UDR [Release date 02.02.18]
Bastions of British heavy metal, NWoBHM stalwarts, basically if you like trad heavy metal, Saxon are where it’s at and have been for longer than I can remember. Album number 22 comes two and a half years after the critically acclaimed ‘Battering Ram’, and you do have to wonder for just how long is this purple patch going to last.
Originally formed as Son Of A Bitch in the late 70s, the band have recorded classic after classic metal LP, and aside the line-up changes, there’s only really been that late 80s nadir that covered two albums. The current line-up has (bar drummer Glockler’s brief health related leave) proven as stable, powerful and solid as any part of Saxon’s career, if not more so. I’ve been a fan since day one and it’s not something I say lightly.
Saxon first dipped their toes into rock’n’roll with 1991’s ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’, then into power metal a couple of years later. Since the turn of the millennium they have embraced both, combined with nods to their roots and even symphonic and prog metal moments. The latter two are not so obvious here, but it’s a weighty mix and from the outset you know you’re in for some serious rocking.
‘Olympus’ opens with a guitar that builds and toys with you, like an approaching motorcycle, before the title track rips into your ears. Vocalist Biff controls the sound just as he does the stage – I can picture the leather and George Cross flowing now. From chunky rhythm blasts to guitar harmonies and a solid solo or two, it’s all there.
One outstanding track is ‘The Secret Of Flight’. There’s a hint of their own gothic symphonic of the mid 00s to the intro the guitar harmonies take you back to mid 80s Saxon/Maiden. Please god put this one in the live set.
‘Nosferatu’ features guitars in bursts, tied together with mood setting gothic undertones. Guitarists Quinn and Scarratt work well on this one. Then it’s an all out blast for ‘They Played Rock And Roll’, dedicated to Lemmy and Motorhead. The two bands have played together often over the years, in fact both bands recorded live sets on their last tour together, and Saxon were due to promote Battalions Of Steel across the UK with Motorhead when Lemmy died. A fitting doff of the cap to another classic British pillar of metal. There’s a lyrical reference to their 1979/80 live work together.
‘Predator’ takes things in a much heavier direction, while ‘Sons Of Odin’ is a little more melodic yet still heavy – one of my standouts with ‘Secret Of Fligh’t, the rhythm section of bassist Nibbs Carter and Nigel Glockler really are on form here.
2018 has gotten off to a good start and this is already a sure-fire contender for one of the year’s best.
We are Saxon and we are British Heavy Metal. *****
Review by Joe Geesin
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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