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Saxon is among the most famous acts ever to emerge from the NWOBHM scene, crafting some hard, driving, and powerful stuff. If heavy metal music were a country, its national anthem would be the title track from "Denim and Leather", 'cos it captures the fist-pumping, powerful spirit of heavy metal and its fans. However, such power was not to last, and one of the first stages of this decline is the 1984 release of "Crusader". It still carries some of the metal charm that Saxon is known for, but we also get a taste of the abhorred albums that are to come in the future.
First, the good stuff to talk about. The title track is basically the highlight of the album for me, since it covers historical subjects and has a slow, yet mighty atmosphere. Historical subjects were present in nearly every Saxon album, even the bad ones, so it should make perfect sense that it they should show up here. Not only that, but the chorus adds to the mighty and majestic tone of the song and its topic, the titular crusader riding into battle. It's basically one of only three good songs that dominate the album, but I'll get to the bad songs eventually. Another song that I seem to like is "Sailing to America". It might be a little bright, but to be fair, its brightness only conveys the song's subject matter a little better than it should. The guitars are a little soft in some spots, but in some respects, it seems to show the tranquility of the ocean in the song, at least when the ocean isn't stormy. I would prefer the title track over this one, though, 'cos that one is harder, and more heavier than this one. Although it's also a little bright, "A Little Bit of What You Fancy" also has a very rapid tempo. Not only that, but it resembles the NWOBHM that Saxon played in previous years more closely than other tracks on "Crusader". It's got a NWOBHM-like bite to it with a heavy metal-based riff, but the backing vocals are mostly synthesized, much like those of Def Leppard. That's what takes a few points off of it, 'cos that's one of the big reasons why I don't like much of Def Leppard's so-called "hits".
I've mentioned before that "Crusader" also contains the shape of things to come for the band, and nowhere is this more evident than with "Just Let Me Rock". Okay, it's not completely out of character for Saxon to write songs about rocking and give them a somewhat bluesy hard rock riff, but I feel that "Just Let Me Rock" is a hint of the crappiness that's on here. While that song is passable, "Do it All for You" is as pretentious as pretentious could get. It's at a slow rock ballad tempo, the synthesized backing vocals that I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and sugary sweet melodies throughout. Don't forget the much overused lyrics of "I'll be there to catch you" and "I'll climb to the tallest mountain, "I'll swim the deepest sea". Come to think of it, those lyrics bear an uncanny resemblance to those from a Foreigner song. No, I'm not kidding, you guys, they actually might have ripped off the opening lyrics to "Feels like the First Time". Any more plagiarism from anybody, they might as well steal the main riff of Styx's "Come Sail Away"! I feel that "Run for Your Lives" almost had it; it's a pretty rocking riff reminiscent of the NWOBHM days, yet it's a lot brighter and, again, the backing vocals ruin everything. Had the song been heavier and less glossy, it would've been absolutely fantastic, a classic among NWOBHM songs. But nope, it has to be bright in order to please the teenage crowd, right?
Although it's got some good stuff on here, "Crusader" is only a glimpse into the future, and thus the truly lousy albums that Saxon is to release then. Songs like "Do it All for You" should be the only time you'd ever have to hear Saxon creating sub-par music for sub-par people, and honestly, "Crusader" could've been a hell of a lot better. If only they put forth more good ideas rather than going for what was then the norm for most popular music in order to conform to social standards of the day. If only, if only.
Crusader takes what Power & The Glory did and makes it a bit worse. The previous album's fault was starting and ending strong while having a very mediocre core. Its blend of heavy metal and hard rock didn't go over very well, making for a very inconsistent album. This album doesn't do it any different, except maybe spreading the crap out more. Therefore, what Saxon hands out is a strong opening song with a commercial (glammy) tracklist to follow. It's very apparent where the band wanted to go, but their writing leaves a lot to be desired.
Even with a clearer production job, Saxon decided commercial hard rock with no depth outdid heavy metal that had passion. The Japanese band Bow Wow / Vow Wow were doing the same thing at the time, but even their music had authenticity to it. Saxon's commercial take-over with dull songs like "Rock City" and "Just Let Me Rock" (guess what's starting to get repetitive here) glossed with clean leads feels really outdated and forced. Oddly, other songs like "Sailing To America" and "Run For Your Lives" have actual atmosphere and high-ranged vocal lines that, despite their cheesiness, I can't help but enjoy. It's got no power behind it, but the strict enjoyment that's invigorating in some strange way. The leads, riffs, and vocals are all catchy (not a whole lot of substance, but whatever), but it's just not Saxon; there's always something off.
