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Never surrender - 76%

Felix 1666, October 30th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, UDR Music (Digipak)

The end of the year 2015 is coming nearer. In order to prevent an autumnal depression, I have asked myself which was the best new track of the year. Nuclear Assault's "Pounder" (the song) brings back the sound of my youth in an outstanding manner. Slayer's incredible title track of their recently published album marks a massive milestone in the youngest history of thrash. But Saxon's new full-length delivers the cherry on the cake. Its opening title track presents one of these very rare riffs that have the power to split your skull in a matter of seconds. 100% metal fills the room and makes your head bang immediately. The thundering riff and the ironclad drums are the driving forces that form this twinkling jewel in an overwhelming way. Biff's vocals are relaxed and vigorous at the same time. Inter alia due to his flawless performance, the song is perfectly balanced between heaviness and seniority. (I wish I could say the same about myself.) In order to complete the generic picture, the programmatic lyrics are taken from the great metal dictionary. Each and every word illustrates the power of the metallic movement. Do you want to have a small selection? Here we go: "metal church / barricades / walls will resonate / screaming hordes / decibels / concert hall / let the hammer fall / battering ram" - and this excerpt is just taken from the first verse and the chorus. However, a brilliant masterpiece that embodies the spirit of pure metal.

Of course, the British legend is not able to keep this quality level. Even God himself has some very good ideas (the creation of Mother Earth) but also some less intelligent thoughts (allowing Joey DeMaio to make music - nobody knows why). Anyway, instead of trying to understand the incomprehensible actions of the director in heaven, we have to take care about "The Devil's Footprint". After the celestial opener, this song about inexplicable traces in the snow kicks off the grounded part of the album. Saxon provide their usual mix of metal. On the one hand, they are not afraid of performing a powerful ballad ("Queen of Hearts", a solid song, only its torn riff at the beginning makes me dizzy). On the other hand, they do not lack of aggression ("Destroyer", another solid song, but it is a challenge to get used to Biff's shrill squeaking at the end). Saxon move between these poles in an experienced yet spirited manner. However, this is not the best Saxon album of all times. A few songs do not shine with intoxicating ideas. But I guess this is just a matter of personal taste. From an objective point of view, Saxon cannot be blamed for offering a stale, lame or lifeless album. Although the title track remains absolutely unrivaled, it would be a lie to say that the highly appreciated geezers have already shot all their powder after the performance of the opener.

The biggest surprise is marked by the bonus track. I thought that it is just another moronic song about the (alleged) joy of drinking alcohol. But the straight tune sparkles with positive vibes that remind me of the best songs of Krokus and AC/DC and scores with its relaxed atmosphere. By contrast, the relatively heavy "The Devil's Footprint" combines a bulky riff with a fluently streaming chorus and "Top of the World" also convinces with its winsome flow. All these songs have one thing in common. They profit from the masterful production. In my humble opinion, this sound is the blueprint for pure heavy metal albums of our time. Just focus on the fantastic sound of Nigel Glockner's tomtoms, for example during the chorus of the title track. Or listen to the perfect appearance of his cymbals. Apart from the drum sound, the guitars shine in full glory, too. They possess the necessary sharpness and depth in order to meet the requirements of the compositions. Towering about everything is the voice of Biff which shows no indications of age-related wear. With few exceptions, he sings like a young God. But I guess this is a matter of course. We may not forget that he is even much younger than this bearded newcomer. What was his name? Right, this recalcitrant guy is called Lemmy.

21 studio albums and still going strong, what more do I need to say? Biff and his crew are reliable partners for fans of honest, handmade metal that cannot deny its closeness to the working class. Saxon deliver down-to-earth music and they do it with conviction. The old guys know their strengths and they are clever enough to conceal potential weaknesses. Maybe they should have shortened the album. One or two of the less strong tracks are dispensable. To be honest, I am thinking of the colourless "To the End" and, to a lesser extent, the very restrained "Kingdom of the Cross" comes to mind. Anyway, the overall impression leads automatically to a specific question. When will the indestructible band release album number 22? The waiting has begun.