I desperately wanted Sacrifice to be better than it is. It has qualities that have the potential to make it an exciting release for Saxon, who have opted to hone their sound to perfection over the years rather than shake things up or innovate. The album is heavier than anything they have released in recent years, with throaty, growling guitar tones and a deep, full rhythm section.
“Made In Belfast” is an excellent example of this weightier fare, and Byford's vocals are powerful and muscular enough to suit the material. Saxon have also opted for slicker, more modern production values on this record, which makes the sound sleek and slick, and really brings out the finer dynamic qualities of the drumming. The songwriting is tight, all elements fitting together seamlessly, with nothing awkward or out of place. On paper, is it a fine offering.
What Sacrifice lacks is any sense of danger, a vital energy to infuse the record and make is something special. There is no doubt that it is a well-crafted, finely wrought piece of classic heavy metal, but there is not enough heart, not raw fire behind it. It's executed well, but without a sense of urgency, and little real emotion leaving the experience ringing hollow in the listener's ears. “Walking The Steel” and Night of the Wolf” are perfect examples of tracks that should send a surge of energy through the listener, but somehow wind up being only blandly enjoyable.
Other tracks do manage to capture the fire, like “Guardians of the Tomb,” which is full of great vocal hooks, big meaty riffs and a captivating energy. “Stand Up And Fight” has that fist-pumping energy that defines a good metal anthem, and could easily have come from almost any of their other albums. Taken as a whole, however, Sacrifice ends up being a good, but ultimately disappointing listening experience.
(released March 26, 2013 on UDR Records)