Saracen - Red Sky

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Now And Then
Catalog Number: 44
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:22:00

The story of Saracen goes back to the mid-70s, when Richard Lowe and Rob Bendelow formed the band Lammergier. They added folk guitarist turned rock bassist Barry Yates to the line up and started to play live extensively through out the English "Midlands." In the early 80s they completed the line up with Steve Bettney on vocals and John Thorne on drums, they changed their name to Saracen, and started on their first album, Heroes, Saints & Fools that caught the attention of a major label, Polygram. However, the tide turned in 1983, when Bendelow and Thorne left. Although the remaining members continued the band and recorded their second album, called Change Of Heart, with the band effectively closing down in mid-1985. Saracen was resurrected early 2000, when Rob Bendelow released his Templar album Come To The Light and Now & Then Records managed to bring three of the founding members back, it meant the return of Saracen.

Red Sky is a very diverse album with heavy rock songs with a metal edge, but also some ballads and even a song with an old fashioned "punk" touch. Also, some Saracen classics like "Heroes, Saints & Fools" and the first studio recording of "Follow The Piper" were added to the album. "We Have Arrived" is the very fitting first track on the album and it shows what Saracen has to offer: crystal clear keyboards, crunchy guitars, excellent bass, powerful drums and haunting vocals! Singer Steve Bettney reminds me at times of Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius). The songs are marked by strong melodies and they just stay in your head the first time you hear them. There is plenty of room for keyboard solos and the rhythm section of Richard Bendelow (bass) and Jamie Little (drums) is well oiled. Amidst of all the guitars there is room for love and ballads, which we find in the song "Faith," with great vocals and a beautiful guitar solo. The inspiration for the songs come from various sources, even from people who knock on your door and make you write a classic song (read the liner notes for the story): "Horsemen Of The Apocalypse," a song with powerful drums, a great heavy guitar riff and dark lyrics about the end of the world.

"Jekyll And Hide" starts with an old fragment of the Tommy Vance Night Rock Show, where Saracen was playing, and without warning all registers are opened with one of the heaviest songs of the album, one which the drumming reminded me of punk bands like The Clash or the Sex Pistols. Great song! Completely different is "Menage A Trois," an instrumental song with two guest saxophonists, John Davison and Sophie Freeman, which really makes you dream away if you close your eyes on this one. What can I say more about this album? How about "Ride Shotgun With The Wind," a real biker song with a blues feel to it, or the ballad "Angel Eyes," where Steve Bettney sings a duet with guest vocalist Dagi Kaletsch. The album ends with the very first song, not from Saracen, but even older, from Lammergier: "Follow The Piper," a fantastic up tempo song with great keyboards and a good guitar solo.

Red Sky is a very addictive album and this becomes worse the more you play it. I wouldn't call it Progressive Metal, although some of the songs do have a metal edge, but it is definitely one of the better epic rock albums you can find these days. We must thank Now & Then Records for their hand in bringing this classic album to us and we can look forward to the future as there will be another album by these skilled musicians. Until then let's enjoy this outstanding album, that you will enjoy the moment you hear the first tones. One last piece of advice: if you play this album, play it loud!

Similar bands: Mister Kite, Vanden Plas, Helloïse

Reissued in 2006 as a double album with their debut Heroes, Saints & Fools by Escape Music (124)

[This review originally appeared May 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

We Have Arrived (6:03) / Red Sky (5:24) / Faith (4:38) / Horseman Of The Apocalypse (6:46) / Castles In The Sand (5:28) / Heroes, Saints And Fools (7:44) / Flame Of Youth (4:18) / Jekyll And Hyde (4:20) / Menage A Trois (6:20) / Ride Shotgun With The Wind (5:38) / Angel Eyes (6:30) / Follow The Piper (7:13)

Richard Lowe - keyboards
Rob Bendelow - guitar
Richard Bendelow - bass
Steve Bettney - vocals
Jamie Little - drums


John Davison - sax (9)
Sophie Freeman - sax (9)

Heroes, Saints & Fools (1981)
Change Of Heart (1983)
Red Sky (2003)
Red Sky - Heroes, Saints & Fools (2006)
Vox In Excelso (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: January 23rd 2005
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 511
Language: english


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