NAZARETH – “Surviving the Law”
By Colonel Angus
The 70s were such a great decade for music and there will never be another decade that spawned so many different genres, starting with heavy metal (although it could be said that it started in 1969), punk, new wave, and even disco. I’m sure each generation likes to claim their decade was the best but I’m going on record as saying the 70s were the best. That decade saw the rise of many of the greats like LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, KISS, etc but there were some lesser bands that made quite an impact with UFO, RUSH, and JUDAS PRIEST to name a few( “Lesser” bands like PRIEST and RUSH outsold SABBATH by bucketloads—Dr. Mality).
This all leads me to Scotland’s addition into the hard rock world with NAZARETH. I have to say, I never fully got the big deal with this band and I have tried my hardest to find a record that just stuck with me. I went for all the classics, “Razamanaz”, “Hair of the Dog”, and “No Mean City” (and others) but still nothing. The reality is that I have listened to all of their albums at one time or another so when I was given “Surviving the Law” for review, I just figured this was going to be another disk of forgettable music by a band that I never fully embraced. Well, something must have changed for me in my advanced age because I have found this record to be pretty good. After giving it repeated spins (as I do all my reviewed albums), there were songs that really stuck. That’s not to say that this collection of tunes is gold from start to finish but there is more to like than not. It also helps that the record is front loaded with the better material with some of the filler left towards the end of the disk.
“Strange Days” ushers in “Surviving the Law” in fine fashion and is definitely the star of this album. While it is quite the catchy slice of hard rock, it is not the lone tune that possesses a melody that will be running through your mind all day. Other tracks like “Runaway”, “Better Leave it Out”, and “Let the Whiskey Flow” all have that catchy hard rock chorus that makes you want to raise your fist and yell. The latter along with “Sweet Kiss” also have a cool funky vibe that separates these older rockers from some of the new blood making their way onto the scene. Another stand out tune is “Sinner” but it is much too short clocking in at just above 2 minutes. I would have liked to see this one stretched out a bit longer as it quite the barn-burner. On the flip side, the final song “You Made Me” is a bluesy workout that overstays its welcome. At over 5 minutes long, it is the longest track on an album filled with mostly 3 and half minute rockers and unfortunately the record as a whole ends on this extended boring filler. As I mentioned earlier, the better material is towards the start of the disk but there are other quality tunes sprinkled at the end.
The band lineup has been consistent for quite some time now. The biggest change was the replacement of original vocalist Dan McCafferty with PERSIAN RISK front man Carl Sentence. This change occurred about 7 years ago and was already present in their last album “Tattooed on My Brain”. I have to say that I like Sentence’s vocals better as I never fully embraced McCafferty’s rough n ready vocal performances. I guess it’s an acquired taste that I either never gave it a chance or it just wasn’t meant to be. The only original member is Pete Agnew but at least he is keeping it in the family by having his son Lee behind the drums for the better part of 2 decades. Jimmy Murrison is another longtime mainstay with a tenure that dates back to the mid-90s. The star of “Surviving the Law” is definitely his riffing and solos. He manages to capture some of the older NAZARETH sounds while still pushing things into a more modern vibe. All the guys put in solid performances but the part that made me like this more than other NAZARETH material was the songs. At the end of the day, I don’t know if this record will appeal to longtime NAZARETH fans because I’m not one but what I can tell is that there is enough here to make me recommend “Surviving the Law”.