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Savage was one of those underground NWOBHM acts that contributed to the crystallization of future subgenres like thrash and speed – Metallica used to cover their most memorable tune “Let It Loose” way back in the early-80’s, a song that included a surprisingly ferocious sound and notable speed in contrast with what other average British heavy rock bands were doing by that time. These guys could’ve received much more recognition and credits for their considerable contribution for the development of later metal subgenres if they managed to put out their debut Loose ‘N Lethal a couple of years before – by 1983, their disciples attracted all the attention while the true originators like themselves, Raven and Exciter were ignored. However, more than 30 years after its original release, this record remains as one of the most refreshing, timeless obscure works in the history of the British movement despite eluding commercial success.
The opening title features a truly punkish riff and a rampaging tempo, reaching a higher level of aggression and velocity than most NWOBHM groups those days, contributing to set the standards of thrash and speed with an inventive methodology and raw attitude – not only with the harshness and power of the music but its unashamed simplicity and minimalist composition. In fact, there are no impressive riff variations, no superior arrangements or much song-structure distinction to be found on that track, which pushes away the principles of meticulousness of 70’s classic rock to focus on the intensity and dynamism of the music instead – an undoubtedly great inspiration for Hetfield & co. Although we’re talking of an exception, as the rest of numbers obey a more traditional hard/heavy rock scheme – “Cry Wolf” and “On The Rocks” are way more sophisticated, including strong harmonies and melodies explicitly reminiscent of their admired Thin Lizzy, putting bigger attention on verses and choruses as well, with the group still executing clearly simplistic riffs and accessible structures. Rhythms remain weighty and traditional too on “Dirty Money” and “Berlin”, without suffering many shifts or changes, revealing uniform song-bodies and repetitive choruses that make the music ostensibly commercial and easily-listenable. The killer tone and texture of riffs on other hand stays untouched, despite the melodic vibe and cheerful feel on “Ain’t No Fit Place” or “White Hot”, which escape from overwhelming ferocity to emphasize melodies and vocals, adding also some of the most exquisite, tasteful shredding solos on the whole record. Notable vigor and vicious riffage reappear on “The China Run” with those energetic, galloping lines and enthusiastic beats with certain influence from Scorpions and their peers from Satan - another exception to highlight.
Savage never intended to play simply fast and heavy, I insist the opening cut is an exception on an album that rather embraces and shows respect for the classic rock ways of the 70’s. Actually, most lines are kinda bluesy – even though that brutal distortion makes them sound like roaring thunder, lightning and thrash their essence is quite melodic, weighty and traditional. These guys are no technically outstanding, skilled musicians but they make good music with simplicity, attitude and spontaneity – at times not taking particularly seriously the diversity of structures and riffs, unashamedly repeating the same song-body patterns and uninventive chorus formula during entire songs. But it’s the energy, the passion and the pride reflected on these cuts what really made them enjoyable, amusing, despite not being spectacular or professionally-arranged. Savage came up with a nice bunch of lethal riffs that don’t progress much on the songs, yet they possess much more presence, pulse and punch than most generic NWOBHM stuff from 1983. They deliver a few galloping ones Steve Harris would be proud of, some thrashy hooks that served as inspiration for Mustaine but this band’s sensitive side and predilection for strong melodies shouldn’t be eclipsed by the incendiary riffage – they put a lot of emphasis on harmonies in fact; remove that slashing distortion on guitars and you’ll get some surprisingly refined melodic hard rock in the style of Bodkin, Zior, My Solid Ground, and Montrose. The music here is quite commercial undeniably, no low-tuning, no harsh vocals (Andy Dawson’s teen yelling instead), total admiration and embracement of bluesy rock rules other NWOBHM intentionally moved away from, casual lyrics…no doubt about it, they certainly inherited the spirit of the previous decade.
Loose ‘N Lethal contributed with its title-track to the evolution of the British metal sound and the consolidation of thrash in America by those few underground fans of obscure NWOBHM – although it doesn’t focus as much on roughness and velocity as other compatriots did, in fact most songs are kinda melodic, following more traditional rock principles and showing certain nostalgia for the 70’s. The relentless, dirty texture of guitars is what makes the album sound so heavy and violent, by incorporating lots of harmonies and clean arrangements, showing remarkable talent despite their obvious limitations and absence of experience. So “what do you say – let it loose!”.
