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This is my favorite Saxon album of the early years. It's more commercial than the NWOBHM material and the in-between radio-friendly sound from the '80s / '90s, but that's the surface. For such a straightforward album, there's way more to enjoy than what's assumed. For what defines the 1980s, this is one of the albums that I think captures that resonance more than any other. Innocence... is (arena) rocking in formula and has a polished production job, but it's not without its heavy metal roots.
What Saxon was getting killed on during this era was their inability to write memorable songs for an entire album (for many, going commercial was the bad move). They would always get a couple standouts, but then there's the rest of the album descending into mediocrity or below. It was a journey into glammy hard rock that didn't work... except here. The glossy production, with the guitars and their crystalline sustain, are better at capturing this sound than the clear-but-cutting distortion of the previous two albums. The bass' fat lines aren't any different, but the drums echo louder than ever. It's a vast sound that increases the scope and atmosphere, so nothing ever feels compacted. At the forefront, Byford's lines are not only more fine-tuned, but they're actually singing catchy choruses. Again, this points back to the problem of the immediate albums before and after - there wasn't any agreement nor commitment on writing anything catchy!
From the cryptic opening of "Rockin' Again" to the cheerful "Back On The Streets" and to the spirited "Everybody Up," this is like listening to a re-invigorated band. To keep consistency, energy, and memorability throughout the entire thing was something sorely missing for a couple albums. It's no more heavier, but everything feels more correct. Granted, the enjoyment starts to burn out near the end, but that's unimportant in the overall package.
Above even the above-average Saxon outcome that is this album, there are two standouts. "Rockin' Again" is the atmospheric, ballad-like intro which may seem odd for the start of the album. Nonetheless, it's heavy and unforgettable with a somber tone. The second, "Broken Heroes," is probably my favorite Saxon song (it's another ballad-like song). Now of all the gloomy, solemn songs this band wrote, this one is the best at capturing its themes without compromising the music. Byford's sullen delivery is exemplary, as well as the accompanying guitar leads that ring fervently with that clean distortion. Behind it all is Glockler's artillery-loud pounding, as well as the flabby bass gliding along with it. Such an intense song with an infectious chorus to match.
To my ears, this is the only great '80s Saxon album after their NWOBHM reign. For the next few years, the band would fall apart musically, losing sense of who they were until the '90s where they maintained the status quo before hitting their stride again. The heavy metal persona would be lost, as well as the energy needed to keep sounding fresh and invested. They kept getting weaker, eventually requiring a full revival to resurrect whatever was left after this failed attempt at hitting big commercially. This album did it right, however, and still stands as properly delving into a sound that is and isn't representative of the band and their capabilities.
Since I started to listen to hard rock / metal back in 2003, Saxon has been one of the bands that has followed me since the beginning. Their far away from being my favorite band but I do like them and "Innocence Is No Excuse" is the album by theirs that has grown most and become my favorite. I don't really understand why it's so ignored because it's a really great album. Maybe it's a little polished and heading towards a more American sound of metal than English but it's still Saxon, and a damn great one as well.
I totally love classic 80's metal so this is of course an excellent album for me and there's a lot of great, melodic, classic and catchy tunes here. The whole birthday package starts off with a great rocker called "Rockin' Again" in which you'll immediately find yourself playing air guitar. It's followed by a radio-friendly but awesome song called "Call Of The Wild". It has a great guitar riff and the chorus is simply perfect. Next up is a 3-in-a-row group that can be identified as "screamin' heavy metal" due to the screamin' riffs and power overall. "Broken Heroes" was the big hit from this album and it's awesome, enough said. The remaining tracks are like a group too. It's four tracks that can be simply called "hard rock" or "heavy metal", it's pretty much up to you but they are a little special with their unique sound. My dad has the vinyl of this which ends here but I got the re-issue with two bonus tracks from "Crusader", "Just Let Me Rock" and "Do It All For You". These are another two great tracks although, they don't fit to 100 % with the original tracks.
The production is great. A little polished but actually that's not anything I care 'bout. I like the mix the way it is and it fits the tunes on here very well. Everything's balanced and I like the sound of every instrument on here. The guitars sounds awesome, especially the solos that's perfectly mixed. The drums (especially the snare drum) sounds awesome too, I really dig that mix they've made. Biff's vocals are sounding great too, maybe the best sounding vocals ever recorded on one of Saxon's albums?
The cast is doing simply great. They're all very experienced musicians and they are really sure on what they do. Biff Byford is probably the one who shines the most here but everyone has done a fabulous job for this album.
So finally to my last comments on "Innocence Is No Excuse"......
The best cuts here would be: Rockin' Again, Call Of The Wild, Devil Rides Out, Broken Heroes and maybe Raise Some Hell. All of the tracks are great and outstanding in anyway, the bonus tracks too.
I can strongly recommend this album for any fans of classic 80's metal, biker metal or whatever metal at all! It's an album that should be in your collection or at least you should dig it up for a listen!
Enjoy "Innocence Is No Excuse".
Probably the most underrated of all Saxon albums. I remember hearing "Broken Heros" before buying this album and loving it. Of all the tracks that are on here, that is the only tune still played live today off of this release. So after reading the mass amounts of negative reviews on this album, I figured that "Broken Heros" must have to be a stand out track on the album, because what I heard did not even come close to sucking. Still, I purchased the album anyway and from the opening of the first track, to the rockin' fun ending...I was purely amazed! "Rockin' Again" is one of the best songs that this band has ever done and deserves to be played live today, as well as "Raise Some Hell"....in which I am sure would drive the metal crowed absolutly WILD! Not one filler track on here, just pure, fun hard rock/metal tunes to enjoy and head bang to.
So why is this so underrated? I probably will never know. Perhapse it was the sudden change of style. Kind of has that same 80s hard rock tone that 'Crusader' had, except with much more attitude and power. Just check out the incredible drumming and galloping riffs on "Raise Some Hell". This is definetly one album to raise some hell to!
Best songs: Rockin' Again, Devil Rides Out, Broken Heros, Raise Some Hell