The landscape of hard rock music in 1988 looked very different, in comparison, to that of a decade earlier. When Saxon began their recording career in the late 70s, rock and metal were solely the reserves of the readers of Sounds magazine, the devotees of the Radio One Friday Rock Show and festival goers. By the late 80s, it was no longer considered such a niche genre: bands like Europe and Poison had scored chart success on both sides of the Atlantic; Def Leppard‘s ‘Hysteria’ was one of the biggest selling albums of the era and Guns N’ Roses were on their way to becoming a worldwide, stadium filling phenomenon. Whitesnake‘s ‘1987’ was selling by the bucketload to a broad demographic and even Metallica – a band that only a couple of years earlier seemed entirely marginal – were on the cusp of UK singles chart success, and yet Saxon, in terms of commercial success, appeared to be floundering.
Despite being primarily thought of as a very male dominated universe, death metal has spawned some fantastic female-fronted acts over the years. Landmine Massacre – particularly during the Grace Perry era – are one of the finest and better known, but there have been a lot of underground acts truly flying the flag. Here’s another: Brazilian all-female melodic death band Sinaya.
The band’s earlier recordings (2013’s ‘Obscure Raids’ EP and 2015’s ‘Blinded By Terror’ single) showed off more than a fair amount of talent but were marred by low budgets and muddy production. Since then, they’ve had a change in line up, supported thrash legends Exodus and have become a much stronger and better band. Their 2018 album ‘Maze of Madness’ is a release that finally does their studio recordings justice, having the kind of budget and production job that allows some great riffs to breathe and not be smothered by a demo quality sound.
Following the tour for 1985’s ‘Innocence Is No Excuse’, founding member Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson quit the band, leaving Saxon without a bassist and with far less of a moustache quotient. Without securing a replacement, the band re-entered the studio. With Biff Byford handling vocals and bass duties for the recording sessions of what would eventually become ‘Rock The Nations’, Saxon wouldn’t lose momentum. This seemed like the natural solution until a permanent replacement could be found.
As 1984 drew to a close so, too, did Saxon’s contract with Carrere Records. The past few years had been good to them, though: in a little over five years, they’d released seven albums for the French label, which scored six top twenty UK chart positions. That year’s woeful ‘Crusader’ aside, it represented an impressive body of work, one of which any classic metal band could be proud. Obviously, with Saxon being one of the decade’s biggest metal acts, a new deal wasn’t hard to secure and Biff Byford and the boys subsequently signed with giants EMI for a three album deal that would last the rest of the decade.
For the purposes of this studio recording, Montreal’s Pink Cocoon isn’t a band, but the work of multi-instrumentalist Zolla Marc. He’s a man who cites a fairly diverse selection of rock and blues acts among his influences, ranging from the predictable Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard, to the more unexpected – quite often, metal based performers won’t take time out to praise Robin Trower, especially when praise for Hendrix seems likely to get more attention. He also name-checks The Distillers and The Pretty Reckless among bands who’ve helped shape his playing and sound. For most stoner practitioners, the musical sphere starts with the first four Sabbath albums, moves into Hawkwind and then goes back to Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’…y’know, for variety, so while you’d be hard pushed to hear the influence from Brodie Dall or Taylor Momsen on this debut release, it’s still thrilling to know Zolla isn’t stuck in a musical rut.