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Not the Best Choice, But Still Rocks Hard - 70%

DeathRiderDoom, January 18th, 2010

#36 In My NWOBHM Rarities Review Series

Saxon’s 2004 ‘Lionheart’ full length was a critically acclaimed album that proved the band still had it after 30 proud years of what a lot of people seem to refer to as “true metal”. Though the consistency of albums, and some slightly AORish moments had been a little rocky at times, Saxon was still producing largely high-grade shit that could still banish foes, though not quite as relentlessly as during their phylum of early-mid 80s dominators. Even their generally regarded “weaker” albums contained some solid offerings; for example ‘Forever Free’ and ‘Solid Ball of Rock’. But now it was the 2000’s and the recent wave of classic heavy metal resurgence seems to have given impetus and motivation to these proud British stalwarts, compelling them to come up with what is arguably their best offering in years. Just the one official single was pressed for promotion of the album, and while I think they personally should have gone for ‘Witchfinder General’ or the title track, this is a strong number in it’s own right, and shows an ever so slightly tempered Saxon who is back to declare heavy metal will live forever.

Upon hearing this, people may be excused for thinking that Saxon had slowed things down in their fourth decade, as it’s not nearly as fast and aggressive as other tracks from the full-length such as ‘Live by the Sword’, but in any case it’s good. The slow, clean channeled guitars in the intro are almost misguiding, as they are shortly replaced with what is a very modern-toned, downtuned guitar performing very, heavy and crunching riffage, which differs from their classic guitar sound. Anyway, the phrasing of the guitar and its mating to Biff’s powerful, whining loud bellows in the verses still harks back to classic Saxon somewhat, with their well-known and respected ability to perform excellent, locked in rhythms. The chorus in this one is quite powerful; simple yes, but actually quite catchy, with a slow pace and easily to decipher lyrics, which serve as a decent, though not amazing hook. Albeit, the tough riffs and strong vocal performance, with crashing drums, yet with a very modern production job which sets it apart from their classic material (even the late 80s/early 90s stuff), seem to make a statement that says (in Biffs voice) “We’re here to stay, mother fuckers!”

The simple chorus hook makes it serve decently as a single, but I would have preferred one of the other tracks which made it to the lineup. In addition, none of these other tracks are present as the b-side, instead a (quite different) version of the same track, which though I always enjoy hearing different versions of the same track, could have included a b-side track from the sessions that didn’t make it on to the album (if there were any), or possibly the cool instrumental ‘Jack Tars’. In any case, a different song that showcases Saxon’s new (though not too much of a departure!) style, and proves they still know how to rock. Not their best single, or the best track on the album, but still rocks hard.

-DeathRiderDoom