Saxon The Inner Sanctum

Celebrating 30 years of dishing out their recipe for the NWOBHM, thunderous stalwarts Saxon unleash The Inner Sanctum, an astoundingly strong effort on all fronts. Singer Bif Byford’s vocal chords are impressively intact after decades of belting out those operatic wails, which surely inspired Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson a time or two. Yet while there are moments of excellently performed, adrenaline-pumping hard rock aggression, most notably on "Need For Speed,” the overabundance of soft ballads is like a pinprick to their leather balloon. Things start to deflate by fourth track "Red Star Falling,” a predictable piece of crooning over arpeggios and plodding drums. Patching the hole somewhat, "I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)” is as driving as it is hilarious, dictating the aging philosophy that one must rage forever. With lyrics covering that same generic territory and a need to live up to their "rock to live” dictum, The Inner Sanctum won’t make it into the top of Saxon’s best ever, instead riding comfortably in the middle of a storied career. (Steamhammer)