Skipping over the great intro, there's "A Little Bit Of What You Fancy". When it started, it sounded like it bended into 8-bit hard rock for a split second. Even without that blunder, it's a song that defines what kind of album this is - plodding hard rock. Even with that cover art to keep up its misleading ways, it doesn't change the fact that this is rock for an '80s movie soundtrack. No bite, no anthems, no ripping riffs, no lasting impact, and no replay value.
Despite all of these drawbacks, the one thing avoiding the above pitfalls is the title track. It's everything that this album was missing: epicness, supremacy, immensity, and Saxon where they truly belong. It's tacky, but cool in execution and dark in tone. Byford's Udo-like vocals sing well and high, particularly during the clenching chorus. It's still a rockier Saxon, with its weaker guitar distortion and controlled tempo, but that depth isn't lost. It's a song like that which demonstrates a band knowing full well what it wants to accomplish and doing it with all seriousness. Nothing is held back, making it a song that doesn't feel like it's obligated to accomplish something out of character. It's inconsistent with the rest of the album like hell (because it doesn't suck), but something good in a heap of bad can't be dismissed.
Saxon never made it as far as Maiden, but they are still one of the well known bands from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They released several excellent albums up to this one. On Crusader, Saxon forget that they are British heavy metal. Instead, they think that they're some mindless American glam metal band. On the UK charts, Saxon had been doing pretty well, so I suppose they must have decided to follow this success with success in America. Big mistake. Biff and co. looked at Def Leppard and went "they come from the UK and they're massive in the States. If we make our sound like their's we 'll be massive, too."
However, listening to the Crusader Prelude and the title track, they don't sound commercial. The drums have an echo and the guitars are a little weak, but it is still an awesome metal song singing about BRITISH history. Then we get...a load of crap. A Little Bit of What You Fancy has a whiny guitar tone and Biff shouting "make me boogie!". It's just embarrassing. The chorus is fluffy and the lyrics are silly. Sailing to America starts off with more whiny guitar and more reverb drums. Where have the British songs gone? And why are the band repeating quietly everything Biff sings in the chorus?
The Sweet cover is alright; the production is much better and the vocals aren't so wimpy, but it seems out of place. Saxon don't pick their covers very well. Just Let Me Rock is absolute glam shit. I skipped from the moment Biff goes "just let me rock! Rock!", but listening to it fully, I suppose the verses sound okay. The solo is just rubbish. I don't know what Saxon were thinking. Bad Boys (Like to Rock 'n' Roll) is even worse than the previous track. It's the opposite of its (embarrassing) title. The band do the same thing as on Sailing To America, echoing everything Biff says. There's another crap solo as well. Can this album get any worse?
It can. Do It All For You is like Suzie Hold On and Nightmare stuck together and is made more wimpy with a silly choir. This is another track you want to skip. Rock City I wanted to wipe off my cd. Stupid lyrics: "Hi-fi, Sci-fi. Hear my words. We've been a long time coming. But we're here at last". It's painfully commercial. Why isn't there a good track other than the title? Run For Your Lives is the best track on here aside from Crusader, but the song seems to be about him being drunk or on drugs and everything on fire? It's hard to work out.
Best Track(s): Crusader
Worst Track(s): Every other track.
Crusader is easily one of the most underrated Saxon albums of the '80's. It often gets slated by fans and critics, but I think it has it's moments. At the time of release, it was the worst Saxon album to date, but even so, it is still far better than some of the following albums that would be released (i.e. Rock The Nations and Destiny).
Crusader does take a different direction to the likes of Strong Arm Of The Law, Denim And Leather and Power & The Glory. It goes for a more commercial, more mainstream metal sound, but I think Saxon did it well here, unlike the next few albums. The main reason for this is because there is variety between the songs. Of course, some songs on here are noticably stronger than others, but overall the album is listenable, and enjoyable in my opinion.
First of all, the title track (with The Crusader Prelude) is easily one of the best songs Saxon have ever written. It's pretty cheesy I suppose, but it's extremely well played. It's actually quite a slow number, but the verses and chorus are damn cool at the same time. It is quite commerical, but in a good way.
'A Little Bit Of What You Fancy' is an up-tempo, badass heavy burner, reminding us of what Saxon do best. It does make you want to headbang, definitely a great song to get the crowd going. 'Sailing To America' is an underrated one- it's radio-friendly, but DAMN, that's one catchy song! The backing vocals in the chorus are excellent, and this is one of the album's highlights. 'Set Me Free' has some great guitar playing, and is fairly heavy, but it's still weaker than the previous tracks.
