SAFFIRE – Where The Monsters Dwell

The moment I heard Saffire for the first time, I knew I would become a fan. I had heard of the band prior to that but never really got myself to listen to them but after just one spin of their previous album For The Greater Good (2015) I damned myself for being so late in discovering them. I didn’t take long after that before said album and its predecessor from From Ashes To Fire (2013) stood safe and sound in my record collection – both are great records. The band’s hybrid of 70’s Hard Rock like Rainbow and Deep Purple mixed with more Heavy Metal acts such as Symphony X really has given them a special sound and it feels like you could spot a Saffire tune miles away. But the most important thing, of course, is that Saffire are great songwriters – two albums in and I have yet to hear a bad song from the band. That and the fact the band – vocalist Tobias Jansson, guitarist Victor Olsson, bassist Magnus Carlsson, drummer Anton Roos and keyboarder Dino Zuzic – are all top musicians makes my expectations sky-rocket when the band is releasing their new album, three years after the last one.

Opening track “Wolf Among The Sheep” starts off with a roaring Hammond before the tune kicks off with a 70’s Hard Rock meets Rock ‘n’ Roll type of groove and a piano lurking in the background. It’s a perfect opening track, very straight-forward and kicking with intense melodies on a heavy base. Awesome stuff. First single “Hard To Keep, Hard To Find” is a distinct and in-your-face rocker. The 70’s influences are there, of course, but it also sports some very catchy keyboard and guitar riffs and a chorus that hits right off the bat. That said, I wouldn’t call it especially radio-friendly even though it’s highly memorable. “Valley Of The Damned” is a very ballsy and tough stomper but with a slightly commercial touch in the refrain. It’s a heavy tune reminiscent of mid 70’s Rainbow but the chorus stands with at least one foot in the 80’s. A catchy but not poppy tune. Brilliant!

“Broken Crown” starts with an über-groovy drum fill and I’m wondering if I’m alone to think about Cozy Powell when it attacks. The verses are a bit calmer with a 70’s sounding Pop-Rock feel that makes me think of The Night Flight Orchestra. But the refrain rocks things up and it do kick up some dust. It’s heavily influenced by old Rock’n’Roll music but in a Hard Rock way and it hits damn hard. Excellent! The title track is an extremely groovy track, upbeat, distinct, in-your-face and punchy with catchy riffs and a heavy rhythm with a refrain that’s insanely catchy. This brilliant track must be a single at some point. “How Cold Is Your Blood” opens with fat Hammond that would make Jon Lord proud if he was alive, rest his soul and it continues with a rough Deep Purple / Rainbow groove. The verse is a bit on the softer side and the chorus is very memorable to the point that it’s hummable albeit not in a Pop kind of way. Another single, if you ask me. Fantastic.

“Road To Paradise” is an uptempo hard rocker with clear Pop tendencies and a chorus that’s almost hit-laden and it etches itself to the brain after one listen. The guitar / keyboard solo is hugely influenced by Ritchie Blackmore / Rainbow and the mid 70’s vibes are all over the tune. Again, this is single material and as it turns out, there seems to be an endless stream of singles to choose from on this album. The somewhat melancholic “Perfectly Worthless” is a tough groover where the guitar and keyboard riffs are mixed together in a marriage made in heaven. It’s a quite biting and punchy tune but it also sports a very memorable main melody and a chorus that’s amazingly strong. “Dark Horizon” is slower and heavy as a ton of bricks and it lies on an intense groove – very dynamic. But all over track lies a startling melody and a refrain so contagious it leaves me hamstrung. Damn!

The beginning of the ballad “Fortress”, with only piano and vocals, is almost serene but it soon builds up a soft yet rhythmic groove by the rest of the band – and the arrangement is plain gorgeous. It’s a beautiful song with a levitating vibe and it’s quite captivating. At times it reminds me of Opeth’s smoother moments – and I don’t mean smooth as in mawkish or cheesy – this song is everything but. Bloody fantastic! As a closer we get “The Rainmaker”, an uptempo rocker that brings along a huge Pop feel. But worry not, this isn’t pure Pop at all – the song rocks with the best of them but it do have some commercial undertones – and the chorus is nothing but entrancing! That said, for good measure the band added a heavy and very groovy middle-break. A brilliant closer that makes me want to run through album again and again.

All killer, no filler. That sums up this record pretty well. For the third time around the band have managed to put out a record without any weak moments at all and song after song just grabs me by throat and never lets go. What’s different this time is that the Heavy Metal vibes – I mentioned Symphony X earlier – are more or less gone. Some might believe that’s unfortunate but I doesn’t matter one iota to me because the way the interpret their 70’s influences and makes it a sound of their own is pure brilliance. I say it’s the right way for Saffire to go. The production is big, heavy and dynamic and even though it sounds quite ballsy it ‘s also very clear where all the instruments shines through. Awesome songs and great musicians makes for another ace album – and now they have put out three albums without a bad song. How impressing!

9/10

More Saffire reviews:

For The Greater Good

Tracklist:

1. Wolf Among The Sheep
2. Hard To Keep, Hard To Find
3. Valley Of The Damned
4. Broken Crown
5. Where The Monsters Dwell
6. How Cold Is Your Blood
7. Road To Paradise
8. Perfectly Worthless
9. Dark Horizon
10. Fortress
11. The Rainmaker

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