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About a year ago, when I was getting into Saxon's music, I checked this site to see what are Saxon's best albums. After some not so good average scores for ''Solid Ball of Rock'', ''Forever Free'' and ''Dogs of War'', this album immediately intrigued me, since it was released in 1997, in very bad times for heavy metal, with average score of 87 percents. I read the reviews and said ''It's gotta be good, I'll pick this up''.
Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed, this site didn't let me down. Yes, ''Unleash the Beast'' is definitely one of the strongest and most important outputs in whole Saxon's career. When every other significant heavy metal acts were down at the bottom of their careers, Saxon found strength to actually resurrect themselves and bring new hope to the fallen genre. It was the turning point for Saxon, since after ''Unleash the Beast'' they drastically changed their sound and leaned towards more aggressive, edgy, German power metal-influenced music. Still, they kept their identity and this is 100% Saxon, no doubt about it, with trademark NWOBHM and occasionally hard rock riffing.
Of course, the band performance and production are flawless. Thumbs up for the producer Kalle Trapp, who did an amazing job here, as every instrument is easy audible and gets the opportunity to shine. Also, the sound is very mystic and medieval, which combined with sinister and mostly pessimistic lyrics creates truly unusual, interesting and certainly awesome impression for the listener. Every band member puts up excellent performance as well, and I can't pick anyone in particular, since they all nailed it on their instruments.
It's hard to choose the highlights, since every song except for ''Absent Friends'' totally works for me on every department. From the speedy killer title track, majestic ''The Thin Red Line'', hard rock pieces ''Terminal Velocity'', ''The Preacher'' and ominous ''Bloodletter'', ''All Hell Breaking Loose'' and especially ''Cut Out the Disease'', which is I guess the most sinister song Saxon ever wrote, everything just fits together. I must point out two songs: ''Circle of Light'' and ''Ministry of Fools'', probably one of the most underrated Saxon songs ever. ''Circle of Light'' is a crushingly heavy song that deals with the famous ''walking to the light'', the moment between life and death. ''Ministry of Fools'', on the other hand, talks about incompetence and hypocrisy of politicians (probably thinking of Tony Blaire's government). Musically, it's a great slamming ballsy hard rock that won't leave you indifferent, and combined with great lyrics you have the winner! I must mention the title track as well, it's five minutes of pure headbanging speed metal lunacy. Nothing new for Saxon, you might say. True, but there's one thing that separates this song from every other generic speed metal - the outro. That eerie, ominous riff gives me goosebumps every time, it's so impressive and striking. It gives the song the final kick of genius and puts it deservedly among Saxon's top ten.
''Unleash the Beast'' kept traditional metal alive. It was a wake-up call for old bands and encouraging light for new bands to join together and pull heavy metal out of darkness in which it fell in early and mid '90s. And they did it, since metal completely resurged at the beginning of new millenium. What about Saxon? Saxon continued pushing the boundaries, and there's no sign of slowing down. Heavy metal owes them a lot, just as much as every metalhead around the world. So, in the end, should you get this album? That's a silly question, isn't it...