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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Samain (GER) to play their final anniversary show at 4th of Dec 2015 in Werkhof Hohenlimburg, Hagen

Lets give a little shout for our friends Samain (GER) and their final anniversary show, which will be played in Werkhof Hohenlimburg, Hagen, Germany at 4th of December 2015. I was informed about this by Ralph, who nowadays also works as a guitar playing teacher for both, acoustic and electric guitars. The show starts at 19.00 on Friday. More details of the show at on here.

The line-up for the show will be:

  • Peter Ancaster - lead vocals 
  • Ralph Veety (aka Wiethoff) - guitar 
  • Martin Gombik - drums (who played at the first ever gig of Samain) 
  • Sid Koenig - guitar, backing vocals (played one anniversary gig priory with the band) 
  • Jeff Koenig - bass, backing vocals (played all anniversary gigs)

Any heavy metal fans around the area should consider checking the show out! Samain's style was sort of a middle-cross between hard rock and heavy metal in the old days; something like AC/DC meets Accept with slightly more gloomy and epic tone. That's only my opinion, of course. But why not decide by yourself, hear them out!

"Lay down and see,

the metal breaks obscurity" 

(Samain - The Metal Breaks My Senses from "Vibrations of Doom" LP (1984))

A great chorus, that echoed in 1985 on Samain's first and last full-length vinyl release called "Vibrations of Doom". Obscurity remained unbroken, but a fine piece of music was created border lining both heavy metal and hard rock at the same time. Which side one would draw the line upon, would depend about, if one was glancing the record through the 80s glasses, or through more modern ones. Where to draw the line is rather irrelevant, though.

(Samain (GER) circa 1984)

A few people might know this overlooked album, but not many would know, that the band actually released quite a bit of more material throughout the years, including three demos:
  • Thunderbolt Giants (1984)
  • Today You're a Lion (1985)
  • Vicious Circles (1985)

Four Video Releases (VHS):
  • (Fragmentary) Maysongs - An Evening With Samain (1985)
  • Live At Monsters Of Rock Of The Newcomers (1985)
    • These were erased as a result of lacking agreement between recorders and Roadrunner Records
  • Return Of The Giants (1986)
  • Beneath The Fortress (1986)

And a few live Cassette releases:
  • Just What The Seeres Ordered (Live, 1983)
  • From Now Till Doomsday (Live, 1984)
  • Live Maysongs (Live, 1985)

That's a few nice items to hunt for a obscure heavy metal and hard rock collector of the 80s, that one should keep on the eye, in addition to great "Vibrations of Doom" long-play, itself. The full-length album is something a collector should find rather easily without insanely high price as a vinyl, if one would just look around a bit, thanks to internet and worldwide trading.

If you want to find out more about the band, check out their official website:

Read also my old review of "Samain - Vibrations of Doom" (85/100):

And as a last word; if you were interested in the band, be sure to see them at the final anniversary show! Over and out.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground Pt.2: Sacred Blade (CAN)

"The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground" is series of short stories about eighties heavy metal bands, which never hit big into the fame in the eighties, and disappeared afterwards of making music, but have recently returned in the business with either a new EP or full-length album. The meaning of the series is to bring the word about bands reformation into metal fans knowledge. I will try my best to pick reliable information of the bands (internet sources, and books such as Malc Macmillan's N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia, combined with my personal opinions), but if you (especially, if you're a member of the band and know the facts for sure) find any errors in the information provided by me which bother you, please let me know and e-mail correction to!

In part two we take a look into Canadian band Sacred Blade:

Sacred Blade was a Canadian heavy metal band that is very easy for an old school heavy metal fan to miss out, since their career was so shattered with only two full-length albums released almost three decades apart (another under a different band name), and their main creative force, Jeff Ulmer, passed away recently. However, Sacred Blade is not a band one should miss out! They weren't your most typical heavy metal band, and had more diverse musical presentation style-wise, with their share of traditional heavy metal, combined with early progressive metal. At times of the "new era" after the silent period, when they returned with lead of Jeff Ulmer, the band used a different name instead of Sacred Blade, which was Othyrworld. It's no question, though, that this was the very same band under different name, since they were re-working with old Sacred Blade material for the new album, as well as some fresh material, and the style remained the same since the eighties. Want to know more? Read on!

