SAFFIRE – For The Greater Good

FRONTI have heard of Saffire before. Heard of, not heard. The reason I haven’t bothered with this lot before is that I was convinced they were a power metal band. From Germany. Why? Well, the name Saffire screams power metal. From Germany. At least to these ears. The thing is, I can’t stand power metal, especially German power metal. So, I never bothered. But then I got a link to review this record – and as I have noticed that there have been quite a buzz over this release on social media, at least where I hang – I decided to at least give the record a chance. Turns out that Saffire don’t play power metal at all. And they’re definitely not German. I admit, I do have some musical prejudice issues to take care of still. Saffire are a Swedish, from Gothenburg to be more precise. And they play heavy metal and hard rock and nothing else. The band started as early as 2005 and two years later they released their first demo on their MySpace site (all the kids go “My-what??”), but it would take them all the way to 2013 for them to release their debut album From Ashes To Fire – an album that, from what I have been told, got them some very rave reviews. The band’s line-up today look like this: Tobias Jansson (ex Evil Masquerade) – vocals, Victor Olsson – guitars, Anton Roos – drums, Dino Zuzic – keyboards, Magnus Carlsson – bass.

I was totally ran over by the amazing Hammond organ intro in opener “The Great Escape”. The big, screaming sound sounds like a mix of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” and Rainbow’s “Tarot Woman” with some vibes that reminds me of Ray Manzarek from The Doors. That can very well be one of the most awesome keyboard intros I have ever heard in my life and I gasp for air. Hell yeah! The rest of the song is also a big, fat mind-blower deluxe. The groundwork of the song is based on 70’s Deep Purple-ish hard rock with some heavy metal undertones where the Hammond plays a big part. Epic stuff.  First single / video “Casters Of The First Stone” is a killer as well. I hear influences from both Purple and Iron Maiden, but this song is a melodic hard rocker with a melody so sticky – in a good way – it could be used as glue – fantastic! The title track is very in your face and dynamic, it has some extraordinary melodies and the big time heaviness of 70’s hard rock – Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Again, this is some brilliant stuff. “Heartless” have a verse that goes in a ballad-ish way, but it gets heavier and tougher when the very catchy chorus hits. It somehow reminds me a bit Of Queensrÿche’s softer stuff and the song take a home run right away. The first time I heard the chorus from “Dandelion’s Shame”, I sing along right away – the catchiness is insane. It’s still a heavy tune that mixes both 70’s and 80’s hard rock and the Tony Carey (Rainbow) influenced keyboards are amazing. “Shadowland” have a darker edge, but it’s also very melodic and memorable and atmospheric. I’m thinking a more hard rock version of Symphony X mixed with Rainbow – love it! There’s more Symphony X in “Wake Up The World”, but there is even more Tony Martin era Black Sabbath.  I love the song’s metal groove, the striking melodies, the dark twist and the pure heaviness. There’s goosebump-time in “As Promises Burn”, a ballad that is soft, but not even close to cheesy. I hear a progressive groove that reminds me some of today’s Opeth with some In Flames-like melodies and on top of that, there is classic hard rock with its roots in the mid 70’s – pardon my French, but this is just so fucking brilliant! The band goes straight for the throat with the awesome rocker “Blame It On The Rain”. With the big groove and the intoxicating pop feel, the song is irresistible. “Ghost Town” goes into 80’s metal / hard rock territory with its big melodies and heavy, in-your-face groove. Also, the backing vocals is just bloody brilliant. Closing track “This Is Not The End” is – you guessed it – brilliant. It’s a soft rocker in ballad-land and I hear 80’s Rainbow and some Europe even mixed up with some proggier elements. It’s slow, but still with a groove. Did I say that it’s brilliant?

I’m floored! Completely floored! We’re writing December in our calendars as I write this review and 2015 has been such an amazing hard rock year and I can’t remember the last time I heard so many albums that are 9’s and 10’s. Apparently they just keep coming because Saffire has recorded a masterpiece with this album. Every song is a killer, the musicians are amazing and Tobias Jansson have one of the most amazing rock voices I have heard in a long, long time. Sweden has the given the world a whole bunch of really great singers which makes us Swedes not that easily impressed, you need to be a monster to impress. Well, I’m impressed. The album also sound damn amazing, the mixing by Arnold Lindberg (Evergrey, Ghost, Hardcore Superstar) is just fabulous. The mixed styles of 70’s and 80’s hard rock, metal, pop and progressive rock is another reason that you won’t grow tired of these tunes in the first place. I’m not sure if the bands that I have mentioned above are influences of the band, but I could almost guarantee that Deep Purple, Rainbow and Black Sabbath are bands on heavy rotation in the Saffire tour bus. But the fact that many influences are easy to spot does not mean that Saffire lacks identity – they don’t. They pay homage to some bands, but the style, sound and identity are all Saffire. One of the best albums of 2015 without a doubt. If you read this review and are into this kind of hard rock and still don’t check this band out, there is something very wrong with you.

9/10

Tracklist:

1. The Great Escape
2. Casters Of The First Stone
3. For The Greater Good
4. Heartless
5. Dandelion’s Shame
6. Shadowland
7. Wake Up The World
8. As Promises Burn
9. Blame It On The Rain
10. Ghost Town
11. This Is Not The End

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