Record Company: Steamhammer/SPV
Release Date: January 13, 2009
Producer: Charlie Bauerfeind/Biff Byford
Web Site: http://www.saxon747.com/
First Single: Live To Rock
Record Company: Steamhammer/SPV
Biff Byford ~ Vocals
Paul Quinn ~ Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Doug Scarratt ~ Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Timothy "Nibbs" Carter ~ Bass Guitar
Nigel Glockler ~ Drums
Matthias Ulmer ~ Keyboards
Toby Jepson, Hacky Hackmann, Biff Byford ~ Backing Vocals
1.) Battalions Of Steel [6:34] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): The album kicks off with a dramatic extended intro, complete with choir and orchestra. Eventually the band joins the fray with all guns blazing. Biff's vocals are a bit reminiscent of Don Dokken... back when Don could still hit the big notes. The choir chimes in for extra effect, not that it is really needed... but it's great for dramatic build-up. This song is over-the-top big... and let's you know right away that the band can still kick your ass after all these years. Me likey. Rating: 10/10
2.) Live To Rock [5:30] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): Hey! Is that a synth? Wait a minute... it is pretty trippy. Come to think of it... this is pretty cool. This tune has a loose, mid-tempo groove and a guitar solo by Doug that'll remind any metal fan of the good old days. This jam will transport you right back to the 80's... and I sure as hell ain't complaining about that. Rating: 11/10
3.) Demon Sweeney Todd [3:51] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): Whoa! This one starts off slow and dramatic, only to kick you in the teeth with a sledgehammer riff. Biff really belts it out here (sounding a lot like Krokus' Marc Storace in the process )... and the band really takes off at full speed. Blazing-fast fretboard work by both axemen and a rock-solid rhythm section really smoke your speakers. In fact, you might want to buy another set... you're gonna need 'em. Rating: 10/10
4.) The Letter [0:42] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): This is just a little acoustic break, accompanied by Biff's impassioned vocals. It acts as an intro to Valley... and gives you just under a minute to catch your breath before the next round begins. Rating: 9/10
5.) Valley Of The Kings [5:03] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): Wow! Here is another epic shred-fest for you... full of trip-hammer riffs, Gregorian chants and chest-smashing bass. The verses gallop along like Stallions Of The Highway... and the choruses roll along on Wheels Of Steel. Some bands sound corny or cheesy trying to pull off something like this... but Saxon is always right at home when they're hitting you with both barrels. You gotta love that... Rating: 9/10
6.) Slow Lane Blues [4:08] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): This tune kicks off with a razor-sharp riff and a mid-tempo blues rhythm. The amps are all turned up to 11... and Biff is in full-on "belt-it-out" mode. The band really grinds it out here. This is the blues alright... done Saxon style. Rating: 9/10
7.) Crime Of Passion [4:04] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): Headbanger alert! Huge bass and growling guitars are the order of the day. The boys serve up an in-your-face buffet of riffs and a veritable smörgåsbord of sing-along screams. I hope you've got the appetite for seconds... served smokin' hot. Rating: 10/10
8.) Premonition In D Minor [0:40] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): The lead-in for Voice... this is just a discordant tune-up to add a little contrast for the smooth jam to follow... Rating: 7/10
9.) Voice [4:35] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): This is the perfect example of a Saxon power ballad... smooth as glass on the verses and ultra-powerful choruses. Doug's solo during the break is awesome... and the band plugs away effortlessly, equally at home playing acoustic melodies and big, electric swells. Nobody will ever call you a wuss for liking a power ballad that sounds like this. Rating: 9/10
10.) Protect Yourselves [3:56] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): A big, evil-sounding riff breaks the silence... and the band hammers out another mid-tempo facesmasher. This is a classic Saxon tune, full of crunchy guitars and powerful drum fills. Biff really lets out some howls on this one, too. Unlike most rock/metal singers, it seems like he just keeps getting better with age. Rating: 9/10
11.) Hellcat [3:54] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): With a name like Hellcat, you had to know this one was going to be a shredfest... and man, is it ever. The song takes off at a break-neck pace... and never lets up until the break. Even then, overdriven guitars bash out the riff while Doug & Paul take turns laying down some scorching solo work. Ultra-fast riffing and screaming solos. Score! Rating: 9/10
12.) Come Rock Of Ages (The Circle Is Complete) [3:52] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): Maiden meets early Def Lep here... which shouldn't surprise anyone. All three bands cut their heavy metal teeth on the same circuit. This one has a much more classic feel than some of the other tunes, hinting back to their NWOBHM roots. A friggin' classic Saxon tune. Hell yeah! Rating: 10/10
13.) Coming Home [Bottleneck Version] [3:12] (Byford/Scarratt/Quinn/Glockler/Carter): This is a rerecording of the electric version of this song, originally found on the "Killing Ground" album... and when they say "bottleneck version"... they mean it! The band jams out on this version with a classic chugging blues, complete with slide guitars and mid-tempo grooves. Biff's plaintive wails tell the classic "miss you, be home soon" story, which is perfect for the blues makeover it receives here. This is certainly something a little different, just to keep long-time Saxon fans on their toes. I think it's awesome. Rating: 11/10
The Last Word:
What can you say about Saxon that hasn't already been said?
They've been around so long, they've almost become a parody of 80's rockers... complete with personnel changes, feuding factions and Spinal Tap moments. Unlike most of their contemporaries though, these guys have plugged away without a break for 30 years, churning out solid tunes the whole time. Even more impressive, though, is that these guys consistently manage to attract new legions of fans after all these years. Amazingly, these guys never seemed to get much notice here in the States, although they are huge in the rest of the world.
Hopefully, I can rectify that for a few readers with this review.
Hell, 3 years ago... I owned nothing of theirs and only knew a couple of their songs. On a whim, I bought one of their GH compilations, and I've been hooked ever since. 20-something albums later, I have yet to hit a clinker. Like AC-DC, they churn out consistently good hard rock/heavy metal. Some of their older albums have become notoriously hard to find at a reasonable price ("Innocence Is No Excuse" and "Destiny" come to mind here), which is a shame because all of their albums are worthy of any true rocker's collection.
I was quite impressed with their stellar 2007 release, "The Inner Sanctum," so I had high hopes for this one. The band certainly doesn't disappoint here either... giving us yet another big dose of classic Saxon tunes. From the anthemic Battalions Of Steel to the slick rerecording of Coming Home, the band puts forth a solid effort at a time when metal is making a comeback. Long-time fans and new converts alike should find plenty to like about this disc. I was impressed with the consistent quality of the songwriting and the sharp delivery found on these tunes. These guys have been around a long, long time... but just keep getting better. Byford's vocals are timeless, and the band sounds just as solid as they did in the early years... much to the chagrin of Señores Oliver and Dawson, without a doubt.
Long story short, if you are a metal fan, this is a must-hear release from a classic band. 'nuff said.
The Bottom Line (AKA - The Six-Pack Scale):