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Saxon - "Into The Labyrinth" (CD)

Saxon - "Into The Labyrinth" CD cover image

"Into The Labyrinth" track listing:

1. Battalions of Steel
2. Live to Rock
3. Demon Sweeny Todd
4. The Letter
5. Valley of the Kings
6. Slow Lane Blues
7. Crime of Passion
8. Premonition in D minor
9. Voice
10. Protect Yourself
11. Hellcat
12. Come Rock of Ages (The Circle is Complete)
13. Coming Home (Bottleneck)

Reviewed by on February 11, 2009

"'Into the Labyrinth' covers all the arena rock/operatic rock/blues basics that dominated metal in the early days."

Saxon’s “Into the Labyrinth” is brewed using the same formula that established them as one of the the “New Wave of Heavy Metal” bands that dominated UK metal in the early 1980s, along with Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang and Girlschool, among others. Saxon has remained a steady fixture on the UK and European metal scene since then.

One of their earlier albums, entitled “Denim and Leather,” serves as a good way to categorize their audience and their sound, though its combination of unpretentious “Live to Rock ” anthems coupled with sinister operatic tomes like “Demon Sweeny Todd,” are more for the earthy denim crowds than leather-clad types.

Vocalist Biff Byford has a powerful voice that would command attention even if he was singing about gum wrappers blowing across the lawn. He’s in the same league as Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Ronnie James of Dio. During their 30 year history, Saxon did veer off toward pop metal for a while, but quickly regained their senses and stayed true to their signature sound.

“Into the Labyrinth” covers all the arena rock/operatic rock/blues basics that dominated metal in the early days. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that’s not the point. It’s all about taking a tried and true approach and making it better, faster and stronger.

The CD opener, “Battalions of Steel,” begins with an ominous rumble and soaring anthem-like chorus, and then escalates with Biff Byford’s soaring vocals. His pipes are in great form - no wear and tear here.

“Live to Rock” is self-explanatory, and perfect for head banging in the front row or feigning air guitar in front of the mirror. “Valley of the Kings” traverses the same territory as Maiden’s “Run to the Hills.” On “Into the Labyrinth,” Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn continue to produce quality evergreen metal that defies trends and gives fans something to sink their teeth into over and over.

It seems that Saxon's motto for "Into The Labyrinth" is "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." Fortunately, their style remains classic, but certainly not broken.

Highs: Byford and Quinn sound as good as ever. Age certainly hasn’t diminished their chops.

Lows: The band displays nothing new or experimental here, but rather their same classic formula.

Bottom line: This is the new wave of British heavy metal, 2009 style.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)