Sacred Blade was formed in 1978 by guitar-duo Jeff Ulmer and Will Rascan in Canada. It was the same year when the soon-to-become prime Canadian heavy metal act Anvil were formed, who would later on succeed to become quite popular heavy metal act internationally, and "some dude" named Dan Beehler formed Hell Razor, which would later on become a cult speed metal favorite called Exciter. Drummer Paul Davis joined Sacred Blade few years later in 1980 (source: Of The Sun + Moon booklet. CD Reissue by the band.). Within next few years band rehearsed a lot, and came up with material worth of two full-length albums. For some reason, this material was never used for recordings at the time, and when the band finally hit studio in 1982, they recorded totally new and fresh material pushing out two (2) self-published demos. The first demo (1982) contained songs "Salem", "Crystal", and "Hammerhead". The first song out of the three was featured in their first full-length debut album soon to come. The second demo (1983, also known as "Demo II") contained songs "The Enlightment / Master of the Sun", "The Alien", and "Moon". The first and the last of the aforementioned three songs were featured in the soon to come first full-length album. Song called "The Alien" could be heard on "Metal Massacre IV" compilation by Metal Blade Records, the compilation which also featured bands such as Trouble, Abattoir, and Lizzy Borden. The two demos along with being featured in the compilation were good publicity for the band at the time. Especially, as noted in official Sacred Blade/Othyrworld website, the second demo from 1983 (aka "Demo II") really gave the band international recognition, earning "Best New Band", and "Best Demo" awards from New Jersey's WMSC radio, as well as gathering interest from metal press (source:

I should also state, that the aforementioned demos featured much more rawer overall presentation and style, than found on more refined and bit more mellow upcoming debut album. However, those were the events that granted the band their first record contract and cult following. In 1983 bassist James Channing joined Sacred Blade line-up, and the band was now ready to shake the heavy metal masses and start recording the first full-length album. Recordings in the studio for the debut album "Of The Sun + Moon" began in 1984. Somewhere in between those recordings, in 1985, came out also demo preceding the full-length, containing four (4) songs of the upcoming full-length release: "Of the sun + Moon", "In the light of the moon", "Fieldz of Sunshine", and "Legacy". Studio recordings of the full-length release were, for some reasons, long ride, since it took eighteen (18) months to complete the recordings, until "Of The Sun + Moon" finally hit stores at October of 1986, pressed by legendary French Black Dragon Records label (Read my review of the album). The album's original Vinyl release is quite rare these days and also rather valuable, if you happen to come across it! The reasons behind prolonged recordings and release may well have been about negotiations with several different record companies, as there were a few additional companies that the band were in touch with at the time: Roadrunner Records and Enigma Records. However, the record deal was sealed with Black Dragon in the end.

(Picture from the remastered Of The Sun + Moon CD booklet)

"Of the Sun + Moon" can be described many different ways, for unique album as it is, but I would like to throw in my own humble poor-english-description (as it isn't my native language for me being Finnish). I think, that the album sounds a mixture of traditional heavy metal like Judas Priest, combined with very early progressive heavy metal (which didn't really become popular until the 90s), and epic power metal like Crimson Glory (first one to come to my mind. Call me crazy, but I feel that Crimson Glory and Sacred Blade have something in common style-wise). I always had feeling that "Of the Sun + Moon"'s quality matched the great first two albums by Crimson Glory, speaking of epic magical melodies that were just so damn catchy and mysterious. Yet, "Of The Sun + Moon" also had it's share of more rocking edge (songs like "In the Light of the Moon", for example), and it sort of preceded the upcoming progressive heavy metal-era, in a way, at the same time. It had the speed, priest-like powerful riffs, melodic laid back interludes, mystical melodies, and high pitched vocals combined with shrieking. A very diverse record. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you check out if Othyrworld's official website "Moonwatch Command Module" still has any remastered "Of The Sun + Moon" albums left. It was remastered by Jeff Ulmer some years back from original master tapes! Well, the booklet says "Othyrworld Recordings", but was very likely Jeff's own company with his own studio. They still might have them, so check it out.

