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Wheels Of Steel might sound somewhat dated and simplistic by today’s standards, but remains an example of what traditional heavy metal is all about. It’s direct, raw, melodic, loud and proud! Much more mature than the band’s debut, it made Saxon really popular at the time and earned them a top 5 position in the UK charts.
Wheels Os Steel is the best Saxon album to this day and their heaviest of the 80s. Its sound was much harder and heavier than anyone at the time. Well except for Motorhead perhaps. Remember, it was February 1980 when it was released. At the same time it manages to be melodic, although driven by heavy guitar riffs.
What puts Saxon aside is that they are unique. Even though they play traditional heavy metal they are pretty diverse lyrically. They don’t sing about evil, witches, death and all that stuff. They are much more direct and closer to the listener, talking about motorcycles, street fighting gangs, an air-flight and much more, which makes them at least interesting. Someone might say that they are silly. I’d say they are sincere and don’t try to write ‘thoughtful’ lyrics because they are a heavy metal band and play simple, though inspired music.
So, what about the songs themselves? They are all really good, some of them standing out. The first track Motorcycle Man is a very aggressive and fast song. Pretty melodic, with nice solos. A suitable opener for the album. Street Fighting Gang and Stand Up And Be Counted are both fast and very melodic with great refrains and cool lyrics. Machine Gun has some excellent rhythms throughout (check out at 1:40) and good solos which make really interesting. 747 is the most melodic song and probably the best Saxon song. A live favorite, 747 features outstanding guitar work at the beginning followed by a great bridge/refrain, with very good lyrics and vocals. The album has no fillers and all the other tracks are perfect early 80s metal.
Saxon’s sound is very unique as I said (even Biff Byford’s voice) and can’t be compared to another band. You have to hear it yourself to decide. Saxon may not be the best players. They can’t play very technical solos but they have the most powerful riffs. Biff may not be the best singer, but he sings his heart and lungs out. Just as the rest of the band, they give it all. And that’s what heavy metal is all about, at least for me.