Battleaxe - Heavy Metal Sanctuary

Battleaxe Heavy Metal Sanctuary cover
Heavy Metal Sanctuary
Battleaxe are a pretty honest straightforward simple, yet no BS heavy metal band from the island, that came out in the height of NWOBHM with a couple of strong entries, “Burn this Town” and “Power from the Universe” that were slabs of savage, uncompromising, streetwise metal, with screaming vocals and meaty riffs that didn’t offer any particular frills, but only sent thrills down your spines...
They toured with Saxon back in the day but when they later attempted to soldier on and record a third album... “Mean Machine” in 1987 things didn’t quite work out as planned, probably because of the shifting tastes in the music scene and the usual BS in the industry… with the band almost falling apart.
Two members left and two new ones were recruited that have stayed with the band up to this day. An EP was release in 2005 and the band started slowly working on a follow-up in 2007 only to finish it up in 2012 with the aid of Fred Purser (ex-Tygers of Pan Tang) behind the mixing desk. Besides the stalwarts Dave King on vocals and Brian Smith on bass, Mick Percy is on guitars and sometimes Skyclad session drummer Paul AT Kinson handles the sticks...
All in all, “HMS”, is an impressive affair. First of all, it’s “honest”. It is what it is. It’s not retro, because it comes from guys that are from that era, so it has the right vibe and these guys don’t seem to have lost a step (at least in the studio) – (their live test – will be KIT) instead they sound more mature and even more cool... than before... fair enough, they’re not as brutal or spunky, as they were 25 odd years later, but they don’t trail too far behind the younger version of themselves, they just sound like the logical continuation... if you liked the band then, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll not like this.
The title track, opens up with a bit of hymnal – welcoming us into the “Heavy Metal Sanctuary” before, riffs and a barrage of drums, remind us slightly of “Burn this Town” hahaha... oh yeah... a little softer, but just as good! Also Dave King has managed to become a “better” singer, even if age has affected him slightly, his style now, is very cool ! I’d say I like his voice now, a bit better, as it sounds a bit fuller than before...
“Shock and Awe” is more mid-tempo and bases itself around a very strong repetitive, biting riff and it’s pretty heavy both musically and lyrically as it takes a strong stance against the whole “war efforts” and the reasons behind them...
“Hail to the King” has a slightly Maidenesque/Saxon-esque riff, but it holds on it’s own. Nice solos... it’s old school perfection... personified... it’s dueling guitar solo is also an awesome highlight!!!
“Rebel with a Cause” is a bit more punk, inspired with a lot of “whispered” vocals, and King, reminding a lot of UDO in places, in his delivery... again, it’s quite political...
“Give it More” begins quite mysteriously if not rather peacefully but soon it gets loud... very loud… and it’s all about turning it all the way up! Hahaha!
“Too Hot for Hell” is another “silly”, pedal on the metal, exercise, that totally hits the bullseye and the sweetspot, right before the 10th second is in, with some cool ass riffs ripping your face apart before King, plunges the Battleaxe, straight into your skull just to split it... lovely stuff... just as they used to make it, back in the 80s!
“Revolution” ain’t a Beatles cover, but is a very, very, politically charged, mid-tempo and heavy as hell number that’s got a very nice hypnotic riff in there and King spitting out his discontent against the policies that lead society nowhere, that outsource employment and only serve to line the pockets of the rich making them richer. Fantastic song. Peachy chorus.
“A Prelude to Battle/The Legions Unite”, the former seems to be a fanfare, which can be heard in the distance, while the latter seems to be a rousing call along with a short recounting of the First Crusade and the Siege of Jerusalem.
“Spirits of the Fallen” is another faster song, with nice dynamics, and a really cool chorus that is somewhat reminiscent of Saxon and even later day Tank...s ome might argue... (the more melodic stuff) Coolio!
“Devil Calls” is a pseudo-live... song where, “King” as a singer, addresses an audience telling them how he sold his soul to the devil, to become successful but I think it also addresses, all sorts of addictions as well, like drugs and loose women and all the things that you might be associating yourself with when you’re into the rock ‘n roll biz... sometimes. The song has a nice riff and a cool melody overall.
“Kingdom Come” comes a bit late overall... and is an attempt at a ballad. Well it’s a ballad. King’s got this “rough” voice... so this is not a perfect ballad, but the guy feels it, so expect something like “Can’t Stand the Night” (well not so sentimental) I guess this is not about women... it’s more about spirituality etc… but it’s still cool! So I embrace the performance... even if I’m not a Christian... (another highlight)
Finally “Romeo” would have you to believe that you have another ballad, for a closer, but instead, you’re greeted by a raunchy rock ‘n roller – that’s got more in common with AC/DC than anything els! And it’s not too shabby either! A nice high note to close the album, even though I might have preferred the last two songs in reverse order I suppose.
Hell... I never expected an album this good, in all honesty. I’m sold! If you like Heavy Metal, get into this Sanctuary, fast! Or F%$ You!