SAVAGE – ‘Sons Of Malice’ (Minus2Zebra)
A new album from Savage isn’t so much a release as an occasion to celebrate. ‘Sons Of Malice’ is just their sixth studio album since they opened their account with ‘Loose And Lethal’ back in 1983, although the quartet have always placed quality above quantity and those six albums are worth twice as many of a lesser band. Trust me on this. The twenty-first century Savage still features Chris Bradley on vocals/bass and Andy Dawson on guitar – naturally – but these days Dawson’s six-string partner is one Kristian Bradley (Chris’s son and Andy’s nephew) with Mark Nelson behind the drumkit.
Instantly accessible and hugely impressive, ‘Sons Of Malice’ is a 58 minute monster boasting a baker’s dozen of honest and tremendously exciting songs. No contrivance, no attempt to fit a mould: just thirteen songs straight from the heart. “We never really set out to do anything other than write songs that we like,” comments Chris. “What you have to understand is that we never really felt part of the NWOBHM because our influences where and still are what I guess would be called ‘old school’ bands, and also we have never felt the need to write the same album over and over again. Yes, it’s true we have our own sound and that is inevitable as the band’s musical direction is wholly influenced by myself and Andy – we write the majority of the songs together; I’m the lead singer and Andy the lead guitar player so the sound is always there when we work together – but as far as the material goes we kind of just go with the flow of each other and that will always depend on what feels good at the time. Unfortunately this has perhaps cost us a higher level of success over the years!” he laughs.
The album wears its influences very much on its sleeve: opener ‘The Rage Within’ could easily snuggle amongst the tracks on that very first album, whereas the next song (‘Black ‘N’ Blue’, ironically) takes a swerve into Whitesnake territory and comes out swaggering around like ‘Cryin’ In The Rain’. And all the while the twin guitars put you in mind of the likes of Thin Lizzy. But let’s not dismiss the classic Savage touches – the hacking, staccato riff of the title track, the feel good riffing of ‘Monkey On My Back’ which belies its lyrical content – and the neat little cameos like the chiming watch from Clint Eastwood’s ‘For A Few Dollars More’ accompanying the spaghetti-western tinged intro to ‘The Hanging Tree’. ‘Sons Of Malice’ is classic rock played by a classic band, with a contemporary twist in the sound to bring things up to date. “I started listening to all those bands like Lizzy, UFO, Purple again,” says Andy, “and they still sound fresh. Much of the Eighties’ stuff had not dated so well and the music from the Seventies is what inspired us in the first place. You can't avoid progress and technology: the album was recorded with Pro Tools which gives you the possibility of getting closer to the sound you want. But as a guitar player my style was formed from those early bands and even though I might dabble with contemporary styles I'm defined by years of listening to Schenker, Moore, Van Halen, Pat Travers etc etc.”
Both Chris and Andy are happy that with ‘Sons Of Malice’ they accomplished what they set out to achieve. “We would have liked more time but there is always a financial cost involved,” notes Chris, “but yes, I think did capture what we wanted. As always though,” he laughs again, “it will be up to the fans to decide that in the long run.” Andy is more forthright. “Absolutely! I think you can hear classic Savage on this album, as well as a few twists and turns, maybe a few grooves that we needed to touch on such as 'Black ‘N’ Blue' and 'Blow'.
“We just wanted to produce a heavy album that did justice to the songs as we wrote and rehearsed them,” says Chris, “and Mark [Nelson] did a great job engineering that.”
“And,” adds Andy, “we wanted the quality of the recording to match the quality of the tracks and to pay tribute to what people liked us for in the first place – great riffs and melody, but still heavy at the same time.”
And songs with a message too… Another laugh from Chris. “Anyone that knows me understands that I like to get on my soap box and shout! No, seriously, I like the songs to say something, and whether you agree with the sentiment or not the hope is to add to the discourse. I also like to tell a story too, and play with words, and sometimes be a little cryptic.
“Chris leads on that and I throw in the odd idea,” adds Andy. “I personally like the songs which tell a story, like ‘Hanging Tree’ – it’s almost a mini movie soundtrack. Some of our early tracks like ‘Ain’t No Fit Place’ and ‘Dirty Money’ have that narrative too.”
Although Chris would go on to describe Savage as “like Spinal Tap all over again” the band always had the edge (no pun intended) over so many of their contemporaries, and it was always a mystery – and a great shame – that they never broke through to the big time. It is so good to have them back again.
© John Tucker April 2012