(Remastered Of The Sun + Moon CD)

Perhaps "Of The Sun + Moon" didn't really sell that well, or whatever the reason was, after the debut album Black Dragon Records did not grant the band a contract for another release. Or, perhaps the band had some internal problems, since at least Will Rascan and Paul Daves weren't featured on the self-released demo year later in 1987. Rest of the band continued as trio after the debut album, recording demos in 1987 (Untitled demo, songs: "The Transient", "Odyssey of Light", "Neckz in the Woodz", "Til Death do us Part"), 1988 (Seven Moon of Xercez demo, songs: "IC Eyes", "The Transient", "Perpetual Movements", "Til Death Do us Part"), and finally also in 1990 (Advance Mix 1990 demo, songs: "IC Eyes", "Cathedral Forest"), all self-released.  The last one featured unknown Randy Robertson as second guitarist, and the demo was supposed to be recorded preceding the upcoming second full-length album. The band's former musical style remained the same throughout the line, unlike what many other bands did at the time in the late 80s/early 90s, but the band still hadn't managed to seal a new record deal for the planned second full-length album at the beginning of the 90s, and then, total silence...

Sidenote: Seven Moonz of Xercez Demo artwork was later on stolen and used in Reborn Classics (known of many other bootlegs also) records, who used the artwork in their "Seven Moonz of Xercez Bootleg Bootleg CD" featuring low-quality material from several Sacred Blade demos across the different years (

(Beyond Into The Night Of Day CD)

During this silent era which lasted from the early nineties far to the new millennium, over a decade so to speak, the band was silently working with new material for a new album (named later as ""Beyond Into The Night of The Day"), which would feature re-recordings of the old songs, as well as some new songs. According to Jeff's own words (see the picture below), recording for the album began as early as at the summer of 1994, but the recording process eventually took over a decade to be finished!

After one and half decades later since releasing the latest official material, the demo at 1990, Jeff Ulmer returned with former drummer Ted Zawadzki in 2005, and finished up the recordings for the new album "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" (quite progressive-influenced name eh?) under the band name of Othyrworld, which was finally released by Othyr World Recordingz (most likely Jeff's own record label / indenpendent release?). The music was actually 100% Sacred Blade, and the songs were mostly re-recordings of the debut album material with few exceptions: "Odyssey of Light", "Right Ascension", and "Ethereal Skyline" were never featured before. It's not explained whether these were material prior to first two demos, which never ended up for any recording, or were they fresh songs. Nevertheless, while usually re-recordings decades later come out stale and spiritless, "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" is actually a very good album that manages to capture the old spirit with newer studio equipment, and updated sound (with a good taste). The sound is perhaps a bit thicker and more progressive metal influenced, than on the original record, but keeps the original spirit up perfectly. The album is highly recommended by me.

There was never second release at Othyrworld-era, nor any official demos. Obviously, old Sacred Blade demos were meant to be remastered and released as a special collector's edition CD by Jeff Ulmer, but these plans to my knowledge never happened, and for quite obvious reasons I don't believe it will happen in the future either (since Jeff passed away). I, for one, would had definitely bought the planned remastered Demo Compilation: "Moonwatch Command Module plans to release the entire demo catalogue, digitally remastered from the original tapes on a collector's edition CD complete with extensive liner notes, lyrics and pictures from the era that the recordings were made. Stay tuned for details on this collector's edition CD, available only through the Moonwatch Command Module. (" 

The story of Sacred Blade is rather depressing, because of the humongous talent the band - especially Jeff Ulmer - had. He was quite a visionnaire when it comes to composing music. He was a fine guitar player who could come up with unique melodies, though, his vocals might not have been up to par with the best singers in heavy metal scene. Jeff and Sacred Blade were part of the Canadian heavy metal scene for very long time, from the late seventies to the early nineties, and then returning with a new record much later. Yet the band was criminally overlooked, only got a record deal for one full-length album, and three decades later managed to release another one by their own record label (under Othyrworld name). They released several demos from early eighties to early nineties, which despite attracting cult following from heavy metal fans, didn't interest record companies much. Their premiere, "Of the Sun + Moon", remains one of the most overlooked classic heavy metal records of all times, being not only creative and powerful effort, but also ahead of it's time musically.

