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Saxon - 2009 Into The Labyrinth



ARTIST: Saxon
ALBUM: Into The Labyrinth
LABEL: SPV
SERIAL: SPV 91710CD
YEAR: 2009

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Biff Byford - vocals * Paul Quinn - guitars * Doug Scarrat - guitars * Nibbs Carter - bass * Nigel Glockler - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Batallions Of Steel * 02 Live To Rock * 03 Demon Sweeney Todd * 04 The Letter * 05 Valley Of The Kings * 06 Slow Lane Blues * 07 Crime Of Passion * 08 Premonition In D Minor * 09 Voice * 10 Protect Yourself * 11 Hellcat * 12 Come Rock Of Ages (The Circle Is Complete) * 13 Coming Home (Bottleneck)

RATING:

WEBLINKS: www.saxon747.com


Background
An astounding thirty years since their debut hit the shelves, Saxon are going stronger than ever, with this lineup proving to be the most enduring since the days of Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson back in the 80's. I still recall when Carter was the 'new boy', now an amazing 18 years ago! I swear Biff was 40 himself back in '79 too... Regardless the band have followed up 2007's 'Inner Sanctum' in reasonably quick time, with the band sticking closely to the sound they fashioned when Oliver pissed off back in '95. It seems fashionable these days to say Saxon are often overlooked in the metal pantheon, but we have been singing their praises for years here at Glory Daze. What then is the verdict on their latest offering?


The Songs
This is a mixed offering and there's little here to separate 'Labyrinth' from 'Sanctum', 'Lionheart' or 'Killing Ground', with the sound heavy and the guitar attack now quite familiar if not quite as riveting as the Oliver/Quinn days, the only downside to latterday Saxon in my opinion. The impressively titled 'Battalions Of Steel' opens the album in typically anthemic style followed by 'Live To Rock', which could almost be taken from 91's 'Solid Ball Of Rock', with some AC/DC overtones on the riff side. There's always a few obligatory speed metal attempts of which 'Demon Sweeney Todd' is the first and despite its staggering heaviness I get the feeling I've heard this a million times, but at least they do what Maiden have forgotten how to. 'The Letter' is another one of those brief acoustic interludes which have become a tradition of sorts but leads into the furious 'Valley Of The Kings' and the soaring, triumphant hook, steeped in metal folklore! I almost mistook 'Crime Of Passion' for a return to Saxon's 80's AOR days, but it's a dull, lumpen rocker with slight melody. Biff and his boys revert to a slower ballad approach for 'Voices', which actually isn't too far from AOR and could be viewed as a latter day 'Nightmare', the 1983 classic. Biff to his credit is in fine voice, but the riffing is too downtuned for my liking. Sounding far too brooding and serious is 'Protect Yourself', again the guitars tuned way down, with melody at a minimum. This is not classic material. 'Hellcat' is more in line with vintage Saxon, easily the best track here, loaded with NWOBHM verve, especially in the riff department. All this does is beg the question why not more of this? I could do without the bollocks blues workouts of 'Slow Lane Blues' and 'Coming Home (Bottleneck Version) which in all honesty are pretty tedious.


In Summary
Like recent Saxon album's this is hit and miss, with half the tracks working and the other half lapsing into mid paced boredom. It appears Saxon are unable to find a balance between the two and I think 'Inner Sanctum' was a more well rounded album. Ultimately I don't think Saxon have ever been the same band since Oliver left. I've said that before and I maintain it now. Critics are clamouring over 'Labyrinth', claiming it is an instant classic, but this pales compared to even 'Innocence is No Excuse' which for some obscene reason is viewed as a lowpoint for Saxon. As much as I want to obsess over 'Labyrinth' I find myself unable to. Sorry Biff.


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Comments
#1 | Jez on January 20 2009 10:31:24
Well have given this a good few spins now and I am pleased to report that this is a belter. Nice to hear them updating their sound slightly and incorporating a bit of power metal stuff, along with some nice keys a little more up in the mix than on past releases. I thought Nightwish had entered the building at the beginning of the excellent 'Battalions Of Steel'. There are a couple of fillers on board, namely 'Hellcat' which is a bit metal by numbers and 'Coming Home (Bottleneck Version) isn't that great compared to the original version on the excellent 'Killing Ground' disc, but otherwise, this is Biff and the boys in fine form yet again (when was the last time this band made a bad album?)
#2 | Hardlover on January 20 2009 15:05:55
Although some of the tracks here are excellent (Batalions of Steel, Live to rock, Slow Lane blues), the rest is rather average and boring epic metal. Solid metal/rock, but nothing special here, IMHO.
 
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