Battleaxe – “Heavy Metal Sanctuary” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later when we at Battlehelm would end up reviewing a band with a name – and even history – to match our own! Make way for NWOBHM legends Battleaxe, who first burst onto the 80s scene with their now cult album ‘Burn This Town” on Roadrunner and whose artwork would long haunt the band (and label) thru more line up changes than anyone would care to remember, signing to later to Music For Nations before a bubble bursting line up kerfuffle saw a potential signing with Atlantic go up in smoke. Thereafter, the band lay dormant in the mists of time although never dead, always touring whenever line-ups permitted but sadly never holding onto them owing to the financial viability of the band. It seemed as if opportunity and misfortune came hand in hand with Battleaxe, with grunge almost putting an end to them whilst the growth in social media bore them a new lease of life. In 2010, the band played the prestigious Headbangers Open Air festival and a new found interest grew – both by fans and the band alike – and saw a new era open for Battleaxe. Despite that, this album has been almost 4 years in the making, drawing upon friends like Fred Purser (ex-Tygers Of Pan Tang) to produce it after Steamhammer / SPV lent its backing. Thankfully, it’s been worth it and the 21st century reincarnation of Battleaxe sounds like a dream! Still with founding members Brian Smith on bass and Dave King on vocals, it’s easy to see why the lure of the band is as strong now as it was then. Mixing the power beat of Saxon with the raw, shredding guitars of Accept along with the boogie rhythms of AC/DC on songs like ‘Spirits Of The Fallen’, ‘Too Hot For Hell’ and ‘Shock And Awe’, Battleaxe’s material is pulsating with the heartbeat of heavy metal fury! King’s voice has lost none of its potency, still being a lethally high mix of Brian Johnson and Udo Dirkschneider whilst the recording line up of Mick Percy on guitars and ex Skyclad drummer Paul AT Kinson have done the original sound proud while still being loud! This really has to be one of the greatest comebacks in history and I really feel for the band in hoping that things work out third time lucky for them after so many elusive years – all the stars are aligning as they did before – so let’s hope that King can keep Battleaxe together long enough for it to finally happen.