Saxon - Into The Labyrinth

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth


Like recent Saxon album’s this is a hit and miss affair. With half the tracks working and the other half lapsing into mid paced boredom.

Written by: Dangerzone

ALBUM: Into The Labyrinth
YEAR: 2009
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

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: 60/100


Saxon Background

An astounding thirty years since their debut hit the shelves, Saxon are going stronger than ever. This lineup is 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.

Saxon are sticking closely to the sound they fashioned when Oliver left 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’. The sound is heavy, the guitar attack now quite familiar if not quite as riveting as the Oliver/Quinn days. Thats the only downside to latterday Saxon in my opinion.

The impressively titled ‘Battalions Of Steel’ opens the album in typically anthemic style. It’s followed by ‘Live To Rock’, which could almost be taken from 91’s ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’. It has 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. Despite its staggering heaviness I get the feeling I’ve heard this a million times before. At least they do what Iron Maiden have forgotten how to.

‘The Letter’ is another one of those brief acoustic interludes which have become a tradition of sorts. It leads into the furious ‘Valley Of The Kings’ and the soaring, triumphant hook is 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 the boys revert to a slower ballad approach for ‘Voices’, which actually isn’t too far from AOR. It 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 the closest to vintage Saxon, 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). In all honesty these are pretty tedious.

In Summary

Like recent Saxon albums, this is a hit and miss affair. 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. By comparison I think ‘Inner Sanctum’ was the better 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 is viewed by some critics as Saxon’s low point.

As much as I want to obsess over ‘Labyrinth’ I find myself unable to. Sorry Biff.

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