'Just Let Me Rock' is a bit better, and it does have a memorable chorus, that's for sure. But, at the same time, it's very cheesy as the title suggests, but not quite as cheesy as the following number- 'Bad Boys (Like To Rock N' Roll)', which is just plain silly if you ask me. 'Do It All For You', surprisingly, is a very good heavy metal ballad. Like 'Sailing To America', it sticks in your head. 'Rock City' is also a good anthem, though the backing vocals do get on your nerves after a bit. 'Run For Your Lives' is an OK way to end the album, but it still feels like it could be faster and heavier.
A plus point for Crusader is that, to me, Biff Byford's voice is very strong here, and in terms of backing vocals, this is easily one of the best set of songs by Saxon. I also love the drum sound on the record, though I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much. Production is also pretty decent, but at the same time, the early, raw-sounding Saxon albums such as Wheels Of Steel or Strong Arm Of The Law just gave the songs greater effect.
Overall, I think Crusader is a worthy Saxon album, and it's the only commerical-sounding album worth hearing. Despite this, there are still a hell of lot more, better Saxon albums out there, meaning that this, while competant enough, is not essential.
This honestly has to be the most ironic album in all of Saxon’s career. Why? Well just look at the title of it: CRUSADER! Anyone with even a little knowledge of history generally knows about the crusades, right? You know, the whole deal with the Church of England and the conversion of Heathens into Christianity? Anyway, it would only be appropriate for an English band like Saxon to create a song and an album like this. They have that badass British sound to them, which is something that only Iron Maiden came close to sounding like in the 80s. In a way, this album was probably meant to express their patriotic, English pride, which is something Saxon is often known to do (This is also the year that Manowar had an album out called Hail To England. Funny thing is, they‘re not even an English band).
However, the ironic twist to this album is that with the exception of the intro and its title track, the rest of the songs miserably fall into the hands of American commercialism. That’s right! The one album who’s name, artwork, and title track completely scream out “WE’RE AN ENGLISH METAL BAND!”, marks a sudden crash and burn in the band’s career! Now the title track is probably one of the best god damn songs ever written in Metal! There’s really no doubt about that. But the rest of the album is just mainstream, corporate rock crap. How can Saxon do this to their fans? This is weak, embarrassing, and completely unoriginal! If I wanted to listen to Bon Jovi or latter day Motley Crue, I’d fucking put on one of their CDs! This is fucking Saxon we’re talking about here!! Not some mainstream 80s rock band!
When it comes down to it, the album isn’t terrible, it really is not. But considering this is Saxon, it’s really a huge shame to see such a band bow down to the American mainstream standards. Here’s some advice for Metalheads and Metal bands everywhere: If you’re a band who sang about war, motorcycle gangs, battles, speeding recklessly down freeways, kicking people’s asses, and also named an album title after the traditional Metalhead fashion (Denim And Leather), you CAN NOT be the British Bon Jovi!! Simple as that!!
1. The Crusader Prelude - As I’ve stated in past reviews, I typically don’t care much for album intros, although every intro that Saxon has come up with has pretty much slew. This one is no exception. You’re able to hear galloping horses, horns of war, battle cries, swords clashing, and all of that good stuff. Then in the background you can har Biff shouting “Crusader!”. Yes, perfect intro to set the atmosphere of the next song!
2. Crusader - Give me an E! Give me a P! Give me an I! Give me a C! What do you have? EPIC!! Yes! This is an EPIC number in all fucking caps! The medieval atmosphere that this song gives off is just simply incredible. Biff Byford demonstrates his best vocal work yet, and shows what an amazing vocalist he is. Sure, he may not be able to hit extreme high notes, but he really does help to give off that medieval atmosphere as well. The overall track is very mid-paced, and generally has that ‘war march’ feel to it. Despite the constant pace of the song, it does go through various tempo changes to add more to its Epic feel as well. Oh yeah, and did I mention how well written these lyrics are? Everything is historically correct, and just reading these lyrics alone may take you back to the days of the Holy Crusades. Incredible and amazing! That’s all I have to say about this one.
3. A Little Bit Of What You Fancy - What a poor excuse for a speed metal song. Yes, this is fast, but the overall song is poorly written and the lyrics suck ass. Here’s a sample: “I’ve got my Ford, she’s long and black. Who needs a fucking Cadillac?”…uhh, seriously, is this the same band who wrote the lyrics to the previous song? The chorus is probably the worst part about the song and…yeah…let’s just move onto the next track.
