The undisputed kings and queen of the D.C. metal scene return with the new album "It Was Metal," which by your author's calculations - was written 10 years ago. In all seriousness, literally no bands on earth work harder, generate insane amounts of relevant and competent music and produce higher quality products completely on its own than this band. With expectations already high, I settled down and pressed play on the trusty iPod to check out the latest in the continuation of the cerebral progressive.....WHOA.....WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, a newly undisclosed secret Saxon album? Taking a good look at the usual artwork masterpiece of Dušan Marković, I guess that title should have given it all away...."IT WAS METAL"!
Just when you thought the band would continue the progression of 2015's "Tales From the Deadside," the power of the Schwartz pulls it all back to where it started with an album so steeped in early influential metal bands that its nearly cro-magnon by comparison. Of course, I write this statement like its a bad thing...
....its soooo not. "Phantom Flight" has a riff and sound that has been only been better preserved and offered on the 1980 classic "Strong Arm of the Law" from Saxon. Not only is this song an exhilarating freight train from the past, but Nina gets to duet with friend and mentor Mark Tornillo (Accept/TT Quick). Ditto for the album's ending triumvirate: "Tomyris" (about the Queen who ruled Massagetae, an Iranian people from Scythian who defeated Cyrus the Great in 530 B.C., accepting his head on a plate), "Charles II" (the King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1630-1685) and "Fortress of the Future Race" - arguably three of the most metal songs offered by ASoT. The band seems to have been hopped up on old Saxon and Riot, leaving the listeners to reap the benefits and rewards of blazing metal! As if that wasn't enough history for you - the band takes you to the city of Cuzcatlan in Mesoamerica (now El Salvador) in the thrilling track "Altacatl." The band's tribute to Catalonia - "Els Segadors (The Reapers)" - took the flashpoint of the breakaway region of Spain by storm.
The album's iconic title track comes just after the blues charm of the Robert Johnson inspired (complete with harmonica) intro "The Crossroads Deal." leading to vocalist Nina Osegueda unleashing a scream which could've come direct from Chastain's "Ruler of the Wasteland." "It Was Metal" tells the tale of metal's ethereal origins - which goes pretty much along the line of Ben Stiller's classic scene in "Tenacious D - The Pick of Destiny" (including Johnson's 'deal with the devil' which granted him the 'pick'). Add in Josh Schwartz's unbelievably incredible riffs and solos and you can almost believe this tale is real....because IT IS!
The album's second guest comes by way of "Obsidian & Gold (Desdinova Returns)" - an epic near 10 minute masterpiece befitting the presence of the great Tony Carey (Rainbow). Again, Schwartz's riffs fit right into the song's motiff and Carey's Hammond style organ rides on top like a classic Rainbow song.
"It Was Metal" is by far the band's most metal offering to date, but it also offers so much more than just a blast from the past...incorporating elements of the past, present and future from both the influential bands of each member, to the band's own past arsenal making this album one of the most important, and refreshing, in the band's discography.
Label: Mad Neptune Records (2018)
1. Phantom Flight (Feat. Mark Tornillo)
4. The Crossroads Deal
5. It Was Metal
6. Obsidian & Gold (Desdinova Returns) (Feat. Tony Carey)
7. Second Lives
8. Els Segadors (The Reapers)
10. Charles II
11. Fortress of the Future Race