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Saxon Sticks With It With British Bulldoggery - 80%

DeathRiderDoom, June 27th, 2009

Well, what you probably wanna know is “Does it sound like classic Saxon (and therefore does it kick ass)? The answer – yes. This one kicks ass and has all that classic sound you want – without that faltering wimpiness many of you felt they came to embody in the mid/late 80’s. present on this one are hare riffs, catchy melodies and awesome general arrangements, with few weak moments in the mix – just more classic Saxon, as great and fun to rock out as ever. I’m surprised I didn’t track down this one earlier. Many years ago – my introduction to the band was a CD of their greatest live hits – I was hooked. After that I set about collecting their early 80’s hit albums, then their very earliest works, and the awesome 2000’s releases, but this middle-period had somewhat eluded me. Usually early 90’s releases aren’t at the top of my priority list; reason being the old ‘decline of metal’ argument, during this period. Even if bands were still going (we could have guessed the juggernaut force of Saxon would never stop rockin’), they often pussified their sound by attempting to add grunge, alternative rock, or god knows what else to their sound, often sounding like crap – and often being about as conducive to making you rock as a big sack of the stuff. What we have here is the complete antithesis of said statement; here Saxon continues their quest to rock harder than anyone, despite the wavering popularity of metal, and the tough times they were going through. They don’t relent on rockin, fist in the air tunes, and craft some excellent metal here – very much classic Saxon doing what they do best.

Anyway, many great tracks abound; ‘One Step Away’ is a mid-paced number with the hallmark ripping guitar solo, and classic Biff melodies. Totally memorable and catchy, and absolutely traditional Saxon for the purist. ‘Iron Wheels’ is a memorable, soft number, with very crisp acoustic guitars, and heart-touching working class British spirit. Lyrics are as British as ‘Let it Rain’ by Bruce Dickinson, and speak of one mans life in the coal mines, and descent into sadness. The point is gotten across by Biffs awesome, emotive vocals, great guitars, and generally awesome songwriting. Certainly a memorable and heartfelt softer number on par with any of I’ve heard lately. ‘Nighthunter’ is a badass track centred around a massive chorus, with thundering double kick underneath. Cool lyrics and another ripping solo courtesy of Oliver make this one another track in the long lineage of awesome, straightforward rockers from this Juggernaut band. ‘Forever Free’ your title track is eaily the standout on this one however – an absolute classic worthy of any greatest hits album from the band. Thrilling chorus, and excellent, passionate and rebellious lyrics about motorcycles and liberty. Fucking killer number.

The main low-point of the album is the lame cover ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You’ – a poor track which should have been tossed aside in favour of more balls-out rckin’ about motorcycles, or English history. These lame covers have always irritated me – and I barely see a place for any cover on albums actually – I prefer them as b-sides or merely as part of the live set – although I don’t see Wacken crowds appreciating this one either. While there are no real other low points, perhaps a couple tracks might just be a tad straightforward and lacking in dynamism. ‘Cant Stop Rockin’ is your obligatory rock-centred track, benefitted from tough riffs and excellent, vocal hooks courtesy of Biff. Another badass rocker in the tradition of the Awesome Saxon. Simplistic, yet utterly catchy and totally awesome. Formulaic – yes, but Saxon delivering the goods like always.

While it’s not the high point of their career this one still kicks total ass and gets its hooks into you a bit. I found myself repeatedly playing it on the ipod because, well – it’s just more Saxon – and as we all know – Saxon rules. Yeah it doesn’t quite have the freshness of WOS or Denim and Leather, or the complex layering of Lionheart or other more recent works, but continues the no BS rockin; in this dark time for metal with the same utter passion and honest conviction that Saxon were always known for. ‘Get Down and Dirty’ is a head-nodding, traditional rocker that could sit comfortably on any Saxon album, while not being amazing or complex. What we have here is a great, fun album besting most of the horrible drivel that was coming out at this time. Saxon sticks to their guns with British Bulldoggery and churns out more songs in the style they’re known for. Far from a disappointment, this album has seen many plays already, and will not be a dust collector. Great party music as always from these true British stalwarts, and really re-instates your faith in heavy metal. A typically solid effort from Biff and crew – with the title track kicking a tonne of ass.

-DeathRiderDoom