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Saracen - 2003 Red Sky



ARTIST: Saracen
ALBUM: Red Sky
LABEL: Now And Then
SERIAL: NTHEN44
YEAR: 2003

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Steve Bettney - vocals * Rob Bendelow - guitar * Richard Bendelow - bass * Jamie Little - drums * Richard Lowe - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 We Have Arrived * 02 Red Sky * 03 Faith * 04 Horseman Of The Apocalypse * 05 Castles In The Sand * 06 Heroes Saints And Fools * 07 Flame Of Youth * 08 Jekyll And Hyde * 09 Menage A Trois * 10 Ride Shotgun With The Wind * 11 Angel Eyes * 12 Follow The Piper

WEBLINKS: www.templarmusic.co.uk


Background
In a Lazarus type comeback, English pomp/AOR stalwarts Saracen have returned, nineteen years since their last effort 'Change Of Heart'. Positively, three original members have also made the trip forward in time, Bettney, Lowe and Rob Bendelow with newcomers Jamie Little and Richard Bendelow, the latter replacing original bassist Barry Yates, who passed away in 1992. The re-emergence of Saracen was due to Rob Bendelow and the success of his solo Templar album 'Come To The Light' back in 2000, which prompted Now And Then to try and resurrect Saracen, something successfully achieved. For 'Red Sky' Saracen have opted to re-record five 80's favourites among a batch of originals. To their credit Saracen haven't altered their style too much since the heady days of 1982 and have happily stuck to their pomp guns.


The Songs
A vintage 80's track kicks it off, 'We Have Arrived', Saracen's tale of a UFO visit back in 1981. Very mid paced with guitars and synths both vying for attention, the reliance vocal wise is placed squarely on high pitched harmonies. It picks up near the end, with quicker movement and some solo tangents, all highly melodic. Perhaps the strongest track follows, the title cut, which is borderline heavy metal, some low end riffing giving a vintage Iron Maiden appeal. Bettney comes across like Bruce Dickinson at his best, and an abundance of synth interludes make it a must-hear. 'Faith' is contemporary AOR at its best with timeless harmonies throughout and well balanced dramatics. It is completely at odds with the remake of 'Horseman Of The Apocalypse', seven minutes of heavy pomp, keyboard-heavy naturally and a host of twists, some slower, some up-tempo, the latter segments definitive NWOBHM. Quite bleak is the mellow 'Castles In The Sand', a lament about ageing, which to be honest is hardly anything to shout about is it? Acoustic ridden, there's also a sax solo, adding flavour to five dreary minutes. Another remake follows, 'Heroes, Saints And Fools', the title track of 1981's debut. This displays Saracen's preference to start things out slowly, before building up steam halfway through. An epic no less, the keyboard work is pomp of some magnitude, giving an insight into why Saracen were so highly regarded. 'Flame Of Youth' is very steeped in the kind of melodic rock Praying Mantis are supplying at this moment, halfway between AOR and metal, this one a satisfying four minute shot of relative aggression. Much more to my tastes is 'Jeckyll And Hide', pent up NWOBHM fury with spitfire riffs right from that genre's handbook. I can't get over the notion however that Bettney is Samson era Bruce Dickinson in disguise, perfectly mastering Bruce's 'Head On' crudeness. 'Ride Shotgun With The Wind' is powerful hard rock, little pomp tendencies here, much more acceptable than 'Angel Eyes', a tepid ballad and duet between Bettney and female Dagi Kaletsch. Too weepy for my liking.. 'Follow The Piper' is a fine closer, Saracen's first ever song, back when they were known as Lammergier. Recorded for the first time and sounding very modern, almost impossible to tell it dates some twenty plus years, another slice of key pomp.


In Summary
This is for the most part a blazing comeback! That it's due mainly to the remakes should be ignored as there are no doubt many, including myself, who had never heard them, almost making them 'new'. The actual newer pieces are equally as listenable, save for the slower, more reflective moments which to be honest are rather aimless. If Saracen chose to pursue more intently the savageness of the title track, then future releases might contain the bite of the 80's selections. But the proof is present that Saracen are capable of turning their hands to any style, whether it metal, pomp or AOR. As a result fans of any of those styles might find some worth in 'Red Sky'.


Related Articles
Saracen - 2003 Red Sky
Saracen - 2003 Interview with Rob Bendelow
Saracen - 2006 Vox In Excelso
Saracen - 2011 Marilyn
Saracen - 2014 Redemption


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