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Destiny was just about a piece of shit if you ask me. It had no soul and wanted badly to be accepted as AOR. They got back to their senses immediately and returned to the hard rock / heavy metal genres with that sharp ‘80s tone present. Production on this thing firmly brings back the power to the guitars and the drums crash nicely on the snare hits. The title track is a perfect Saxon song. It does everything one would expect them to accomplish: play with charisma, unleash a catchy riff, infuse some nice bass grooves, and pull off a manly sing-a-long chorus. Byford’s clear, high singing is right on par with that surging guitar distortion. Now if only the rest of the album kept up with this level of quality.
For the most part this album is fine. I expected more of a lame streak since Rock The Nations, but Saxon turned it around and made an album with a handful of good songs. “Bavarian Beaver” near the end was the biggest surprise. It’s a short instrumental that acts as an interlude, demonstrating Nibbs Carter’s slick bass playing in a calm manner. It reminds me of Jens Becker’s instrumentals in Running Wild (just much less showy). It segues into “Crash Drive” which rocks with its own kickass riff and turbulent soloing. The bass on this one is also substantial and groovy, but the song only rides on these two – Byford’s vocal lines aren’t catchy at all. Prominent guitars and bass but your vocalist can’t drop the ball! Bravo on adding some variation but man does it end the album on a mixed note.
There was always going to be the obligatory ballad (“Overture In B-Minor / Refugee”) which are tuneful but not exactly interesting or generally slower songs like “Requiem (We Will Remember)” which are upbeat but corny. They’re likable, but when Saxon doesn’t commit it creates problems. This band’s craft is in composing rocking heavy metal that’s ripe with melodic leads and addicting vocal lines. Those marks are reached on songs like “I Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Baptism Of Fire” – hard-hitting, fiery, memorable, and fun. Drumming should be tantamount and click immediately, fitting with the rhythm as they echo in the back. Even when the songs themselves become a tad dull like “I’m On Fire” (epic solo section aside), the drumming can’t be at fault.
Solid Ball Of Rock attempted to propel Saxon back in the realm of good bands. It isn’t standout, but it didn’t do a bad job at reassuring people that they weren’t going to become a lame rock act. Knowing that this isn’t spectacular, I’d keep it around for some more fun songs. Nothing on here undeniably sucks, even if some tracks aren’t to my liking. It’d take Saxon some more time to get to their next great album, but their rebuilding the road they destroyed from the last couple of albums.
This album is way the fucking Hell better than the last album. Suckstiny, I mean that was just pure crap. This is only halfway to pure crap, and in fact the first few songs are completely excellent!!
The title track starts things off, and man this is a fun catchy song. "The preacher found redemption in a Jacksonville motel..." - then Altar of the Gods is classic Saxon, at 100% strength. Requiem is a bit slower, but still very good, as is Lights in the Sky.
"I Just Can't Get Enough" is a bit cheesier, but still solid. A little 80s-rock influence, coming from their last N albums, but then again this isn't all that far removed from Wheels of Steel or something in the general 80s-metal vibe. Nice chorus, too.
"Baptism of Fire" is the obligatory speed metal offering, and is probably the highlight of the album - either this or the title track. This one reminds me of "Sixth Form Girls" from their very strong (arm of the law) second album.
Here is where the album takes a fucking nosedive... "Ain't Gonna Take It" is crap that combines the worst of two or three Saxon songs that I can't remember... sounds like a leftover from the Destinshit album. "I'm on Fire" is a bit better but they blatantly rip off a solo from a Boston song. I forget which, but it's readily obvious, and it's one of the classic rock staple songs... can't miss it. "Refugee" is more crap, unfortunately. "Bavarian Beaver" is a bit of a noodle bit, and then "Crash Dive" - not bad, and a good closer track. Nice riff after the chorus.
So this album totally takes a sinker about halfway through, but the first six songs are all excellent, and for that the album is possibly worth having. If you like some of the more rockish Saxon albums (not the really bad ones like Destiny or Elton John the Nations, but I mean Power and the Glory), you'll like this one.