The second coming under the name Othyrworld with "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" album, on the other hand, is a prime example how the talent and passion for performing heavy metal music decades later since the last official release, can still be present. "The old school" did truly strike back successfully with  "Beyond Into The Night of The Day" in 2005 with lead of Jeff Ulmer, after a long silence, but for whatever the reason, there was no continuity for the album in form of another release. It seems that even with a successful returning-album quality and material-wise, the band still didn't manage to establish a decent "foothold" into Canadian heavy metal scene at the new millennium. A true shame, indeed. And whether there were plans to come out with another album in the future, the hope for the fans of the band to ever hear new material died with Jeff passing away in 2013. That's the time when fate stepped into the picture, preventing chances for a new record all together. Thus, the band's promising "return" remained a short one. If Jeff owned all rights for his and the bands past recordings and music (and in case Othyr World Recordingz was a record label solely owned by himself), then I doubt that the material will ever be re-released in the future, either. So, if you come across any of their albums or demos second hand, just grab it while you can!

In memory of Jeff Ulmer, who passed away in 2013 after having a stroke. May your music be inspiration to us few who ever heard it!

(Sacred Blade - The Enlightenment/Master of the Sun - Of the Sun + Moon (1986))

Additional notes: " Of The Sun + Moon CD" was initially only released as vinyl by Black Dragon Records, and then re-released in CD format as limited edition by Othyr World Recordinz in 1999 (cat#: OWRCD 001).

Sources: Othyrworld official website (aka Sacred Blade (; Metal-Archives (; Sacred Blade ‎– Of The Sun + Moon CD, sheet (Othyr World Recordingz ‎– OWRCD 001).

Read also: 
REVIEW: Sacred Blade (CAN) - Of The Sun + Moon (1986, remastered), by (Thursday, March 18, 2010). 
Jeff Ulmer (ex- Sacred Blade / Othyrworld) has died - paying my respects by (Wednesday, June 19, 2013). | Tane Norther

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground Pt.1: Battleaxe (UK)

"The Old School Strikes Back - Tales From the Underground" is series of short stories about eighties heavy metal bands, which never hit big into the fame in the eighties, and disappeared afterwards of making music, but have recently returned in the business with either a new EP or full-length album. The meaning of the series is to bring the word about bands reformation into metal fans knowledge. I will try my best to pick reliable information of the bands (internet sources, and books such as Malc Macmillan's N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia, combined with my personal opinions), but if you (especially, if you're a member of the band and know the facts for sure) find any errors in the information provided by me which bother you, please let me know and e-mail correction to!

In part one we take a look into English band Battleaxe:

Battleaxe was formed in Wearside, northeast England (Sunderland, to be precise, if the information in is correct) around 1980. Their first known line-up consisted of:
Dave King (v), Steve Hardy (g), Brian Smith (b), and Ian Thompson (d).

Battleaxe played rather traditional heavy metal at the time, belonging to the N.W.O.B.H.M (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) scene (whether it's considered as style or "wave/era" isn't the issue to debate at lengthily this article). I would place them to be a mid/late era N.W.O.B.H.M. -band, since they weren't formed quite amongst the first ones of the wave, such as Angel Witch, Tygers Of Pan Tang, or Def Leppard, but a few years later. It also took Battleaxe a couple of years to come out with any officially released material. The wave itself lasted from 1979 to 1983. Even to '84 or '85, depending of whether we count some of the late-comers in, who's releases sound just as if the music was released before '84's England. Many of N.W.O.B.H.M. era influenced bands, who released their albums right after '83, might've been writing the songs year or few before, but didn't get their material out until '84 or '85. If we consider N.W.O.B.H.M. "a style", then I would personally count some of the 84-85 albums in the wave, but if it's "an era", then probably not.

