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Saxon Has Several String to Their Bow - 75%

DeathRiderDoom, January 18th, 2010

#37 In My NWOBHM Rarities Review Series

Saxon’s follow up to the 1992 album was awesomely album-arted 1995 offering 1995 album ‘Dogs of War’ during a time of considerable decline in metal, and a slowing down period in touring and production, for the band. It was also a time of considerable lineup troubles with the band, featuring a different bassist from their earlier work, and being the last album with awesome classic Saxon guitarist Graham Oliver, whose partnered style with Quinn defined much of the early Saxon sound. Here Saxon takes a slight change in direction, as it is somewhat of a departure from the 1992 offering, with different guitar tone, and some slight changes in riffage, while still staying true to their classic, no-bullshit, hard rockin, working class roots.

The ‘Dogs of War’ featured two decent, but not minblowing cuts, from what is essentially another strong album from Saxon. It’s a considerably tougher album than ‘Destiny’ for example, with a heavier guitar mix, and more pounding, in-your-face drums from Nigel Glockner. ‘Dogs of War’ though good, is not as brilliant and anthemic as ‘Burning Wheels’ from the same album, but it does cover cool subject matter. The heavy, lowtuned guitars on this album are at the forefront of the mix, which would be a style set with these tracks, that would continue into the 2000’s. I don’t really find the verses in this track two enthralling however, as the riffs aren’t really ‘riff’s’ as much as they could be, and the vocal phrasing isn’t too exciting. Biff delivery is quiet, and soft – not hollered and shouted at you, like he does so well in much of their material. This downside is replaced by the very cool guitar lead section though, which really shines through with the big, modern production job. A different style of guitar is certainly on display in this track marking a change in the Saxon sound, and the chorus has a decent, singalong hook which is pretty enjoyable.

‘Hold On’ is a bombastic melodic hard rock style pop song that draws closer to their late 80’s slightly ‘glam’ days. Though the guitars are mixed in pretty heavy (not as heavy as the a-side), some of the licks, and the utterly simplistic guitar notes (as opposed to chords) during the chorus are very typically AOR (late 80’s/early 90s) like stuff Fate, or Autograph would do. Lyrcis too. Anyway, the point I want to make about this pop song, is that it rules. The guitar leads are very rockin, almost reminding me of Slash’s style with Guns ‘N Roses, while the overall feel of the song is another example of how Saxon can not only write dirty, rebellios speed metallish NWOBHM, but also bombastic, enthralling more poppy commercial stuff – that kicks the ass of 90% of the bands who were attempting it as a full-time, and commercial endeavor in the late 80’s. Saxon does both well, and more lately, they’ve added a power metal string to their bow. Not their best single, or their best album, but yet again, damn strong, and very catchy.