4. Sailing To America - I think the title of this song should be “Selling Out To America”, since that’s really what this album was doing at the time. Actually, this song isn’t that bad. It’s really about the Pilgrim’s journey to this new found land. Okay, so I hate the lyrical content. Not because it’s poorly written, the lyrical structure is actually very good. But…I don’t want to be reminded of these fucking Puritans coming to America. It’s because of them that we have all of these morality laws now! But music wise, this song is rather good. It makes you feel like heading out to sea with a bottle of booze in your hand, sailing with the wind in your hair. Then again, I doubt that those stupid Puritans even drank booze.
5. Set Me Free - Yes, this is a Sweet cover, which is also the exact same song that Heathen covered on their 1987 Breaking The Silence album. Of course, Heathen’s version is done much better. Still, this track is a bit more enjoyable than the tracks that follow it. Is it fast? Yes. But I also have some trouble calling this a speed Metal tune. Saxon isn’t very good at doing song covers, with the exception of that King Crimson cover on their 2001 album. But…that’s another review to come!
6. Just Let Me Rock - Sounds more like a shitty glam band than Saxon to me. Generic riffs, boring, generic chorus, mediocre vocals…boring song! Sad to think that a band who had song titles like ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and ‘Play It Loud’ has now reduced themselves into making cheap, generic song titles like ‘Just Let Me Rock’. Yeah, this sure rocks alright…
7. Bad Boys (Like To Rock N Roll) - Bad boys, eh? Yeah…selling out to the mainstream sure is bad alright! Aside from the shitty song title, this song is nothing short of lame. The chorus has got to be one of the most pathetic ones that Saxon has ever come up with. If you’ve ever heard those popular glam bands, then you’ll know that during the choruses, the rest of the band always repeats the last few words after the singer, like some kind of cheerleading group. Well, that’s what this song does. Bad boys? Yeah right!
8. Do It All For You - You know, this ballad really isn’t that bad. Sure as hell beats the faster songs on here, that’s for certain! Yes, it’s a good song, but it’s no Suzi Hold On and it sure as hell is no Nightmare! Actually, for a ballad, this track has some pretty heavy riffs on it, though there are some cool acoustic parts as well. Also, Biff Byford delivers the vocals very well.
9. Rock City - Okay, this here is such crap!! Honestly, this really wouldn’t sound out of place on a god damn Poison CD. That’s how bad it is. Everything about it sucks. The riffs are all recycled, generic, glam inspired and boring. As for the drumming, well...I honestly think that a kindergardner could pull this type of drumming off. The vocals are uninspired as well, and the lyrics…don’t even get me started on the lyrics, because this is without a doubt the worst shit that Saxon has come up with. Would you like me to quote some of the lyrics for you? Okay then: “DJ, VJ, radio, video, crank it up mamma, the time is right”…see what I’m talking about? There’s some other bad shit in here too that I really don’t care about getting into right now. Onto the last track…
10. Run For Your Lives - Well, this is MUCH better! Not the greatest song, but it ain’t that bad. For Saxon, I know that they’re capable of so much more, but after the rest of the bad shit I had to hear on this CD, I am glad that they can finally end the album off with a half decent song. This song would actually be great if it had more of a “crunch” to the guitar riffs, because everything else sounds good to me. The vocals are superb and the drumming is steady, but good. I love the chorus, it’s really catchy, and…hell, this whole damn song is catchy! And finally…the lyrics don’t suck! Not the best written lyrics, but they’re satisfactory.
If you're new to Saxon and want to check out some of their stuff, then stay away from this album! As other reviewers have stated, this album will be worth getting just for its title track, but generally, this would serve as an awful introdution to the band. Try any of the albums prior to this one and/or any of the much later releases instead.
By the way, 30 of the 35 points that I gave the album, go to the title track itself.
"Crusader" makes a swift turn in Saxon's direction (Well, I haven't heard "Power & The Glory" so I'm not counting that one). From raw, catchy and true NWOBHM they turn to a more rock n' roll direction, blasting out easy-on-the-ears rockers like "Rock City", "Bad Boys (Like To Rock N' Roll)" and "A Little Bit Of What You Fancy". So while this doesn't exactly have the same vicious attitude as you'd find on, say, "Wheels of Steel", this does feature some very catchy and memorable songwriting, fairly simplistic but well-done riffing and just a whole lot of fun air guitaring action.
