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“Wheels of Steel” is the second studio album by Saxon. Definitely a classic, you can here some phenomenal NWOBHM here.
This album is very much what bikers would listen to as they ride. The album’s got a rather light, but very tough sound that is extremely fun to listen to. The very light and rather silly lyrical themes, displayed on tracks such as Motorcycle Man, also help you lighten up and have fun with the album. Frontman Biff Byford is one of the best heavy metal singers to grace my ears, (Up there with Dickinson and Halford) and makes the experience that much better. The rest of the band is also very amazing; guitars produce some “crunchy” (that’s supposed to be a good thing) melodies and solos, bass completes the sound, and drums are very well played and keep the music going at all times. Every song on here is quite good at the very least and gets better with repeated listens.
The album begins with some random chatter (Think of a market) before you begin to here a motorcycle in the distance, that gets closer, whizzes by, and Motorcycle Man commences! This song is really upbeat and little bit too fun, actually. The song features a constant beat, and Biff’s singing is great; hearing him yell “Motorcycle Maaaan!” never got old. Early on, a nice normal solo adds some extra flavor, but eventually Biff’s voice melts into the guitar (During the chorus) and the song’s particularly impressive solo begins. With a bit of a drum roll in the backround, the guitar plays some screechy, distorted, long notes that simply scream NWOBHM! Then, following that short but incredible diversion, the song has some more verses and choruses before it finishes in a grand outro. Overall Motorcycle Man is the highlight of the album with its tough, but catchy sound.
Ahem, anyway, Stand Up and be Counted is very similar to Motorcycle Man, except having different lyrics and not being as good. It’s sort of like an encore to the previous track if you found it too short. It’s great, but not quite up to par with its predecessor. 747 (Strangers in the Night) is a slower number. It contains a rather dark atmosphere, for the most part. You may find that the chorus is repeated a little too much, but the chorus is, thankfully, quite good. The soloing on 747 is a bit too infrequent, so don’t expect much variation. The song may be a hit, but don’t expect it to be especially good compared to the rest of the album. The title track is rather basic hard rock, (Still retains the band's NWOBHM sound, however) but it is rather entertaining and includes one of the albums better solos. Freeway Mad is a very good speed metal song. There are some solos, a few additional sound effects, and some fun singing by Biff. See the Light Shining is a very catchy heavy metal song that is also similar to the first two numbers. A few tempo changes and plenty of soloing keep it fresh, and make it one of the albums highlights.
Street Fighting Gang is more NWOB speed metal. Some interesting solos that resemble motors and whistling distinguish this from the rest of the tracks. Suzie Hold On, despite its cheesy name, is a rather good ballad. The song contains no acoustics, but rather a rockish tempo; Saxon is too tough for acoustic ballads it seems. (Some metal bands should learn from Saxon!) The solo of the song is like a mix of this band and Iron Maiden, which sounds very beautiful. Overall an excellent ballad. Machine Gun starts out as a heavier version of the previous songs with some standard verses and choruses, before the guitars truly kick in. These guitars sound like an extremely distorted mesh that resembles the sound of sirens. Soon, a powerful solo that utilizes both tremolo picking and distorted hammer-ons and pull-offs begins. Following the solo is more verses and choruses, more distorted mesh, and a long explosion to end the song.
Overall, this wild ride lives up to its reputation as a classic, and includes some of the best I’ve heard from this band. A lot of this sounds the same until you give it a few listens, so don’t expect to much diversity at first. This really isn’t a problem when the music is this fun though, so grab some beer and shamelessly sing along to this catchy little masterpiece.