Album Review: Savage Grace - Sign Of The Cross
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh
I had the pleasure of reviewing the reissues of Savage Grace’s debut album ‘Master of Disguise’ and sophomore release ‘After the Fall from Grace’ last year, and if you read that review, you might remember that after a brief return in 2010, founder and main man Chris Logue did a disappearing act that Agatha Christie would have been proud of, and wasn’t heard of again… until now. Yes, Savage Grace is back with a brand new bunch of young, talented, and hungry musicians, and with a new album to boot, the much anticipated ‘Sign of the Cross’.
A band difficult to categorise, Savage Grace have been described as speed metal, power metal, classic metal, glam metal and even hard rock, and the truth of the matter is they are an interesting blend of all of the above and more. The debut was spontaneous, fast, and energetic and very well written and played, while the follow up was a bit more restrained and mature, but equally as good, just for different reasons. So how does album number three compare to those two underrated classics, as Logue is the only original member left, but especially as it comes 37 years after the last full-length album?
Well first track ‘Barbarians at the Gate’ comes tearing out of the, err gate, with speedy and slick guitar lines and a scream from new vocalist Gabriel Colon, Logue quickly proves that he still has the knack of writing heavy, intricate, yet catchy guitar riffs, and the new band he has assembled soon proves it is capable of at least matching the older incarnations, for instance Gabriel Colon whilst similar in style to previous incumbents is technically and range wise the most impressive vocalist the band has ever had, although he perhaps lacks some of the character of previous ones, Logue himself included. ‘Automation’ is touch slower and yet just as dynamic and heavy, while the title-track is one of the strongest tracks the band has ever penned, a real mini-epic with an atmospheric intro with Gregorian like chants, acoustic guitars, etc. while the song itself is suitably flamboyant and heavy, with heroic lyrics detailing the crusades, and a huge soaring call and refrain chorus.
‘Rendezvous’ brings things back down to earth with its subject matter, and musically is a bit more glam rock, but with one of the catchiest choruses Logue has ever written, with just enough cheese to keep it entertaining but not enough to spoil it, although ‘Stealing my Heart Away’ does stretch that to the absolute limits. Thankfully ‘Slave of Desire’ and ‘Land Beyond the Walls’ up the heavier elements and both are driving, and formidable musically, although lyrically they do bring a smile to my face, not in a good way, with the later in particular seemingly promoting Flat Earth Theory! Sound wise the older albums, although pretty good for their time, were obviously constrained by the recording technology and budgets of the day. This time around the sound is much thicker and heavier, with Logue himself producing the album himself, with Roland Grapow, from Helloween fame, handling the mix. The cover art this time around is also a bit more tasteful, shying away from the misogynist leanings of previous releases.
It’s great to have this classic band back making powerful, contemporary music that compliments the older material yet still sounding modern and relevant. If you like metal in the vein of early Maiden, Nasty Savage, or from a more modern perspective Enforcer, this is definitely an album worth checking out. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long for album number four, and who knows we might even get a European Tour. Welcome back.