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Doggy of War Style - 52%

Tanuki, January 8th, 2018

A depressingly long time ago, I espoused my less-than-charitable feelings for Saxon's Power & the Glory. That album is cherished by some, and it's fortunate enough to predate all of their ill-fated Def Leppard aspirations. Yet I maintain it's a painfully boring funeral procession of forgettable commercial rock filler with the occasional standout. Sadly, Saxon's triumphant 90's blues metal recollection yields to a worryingly familiar album by the name of Dogs of War.

Demonstrations of Saxon's rock 'n' roll pedigree, though fleeting, are arguably more convincing this time around than Forever Free. Solos are a little more imaginative than mindless sweeps, and Biff's voice sounds more soulful and daring than ever. These qualities are exemplified in the title track; a ballsy, unforgettable anthem propelled by beefy riffs and some of Biff's grimmest lyricism yet. 'Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)' is also an unabashed blues metal monster, with a clockwork rhythm and spunky guitar leads brimming with confidence. But if you remember what I said about Power & the Glory... or what I said in the first paragraph a few seconds ago, you know what's coming next.

The amount of barebones fluff is just unreal. By the time you've waded through all the mind-numbing filler, not to mention been kicked in the groin by some truly abysmal country-rock cruisers that I'll harangue in just a moment, you'll barely be fit to enjoy the very lonesome standouts. 'Burning Wheels' and the lauded 'Demolition Alley' are streamlined cuts of hard rock tailored to the more informal Saxon fan, who can make do with less inventive riffs and metronome-like rhythms. It has a lot in common with the vainglorious likes of Aerosmith's Get a Grip; diluted radio rock with insultingly oversimplified song structures. Keep in mind that's not the most searing indictment. By its very nature, Dogs of War seems like it was written to be innocuous and "listenable", so its reluctance to push the boat out is both a damning fault and saving grace.

That is, until we acknowledge the atrocious country & western crooners like 'Don't Worry' and 'Hold On'. I wish this was hyperbole; the latter song genuinely sounds like something by Taylor Swift. Everything from the sodden major-scale riffs to the saccharine subject matter; it's the same vapid accouterments that took Mötley Crüe down a peg or two hundred after their first two brilliant albums. Saxon, in their effort to experiment with more subgenres than goddamn Voivod, suddenly find themselves dead in the water with go-nowhere 'western metal', complete with acoustic twangs and Biff sounding like Dale from King of the Hill. And I include the vastly overrated 'The Great White Buffalo' in my list of grievances, which absolutely pales in comparison to the previous meditative ballad 'Iron Wheels'.

So after 'Hold On', and all of our required insulin shots, am I ready to call Dogs of War a bad album, doomed to reside in the same dank doldrums of Destiny? Believe it or not, not quite. This album is at least partially rescued by a wonderfully crisp production, distancing it from Power & the Glory which sounds like it was recorded on a Furby. And what's more, just to reiterate, Dogs of War is "listenable". Certainly not the most offensive thing the mid-90's had on offer, but I know Saxon is better than this. In fact, we'll all know soon enough.

HICCUPS! - 67%

OzzyApu, November 20th, 2013

Saxon’s pursuit of arena-like hard rock / heavy metal landed them in a limbo of unwaveringly decent heavy metal. It’s not superb since there’s always something holding them back from delivering another knockout album that’s good from start to finish. They pull off that ‘80s heavy metal sound like its nothing. On the other hand, trying to maintain my interest until the end of the album hasn’t been done prior to this since Innocence Is No Excuse. This album whoops ass until about the middle (which is when things get dull). What the hell? The title track provides a cool, trudging heavy metal riff alongside (vocally) quiet verses and loud choruses. It’s not as awesome as “Solid Ball Of Rock” or “Forever Free” opening up the previous albums, but starting this thing off right by at least being a memorable song works.

I listen from the beginning and get to the rocking and roaring “The Great White Buffalo”. A tad longer than the tracks before, this one’s got slithering leads and an epic tenor. It’s a track with darker harmonies despite not ditching that positive ‘80s gloss. Up to that point, Saxon’s throwing riffs and melodies that transition well and don’t deviate too much from what they normally do in the first place. It’s all hard rock and heavy metal with Byford’s high wails and squeaky tone singing with gut-power. Even songs which I’m not 100% into like “Hold On,” a track that sounds like a beefed up ‘80s Bryan Adams song (who I do like) formatted to Saxon, I still dig based on what it is. The first half of the album mixes things up with variation that doesn’t become detrimental to the fun factor. I enjoy listening to those songs since they stir something in me and nail the key parts with energy. “Burning Wheels” is the best – vigorous, Maiden-esque, and ballsy; another perfect Saxon song.

The drop comes at “Demolition Alley,” which meanders even though it doesn’t disregard the tried and true formula. I suppose it’s just the song as a composition which I dislike – the riffs, the hooks, etc. – it feels dry. The same can be said about “Walking Through Tokyo,” probably the slowest, albeit one of the heaviest (using that term a little loosely) songs on here. Don’t get me started on how awesome Japan is - this song doesn’t do it justice. It’s got an anthem feel, especially during that chorus, but it lacks substance. Just feels like a filler song with a corny part in its solo section and an implied purpose of reeling in fans during a live setting. “Give It All Away” is the worst with its throwaway chorus, tedious mid-paced riff, and thirst for emotion. The guitar leads are fervent by the middle and is kept up by the end, but this one’s tamer.

Saxon had this one in the bag but jacked it all up. They even topped it off right with “Yesterday’s Gone,” a song with crunchy riffs and motivation making up for the unexciting songs that came before. Add that the drumming’s solid, bass is blubbery, and the album benefits well from sounding pristine by ‘90s standards to show that this album’s pieces were fine. The end result needed tweaking (read: removing tracks) in order to be a better full-length. That’s just my opinion though, and I can’t speak on behalf of others. So hear this one to know what I’m talking about and hopefully there’ll be more for you to enjoy than what I heard.

Not the best, but decent! - 72%

PowerMetalGuardian, August 20th, 2004

Of course Saxon's 90's material is not as enjoyable as the 80's stuff. That usually happens with decent solid metal bands. Reading Maldito's review, I have to strongly disagree.
Country/blues/rock mixed? I don't think that could exist, plus this album is hardly that. I think the word that best fits this album, and the word that Maldito was trying to go for was "hard rock."

This album can be really tricky, the opening song Dogs of War is an awesome song, with a bunch of catchy riffs. Vocal wise, this song is pure Saxon, something you might not see on the rest of the album. The next three songs are definitely blues influenced, like an Aerosmith/Poison like blues, but there is a more emphasis with the heaviness of the riffs.

Then the album goes through another somersault with the song Hold On. This song is pure ballad like. Pretty cheesy, but not bad if you like the 80's heavy ballads. Then we go back to pure Saxon metal...of course some parts could be considered hard rock. The rest of the album is decent; no memorable songs, but some memorable parts. What makes this, at least in my eyes, heavy or hard, is the power of the riffs. Like on the songs The Great White Buffalo and Walking Through Tokyo, you might headbang or throw your fist in the air because the riffs have crunch. Provided with a nice drum beat, and you definitely have some decent songs.

One of the reasons why this album is not as good is because it is cheesy. Most of the songs lyrics are hardly enjoyable and actually funny at sometimes. But don't let silly things like that fool you. There are a lot of Saxon type riffs, and a couple of good songs. Vocally the album isn't up to par, but it's not ear bleeding bad. If you don't mind typical hard rock, then you will like this more then the average person. Overall it is not a bad Saxon album, just not the greatest.