Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Lion's Pride - 96%

Tanuki, January 13th, 2018

Saxon's storied career was beginning to resemble a Sphinxian riddle: What flounders in the 80's, flourishes in the 90's, and delivers their most finely-crafted album in the mid-00's? I'm sure adventurers would be quite annoyed at what a subjective Sphinx I am, but that's because they didn't study up on their Saxon, and probably insist Crusader is an underappreciated classic. Speaking of which, exactly twenty years after Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver first switched off their amps to play sluggardly major-scale chords in the background of Biff's lounge singing, the same band crafted the shimmering masterpiece called Lionheart. The only way I could adequately describe the feelings I have for this creative juggernaut? Iron striking metal. The sound of racing steel. It's all I ever wanna hear. It's music to my ears.

This is in part due to the superb musicianship, but mostly the immense variety. For a band so often derided for never leaving their comfort zone, Lionheart offers listeners soaring power metal dynamism throughout the title track, moody, Danzig affectations in the gothic 'Beyond the Grave' single, and even some light flirting with progressive metal in 'Man and Machine'. No matter the subgenre, Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt deliver some of their most memorable riffs of their career, perfectly blending Unleash the Beast's potency with the faithful blues temperance of Wheels of Steel. Nowhere is this more evident than on my personal favorite track 'Searching for Atlantis'. Listen if you dare, because those potent tremolo riffs will be embedded into your memory forever. Even better still? Biff now possesses the vocal range of a VTOL.

I've said it once, I'll say it on my death bed: disparage Biff's glam rock croaking throughout the 80's all you want. In fact, I'll do it for you: It was really bad. But you know what it was, more than anything? Imposturous. Because in 2004, when Biff was well into his fifties, he cemented his ability to belt out mountain-splitting notes with all the range, emotion, and raw power of men half his age. I was going to say "of Bruce Dickinson", but I chickened out. The crescendo of 'To Live by the Sword' scintillates with stratospheric head voice, and the gloom and doom of 'Beyond the Grave' booms with baritone that would show up on the Richter scale. Biff's lungs have me convinced the track 'Man and Machine' is autobiographical.

And finally, I couldn't help but notice the drumkit is bathed in some sort of cosmic, holy light? Saxon's always enjoyed an enviable roster of talented drummers, but Jörg Michael was their very first drum god. I care less of his main claim to fame as the drummer for Stratovarius, and more for his mad percussion in the burgeoning Mekong Delta. His cybernetic timekeeping and polyrhythms switch duties from the maniacal thrash band to the comparatively reserved Saxon. And it is glorious. From the steamrolling kicks in 'Witchfinder General', to the pulse-pounding rhythm of 'Justice', even down to the slower bluesy rhythms throughout the massive 'Flying on the Edge', Lionheart is an unrelenting artillery barrage of solid gold drumwork.

I suppose every long-established band is destined to have this kind of triumph. This out-of-the-blue zenith that transcends all expectations and shows the world that consistency isn't the only thing this band is good at. Riot V's Thundersteel, Rage's Soundchaser, Motörhead's Inferno, and I wouldn't be a Saxon fan if I didn't add Lionheart to this pantheon of heavy metal royalty. If this Saxon retrospective convinces you to listen to just one Saxon album, do me a solid and let it be Lionheart.

Wholehearted - 75%

Felix 1666, October 23rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Steamhammer (Limited edition, Digipak)

Almost every good football team needs one or two outstanding individual players in order to be competitive. Having only solid workers may guarantee the right attitude, but their way of playing will probably lack of elegance. The members of Saxon are aware of this situation because, as you surely know, they originate from the so-called motherland of football. (Of course, England will never again win the World Cup, but I do not want to go any further into that.) It is therefore only logical that their eleven songs include some jewels which push the performance of the entire team.

The opener is driven by its rebellious riffing. While constantly marching forward, the song offers an intense chorus which is embedded in an aura of fear. Although "Witchfinder General" does not border on speed metal, it marks an aggressive and straight opening. Both the screaming guitars and the powerful double bass show that Biff and his crew members are still energetic and their liveliness has an infectious effect. Back in the eighties, Exciter sang about "Battle weary Saxons fight the fight to grip the north", but on "Lionheart", I am unable to identify any signs of weariness. The band convinces with a vigorous performance and the opener turns out to be a very good example for their joy of playing.

Less aggressive, but equally impressing: "Beyond the Grave" represents one of the very typical tunes of Saxon. It draws its strength from the dynamic interaction of restrained guitars during the verses and a heavy riff which rolls out the carpet for the chorus. Its pleading vocals match with the lyrics in a very good way and the song grows with every run. But the same goes for the entire album. At first glance, it seems to be just another metal album. Beware of this fallacy. The British institution proves once again that it is able to improve the quality of a song with fairly simple means. "Justice" is actually nothing more than a face in the crowd, but a minimalist yet fascinating guitar line gilds its chorus. Apart from this, Charlie Bauerfeind has done his homework. The experienced guy knows exactly the requirements of this kind of metal and he was able to implement the songs in a more or less flawless way. The dry mix emanates the spirit of the unbroken genre while offering the right amount of pressure and vigorousness.

Nevertheless, the full-length could have been better. Rather meaningless tunes such as "Man and Machine" or "English Man 'o' War" do not offer interesting features in abundance. They just pass by without showing major defects. Compared with the highlights, these songs lack of those magic moments that have the power to attract your attention. The result is that the not very complex numbers can be stigmatized for their predictability. Unfortunately, the dignified, rocking "Searching for Atlantis" also suffers from a slightly unspectacular song pattern. A solid epic, but no stroke of genius. Anyway, the overall impression is doubtlessly positive and the integrity of the band does not need to be particularly emphasised.

