Saxon

Unleash the Beast

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AllMusic Review by

At some point during the mid-'90s, the now defunct CMC International (later to transform into the grossly irresponsible record industry cautionary tale, Sanctuary Records) seemingly found a way to sign every available "no longer hip" heavy metal band on the planet; so it was only a matter of time before they snapped up fallen New Wave of British Heavy Metal icons Saxon. As un-hip as they were, though, the reality was that Saxon had then-recently enjoyed a highly unexpected return to favor among discerning metal heads, thanks to a string of steadily improving albums, which, if not quite harbingers of a commercial breakthrough (heck, such thoughts were what got the band in trouble to begin with), certainly justified the renewed interest among the band's core. Too bad, then, that Unleash the Beast represented a small step backwards in the group's gradual rehabilitation process. Mind you, aesthetically speaking, the members of Saxon (including guitarist Doug Scarratt, stepping in for departed founding member Graham Oliver) were keeping their eyes on the prize -- stay the course, stay heavy, stay metal -- but creatively, Unleash the Beast's songs simply lacked quite the same inspiration of previous efforts. Stand-out tracks like "Terminal Velocity," "Circle of Light," and "The Preacher" came surrounded by a larger number of indistinct efforts, which, if nothing else, comprised possibly the heaviest sounds and darkest lyrics of Saxon's career; a fact which certainly earned points with the more-is-more element of the heavy metal audience. Perhaps more crucially, Unleash the Beast and the association with CMC made it possible for Saxon to tour America for the first time in almost a decade, and thus contributed to their steady climb back into the heavy metal conscience, leading to even more widespread success in the new millennium.

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