Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Sinner - The Second Decade
(Nuclear Blast)

Well, it's more like the second half of the second decade, Mat culling riff-mad tracks from his last three albums while adding a gaggle of rarities, including the previously unreleased The Truth Is Out There, a typically infectious pure metal stomper featuring the band's original drummer, plus Balls To The Wall from the Accept tribute, a track seemingly built for the pint-draining grooves of Sinner. Near the close, there's a live version of Born To Rock from the band's Japan-issued live album, plus an acoustic version of anti-racism anthem Respect, humorously marred by Mat's uncouth construction worker vocals. So all in all, call this a cool introduction to one of Germany's longest-running and most prolific power metal institutions, Sinner proudly up there with Rage and Grave Digger, creating a trinity of bands that endeavour year after year to make sure we don't forget the free-burning guitar magic that drove Accept, Dio, Maiden and Priest deep into our skulls through the heady days of the mid-'80s.
Rating 7.5

Saxon - Metalhead
(SPV)

With drum master Nigel Glockler leaving the fray, we're now down to just two original members, Biff Byford and Paul Quinn. But have no fear, this is probably the most universally praised Saxon album since Power & The Glory, quite a feat, given that the past couple have also been quite fortified. It's almost as if the rise of power metal has recharged the band's batteries, tracks like What Goes Around and Prisoner built on blazing riffs that through the weight of history, are heavier than Hammerfall. Elsewhere, new drummer Fritz Randow upholds Glockler's sixth sense of groove, holding down bloody great Accept grooves, while letting fly come fill time. Biff's vocals are lent little tricks and treatments, which adds to the sense that time was spent making things just so, something also evident in the full-range, metal-reverent arrangements and attendant production. It's cool how you can read the lines of experience on each and every member of the band's faces: no inter-generational Alice Cooper situation here. So it feels like a tribe of defiant old Indians, like Metal Church or more obscurely, Marshall Law or Thunderhead (boot camp for a competing Saxon!) or even Sinner. Grounded in the classics, grounded in professionalism and ultimately grounded in solid metal values.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3