Sweet Savage (Nth Ireland) - 2011 Regeneration

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ARTIST: Sweet Savage (Nth Ireland)
ALBUM: Regeneration
LABEL: Grind That Axe (Rock Candy)
YEAR: 2011
SPONSOR: Rock Candy Records


LINEUP: Ray Haller - vocals, bass * Trevor Fleming - guitars * Ian 'Speedo' Wilson - guitars * Marty McClosky - drums * Jooles Watson - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Warbird * 02 Powder Monkey * 03 Regenerator * 04 No Guts No Glory * 05 Saviour (I Am Not) * 06 Do Or Die * 07 Money * 08 Razors Edge * 09 Whiskey In The Jar * 10 Eye Of The Storm * 11 Queens Vengeance * 12 Achilles * 13 The Raid

RATING: image



I'll admit to not knowing a lot about Northern Ireland's Sweet Savage. Apart from the fact that Vivian Campbell was a previous member before his signing with Dio and debut appearance on 1983's magnificent 'Holy Diver'.

According to some liner notes and pre-history that I read, Sweet Savage could've been as big as some of the better known outfits coming out of the NWOBHM era, though reluctance to move out of their native Belfast may have contributed to a cult following and lack of success-promotion.

Still, those in the biz were well aware of how good this lot were, upon listening to a variety of singles that they released and their live credentials.

Without a lot of support, Sweet Savage faded in and out of the scene over the years, though an enduring cult popularity saw the band increase its profile during the 90's on the back of some fortunate Metallica connections plus the release of two albums: 1996's 'Killing Time' and 1998's 'Rune'.

The band folded again after 'Rune', and did not return until 2008, with live appearances and renewed interest burgeoning once more.

The band supported Metallica, Doro, Saxon, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden during this period. SPV-Steamhammer then jumped into the mix as the proposed label for Savage's new album 'Warbird'.

However, this did not come to fruition as the label went through a restructure and nearly went out of business.

'Warbird' eventually became 'Regeneration', and Rock Candy's offshoot label Grind That Axe would pick up the album for release in 2011.

The Songs

The new album has obviously been a few years in the making, and is a genuine metal offering with lots of double kick drumming and twin guitar work.

The vocals of Ray Haller definitely has a James Hetfield ring to it, so by default they end up sounding like a melodic version of Metallica, though not quite as powerful or intense. Former lead guitarist of the band Simon McBride handles the production duties.

'Warbird' sees Haller give his best rendition, while the mid-section drum work and guitar solos are industry strength stuff.

The band create punctuation points all the way through with their stop-start approach, you hear it as early as 'Powder Monkey'. Again, the guitar solos are technical and OTT. Wow!

'Regenerator' is a dark and distant affair, evoking the dark imagery of the album cover artwork, similar to Swiss artist H.R Giger's sci-fi related work (Alien etc). The music is powerful, tribal even - especially those big gang-chants.

Huge rolling riffs welcome us to 'No Guts No Glory', complete with chunky guitar work and full-on power.

'Saviour (I Am Not)' is another to gallop merrily away, though the band hold up for moment to catch its breath mid song before ripping away again on a blaze of fiery guitar solos.

'Do Or Die' takes Sweet Savage deeper into metal territory, Metallica's Kirk Hammett would be impressed by the guitar tone here, it really is doppleganger stuff.

'Money' features an unusual sound with cymbals in a swirly backwash mix, the song for the most part stomps all over the soundscape.

'Razors Edge' contains a heavy groove that is slightly different in approach. The rhythms on the verse are distinctly celtic like, not so the choruses which are rabble rousing at best.

Vivian Campbell joins his former bandmates for a contribution to the Irish chestnut 'Whiskey In The Jar', and having heard this song many times before, I am unwilling to rate any higher or lower than all those versions that have gone before.

'Eye Of The Storm' retains much of the NWOBHM charm that followed Sweet Savage for years, 'Queens Vengeance' swings at the 80's metal scene with gusto, the sound quite dense, so too the final two tracks 'Achilles' and 'The Raid' which blaze all the way to the finish line.

In Summary

Not having heard their previous material, I am quite blown away at how accomplished Sweet Savage come across. Those Metallica like tinges don't detract at all, and the band really don't take their foot off the pedal at any stage.

The music is still buried deep in the 80's to my way of thinking, but the modern production and some of the musical techniques (diminished crash ride cymbals for one) brings it forward in the timeline.

Though he appeared on the album, guitarist Trevor Fleming has since passed away (Oct 2010), and this CD is dedicated to him.

If you have read about this band and this album and were thinking it was a NWOBHM affair in the vein of White Spirit, Diamond Head or Grand Prix, you will be sorely mistaken.

'Regeneration' is a very heavy album, and will definitely appeal to heavy metallers more so than melodic rockers.

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