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Sabre > Keepers of the Sword > Reviews
Sabre - Keepers of the Sword

From boot camp to sword swinging. - 85%

hells_unicorn, June 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Palace (Limited edition)

Even as far back as the mid 1980s, metal was proving to be a form of music that didn't know the meaning of political borders. Within the span of a few years a style that was largely tied to Britain and the broader Anglosphere in the western hemisphere was making sizable waves in mainland Europe, so much so that a curious thing happened, namely American metal coming to Germany, literally in the form of four American soldiers on tour in Germany going from bar to bar drawing crowds with it. While sporting a band name that was being used in Canada by another consequential yet little known act and had been tied to a brief and non-prolific NWOBHM band out of the motherland, Sabre came with a fairly distinct take on things with their lone studio LP Keepers Of The Sword, namely one that took the rock based of British sound and gave it a tad bit more of a bluesy edge, like throwing in some apple pie to complement the tea and crumpets.

Though not really wandering too far away from the same sort of crunchy, hard-hitting riffing style of bands like Saxon and Diamond Head, this band takes on a bit more of an extended jam approach to songwriting that, while not going too much longer than the former's typical fair and maybe not extending as long as some of the material of the latter, comes off as a bit looser and free flowing. When listening to numbers such as "Blond & 16" and "Dragon", the impact of the guitars isn't that far removed from something that Judas Priest was dealing in during the earlier 80s when not hitting the afterburners, but this is on a different path than the one that would influence the future speed and thrash metal styles and was more focused on creating a festive party atmosphere rather than a slaughter fest in the mosh pit. The latter song occasionally wanders into mildly haunting territory and the principle riff set has a good grinding stomp to it, but the overall presentation has more in common with UFO than Motorhead.

The jam-band character of these songs, which was likely born out of this band's success as a live act in previous years and the album itself being sort of an afterthought, is pervasive enough throughout the album that one might almost liken this to an 80s rediscovery of the older style that Black Sabbath exhibited on their earliest recordings. It doesn't go into doom territory like them, but the nimble bass lines and fill-happy drums make frequent habits of playing back and forth with the riff work on here, making otherwise straightforward party rockers like "Rock Forever" and "Deep Depression" hang a bit looser than some of the American equivalents that were tearing up the airwaves on rock radio. About the only thing on here that really ties this band in with the mainstream rock/metal crowd back in the states is vocalist Kenny Browder, who has a sleazy grit to him that wouldn't be out of place in any number of bands that were making waves in LA at the time.

While this project was originally billed as a hobby by a group of active military guys who would hang up their denim and leather upon receiving their discharge orders, there is a high level of metal credibility to be found in these eight songs. It isn't really surprising that the original vinyl pressing of this album (which is the only legit physical form that it exists in) has become such a hot item among collectors of early heavy metal memorabilia. It also provides a degree of insight not only into the progression of heavy metal from an uglier successor to the hard rock kings of the 70s and before, but also in the limitations of the current New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal, which has largely avoided tapping the influences of obscure acts in favor of emulating a handful of elites. Though perhaps such an eventuality is inevitable given that a band like this would not have been considered heavy metal by present standards. Either way, there should be a place in every metal maniac's memory for even the unsung acts of heroism, which is what was accomplished here.