Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we go back to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – and this band is actually from Britain! That’s right, it’s time to get Loose ‘n Lethal (Ebony) with Savage.
If the name rings a small bell with anyone, it’s probably because they were one of Metallica’s favorite bands to cover back in the days when Metallica covered metal bands (you can find Metallica’s version of leadoff track “Let It Loose,” according to the Internet, on their March 1982 demo). One of the many, many acts to spring up in the wake of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy, Savage never hit it big, but they deserved to. And yeah, that’s been said about every third tier NWOBHM band, but Savage had the goods. Apparently a combination of sketchy label practices and bad management kept them from finding out about some major-label opportunities that might have vaulted them into the biggish leagues. Instead, they remained in a limbo of local shows and local labels until they broke up in 1986. Same old story, same old song and dance.
Still, in their (first) active period, they recorded two albums, the first of which, 1983’s Loose ‘n Lethal, is the stone cold classic. Not a whole hell of a lot different from Iron Maiden or Diamond Head in composition, what with the ubiquitous dual guitar action and all, but Savage were much dirtier. Of course, a lot of that is due to the fact that they had to bang this thing out with minimal production, but man, they made it work for them. This thing is raw in a way that bands today deliberately tried to emulate. You can probably tell what amplifiers they used from the feedback pattern! Plus, they had a knack for writing ridiculously catchy, bad ass tunes.
The obvious highlight hits as soon as you press play. They didn’t do fluffy intros back in those days – they just kicked right into it. And it’s pretty apparent why Lars and James would cover “Let It Loose” back in their garage days. A whiplash-inducing headlong rush into a metal meltdown, it sounds like the post-apocalyptic barbarian on the cover come to life (despite the artist not having heard the album before doing the painting!). “Cry Wolf” sounds like Def Leppard under a thick layer of grime, “Ain’t No Fit Place” turns down the buzz for the first minute for an able instrumental before kissing your ass goodbye, and “The China Run” stings like prime Scorpions. The 1997 CD issue adds a couple demos that actually sound better than the proper album with the exception of 1979’s “Back on the Road” and its UFO-aping, somewhat optimistic tale of a road weary rock-and-roller in the states (which, as far as I can tell, none of the band members had ever been to).
Savage would record one more album before calling it a day, then reform in 1995 and release a couple more records that were about as good as the average comeback attempt by bands from that era (i.e., not very). Still, considering the glut of excellent outfits that came out of jolly old England in the early 80s, these guys created something really special. So do what their most famous track instructs, and let it loose – LOOSE AND LETHAL!