its entire catalogue of now twenty albums within the span of time allotted for this concert. However, the band does cover quite a bit of that catalogue. It goes so far as to go back thirty years to the band’s earliest days and as recently as the band’s latest full length studio album and all points in between throughout the course of the concert. The concert’s full run time barely tops the two hour mark. And every single second of that time is well spent by both the audience in attendance and the band. Much like film great Martin Scorsese can take a two-plus hour movie breeze by, so does Saxon make this concert full so much fuller without leaving audiences feel exhausted at the same time. It’s because of that factor and the show’s set list alongside that the band’s more seasoned fans will enjoy this record just as much as those being introduced to the veteran metal act for the first time.

The combined set list and run time of said concert in St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester together are collectively a solid foundation for this latest live recording from Saxon. Just as important to the enjoyment of any live performance by any musical act is the stage presence of the given act. In the case of Saxon, front man Biff Byford and company prove to be just as full of life and energy as when the band first performed live decades ago. The band shreds through numbers such as: ‘Rock N Roll Gypsies,’ ‘Crusader,’ and ‘Wheels of Steel’ just to name a few. And even in between songs, the energy is there as Byford interacts with the audience. He tells audiences brief histories of the songs, joking about some of those histories along the way. Audiences even get the chance to decide which songs they want to hear at least at one point in the show. Byford repay the audience’s enthusiasm with one of the best performances to date of ‘And The Bands Played On.’ These are only some examples of how the band’s stage performance in this concert makes the recording so enjoyable for audiences. There are far more examples than can be noted in one sitting. Audiences will get the full impact of that presence when they purchase this recording for themselves. It still isn’t all that makes this recording enjoyable for Saxon’s legions of fans, either. There is still one more factor to consider in the recording’s enjoyment. That factor is the show’s audio mix.

The last but hardly least important factor to consider in the enjoyment of St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is the show’s audio mix. One has to think that what must have been an outdoor arena was rather large. That is because of the slight trouble at first in the balance of the recording’s audio mix. Byford’s vocals are muddled early on and covered by his band mates. But luckily, that is rapidly handled with the levels being more equaled as the first half of the first disc progresses. Since it would appear that there is no DVD or Blu-ray presentation to accompany the audio only portion of the concert, it is difficult to figure the size of the venue. One can only assume that the venue’s size must have been relatively large. If that is indeed the case, then those charged with the recording’s final product are to be applauded for the work put in to balance everything and in turn make St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester one of the best of Saxon’s live recordings to date.

George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is available now in stores and online. That means that fans worldwide can enjoy the band’s live show even if it has already come and gone. Saxon is currently on tour in Europe in support of both this release and Sacrifice, its most recent full length studio effort. The band’s current tour schedule is available online now via the band’s official website, http://www.saxon747.com. All of the latest news and more from Saxon is available online at the band’s official website and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/saxon. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Saxon Shines On Sacrifice

Courtesy:  UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

Courtesy: UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

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.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.