SAVAGE GRACE     “Sign of the Cross”

By Dr. Abner Mality

It’s been 37 years since the last real SAVAGE GRACE album, not counting a couple of obscure EPs. That’s so long that the entire planet seems to be from a different reality now. The band is pretty much long time guitarist Christian Logue and whoever he can grab these days. The cover art on this is not encouraging at fact, it’s one of the more appalling covers I’ve seen in a while.

Thank God that doesn’t seem to be reflected on what’s inside. The first two songs here, “Barbarians At The Gate” and “Automaton”, are absolute screamers of fast PRIEST-inspired metal. They both sound like PRIMAL FEAR at their apex and that extends to the amazing vocals of one Gabriel Colon, who is a dead ringer for Ralf Scheepers and can hit every ball-breaking note that Ralf can. These tracks are metal personified, topped off with killer raging leads from Mr. Logue.

The album does eventually turn towards something more diverse, as the title track is more mid-paced but still extremely effective. From there, SAVAGE GRACE actually seems to bend a bit more towards melodic and even hair metal influences, as songs like “Rendezvous” and “Stealin’ My Heart Away” veer to DOKKEN and even RATT (but definitely the harder edges of those bands). The latter song is almost at the point where metal meets AOR. I always remember SAVAGE GRACE for being more like MAIDEN and QUEENSRYCHE on speed in their earlier days. The rest of the album kind of hits a spot between the balls-out pure metal of the first two tracks and the more accessible metal of the last two tracks I named. The playing is strong throughout and Colon’s voice is terrific, even on the rather mediocre cut “Branded”, which is the low man on the totem pole here.

A pretty strong return for SAVAGE GRACE, but if all of the tracks were as banging as the first two, this album would be in a rarefied zone indeed.