Battleaxe- Heavy Metal Sanctuary

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The term comeback seems fairly overused in the blogging world, as every band that either goes on hiatus or just seems to take too long between albums tends to be given that tag in reviews. But Battleaxe is a group truly worthy of the comeback tag, as they released their new full length Heavy Metal Sanctuary earlier in the year and it comes thirty years after their last one. They did put out an EP called Nightmare Zone in 2005, but that consisted of tracks recorded in 1987 that had never seen the light of day, making this disc the first new material in decades. I wouldn’t blame you if you assumed that this is just another heavy metal act trying to relive their glory days with mixed results, but one listen to Heavy Metal Sanctuary should be all it takes to prove that’s not the case.

After a short introduction, the instrumentals kick in with the type of high flying and fast paced riffs that you’d expect from a band that was around during the NWOBHM time period. Battleaxe wastes little time in letting listeners know that they can still hit hard with aggressive and catchy riffs that could’ve easily fit in with their 80s output. What I like so much about this album is the way it is arranged, as the first half or so keeps the tempo at a fairly fast pace and lets the guitars show off quite a bit. From there the group continues to maintain a high level of energy, but starts to include some slower ballads and mid-tempo sections that hint at the direction they went on their sophomore album Power From the Universe. But Battleaxe isn’t merely repeating what they’ve done before, as despite the fact that they completely nailed the classic heavy metal sound these tracks don’t sound dated at all. It’s a well-rounded effort, and there isn’t really any song that I found myself wanting to skip over on repeat listens, which is rare for a twelve track release. My favorite moment would have to be the one two punch of “Hail To The King” and “Rebel With A Cause” as the lead riffs on those songs are great and have had me immediately start blaring my speakers every time they come on.

I’m not sure what Dave King was doing during Battleaxe’s long period of inactivity, but he certainly hasn’t lost any of his vocal range. In fact, I think he’s hitting much higher pitches than ever before which is pretty impressive considering the gap of time between releases. King’s style reminds me a bit of Overkill’s Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth as he has that slightly gruffer clean range that soars into much higher pitches during the climaxes of each song. It’s a fairly dynamic performance that is able to grab your attention on a regular basis, and there is never any sign of the vocals heading into ranges they can’t sustain. Heavy metal has a tendency to live and die by the power of its singer, as I’ve come across plenty of bands that are talented instrumentally but are ruined by an off pitch vocalist who lacks power, so it helps tremendously that Dave King is able to hit the same peak level as the rest of the band.

There are still plenty of groups from the NWOBHM time frame putting out great music, and after a lengthy period of inactivity Battleaxe can now be added to that list as well. Heavy Metal Sanctuary is an enjoyable album from start to finish that manages to channel the classic sound of this genre without coming off as a mere retread, and there are a few younger acts out there that could learn a few things from this release. If you love the high energy moments and headbang worthy riffs that heavy metal has to offer when at its best, don’t overlook this reunion that was three decades in the making.

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