Reviewed: July 2017
Released: 2001, Sanctuary Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
The re-release of Samson’s debut album Survivors from 1979 will come as no surprise to anyone who loves the band’s work over the years. This album represents some of the best music from one of, if not the earliest NWOBHM bands.
The album starts off with “It’s not as easy as it seems”. You can feel throughout this song that Deep Purple and Uriah Heep were huge influences on the band, and if you mix that in with the progressive sound of the time it’s a nice, well-paced, very catchy opener to the album. With “I Wish I Was The Saddle Of A School Girls Bike” vocalist and leader of the band Paul Samson really shines. He gives the lyrics real feeling and meaning, complimented wonderfully by the amazing sound of his guitar work and Chris Alymer’s very smooth bass, it all combines well to give a very good track where the only complaint can be that it’s a little short.
The next two tracks,“Big Brother” and “Tomorrow or yesterday” are the two longest tracks on the album, clocking in at over six minutes each. The band really shows how strong they are with “Big Brother”, the guitar work keeps the song moving along at a nice and catchy, and actually rather groovy pace. The vocals sound good enough but it’s Paul Samson’s guitar that really stands out here. The lengthy solo in the middle allowed him to let the listener hear what an outstanding guitar player he was, and prove that he can play hard rock as well as soft/progressive.
“Tomorrow or Yesterday” has a far more relaxed and mellow opening than the previous tracks, with the soft and sibilant tones of a piano adding to that relaxing atmosphere before the song truly starts out as once Samson’s guitar kicks into action.
You can practically feel the emotion coming out of his guitar, combine that with his melodic vocal work and you can’t help but get caught up. The middle of the song picks up the pace and changes the dynamic of the song, with a nice if a little lengthy keyboard solo, before shifting back into the mellow and relaxing sound the song started, and then finally we are treated to over 2 minutes of a Paul Samson guitar solo to close out the song. The solo is a little bit of overkill that could have been shortened, that said, however, is it a true masterpiece of NWOBHM music that stands out from its peers even today.
“Koz” a purely instrumental track gives us the first use of a harmonica played by Bruce Bruce AKA Bruce Dickinson. The sound of this song reminded me of something out of a sci-fi movie, as the band seamlessly play as one unit to create something a little different that in a weird way, kind of works. The drum’s tempo really drives this song from its slow beginning to a faster-paced middle where the guitar and bass maintain a very nice rhythm. It’s a catchy number that one could happily listen to on repeat a few times.
“Six Foot Under” is another track with an upbeat tempo. The use of keyboards mix well with the guitar, and the funky sound of Chris Alymer’s bass really adds something throughout. The keyboards are the backbone of this song, and it helps Paul Samson’s vocals stand out. It’s a jolly number where again the whole band impresses, but most credit has to go to Alymer on bass, whose playing is playful and so skillful. The song comes in at 5:14 in length with the majority of that time being long instrumental sections in between the verses, filler which to me does detract from the song a little.
“Inside Out” is nothing special. It’s not an awful track but there is nothing there to make it stand out from the crowd among the usually top-notch tracks on this album. It’s nice enough to listen to, but it’s not memorable.
The purely Samson section of the album finishes with The “Wrong Side of Time”, a song which is the epitome of 1970’s rock and is performed very well. The slow tempo, crisp sounding vocals and the smooth sound of the guitar solos make it the strongest track of the original eight songs on the album in my view and is a really nice way to end the album on a high.
As for the rest of the tracks on this album, it’s a mixture of alternative recordings with Bruce Dickinson on vocals, a selection which really shows how much more of a powerful front man Bruce was for the band between 80-81. Paul Samson was good, but compared to Bruce Dickinson? It’s no contest. When you consider that the recordings sound a lot clearer and sharper, and the addition of a few songs that didn’t make the cut for the original album, it makes for a fantastic extra that makes this re-release well worth your hard earned money. The fans who bought this album when it first came out back in 1979 won’t find any reason to feel short-changed, that’s for sure.
This is a very nice offering for any of the original Samson fans or fans of the early NWOBHM style, it may take a few play through’s to really grow on you if you’re new to Samson, but before long you too will have this album playing on loop regularly.
Reviewed By Luke Smith
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