BATTLEAXE – 'Heavy Metal Sanctuary' (SPV)
“Put simply,” wrote Joel Griggs in the first issue of his fanzine Marshall Stack, “Battleaxe should be the next big band to come out of the UK after Maiden.” And after healthily plugging their upcoming third album he concluded with a rousing “it’s been a long time since the UK produced a band this good.”
And ‘Heavy Metal Sanctuary’ is most certainly a worthy successor – much more than just that, in fact – to its two predecessors, (the recently re-issued) ‘Burn This Town’ from 1983 and the following year’s ‘Power From The Universe’, although some thirty years have separated Griggs’s wholesome praise and the release of album number three. After hitting the buffers as the Eighties dragged on original members Dave King (vocals) and Brian Smith (bass) re-ignited the band in 2007 or so when interest in classic British bands boiled over once more, although King did point out in an interview for BroFest in 2013 that “Battleaxe never really split up; we just stood back and got on with our lives until something broke for us just like the NWOBHM movement which got us all going again.”
So, thirty years: was it worth the wait? You betcha. Hit ‘play’, close your eyes, and revel in the halcyon days of the NWOBHM as the title track’s opening riff and drum pattern evoke memories of the greatest period of British metal. Yes, lyrically ‘Heavy Metal Sanctuary’ as a whole romps through the A – Z of metal clichés but who cares? This is about atmosphere, and passion, and if the music sounds Eighties then the production is as contemporary as it comes, giving each cut more swagger and punch than a night out on the town. The album also muscles in on Teutonic territory at times, with the likes of ‘Give It More’ and ‘A Prelude To Battle’/’The Legions Unite’ in particular beating their chests and squaring up like Accept on steroids.
Time and time again guitarist Mick Percy (who’d joined the band after that original pair of albums had been released) and drummer Paul AT Kinson prove themselves to be more than just along for the ride and King’s metal tonsils are in fine form across the board. I’d actually expected to file ‘Heavy Metal Sanctuary’ under ‘quite interesting’ but instead it’s ended up in the ‘essential purchase’ folder. Buy or die, as they used to say back in the Eighties.
© John Tucker February 2014