Type: CD Company: Ebony Records Release: 1983 Genre: Traditional Reviewer: JP Published: 11/1/2007
A barnburner of an album
In today's metal climate there is an endless swirl of styles, genres, and sub-genres for metalheads to sink their teeth into, and as such it can become overwhelming for today's generation of upstarts to enter the fray, understanding the complexities and derivatives from what metal has evolved from and into. Hence, there is a rebirth afoot, a back to basics approach if you will, a desire to create good old-fashioned, straight ahead, no nonsense heavy metal, and lying at the core of this 80's traditional metal style is the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with the unwieldy acronym NWOBHM (of which I personally always pronounced it "new bomb"). Diving into the LP's and 7" singles of that day will unearth an endless, multi-colored, vinyl stream of names, many of which were never heard from again; releasing a song or two, then morphing into bigger names or simply calling it quits, leaving historians and music buffs a battlefield's worth of splintered and shattered platters to rummage through, dissecting the worthwhile from the worthless. One such band perched high atop the worthwhile category would be Savage. Hailing from Mansfield, UK, these blokes unleashed a vicious, 8-song LP entitled Loose 'n' Lethal, a guitars-in-your-face 1983 recording that turned several thousand in sales at the time, especially overseas (it was the highest selling import in the US that year!). These days, though, few seem to remember the band, who called it quits 2 years later after 1985's Hyperactive release. So what happened, and why blow the dust off?
Well, the late 70's and early 80's saw an explosion of metal bands in England, which was a swinging response to the mercifully short birth and death of punk, and by the time 1983 rolled around, the love for this surge had waned; Metallica put out Kill 'Em All, and folks were clamoring for a new style to take hold, which of course was thrash. Bands already established would be fine, but any newcomers to the scene were in need of some sort of additional help. For fellow countrymen Grim Reaper, that help came in the form of heavy video rotation for their song "See You In Hell". For others, Lars and his Metallicohorts were a huge catalyst, although the appreciation came some years later in this case, Diamond Head being the biggest recipients of their covered tunes entering into the metal psyche by way of that band. Incidentally, Metallica did cover a couple of Savage songs in their earliest of days, and Let It Loose even appeared on the 1982 Hit The Lights demo, but unlike Diamond Head, Holocaust, and Blitzkrieg, it never made it onto an official release, thereby not receiving the inevitable exposure the Metallidudes' reputation later offered. Of course, label management goes a long way into launching a bands career as well, and Loose 'n' Lethal being the first full-length by a single artist on the then new Ebony label didn't help, as the company was rumored to have severely mismanaged the band. Ironically, it was Ebony who licensed Grim Reaper to RCA in America, all the while allegedly turning down similar major label offers to Savage, unbeknownst to the group.
The band was initially started in 1976 by 15 year old bassist/vocalist Chris Bradley, whose name was inspired by the song "Savage" off Judas Priest's Stained Class album, but initially they went nowhere. Chris retooled in 1979, bringing aboard guitarists Andy Dawson and Wayne Renshaw, and solidifying the lineup with drummer Mark Brown. The fellas then began recording demos, and a two-song appearance on Suspect Records split (compilation) album Scene of the Crime in 1981 garnered them some notoriety, but it took two more years to land a record deal and get the debut out. By this time, Motorhead had already released Overkill and Ace of Spades, Saxon were exploiting songs from Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law, and Denim and Leather, Iron Maiden had issued their S/T, Killers, and had already broken in Bruce-bruce via The Number of the Beast, Def Leppard had driven On Through the Night and landed High ‘n' Dry, and Judas Priest had long been cemented at the forefront of the movement. The list of now classics from about 1980 to 1982 goes on and on, so our Johnny-come-latelys just didn't quite arrive in time, and without some additional outside karma, Savage imploded, but not before releasing a barnburner of an album.
Loose 'n' Lethal was actually a bit of a hit at the time, and punters were lapping up the mammoth guitar sounds of the release, which really came by happy accident, as the young band and producer had limited knowledge of proper recording techniques, unwittingly letting loose a torrential barrage of guitar tones, though the release remained overall clear, vocals up front, drums and bass separate, yet present and full of punch. The album opens with the aforementioned "Let It Loose", the band's staple from the Scene of the Crime comp. and best track, as it's balls out, speed-driven riff drives to the center of the cerebrum and sets up shop, never to leave. "Cry Wolf" comes next, a laid-back bit of malaise centered on a slightly generic guitar riff, but the song is buoyed by attitude and a ripping guitar solo that fades out at the end; the lyrics of which are centered on the unruly mix of alcohol and depression and its obit ultimatum. "Berlin" tears through the speakers next with a glorious guitar-line that could be a poster-riff for the NWOBHM movement, again things fade out with a solo, this one more or less just kinda tagged on, versus the shredding outro of the previous track.
As mentioned earlier, the band had two tracks appear on the Scene of the Crime sampler, and the fourth song, "Dirty Money", is the other one to reappear here. With it, the guitars simply carry a galloping riff ala Def Leppard's "Wasted" throughout the entire song, heralding in a thrashy and trashy monomaniacal drum barrage come chorus time, attaching itself to the main theme before things return to the verse. Up next we get "Ain't No Fit Place", again, corner-stoned by a riff that is perfect NWOBHM and goes for miles. The track opens with some quiet, clean, introspective tones, setting itself up to be the most epic on the record, and its mid-paced tempo is set to perfectly reflect the combustibility of living on the poorer side of town, life in the dregs, and the inevitable affect it has on man's mental stability. "On the Rocks" follows, again, a chugging, genre-defining main riff that morphs into a slightly poppy accentuation come the chorus, but scorching harmonic leads sear the cerebral cortex, regrettably again simply fading out instead of building into a grandiose conclusion; one gets the feeling the band were none to sure as how to wrap their songs up at the end, opting for the ease of artlessly fading things out. "The China Run" is the second to last track, featuring galloping triplets throughout, the highlight being the somewhat extended solo in the middle of the song. "White Hot" concludes the approximate 35 minute foray into the band's molten-minded brand of metal, a track righteously disclosing the live relationship between fan and band and all the blood, sweat, and abusive tolls our beloved form of musicality takes.
With one of the best Mad Max derived album covers of any era to boot (created by none other than longtime journo and renowned metal author Gary Sharpe-Young), Savage's Loose 'n' Lethal was a veritable feast for the senses, an album that is looked fondly upon by many as one of the defining representations of the NWOBHM. Subsequently, the band re-emerged with an album called Holy Wars in 1995 (without second guitarist Wayne Renshaw and different personnel rotating behind the drum kit) to lukewarm response, but nevertheless have carried on to this day, the permanent fixture of guitarist Andy Dawson and founder Chris Bradley still carrying the Savage name on to the faithful, playing out when they can, affording today's generation a chance to experience a little bit of what the NHOBHM era was like.
As stated earlier, there is literally a mountain of classics from this era, but finding the more obscure albums so aurally complete is the real challenge. There are plenty of albums with two or three, maybe even a half-dozen songs that truly relate what the genre had to offer, but there are very few so markedly realized from start to finish. Therefore, Loose ‘n' Lethal is aligned right in there with any of the stalwarts from the era, ones that defined what the genre was all about, and it can still rattle heads to this day.
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