Unleash The Beast
Released: 1997, CMC International
Editors Note: Metal-Rules.com was founded in 1995 as a forward thinking site. Our goal is, and always has been, to support Real Metal. The decision was made that very rarely do we ever go back and review an album from before 1995. Does the world really need another CD review of Master Of Puppets, Powerslave or Screaming For Vengeance? We don’t think so. We have always supported what is happening now.
Starting in January, 2014, as we head towards the 20th Anniversary of Metal-Rules.com, we are looking back and filling in a few gaps in the review database. We want to complete the post-1995 review catalogue of some of the bands that we have supported since 1995, when very few, if any websites were supporting real Metal. It’s fun to go back and revisit some of these albums that we did not review when they were first released. Enjoy!
It obvious that not every Metal fan can hear everything, let alone appreciate everything, especially after the 1980's. For an older fan, born in the late 60’s for example, who was fairly dedicated to the cause it was not out of the question to have at least a working knowledge or passing familiarity with a large percentage of all the Metal bands from 1970 to the mid to late 80's. I considered my self to be in that category because there really were not that many Metal bands, compared to the utterly massive global explosion if Metal in the 90's. Metal was expanding from perhaps a few hundred albums released a year to thousands per year in a wider variety of sub-genres. I tried to follow it all, however there were two notable exceptions, bands that I did not follow or appreciate until much later in my life, oddly enough two huge British bands, Motörhead and Saxon. There is no particular reason why I was late to the party when it came to these guys but I still prefer the post 1995 output of both bands, to the 'so called' classic 70's-80's era. In fact, it UNLEASH THE BEAST was the first Saxon album that really ignited my love for the band, followed closely by DOGS OF WAR, which I also reviewed this month.
Back in the mid-90's there was a record label called CMC (cruelly dubbed by some posers as 'Cheese Metal Central') that was releasing some larger name bands in North America, bands like Accept, Annihilator, Dokken, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Overkill, W.A.S.P. and Saxon. Somehow I got a CMC Record CD sampler with a Saxon cut and I was blown away. How could I not have liked these guys for the last 15+ years? Well, UNLEASH THE BEAST really was the second album in the bands 'comeback'. I put 'comeback' in quotes because the band really never went away but DOGS OF WAR in 1995 was the start of a new, leaner, meaner, heavier, faster, Saxon sound that they have maintained today. I still maintain the post 1995 Saxon output is superior to the first eleven albums.
My theory about why UNLEASH THE BEAST is so strong is the band finally settled on the classic line-up of Byford, Quinn, Scarratt, Carter and Glocker which is still in place 20 years later. The ever elusive band chemistry had been found and stabilized the line-up and the added fire of new gunslinger Doug Scarratt inspired the band to make, what still stands as one of the fastest, heaviest albums.
After a brief creepy intro, the band rips into the one-two punch of the title track and 'Terminal Velocity' with Byford singing his heart out. Everything about UNLEASH THE BEAST is prime; good dark cover art, wide range of lyrical topics ranging from war to skydiving, clean, clear loud production and fiery performances make this a complete album in every sense of the word. The drumming is faster really propelling the songs along giving the whole album an intensity and sense of urgency.
I was blown away, the stodgy old Saxon had fully turned the corner from aging NWOBHM act to gleaming, modern Metal killing machine. The thing I appreciated the most was that while modernizing the sound, Saxon was still, staunchly traditional in terms of song-writing, no pandering to the trends of mallcore. It was as if Saxon realized that to compete with the huge explosion in European styled Power Metal bands (Blind Guardian, Kamelot, Symphony X, Stratovarius, a reinvigorated Helloween, etc) they needed to change, and it was a change for the better. This was a good move because if they had not evolved I to a heavier style I fear they would have been swept away by the upcoming Hammerfalls and Sonata Arcticas of the world that were lurking in the wings.
The band also established a pattern of recording in Germany, this being the first of three heavy albums in a row recorded at Karo Studios in Brackel Germany, with a young Modern producers like Kalle Trapp (Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray) and Charlie Bauerfield (Viper, Angra, Gamma Ray) both known for their Power Metal sounds. As it stands, Saxon, thanks in part to this new sound can stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder with the new guard and play a double role of respected elder statement.
After I got UNLEASH THE BEAST, I slowly went back and bought all the back catalogue, but going forward since 1997 I have loyally bought each and every Saxon album, all eight of them. They say, 'you never forget your first' and my first Saxon album UNLEASH THE BEAST still holds a special place in my heart as one of my favourite Saxon albums of all time.