Saracen

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Derbyshire's Saracen were a hard, verging on progressive, rock ensemble that became wrongly associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal -- as much due to the timing (1981) of their self-released…
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Derbyshire's Saracen were a hard, verging on progressive, rock ensemble that became wrongly associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal -- as much due to the timing (1981) of their self-released debut album, Heroes, Saints & Fools, as for their leather jackets and handlebar mustaches. Having said that, the band never tried to overtly latch onto the movement's coattails, and were all fine musicians in their own right, particularly singer Steven Bettney, who possessed a rich and powerful voice. Completed by Robert Bendelow (guitar), Richard Lowe (keyboards), Barry Yates (bass), and John Thorne (drums), Saracen earned an early patronage from influential Friday Rock Show presenter Tommy Vance, who invited them to record a few radio sessions and helped bolster their commercial prospects as they readied new single "No More Lonely Nights" in 1982. This, along with subsequent releases for the Neat label (the Change of Heart album and "We Have Arrived" single -- both 1984), showed the group moving in a far more commercial direction, toward the hook- and synth-laden post-prog AOR of a Kansas or Magnum, to be precise. Again, not that there was anything wrong with this, except for the sad reality that Saracen (now tweaked to feature guitarist Haydn Conway, bassist Jason Gardner, and drummer Danny Spencer) had little hope of succeeding in that arena while signed to metal-specialized Neat. The group made it to one more Friday Rock Show session before its members vanished from sight, with only Conway resurfacing in 1996, as a member of Son of a Bitch, also featuring three ousted members of Saxon.