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I mean, you like heavy fucking metal? I don't see why you would not dig this. Do fans of symphonic Hollywood metal dig Rhapsody? Same logic.
This album is commonly viewed as the first part of their late 90's "resurrection" or whatever you'd like to call it. Anyway, it displays a much rejuvenated Saxon in comparison to some of their mid-80's - mid-90's works, where, at best, the consistency was seriously lacking. For example, the two first tracks on the previous album, 'Dogs of War', completely rule (especially the title track), but the rest of the album is, if I'm to believe all the reports, more or less a fluke.
Now, on this album, the consistency just so happens to be one the main selling points. Actually, not even the classics (Wheels, Strong Arm, Denim) were thoroughly consistent; in fact, the weak stuff from those three combined would probably be enough make up a really bad best-of compilation - this album, however, manages to be exactly 90% consistent (discounting the intro, there are ten tracks, do the math), which is quite impressive when you take into account that the old stuff reached maybe 70% tops in that area.
But let's not forget: when those albums were good - man were they dead fucking on. "Motorcycle Man", "Machine Gun", "Heavy Metal Thunder, "Strong Arm of the Law" "Princess of the Night" to name a few - timeless, untouchable heavy metal classics and even moreso if you're strictly talking about the NWOBHM scene. That's where this album falls a bit short - only one song on here really belongs among those songs, and although two others come pretty close, the trade-off for increased consistency appears to be a decrease in the number of TOTAL fucking stand-out tracks. So this album probably ends up receiving a rating similar to that of the classics, as it's pros and cons even it out.
But disregarding quality, how does it compare to Saxon of the old, in overall style? To start with, the rock n' roll-ish vibe that was largely evident on earlier albums is just about dead and buried here. No boogie-woogie tinged stuff like "Stand Up and Be Counted" or even something bluesy like "Strong Arm of the Law" - this is just straight-up heavy metal all-around. Even when the occasional old-school rock riff comes through, it's still played in a total metal fashion so that you don't even take notice of it.
The next thing is that there is a much "darker" vibe to everything; for example, there's hardly anything along the lines of light-hearted stuff like "To Hell and Back Again" (arguably an important staple for the development of power metal) on here. The production may have something do with this...but a number of songs seem pretty dark and moody in the first place, something that was never quite evident on the early albums.
Oh yeah, THE PRODUCTION - now let's not forget about that part. As you can expect, the sound is completely modernized - the guitars are downtuned, as well a very evident full-on metal crunch to them and the drums carry a bigger punch. Now, this description fits just about every single new metal band coming out today, which unfortunately often results in many bands ending up sounding very similar - but THIS production job somehow manages to completely stand out. While the playing is pretty tight and precise, it doesn't sound mechanical and/or lifeless at all - a problem a lot of other bands struggle with, especially the ones who let Roy Z inside the studio! 'Resurrection' (the album), this is not. The rather thrashy drum sound probably adds a bit to the "liveliness", as the hi-hat is often kept pretty loose. Somewhat comparable in sound is Running Wild's 'Black Hand Inn', because it has just that slightly "deep" tone, while still being totally crunchy and intense, although this album is probably a bit less slick.
As for the only two remaining musicians from the classic line-up, Biff Byford is unmistakably still Biff Byford - his voice isn't quite like anyone else's, even though he has a somewhat lower and deeper voice on this release (like the guitars), perhaps due to age or just to fit in with the "darker" sound. Also, Paul Quinn's leads are pretty evident, I believe; at least I think it's him playing a large part of the solos, as many of them are very old-school in nature and do a good job of recalling Saxon of the old. A very competent job for sure, not aged in the least bit.
To go more into detail, namely into describing the songs, what we have here is some extremely catchy material (aided by the production, of course, but anyway...). Most songs exhibit the simple, direct, punchy, balls-out and to-the-point. Everything sounds pretty fresh, as it's a new and fresh style they're working with; while the style is pretty familiar, nothing feels overly rehashed and this was before metal's big comeback had REALLY come through (or is that era still awaiting us?).
