SPV 5.3.07

It was Saxon, not Iron Maiden, who were initially recognised as the star act of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) when the snappy term was first coined way back in t’olden days. We all know who eventually won the battle, but, unlike the majority of their contemporaries who floundered as the eighties progressed, Saxon continue to tough it out. Their eighteenth album, ‘The Inner Sanctum’, is pure evidence of this.

‘State Of Grace’, with its atmospheric Gregorian chants and chugging, meaty riffs is a strong opener and is followed by ‘Need For Speed’, a characteristically balls out thrashathon that befits its breakneck title, if a tad predictable. .

Sure, ‘The Inner Sanctum’ is riddled with metal clichés, but Saxon play to their strengths, which is good, honest British rock. It neither tries to keep up with the Joneses nor trades on past glories and when Biff Byford sings a song called ‘I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)’, he bloody well means it, by gum! .

Those who like their metal albums capped with a lengthy, historical epic will not be disappointed by the eight-minute ‘Atila The Hun’ (sic). A vulgar display of volume and skill, you can almost picture Saxon collectively hoisting their guitars as if to salute the sheer power and glory of metal. With ‘The Inner Sanctum’, the veteran Barnsley bruisers have produced another solid ball of rock and, for that, we should all be glad.

Ross Halewood