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Radio Saxon Rules - 95%

autothrall, November 9th, 2009

Despite the video for their cover of "Ride Like the Wind" having a reasonable rotation on MTV (usually on Headbanger's Ball), Saxon seemed to miss the mark with what could have been their breakthrough album. Destiny is often loathed by fans for its relative accessibility, but the truth is it's no more commercial than any of their previous albums, a slice of catchy NWOBHM which I still consider one of their career highlights, with ballads and rockers aplomb, all written in a bluesy, consistent aesthetic.

The presence of the typical 80s radio rock synthesizers is complementary and never forced, even as "Ride Like the Wind" opens. The Christopher Cross cover sounds quite nice in Saxon's able hands, Biff Byford's vocals blend seamlessly with the backups for the chorus. "Where the Lightning Strikes" is a slower paced rocker, anchored in a simple and perfect riff, the kind that has appeared on every Saxon record before and since. Again, the chorus is exactly what you are waiting for, powerful and understated. "I Can't Wait Anymore" is a love ballad with some nice leads and catchy clean guitars jangling beneath the verse. This is probably the type of song the album took some slack for, but its a good song and superior to many of the shitty glam rock ballads which polluted the airwaves during that era. "Calm Before the Storm" returns to the rock and Byford giving it his all, dripping with blue collar lyrics.

"S.O.S." starts with some blowing winds and ambiance, then a great teaser riff before the metal begins to rage, a mid-paced flow beneath yet another set of catchy vocal lines. "Song for Emma" is another power ballad, reminds me a lot of something Def Leppard would have done back then but with Byford's vocals (the bands have always had similar music). "For Whom the Bell Tolls" rocks out like classic Saxon, killer riffs and an unforgettable chorus. "We Are Strong" is pretty typical synth driven rock fare, it's the weakest song on the album but still works for me. The album closes with two of its best tracks: "Jericho Siren" with its brilliant riffing and the hard rocking "Red Alert".

The album may sound dated to some, but quite adequate for the time. Lyrically the songs contain the same mix of everyman romance, history and world events that most of their albums do. Byford was younger here of course, but it remains one of his best vocal performances to date, he expressed a greater range than most of their earlier records. Although I am one of a dwindling few who personally loves this album, it's a difficult album to recommend, as I do not think it would appeal to fans of the more crunchy, power-metal fueled modern Saxon sound. However, if you loved the big budget hard rock of the 80s without too much of the glam crap (they did the hairspray thing briefly before realizing it didn't fit), and you love Biff's voice, you should give this a listen.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com