Though one song stands way above the rest - Crusader, the lord of the realm! My god, this OWNS. OWNSOWNSOWNS. Epic as fuck, insanely powerful, and the atmosphere is just out of this world. Biff's vocal performance is divine, the mid-paced melodic riffing is huge, and everything is just awesome.
And then, when the solo kicks in... that's easily the best guitar solo in Saxon and one of those where true metal enthusiasts like me just go into complete ecstasy until it's entirely over. Every note seems incredibly thought out and the solo just gets better every second. Absolutely orgasmic.
And it goes on for the remainder of the song, even for the last powerful, soaring "Fight the good fight! Believe what is right! Crusader, lord of the realm!" That is one of the most powerful endings to any song in metal ever, and owns beyond belief.
Okay, so I fellated over one song for like half the review, but that song alone makes this album worth getting even if you hate the other stuff. But fortunately for me, I dig the rest as well. "A Little Bit Of What You Fancy" is catchy as hell and a blast to sing along to, same with "Bad Boys (Like To Rock N' Roll)" and "Rock City".
"Just Let Me Rock" is a pretty cool, bluesy number with a simple but effective power chord-chorus. Oh yeah, and the cover of The Sweet's "Set Me Free" totally owns.
There are two ballads on here, "Sailing To America" and "Do It All For You". The first is just incredibly boring, to be honest, and shall not be spoken of again. The second is quite alright though, and that opening melody sounds like vintage Iron Maiden shit.
All in all, a damn fun, solid album with one of the band's top 5 songs ever for a title track. Yup, this rocks.
...but what the fuck happened with the rest?? Okay, so most of the other songs on here sound like a British version of Motley Crue, which of course isn't so bad, but when you compare to to the title track, you'd be expecting sooooo much more out of this album.
The Crusader Prelude - Hehe, you already know what type of song you're in for after hearing this...
Crusader - This song is so fucking amazing! Though not very fast, the overall mood just makes you wanna take up a sword and slash up your foes, showing no mercy what-so-ever. The vocals are done amazingly well, and the heavy, mid-paced riffs just add so much more to the mood, fitting the lyrics quite well. No wonder why this is such an incredibly popular tune among the Metal crowd and why it's still played live today. Now you know why one would expect so much more out of an album after hearing a song like this...
A Little Bit Of What You Fancy - Minus the title track, this is actually one of the better tunes here. Good, solid speed Metal to headbang like crazy too, but this song sounds like it belongs more on Strong Arm or Denim....well...maybe not. :p
Sailing To America - Once more, this is another one of the better songs on the album. The music and lyrics just make you wish that you were out on a ship at sea, sailing in the cool breeze while drinking a bottle of rum. I love this song, one of the only three songs on the album that I can actually say I love.
Set Me Free - Now I keep forgetting who actually did the original of this song...it is a cover. Ah well, Heathen did a much better job on, ashamed to say. One thing Saxon has never been quite good at is doing covers, as shown in other albums. Just like the Heathen version, this is a great speed Metal number with outstanding riffs, but it doesn't even come close to the three previous tracks.
Just Let Me Rock - A mid-placed, slightly bluesy number. Only thing I really like about this song are the attitud and lyrics, which do live up to the title. Lyrically, this song means a lot to people like me, but other than that, the track itself is a bit weak.
Bad Boys (Like To Rock N Roll) - Decent at best, but if I wanted to listen to hard edged glam, I'd crank up some Crue or Twisted Sister. Yeah, I do like some glam Metal, but when I'm in the mood for Saxon, I wanna hear Saxon goddamnit!!
Do It All For You - Ahh, a ballad. Of all the ballads that Saxon has currently done up till this year, 1984, this is probably the weakest one of all. Good track, but it's no Suzie Hold On and it sure as Hell is no Nightmare! Good riffage though. :D
Rock City - God damnit! As if Bad Boys was not glammy enough!! Oh yeah, and I'm sure that song title is very original as well. Pfft! Like I said before, glam is decent, but Saxon is suppose to be far more than just average or decent. Needless to say, this song and Bad Boys blow away every other glam band I have heard, but they do not belong on this album, nor on ANY Saxon album.
Run For Your Lives - Well, at least the album's ending is great. This is the only other song that I can actually say I love. I'm not even going to compare it to the title track because it doesn't even come close, but, this is still a terrific song, second best on the album. The chorus is what makes this song so addictive, it's one of those 'nail it to the back of your skull choruses'. Oh yeah, the verses are pretty catchy too and the lyrics are something to definetly mention..."I had a dream last night and I saw you burn!". So yeah, this oughta make the listener smile after hearing the last previous songs.