It’s been a while since Saturn’s retro debut that aimed itself quite specifically Hard Rock/Fledgeling Metal from 1974-77. Three years to be precise, but I’m here to report that the band have widened their field just a little (71-78 perhaps…), managing to really nail that lo-fi 8-Track sound that they were clearly hankering after. And to be honest, in the image of many heavy-orientated records from that era, it really does get better when you just turn up the volume!
Ever present is that Gull era Judas Priest, both in some of the vocal delivery and the twin guitar approach, and obviously in the riffs. Other than that the comparisons all seem best prefixed with “Very Early”. There’s the very early Blue Oyster Cult moments, some very early April Wine (on tracks like ‘Wolfsson’ in particular), there’s still some very early UFO of course and some relatively early Thin Lizzy, but again in the guitar approach. And some Budgie…from their early period, naturally!
This time around the band feel much more like they are going for a Hard-Rock-with-hints-of-Psychedelia approach, with a view towards where Metal emerged from rather than being a part of it. It’s really that similarity to early Priest that flags up Metal at all really (and even those elements are a little less intense than on their debut), but the heavier riffing moments are enough to keep many a metalhead interested. Besides, there are occasional elements of more modern bands like Horisont and Witchcraft in the mix too, and as I said earlier, the whole thing takes on a much heavier tone the louder you play it, which is totally in the spirit of the time it’s emulating. And with that comes an assurance that the band will be able to produce everything you hear on “Beyond Spectra” in a live situation. It’s win-win!
Now if you are a fan of this retro-heavy-psyche style then miss out on Saturn at your peril! They definitely have their own take on things and as showcased in ‘Eloctrosaurus Sex’ for instance, they aren’t afraid to throw in anything that they feel works. But if you are looking for catchy choruses and instant hooks you may be disappointed. It’s an ultimately rewarding experience, but as stripped back as Saturn’s sound is, the songs might just need a few listens to stop the listener feeling that they are over in a big old retro-blur. After a few spins however, the whole thing sounds more cohesive and focused than their debut, and any moments of experimentation are easily and neatly absorbed by a band starting to feel at ease with itself and it’s own identity. I personally like the quicker, more energetic tracks like ‘Force Of The North’, but that’s just personal taste and highlights further the luxury of an album like “Beyond Spectra” – you CAN pick favourite styles, because there are so many styles on display…all done in Saturn’s inimitable way of course!
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)