Since it’s glory days, The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has arguably never been as popular as it is now and Salem are one band fighting tooth and nail to finally stake their claim as modern leaders in their field.
Dark Days may only be album number two but Salem have 30+ years of experience and experiences to draw from and they waste no time in unleashing plenty of their now trademarked atmospherics; “Nine Months” in particular proving to be an epic of moody malevolence. Middle Eastern mystique meets NWOBHM grandeur – we’re inclined to recall Diamond Head’s unsung Canterbury album at this point – Salem may have written the finest song of their career; seemingly drawing on every influence that made prime 70’s and early 80’s rock and metal so abundantly prolific, an epithet for genuine soulful artistry. For want of a better analogy, “Nine Months” is the complete package.
However, for all this drama and anthemic prowess, the thud and stomp of prime NWOBHM riffing remains thankfully in abundance. Salem have always managed to deliver the darkest of melodies with relative ease, an unnerving edge that threatens retribution at every turn while still maintaining the lightest of touches. “Complicated” hits hard, uncomplicated in its ability to get heads-banging, but the hardest hard rock bluster lies in the exceptional “Tormented”. With it’s muscular riffing and Simon Saxby’s almost Ozzy-esque tones – rest assured, he sings infinitely better than the Prince of Darkness at every turn – “Tormented” is the albums heaviest and most satisfyingly streamlined cut.
In stark contrast, much of Dark Days then bounces along with more upbeat melody than your average Journey album. Salem aren’t afraid to cut loose with almost cheesy levels of exuberance, “Toy Story” (not the continuation of Buzz and Woody’s escapades we’re saddened to say) and “Prodigal Son” channeling the 80’s at it’s over the top finest.
Suffice to say, you don’t have to be Gordon fuckin’ Ramsey to know that all these ingredients mixed together will result in something particularly tasty and Dark Days can proudly rival Diamond Head’s self titled release as the first mandatory NWOBHM release of 2016. Perhaps not as immediate as 2013’s Forgotten Dreams, Salem are instead stretching their wings and have delivered an album that oozes confidence – a confidence that borders on brazen without once sounding pretentious – and finds the band tapping into a more experimental side that has unearthed a varied collection of contradictive yet cohesive compositions in the process.
The key to Salem’s unwavering appeal lies in their ability to pen such timeless songs. Dark Days feels like it belongs nestled next to the hard rock classics of the 70’s whilst simultaneously cosying up next to the AOR giants of the 80’s. All the while, Salem find themselves leading the NWOBHM charge that’s currently at full steam.
Turns out we were right all along, Salem’s time truly has come! 8/10