At first listen you can tell Salem is a veteran act that has gelled as a unit. (For those like me who are just being introduced to the band.) A lot of bands that formed in the late 70’s/early 80’s sat out the 90’s for musical, personal or personnel reasons. But judging from the fourth release since their reformation in 2010 these guys still had the chops to make it happen and are more interested in creating the future than living in the past on a nostalgia trip.
Dark Days definitely has the European Rock/Metal feel from start to finish with the exception being the track “Toy Story” which tends to go more of the 80’s American power rock sound. The record pays tribute to their influences without sounding like them. They list Thin Lizzy, UFO, and Rainbow but I also pick up a bit of Bad Company and pre mousse-abused, Tawny Kitaened Whitesnake in the tunes. (is Kitaened a proper verb?)
Vocalist Simon Saxby stands out as the strength of the band. Not that the other musicians are slouches but the vocals are clearly the center and strength of Salem. Saxby is texturally close to Marc Storace but nothing about the songs remotely sound like Krokus.
“Nine Months” gives the rest of the band an opportunity to stretch their wings, show off some tasty playing and feature a great curve ball in the middle of the song. Fans of Queen’s “Innuendo” will love it. The other tracks fit within the traditional 4-6 minute concept and while there are no real throwaway songs in the 11 featured on Dark Days, some songs are stronger than others.
The final two songs tell this tale: “Prodigal Son” is tricked out with massive effects and harmonized vocals with big backups. A good track to be sure but compared to the fist in your face feel of “Tank” (complete with some outstanding slide playing that Joe Perry would be proud of) it makes me wonder if Salem’s strength isn’t cranking up the amps and just hitting the red record button. The tracks “Tormented”, “Lost My Mind” and the title track fall into this category as well. Well-crafted rockers that demand to be cranked up. “Not Guilty” is a strong album opener. I’d just rather hear Saxby belt out the chorus without being drowned out by the backing vocals.
Just my opinion but in this overdubbed, pro-tooled to death world of music it’s a treat to hear a band that has the chops and intestinal fortitude to strip it down and let it rip in the studio. Dark Days is an album worth checking out and is growing on me. It would have been a stronger album if some of the tracks weren’t over produced. Salem shines when they aren’t.
Dark Days is slated to be released on April 29th on Pure Steel Records. If you want to check out their tracks now you can listen to samples of the epic “Nine Months,” “Dark Days,” “Complicated” and “Not Guilty” by visiting their ReverbNation page.
Salem’s other albums: Forgotten Dreams, In the Beginning, and X-rated are currently available on Amazon.com. (Editor’s note: there are other acts that go by the name Salem for sale on Amazon as well so make sure you’re checking out the right band)
BUY: Salem – Dark Days (coming soon)