SAVAGE – 7 / Live N Lethal (Minus2Zebra)
A band like Mansfield’s Savage really needs no introduction. Forged in the excitement of the NWOBHM, their first two albums, 1983’s ‘Loose ‘N Lethal’ and ‘Hyperactive’ which followed a couple of years later, should be mainstays of any self-respecting metal collection. And although Savage never really received the kudos they deserved back in the day they were a hugely influential band. Face it, everyone can hum ‘We Got the Edge’, the single off ‘Hyperactive’, and Metallica’s first ever gig included a rendition of ‘Let It Loose’, the de facto title track of that 1983 debut, learned from a demo tape Lars Ulrich had procured; you can’t get much more influential than that. Three further albums followed for Jess Cox’s Neat Metal label – ‘Holy Wars’ (1995), ‘Babylon’ (1997) and ‘Extreme Machine’ (2000) – but there then came a lengthy lay-off until 2012 saw original members Chris Bradley (vocals/bass) and Andy Dawson (guitars) joined by drummer Mark Nelson and guitarist Kristian Bradley – Chris’s son – for the storming sixth Savage studio outing ‘Sons Of Malice’.
All of which brings us to this rather self-explanatory double CD. The first disc ‘7’ is an attractive proposition from the off. Opener ‘I Am The Law’ is as hot ‘n’ heavy as they come, driven along by Nelson’s powerhouse drumming and wildly evocative of the band’s early material with just a hint of Twenty-First century sheen; the whole album in fact ably demonstrates – or reminds those that might have forgotten – that Savage crafted their own individual sound from the very start, and have never lost that distinctiveness that tended to set them apart from many of their contemporaries. While follow-up cut ‘Lock ‘N’ Load’ maintains the momentum ‘Empire Of Hate’ powers things down for a heavy blues groove, another staple from the Savage songbook, and if I’m going to pick a favourite it’s going to be – at the time of writing, at least – ‘Super Spy’, short, sweet and featuring a solo to die for. But we’re only a third of the way through so far and there’s still treasures aplenty to discover. Whatever you want, be it power (‘Paybacks A Bitch’), passion (‘Crazy Horse’) or proficiency (‘The Road To Avalon (Sins Of The Fathers)’), Nelson, Dawson and the Bradleys deliver it in shedloads. I could go on all day – and probably will – so save yourselves the bother and go get a copy. On the strength of ‘7’ alone you won’t be disappointed. Trust me on this.
But, like Janus, this package is a two-faced affair, and while ‘7’ looks to the future the second countenance surveys the past. ‘Live N Lethal’ – once again, as self-explanatory as they come – was recorded at a hometown gig in 2014 and features a sequential (albeit reversed) romp through ‘Loose ‘N Lethal’. As an album, Savage’s debut (rather like, say, the first album from Tokyo Blade) captured the unfettered almost boyish enthusiasm of a band who felt they could conquer the world, and thirty-plus years on none of that eagerness appears to have been lost. And listening back to the eight cuts that constituted ‘Loose ‘N Lethal’ in a live setting now makes you realise just how much the band – then Bradley, Dawson, Wayne Renshaw and Mark Brown – had to offer, and the ‘what-if-they’d-been-picked-up-by-a-major?’ question rises to the surface once more.
Whether this is the full gig or not isn’t made clear but the ‘Loose ‘N Lethal’ showcase is topped ‘n’ tailed by a couple of cuts off ‘Sons Of Malice’ (‘The Rage Within’ and ‘Black N Blue’), ‘Xtreme Machine’’s ‘Smiling Assassin’ and the inevitable but always welcome ‘We Got The Edge’. Each album in this package is worth picking up on its own, but taken together what Savage have here is a release of tremendous excitement and a worthy contender for album of the year.
© John Tucker September 2015