Saxon : Sacrifice Album Review and Interview with Biff

Now I must admit I have a soft spot for Saxon. Waaaaaay back in the day they were regular visitors to the Edinburgh Playhouse, and I still have fond memories of seeing them there on the Rock The Nations tour (one of their best, and most underrated albums in my not-so-humble opinion). After legal wranglings over the name between the former members, and more than a few years in the musical wilderness, the past few years have seen the band gradually climbing back to their rightful place in the world’s Heavy Metal pantheon with a resurgence over the past decade has been little short of remarkable. It’s great to see them back playing the big stages at the biggest festivals on the basis of more than nostalgia. Their last album Call To Arms saw them still, after 30-odd years, developing their sound and I have been eagerly awaiting their follow up since it was first announced a few months back.

Well, it’s finally here… Sacrifice is Saxon’s 20th studio album.. So does it live up to the expectations ??

Just reading through the tracklisting bodes well for what is in store, with titles like Made In Belfast, Warriors Of The Road and Night Of The Wolf evoking a “classic” Saxon vibe from the days of wet festivals, mail trains and power failures at airports…

The album kicks off with the slow, atmospheric build up of Procession. You’ve hear this sort of thing a million times before.. a tribal-esque drum beat and what may be monastic chants.. It’s the sort of thing that will be accompanied by dry ice and swirling spotlights at live shows to great effect.

The build up complete the band explode (not literally, obviously) into the title track Sacrifice. Now, the first impression I got from this was “wow”, as was the second, third and fourth impressions. This is classic Saxon, brought up to date with Biff’s great production job and the polished, modern feel given to the overall mix by some bloke called Andy Sneap.

Of late Saxon have started to display more power-metal leanings which never quite rang true with me, but THIS is what they should sound like. It’s a masterclass of power and passion, telling stories with massive singalong choruses. Made In Belfast is about.. oh, you figure it out, while Warriors Of The Road is a proper high-tempo Metal song, a track that can trace its ancestry back through time to Motorcycle Man.

The whole album, more than any of their recent output, screams “classic Saxon”, this is why we fell in love with this band in the first place. The choruses, the riffs, the storytelling, it’s all here and if there’s any justice at all it will introduce the band to a whole new legion of fans.

For me Sacrifice is the best thing Saxon have done for years, up there with anything in their back catalogue and I’ve not been this excited about a Saxon tour for ages, but if their live shows live up to the promise of Sacrifice then Saxon will be well and truly back on top.

Now Over to Shortie, who I handed the small matter of interviewing Biff over to at VERY short notice….

So. Do you know that feeling when your boss drops something on top of your workload, urgent and at kinda short notice ??! Well that’s kind of what happened the other day. Our resident old person gets called away to do something and before heading off says “By the way, can you interview Biff from Saxon for me tomorrow?”. Well the chance to talk to living legends is always just too good an opportunity to miss. Especially as Saxon have a new album coming out on March 4th and are about to embark on a UK tour, as well as a headline European tour.

Shortie – Right Biff, first question.. You have a new album coming out 4th March, and I believe that it was scheduled to be released a week earlier originally, how come there is a delay on the release?

Biff – Well, a booklet wasn’t good enough, so we sent it back to be re-printed, so just technical stuff really.

Shortie – Cool, so with the new album, I mean, you guys have been going since 1976, so that’s almost 37 years now, have you done anything differently production wise compared to your other albums?

Biff – Yes, I produced it myself, which is a bit different, and I wanted it to be a bit heavier, more intense, and to go back to the 80’s a little bit on a couple of songs to find out what we were doing back then and to see if we had forgotten or not. Obviously our first album was out in 1979.

Shortie – So I hear you’re touring soon, and that you’re coming to my home town Leeds…

Biff – That’s great – we used to go to Leeds all the time and play a pub called the Forde Greene..

Shortie – The Forde Greene? Was that back in the day when it was a nice place to go to?

Biff – Nah, it was the place to play and the place to be on Friday nights, and I saw some great bands there.. The place used to be a great rock club.

Shortie – I don’t think it’s open any more now. Anyways, something I always like to ask artists, what are your views of the music industry as it currently stands with the illegal downloading and the likes? How do you as a band feel about that, and how do you think it can be combated?

Biff – The only way to combat it really is to have a great product that people want, you know, like a great package – which is why we sent the booklet back. Yeah, just a great package and in different formats, different things for free with different packages, and that’the way to combat boot legging. We don’t mind the internet, I mean, we’ve been making albums continuously so we have sort of grown up with the digital revolution. We always have one exclusive track for download as well. We are fine with our music, because people seem to download it and buy it, so we get the best of both worlds.

Shortie – Some younger bands are of the opinion that the illegal downloading actually gets them more exposure to people that maybe can’t afford to buy the albums, or gets them extra exposure to the other people that wouldn’t have ordinarily heard of them..

Biff – The thing is, if you have a popular album, and people want to buy it but can’t afford it, then they’ll share it. That’s just human nature. It’s like someone reading someone else’s newspaper, and I don’t think you can do anything to change it. I’m not really for it, and I’m not really against it, it just happens.