With the onset of several bands stepping aboard the NWOBHM bandwagon, the order of the day was to drift slightly away from the traditional metal territory though still being a part of it. This is precisely what Savage have done on their debut. The album “Loose N Lethal” has got to be one of the first ever speed/thrash attempts by a U.K band without a shadow of a doubt. Though all the essential ingredients formulated for being dubbed NWOBHM are intact, the tone and presence of staccato riffs make this practically one of the grittiest releases much ahead of its time when it came out. The influence of this little gem on many a genre, which spawned a few years after, is downright unquestionable.
As mentioned earlier, the guitar tone works like a buzzsaw and must have undeniably given Metallica and Exodus a couple of ideas during the release of their debuts, considering that the bay area thrash veterans used to cover these guys among the elite list of some of the greats of British heavy metal. The production is raw and works for the band, so as to keep the intensity and harshness of their sound. As for the solos, they are done remarkably well making good use of the traditional harmonies that have been a staple of the NWOBHM. The vocals are pretty much standard with just a sprinkle of over the top freshness.
All the tracks in here blend along really well with speedier ones as well as mid paced levelers keeping the balance just about perfect. “Let It Loose” is the fastest one on this and one can never demand for anything more ideal than this steamroller to kick off an album with. Holy hell, these guys must’ve had some of the craziest headbanging on this one during their live performances. Next up is “Cry Wolf” and the double guitar licks on this breathe of pure excellence while the main riff smokes. Razor sharp riffs are what “Berlin” is made off. Just listen to that guitar tone and tell me if it isn’t capable of making your neighbors go stark mad, if played at high volume. And what better way to follow up than “Dirty Money” with a main riff that speaks of “Pure unadulterated heavy metal” and with a tempo ideal for moshing while banging your head at the same time.
The second half of the album starts off with “Ain’t No Fit Place”, a mid paced rocker with a clean guitar intro very reminiscent of early Def Leppard and Praying Mantis. “On The Rocks” sounds total 70s and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early Scorpions or UFO catalog while “China Run” is another meaty track with galloping riffs very much suited for sheer listening pleasure while going on a highway drive. The closer “White Hot” as the title suggests does not cool down the iron by any means.
Pitifully, the quartet didn’t raise too many heads over the years but are slowly starting to gain steady cult status in recent times all courtesy of Metallica, who borrowed heavily from the scene when they were just a fledgling band. But keeping their debatably miniscule fame aside, a better management and timing could have made these guys frontrunners of the scene if not superstars. I’d highly recommend this record to enthusiasts of Traditional metal and NWOBHM whereas Venom and Raven completists would find another reason to rejoice all over again.
one of those bands where their name completely and utterly sums them up... this is one of the absolutely dirtiest, most vicious albums I've ever heard in my life. It helps matters that the CD re-release is ripped from a vinyl LP that's distorting from here to the Belgian Congo... the guitar tone is something fucking fierce.
this almost goes into Ample Destruction territory with the amount of sheer fucking balls-out ass it kicks... the vocal performance is over-the-top, the riffs vicious, and we get one particular corner-case of NWOBHM. Venom were more unpolished and heavier, but even they were never this fucking slashing and brutal.
We've probably all heard Let it Loose, because Metallica did a pretty tepid cover of it sometime in the late 1980s (early 1990s? I forget when they did the studio version, but it was part of their set as far back as 1982). Imagine that sort of speed-metal riff style, not that far removed from the first Running Wild or maybe even Rage to come later, but again, with that buzzsaw-fuck of a guitar tone that would make Exodus drool.
The rest of the album doesn't quite get that fast again, but instead assaults you with midpaced power-metal number after power-metal number. The highlights are probably China Run and On the Rocks, though the first really heavy riff in Berlin is a real brick to the temple... imagine Green Manalishi, except someone threw a chainsaw into the batter before they baked the whole thing.
In general songwriting style, this isn't all that unusual for NWOBHM, but it still is a few years ahead of its time... lots of single-note power-metal riffage, which would really only truly come about in such a consistent fashion in the German power sound of the mid-1980s. A lot of people think Running Wild, et al, were spawned from Venom, but this would probably be a closer comparison.
The CD re-release comes with a few demos from 1980-1981, which are consipicuously lacking the over-the-top destroyer sound, and are a few years behind in terms of songwriting too, sounding more like staple NWOBHM than the missing Helloween demo from 1983.
Recommended? Fuck yes.