Let's start with the best: "Terminal Velocity". This song completely and totally rocks - simple ideas are at work and this song resembles old Saxon more than most songs on here as it's a bit on the rockish side riffage-wise (absolutely nothing wrong with that), but again, the metal-ness of the playing is undeniable. What is truly to be revered, however, is the flat-out AMAZING execution and construction of it - if you're talking about some of the most "well-done" songs of all time, this one definitely ends up in my top five. This is absolute and utter perfection - from the insanely cool little lead fills to the soaring and attitude-filled vocal lines, I cannot possibly rave enough about it, as that could fill half of my review. "Heavy Metal Thunder", "Princess of the Night", any other classics, step aside, because this seriously tops anything else they've written up to this point and that is saying a lot, you all know. The solo owns too...bah, I'll just stop there; this songhas to be heard to be believed anyway.
Now, I would have given this album a higher score had I reviewed it after maybe two listens, but some tracks on here suffer from the "catchy but gets old quickly" syndrome that so many other songs out there suffer from. "Terminal Velocity" manages to be both catchy AND good for hundreds of listens - many of the other songs aren't even as good to begin with PLUS they tend to get a bit old after about four listens. This especially concerns the slower stuff, like "Cut Out the Disease" and "The Preacher", both having a nice and thick atmosphere.
Many tracks check in as just plain "solid", including "All Hell Breaking Loose", "Bloodletter" (two songs that probably resemble old Saxon more than any others), "Circle of Light" (another atmospheric but heavy number, with an intro that's totally out of Accept's "Midnight Mover") and "Ministry of Fools". That last song is a bit of a surprise - this sounds like a mix between Judas Priest's "Parental Guidance" (note: from 'Turbo') and Poison's "Cry Tough". I find this song rather "happy" and party-hearty musically, even though the lyrics, as indicated by the title, deal with random anti-government stuff. This song therefore sticks out a bit from the rest of the album, but it ain't bad in any way and it's still metal as fuck (but every time I listen to it, images of ENORMOUS goddamn hair awake nonetheless!). Oh yeah, and even the album's intro "Gothic Dreams" is damn solid too, arguably even a bit of a waste of a fitting intro to something bigger...
Coming in right behind the top track on here is the title track and "The Thin Red Line". The former is a very fast and intense speed metal number with excellent riffs and melodies everywhere - textbook stuff, basically. At first I found myself a little put off by the chorus, as it completely drops the snare drum and thus the whole pace for a few seconds, but later I've come to enjoy it a lot more and now I actually think of it as a nice "innovation" more than anything else - and the chorus does indeed have a pretty fucking nice melody. The latter song is a bit experimental - midpaced and epic, perhaps a little in the vein of "Crusader" even though this doesn't sound anything like it otherwise. The vocals are especially awesome, both in the verse and chorus: "They'll be coming in the morning boys - you gotta hold the line!!" and "You came for the glory, to fight and to die!!" Fuck yeah!! It's 6.20 and feels like 4 blank, almost TOO short for a song of that caliber! (On a sidenote: what's up with those random "war" noises in the beginning? I can't tell if it's a bunch of marching soldiers, a helicopter or even a train, it sounds like a mix between all three!!)
A completely worthwhile album. By far one of the best "rejuvenations" ever to happen - you know you're good when you can write stuff that is on par with your old stuff, 16 years later.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that track at number 10...namely the remaining 10%. Well, let's just say that it's an acoustic ballad, that it's a tribute to a friend of theirs who passed away and that it makes "Watching Over Me" sound like "Painkiller". It can actually be argued that this album is just as inconsistent as the stuff of the old because of this one track...because it's like if you combined the forces of all the weak tracks they ever put out on EVERY album before this one, creating this absolute fucking disasterpiece of a track (either that or that bad best-of album I mentioned earlier;)). It's really that terrible...I am at a loss of words for describing it more in detail, it just seems so absurd having 9 more or less owning tracks and then getting this. At least 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' followed a constant "mediocre thrasher/crappy ballad" pattern, never rising above said mediocrity.
But skip that one and you get one of the most consistent Saxon albums ever made, and again; being able to kick this much ass after some 20 years in business is definitely admirable. They've still got it and of course Lemmy is still God. Oh wait, wrong band. "Long live the Saxon", then.