Back to Battleaxe: In my opinion their early 80s material (up to 1983's release "Burn This Town") drew influences from classic heavy metal such as Motörhead, Judas Priest, as well as slightly from punk, which was the case with many other N.W.O.B.H.M. -genres bands at the time. Since Battleaxe wasn't amongst the very "first comers" of the wave, they may have also drawn influences of some of the earliest bands of the wave. The early material by Battleaxe has some similarities to the Filth Hounds -era Tank, and the fans of Tank would probably enjoy early Battleaxe. By similarities, I mean in terms of  "rawness" in the band's sound, as well as straight-forward approach with riffs, compared to Tank and Motörhead, but featuring perhaps bit lighter, more rocking edge to their music (Malc Macmillan's book N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia also mentions Raven as one of Battleaxe's influences, although, it wasn't one of the first to come to my mind, personally).

(Burn This Town 7" single (1982))

After being formed around 1980, Battleaxe got an opportunity to play in a radio session on their local radio station called "Radio Tees". It might've affected to their reputation positively, and been part of the reason why they were signed and offered a spot to appear on "Roxcalibur" heavy metal compilation (cat#: GRC 130) few years later by Guardian Records, in 1982. They picked two (2) songs, "Battleaxe" and "Burn This Town" to appear in the compilation, which also featured bands such as "Satan" and "Black Rose". The two aforementioned songs were released on a stand-alone 7" single (cat#: GRC 132) later in the same year by Guardian Records, limited to 1000 copies (according to

For whatever the reason, Battleaxe swapped a record company and signed up with Music For Nations in 1983 to record their first full-length release. The album was named after another of the tracks featured in "Roxcalibur" compilation a year earlier - "Burn This Town", featuring the aforementioned album's title track as well as the band's self-titled track "Battleaxe", along with another eight (8) fresh new tracks unreleased previously. The line-up remained the same than before. The material was very consistent style-wise throughout the whole album, though, someone would perhaps argue it to be "no-frills" in similar fashion than your typical Motörhead -record. Surely enough, there's no complex shredding and the most versatile solos to be found here, but personally, I rank "Burn This Town" very high in my books, with it's enjoyable raw straight-forward riffs, energetic performance by the band (especially the catchy drumming), rough-ish pub-ready vocals, combined with rocking attitude. It's just pure fun and joy to listen to - a blast. The album is certainly recommended to fans of early Motörhead and Tank. Songs such as "Burn This Town", "Ready To Deliver", and "Running Out of Time" being my personal favorites (note: I've reviewed "Burn This Town" back in 2011 at with score of 90/100 (awesome)).

Later in 1983, Battleaxe appeared in "Friday Rock Show" (BBC broadcast session at the time), 13th May 1983, playing the oldies "Running Out Of Time" and "Ready To Deliver", as well as two (2) yet unreleased tracks "Shout It Out" and "Mean Machine", of which the first mentioned would appear on an upcoming full-length release the next year, and the latter wouldn't appear on any officially released record, ever. At the time of the broadcast, line-up would had changed so that the former drummer Ian Thompson had just left to join Dark Heart, and the newcomer Ian McCormack would join in from Satan to play in the session. "Small circles", one would say, as it was common in the era for members of N.W.O.B.H.M. bands to swap from similar band to another (just look at the past line-ups in bands such as Satan, Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Tysondog). According to the Macmillan's N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia, "Burn This Town" was sufficiently good seller of an album, and Battleaxe toured later in 1983 along with bands such as Saxon (rather big name in fields of heavy metal at the time), which was surely a positive thing to gain some fame among hungry heavy metal fans. One of the major shows was a festival held in Leeds in 1983 featuring Girlschool, Anvil, Saxon, and Twisted Sister.

