Like recent Saxon album’s this is hit and miss, with half the tracks working and the other half lapsing into mid paced boredom.
Written by: Dangerzone
ALBUM: Into The Labyrinth
SERIAL: SPV 91710CD
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
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)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
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?
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.
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.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)
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