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The second studio release from Saxon is every bit as legendary as it possibly gets. A milestone among the NWOBHM scene and metal in general, and standing as the superior album of 1980, above albums such as "British Steel" and "Iron Maiden". With raging riffs often nodding to the fury of total speed metal, incredible solo sections of truest heavy metal style, and the soaring vocals of frontman Biff Byford, this goes in to kick your ass and doesn't fail in the least.
The sound is rawer than on most Saxon albums, and doesn't sound as refined as their masterpiece "Denim And Leather", which here works really fucking well. Songs like "Stand Up Be Counted" and "Street Fighting Gang" start out with furious main riffs with an absolutely fucking vicious sound and guitar tone. These two songs are not often mentioned when talking about this album, but I fucking love em!
"Stand Up And Be Counted" is standard upbeat early 80s Saxon which means total ownage. A very catchy main riff and inspiring vocals, and it peaks at a vicious chorus - a superb guitar melody duals with Biff's excellent vocal work.
"Street Fighting Gang" is more aggressive, with lyrics that basically say "fuck school, let's go kick someone's ass!" Hell yeah. This band in their early 80s defined what Heavy Metal is all a bout.
This album just never lets up, and is a nonstop ride to metal heaven showing no speed limits. This has more classics than any other Saxon album, pretty much. Opening track "Motorcycle Man" is definitely among Saxon's top 10 material. Just kickass, catchy speed metal with tons of attitude. Same with the short but sweet "Freeway Mad" and monstrously insane closing track "Machine Gun". Like Boris said, this is fucking crazy for it's time.
And of course, "747". We all know this one - the huge mood changes and atmosphere it creates while rocking hard at the same time. An undeniable classic, and one of the band's most well known tracks, although it's ten times better live. And then we mustn't forget the title track. "Wheels of Steel" is about cruising down the freeway, ignoring the speed limits and taking no shit. It rides pretty much two riffs for about five minutes, but somehow manages not to get boring - only Saxon and Priest could pull something like that off.
I can't go without mentioning the remaining two songs as well - "See The Light Shining" brings some more catchy fast riffage but is a bit more melodic and laid-back than the rest. It also features a very nice breakdown towards the middle. Then we have "Suzie Hold On", definitely the best Saxon ballad I've heard. It's a ballad, but still has some damn nice riffs and a brilliant lead section in the middle.
Should you get this? I don't know, are you metal? If so, you already own it. "Wheels of Steel", while not quite the catchy heavy metal monster that is "Denim And Leather", is a metal record with punch, and is a hard kick in the nuts to all poseurs out there. Long live heavy fucking metal!