(Battleaxe - Burn This Town (1983))

Decently well sold debut album and the touring with "bigger names" in 1983 had probably a positive factor on granting the band an opportunity to enter the studio to record a second full-length album under Music For Nations label. The album was called "Power from The Universe" and was released in 1984 along with the new drummer Ian McCormack (ex-Satan), line-up remaining otherwise the same. Personally, I tend to think that the second album aimed bit more into pursuing more commercial success, than "Burn This Town". "Commercial" in means of heavy metal radius, not commercial like in popular music, of course. "Power from The Universe" had more hard rock oriented sound, being less raw than on their speedier N.W.O.B.H.M. era debut album. The general pace and tempo in the album was certainly slower and the atmosphere more "relaxed", laid back, a bit like an added dose of AC/DC put into the mix, but still featured decently heavy moments, keeping the fair amount of their previous heavy metal influences intact. While musically not "a sell-out" by any means, and being a decently enjoyable album to listen to throughout, the album didn't sell well (according to the Macmillan's book), and Battleaxe was dropped from Music From Nations label. A shame, since the songs such as more vicious "Chopper Attack", fast hard rocker "Power From The Universe", and catchy "License to Rock" showed that the band still had a lot to offer.

Now without a record label, the band focused on touring and writing new material for their third full-length release (probably without the plans how to ever release the record, at this point), which, according to Macmillan's. Macmillan's book N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia was to be released under the name of "Metal Edge", supposedly later in 1985. In 1984-1985 Battleaxe toured and played their new non-released material along with the older songs. There's actually independently released (without a record label) live album from UK tour of 1985 by Battleaxe existing featuring many unreleased songs played live, including "Bad Luck Struck", "Forged Futureproof", "Demon Queen", "Dead End Street", "Can There Be a Light", "Mean Machine" and "Out In The Night". These were probably amongst the songs, which were planned to be released on the third full-length album. It's also stated in the Macmillan's book N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia, that the band demoed new material worth a whole full-length album in 1985 (although I cannot find information of this demo anywhere else).

For whatever the reason, the final recordings for the third full-length release never took a place. Didn't Battleaxe manage to get a new record deal for the album, were the issues personal and the band fell apart at the time, or were they let down by the fans response to the new songs and decided not to go for it? The reasons are unknown, for me, at least. Things didn't probably seem too bright at this point, anyway. N.W.O.B.H.M. wave the band initially belonged to was already pretty much over, plus their attempts to aim towards more hard rock oriented audience hadn't been too successful with "Power from The Universe" (even though there wasn't problem with the album's quality, by itself). Battleaxe didn't go "all out" towards hard rock direction, anyway, but kept their heavy metal influences on their side, which probably wasn't optimal for the hard rock audience. The new wave of extreme metal was striking big at the moment: thrash metal bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Exodus, which wasn't something which direction Battleaxe was heading to. Whatever the reason, the third album was never released and the band went "dormant" for couple of years. The main guitarist (and the only one at the time) Steve Hardy seem to have left the band in or after 1985. Let the times of struggle begin!

King, Smith, and McCormack were still trying to revive the band in 1988 when the band recorded a four-track EP called "Nightmare Zone". The EP wasn't released actually until 2005, so at the time the band was still struggling without a record deal. Strangely enough, all previously written material for the planned third full-length release ("Metal Edge") was dropped off not being featured in the EP, in exception of "Out in The Night", of which the band picked a live version to the EP. King & the company also recruited two new members to play in the EP as a replacement for the departed guitarist Steve Hardy. The replacements were John Stormont (ex-Spartan Warrior) and Mick Percy, both guitarist. The EP now featured double-guitar attack with the two new guitarists (as the previous recordings only featured one guitarist). "Nightmare Zone" featured a mix and match of the more speedy heavy metal moments featured in the great title track, accompanied with more laid back AC/DC-ish hard rock moments of... well... rest of the EP's songs ("Radio Thunder", "Love's On Fire", and "Out In The Night (live)"), which continue along the lines of  "Power of The Universe"'s slower paced songs. King also tried cleaner (nasal) singing style on the EP. The title track showed some fine promise (definitely my favorite out of the EP's songs), although I don't think that rest of the songs really stood out in their favor (enjoyable and average, but nothing groundbreaking).

