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Saxon’s pursuit of arena-like hard rock / heavy metal landed them in a limbo of unwaveringly decent heavy metal. It’s not superb since there’s always something holding them back from delivering another knockout album that’s good from start to finish. They pull off that ‘80s heavy metal sound like its nothing. On the other hand, trying to maintain my interest until the end of the album hasn’t been done prior to this since Innocence Is No Excuse. This album whoops ass until about the middle (which is when things get dull). What the hell? The title track provides a cool, trudging heavy metal riff alongside (vocally) quiet verses and loud choruses. It’s not as awesome as “Solid Ball Of Rock” or “Forever Free” opening up the previous albums, but starting this thing off right by at least being a memorable song works.
I listen from the beginning and get to the rocking and roaring “The Great White Buffalo”. A tad longer than the tracks before, this one’s got slithering leads and an epic tenor. It’s a track with darker harmonies despite not ditching that positive ‘80s gloss. Up to that point, Saxon’s throwing riffs and melodies that transition well and don’t deviate too much from what they normally do in the first place. It’s all hard rock and heavy metal with Byford’s high wails and squeaky tone singing with gut-power. Even songs which I’m not 100% into like “Hold On,” a track that sounds like a beefed up ‘80s Bryan Adams song (who I do like) formatted to Saxon, I still dig based on what it is. The first half of the album mixes things up with variation that doesn’t become detrimental to the fun factor. I enjoy listening to those songs since they stir something in me and nail the key parts with energy. “Burning Wheels” is the best – vigorous, Maiden-esque, and ballsy; another perfect Saxon song.
The drop comes at “Demolition Alley,” which meanders even though it doesn’t disregard the tried and true formula. I suppose it’s just the song as a composition which I dislike – the riffs, the hooks, etc. – it feels dry. The same can be said about “Walking Through Tokyo,” probably the slowest, albeit one of the heaviest (using that term a little loosely) songs on here. Don’t get me started on how awesome Japan is - this song doesn’t do it justice. It’s got an anthem feel, especially during that chorus, but it lacks substance. Just feels like a filler song with a corny part in its solo section and an implied purpose of reeling in fans during a live setting. “Give It All Away” is the worst with its throwaway chorus, tedious mid-paced riff, and thirst for emotion. The guitar leads are fervent by the middle and is kept up by the end, but this one’s tamer.
Saxon had this one in the bag but jacked it all up. They even topped it off right with “Yesterday’s Gone,” a song with crunchy riffs and motivation making up for the unexciting songs that came before. Add that the drumming’s solid, bass is blubbery, and the album benefits well from sounding pristine by ‘90s standards to show that this album’s pieces were fine. The end result needed tweaking (read: removing tracks) in order to be a better full-length. That’s just my opinion though, and I can’t speak on behalf of others. So hear this one to know what I’m talking about and hopefully there’ll be more for you to enjoy than what I heard.
Of course Saxon's 90's material is not as enjoyable as the 80's stuff. That usually happens with decent solid metal bands. Reading Maldito's review, I have to strongly disagree.
Country/blues/rock mixed? I don't think that could exist, plus this album is hardly that. I think the word that best fits this album, and the word that Maldito was trying to go for was "hard rock."
This album can be really tricky, the opening song Dogs of War is an awesome song, with a bunch of catchy riffs. Vocal wise, this song is pure Saxon, something you might not see on the rest of the album. The next three songs are definitely blues influenced, like an Aerosmith/Poison like blues, but there is a more emphasis with the heaviness of the riffs.
Then the album goes through another somersault with the song Hold On. This song is pure ballad like. Pretty cheesy, but not bad if you like the 80's heavy ballads. Then we go back to pure Saxon metal...of course some parts could be considered hard rock. The rest of the album is decent; no memorable songs, but some memorable parts. What makes this, at least in my eyes, heavy or hard, is the power of the riffs. Like on the songs The Great White Buffalo and Walking Through Tokyo, you might headbang or throw your fist in the air because the riffs have crunch. Provided with a nice drum beat, and you definitely have some decent songs.
One of the reasons why this album is not as good is because it is cheesy. Most of the songs lyrics are hardly enjoyable and actually funny at sometimes. But don't let silly things like that fool you. There are a lot of Saxon type riffs, and a couple of good songs. Vocally the album isn't up to par, but it's not ear bleeding bad. If you don't mind typical hard rock, then you will like this more then the average person. Overall it is not a bad Saxon album, just not the greatest.