Any metal fan worth his salt knows the Saxon classics front to back. From legendary releases like "Wheels Of Steel" and "Power & The Glory" to the real stinkers ala "Innocence Is No Excuse". In some metal shades the band can do no wrong while others simply dismiss the group as a B grade metal act that saw their finest days limited to the early 80s. I for one have always appreciated Biff and the boys and really can delve deep enough on each release to find nuggets of greatness. Readers will find that I have been very supportive of the band's last decade of recording, finding triumph in the trenches with greats like "Killing Ground" (2001), "Lionheart" (2004), and "Inner Sanctum" (2007). New album "Into The Labyrinth" finds no difference in opinion and personal taste.
Saxon decided to go with the big European power metal sound for this record. Biff employed legendary producer Charlie Bauerfeind to turn the knobs and provide that medieval majesty that he does so well. This newer sound finds the old gang inventing themselves with a monumental epic vibe complete with big choirs and medieval keys. Before you go thanking Bauerfeind completely, give a nod to German power metal kings Blind Guardian as they allowed Saxon to record in their studio aptly titled The Twilight Hall.
"Into The Labyrinth" hits on all of the same styled tracks that worked so well on "Lionheart" and "Inner Sanctum". The big beefy guitar tone is firmly intact as well as Biff's clean upper range that seems to never age. While the songs still potray the edge that has worked over the last decade, the songs themselves are more dynamic with today's power metal overtones. Cuts like "Valley Of The Kings" and layered opener "Battalions Of Steel" are enhanced with orchestra choir bits and keyboard passages. Think one part newer Iced Earth and one part old age Blind Guardian. That isn't to say that the power metal is prevailant. Songs like "Demon Sweeney Todd" and "Protect Yourselves" are the fast hard hitting punches that are always evident on Saxon records. Of course the boys always throws in a few AC/DC nods, this time "Live To Rock" and "Slow Lane Blues", both throw-away clunkers in my opinion.
"Into The Labyrinth" is another strong release from a band that is always looking for the fountain of youth. I admire the band for continuing to craft their magic show for today's generation of metal fans. I wish Judas Priest and Motorhead could find the secret to that trick. Praise for Saxon and their solid balls of rock.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
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