(Battleaxe - Killer Woman 1988))

After recording "Nightmare Zone" EP in 1988 (and at the time being unable to get a record deal to push out either the EP or the planned third full-length album "Metal Edge"), Battleaxe seemed to call their quits as a band. McCormack went on to join Pariah (mostly consisting of ex-members of Satan), and rest of the members pretty much disappeared of heavy metal scene. No information of known demos exist after that, and although I have no knowledge whether the band continued to tour afterwards, there certainly wasn't anything "major" going on for almost two and a half decades...

The shattered "new era" for the band started at 2007, when the band put up a new music video of their old classic "Chopper Attack", an opener from "Power From The Universe" album. But according to there was some personal issues between the band members and no big plans for a new album took place at the moment.

In 2010 the band played a live show at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany, one major heavy metal festival. It was this performance and the events, that eventually spiraled the band into making a new, third full-length album. I remember reading news by Battleaxe, that they would be returning to the scene and record a new album called "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" around that period of time, somewhere between 2010 and 2012. I can't remember an exact year when the initial news about the upcoming album came out, but as I recall the process from the initial news to the final release of their third full-length album took quite a bit of time (was there problems pursuing a record deal?). There were one or two tracks of the upcoming album shared by the band itself quite a bit earlier, before the actual album hit the stores and was finally released in 2014 by Steamhammer records. Steamhammer is a major heavy metal record label, who has recently released albums of bands such as Virgin Steele, Sodom, and Saxon, so the record deal with them is probably a major thing for band such as Battleaxe.

The new line-up changes from "Nightmare Zone" EP to "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" (obviously there were some after 25 years of silence!) saw another of the guitarist from "Nightmare Zone" EP (recorded in 1988), Stormont, missing from the line-up. and the previous drummer Ian McCormack had been replaced by a newcomer Paul Atkinson (who probably joined already at 2007). Other than that, Battleaxe had three members left from the previous "Nightmare Zone" EP line-up: Dave King (v), Mick Percy (g), and Brian Smith (b) - of which King and Smith have been there since the initial formation of the band.

Many old school heavy metal bands of the eighties have been reuniting and returning to the scene with a new record, lately. Some of them with more, some with less success (record-quality-wise, not record-sale-wise), but it's always cool and exciting to give them a listen, even if they're not at their strongest anymore. So, what could be said about Battleaxe's return after 25 years of silence?

Well, "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" might well be their strongest album since "Burn This Town". I still find it hard for them to pass the superior energy and rawness of their debut, but "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" in my opinion is probably stronger than their enjoyable "Power From The Universe". With "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" the band has updated their sound to the new millennium in a way which should please old school heavy metal fans - true and honest pure heavy metal to it's core. Their updated sound is probably heaviest and gutsiest this far, and there's more speed in "Heavy Metal Sanctuary", than there was in "Power From The Universe", and the new album is more heavy metal at it's heart, too (and bit less hard rock-ish). It's still technically straight-forward, but Percy's guitar playing is precise and powerful, and the solos are probably better than on their "early material". The updated heavier, traditional heavy metal sound is leaning towards Judas Priest and Accept/UDO-like riff-fest (or even German Grave Digger, just listen at "Spirits of The Fallen"), which is certainly welcomed and appreciated thing. No-frills? Maybe a bit. Ass-kicking? Yeah. Mosh-worthy? Hell yeah. Take heavy hitters such as "Heavy Metal Sanctuary", "Shock and Awe", or "Rebel With a Cause" from the new album and crank it up! You should be at least quite pleased with the result.

(Battleaxe - Heavy Metal Sanctuary (2014))

I for one think, that we can except more good things to come in the future by this old school heavy metal band. There may be more potential to fulfill, even, but certainly this is a return which a heavy metal fan should take a notice to. Surely one of the better returns of the old school bands of the recent years. The old school has stricken... part one.

Additional notes: "Burn This Town" and "Power From The Universe" have recently been re-released on CD format as 30th anniversary celebration releases by Steamhammer. Check them out!

Sources: The N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia by Malc Macmillan, third edition february 2012; Metal-Archives (; Battleaxe - Heavy Metal Sanctuary: the Story Behind The Album (

Read also: REVIEW: Battleaxe (UK) - Burn This Town (1983) by (Thursday, June 30, 2011). | Tane Norther