Saxon are truly one of the great heavy metal bands of all time – and arguably the best traditional metal act operating in Britain today – but when it comes to the heavy-hitters of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Saxon are often mentioned third behind Iron Maiden and Def Leppard….a situation that demands to be rectified.
Def Leppard may have cornered the American market but they haven’t released a great album since Hysteria while Iron Maiden seem to get bigger with each album whilst simultaneously becoming more ponderous, overblown and boring. Like Maiden and Leppard, Saxon are extremely proud of their working class roots but one fundamental difference remains; Saxon are still releasing music that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with their early to mid 80’s glories!
October saw the release of the bands 21st studio(!) album Battering Ram and it proved to be yet another humdinger; a modern metal masterclass from a band untouched by the passing of time!
With the success of Battering Ram and Thunderbolt still fresh in our minds, the time seemed right to cast a critical eye over Saxon’s entire back catalogue, whittling their vast body of work down to their 10 greatest albums….and here’s the results:
10. Call To Arms (2011)
2011 saw the release of Saxons 19th studio album and Call To Arms hits the ground running with the rip-roaring “Hammer Of The Gods” – a lyrical companion piece to “Warrior” from Power & The Glory – with its tale of Viking marauders matched by vibrant riffing and a pulsing bassline from Nibbs Carter and a hoarse throated vocal courtesy of Biff Byford.
Produced by ex-Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson, Call To Arms is given an earthy, old-school sound with all the instruments given room to breathe. A throwback to the bands humble beginnings, this is reflected with “Back in 79”, with its lyric harking back to the birth of the NWOBHM.
In another nod to their roots, “Surviving Against the Odds” settles on a slower pace which sees some tasteful, almost bluesy, soloing from Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn while “Afterburner” – one of the few full-on blasts of molten metal find on Call To Arms – nicely increases the tempo and confirms Saxon’s ability to ‘out-heavy’ their peers when the need takes them.
Call To Arms is a quality release that saw Saxon veer away from the full on metal assault that had seen them win back their audience and adopt a heavy rock vibe instead. A change that worked incredibly well and rewarded long-term fans with an original sounding Saxon album in the process.