BATTLEAXE were one of the groups that were in the thick of the NWOBHM sound of the early 1980’s. But various line-up changes derailed a once-promising career at a time when many of their peers were rising to greatness. Well now, in 2014, the band is back, and sounding stronger than ever on new album Heavy Metal Sanctuary, out now via Steamhammer/SPV Records. This is evident right from the start with title track “Heavy Metal Sanctuary”, “Shock and Awe”, and “Hail to the King” carving a path of unwavering metal allegiance that sounds like something we ALL would have owned on vinyl some thirty years ago. Vocalist Dave King and guitarist Mick Percy carve out a path dedicated to the metal of yesteryear and the rhythms of Brian Smith (bass) and Paul AT Kinson (drums) further drive the point home with their pounding grooves.
“Rebel With a Cause” is pretty typical old school metal fare, but there’s something about “Give It More” that causes one’s ears to prick up. Could be the slightly spacey intro combined with the AC/DC-like rest of the song, but either way, it’s one of the album’s best. In addition, the guitars on “Too Hot for Hell” make it another standout, albeit one in familiar territory, which can work FOR or against a song. Luckily this one is all good. The same can’t be said for “Revolution”, however. Although lyrically it makes a good statement about today’s society, the arrangement is something we’ve heard a million times before from countless other bands.
“A Prelude to Battle/The Legions Unite” is 100% something you’d find in ACCEPT’S wheelhouse which works surprisingly well, and not to BATTLEAXE’S detriment. Let’s face it, this band isn’t reinventing the wheel, or trying to do anything different. They are unabashed lovers of old-time Heavy Metal, and it comes through in their songs and in their playing. Hell, that’s who they are! I also really enjoyed “Spirits of the Fallen” with its infectious riffs and choruses, plus the solo is fucking badass, that’s all I can say! “Devil Calls” features a faux live element at the start and quickly evolves into an evil stalker of a song, and “Kingdom Come” has a gorgeous melody that is a welcome change of pace.
The album ends on another AC/DC-type note with “Romeo”, yet ANOTHER killer tune that is made for drinkin’ and bar fightin’; in other words my kind of song! I’ve always felt that the closer is every bit as important as the opener. Well this closer is not only my favorite track on the record, it’s one that I’ve been playing over and over, and I guarantee you will too. Overall I think most of you will like Heavy Metal Sanctuary if you take it for what it is: an album that appeals to us older guys and just might help some of these young bucks look into some of the quality music from way back when.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Kingdom Come”, Spirits of the Fallen”, “Too Hot For Hell”, “Give It More”, “Romeo”