One of the (highly appreciated) other review writers was of the opinion, that "Lionheart" appears as the incarnation of British heavy metal. When looking at the royal title track, I understand his point of view very well. But with respect to the German producer, the German drummer and the line "Heading out to Deutschland", taken from "Flying on the Edge", I beg to differ. Saxon combined English patriotism with some Teutonic elements - and the result speaks for itself.

Warning! This Album May Induce Nationalism! - 76%

Acrobat, May 6th, 2008

Bit of a mixed bag this ‘un. I really do love a bit of Saxon, they’ve created some of the most memorable metal ever and this album (in places) is no exception. But combined with this mighty metal onslaught we do get some really uninspired moments, reeking not of stagnation or repeating past glories but rather trying to keep a sense of tradition but then combining it was a newer sound and frankly these songs don’t work.

‘Lionheart’ has one absolute shining moment, that to these ears could well be the best thing to come out of the entire SYGM scene. The title track! Defiantly English, which is an astonishing rarity in the modern metal scene. Seriously, how many other bands can you think of who dare to be this English, in this day and age? Maiden, come to mind. But every other fucker seems to sing about Norse mythology, they may be from Tunbridge Wells but by George will every fucking English band sing about Valhalla and Odin. ‘Lionheart’, the song, is as English as fish and chips, drinking luke warm bitter on a hot summers day, suppressing your emotions, bad dentistry and Madonna (what?). This song is about Richard the Lionheart, who crushed many a Saracen infidel in the Third Crusade and was actually a renown anti-Semite (ha, as if my Patriotism descended into anti-Semitism this early in a review!) and it’s a ripping yarn on Biff’s part which in the hands of a lesser mortal could have descended into jingoism or fake cockney accents. But Biff doesn’t seem to have the same cynicism so often associated with the English and as such it’s a tale delivered with utmost conviction and a misty eyed wistfulness. Musically, the song is a triumph as well beautiful melodic riffs, a dynamic structure underscored by shimmering acoustic guitars. Majestic and harmonious, simply put if you like melodic metal you need to hear this song. If this song were any more English it would be ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’ by the Small Faces. I know this is a lot about a single song but I rather like it…listen and look out of your window over England’s green and pleasant land (If you live in a city or abroad you may well be fucked).

The best songs elsewhere are ‘Witchfinder General’ which is a mighty collection of riffs and is an example of a more modern Saxon sound working rather well. The riffs here are as close to thrash Saxon have got, along with ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’. The lyrics deal with the familiar, yet welcome tale of Matthew Hopkins and the general havoc he brought to the English countryside…well what do you expect when fucking Protestants run the country? Spanish who? What? ‘Man and Machine’ is quite a strong song, the verses are a bit dull but the chorus is memorable. ‘English Man ‘O’ War’ is a more old school Saxon song with some nice crunchy riff work.

Elsewhere, there’s some fairly pedestrian metal to be had. ‘Beyond the Grave’ was a bizarre choice of first single as it does really achieve any tension, excitement or bombast as say the title track did (hint, ‘Lionheart’ should have been the single’). It’s just a fairly bland number built around arpeggios with a tremolo effect on them. ‘Jack Tars’ shows Saxon pushing the boat out a bit (how appropriate for a naval song!) it’s a nautical themed folk song and it’s pleasant but I would of liked to see the ideas developed as it somewhat unfinished. The rest are metal by numbers affairs really, nothing horrific but then again hardly outstanding and when compared to ‘Witchfinder General’ or ‘Lionheart’.

‘Lionheart’ is not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. However, it’s a confident album with some impossibly strong songs for a band in their 4th decade of existence. The performances too are some of the bands best, hell, I’ll say that Doug Scarratt is the best guitarist Saxon have ever had (some lovely Iron Maiden alike solos to be found here). So it may be a stark contrast between the almighty holy excellence of some tracks with more humdrum songs, but a worthy album nonetheless.

A triumph! - 90%

High_On_Maiden, April 6th, 2005

What an excellent return to form by this long-lived band.

On this album the band have gone for a really head-on assault, and this is probably some of the heaviest stuff they have recorded. The riffs and drumming (courtesy of Stratovarius drummer Jorg Michael) are a real bludgeoning force, but delivered within the classic realms of melody and varoety that classifies Saxon's whole career.

While earlier classics focus more on sing-along vocal elements - and very successfully - on this album the band have really introduced the guitars as a primary element, more so than in their earlier career. There are some top class riffs here, and a nice variety in styles as well.

You have the blistering headbangers like To Live By The Sword and Man and Machine, and then also more musing anthem tracks like the excellent title track and then Beyond the Grave for something more ballad-esque.

The point is, there is a lot of variety on this album, but without sacrificing the amount of metallica pummelling the listener receives! The band come at you from various different angles, the catchy vocals still binding all the songs together, and there is not really a bad song on here. Perhaps towards the end the utmost quality begins to fade, but there are worthwile moments to be had on this album right to the end.

The lyrics deal quite heavily with patriotic issues and English history, which is a really nice touch for me, and something that Saxon have set themselves up to stand for.

How people can claim to be dissapointed with this album puzzles me - it is quite possibly the most intense and consistently solid release I've heard from them, and there are plenty of riffs, plenty of solos and plenty of cathy tunes to stick in the memory, whatever your specific tastes.

Definitely worth chasing, this is an extremely enjoyable album!

Not what I expected. - 76%

Nightcrawler, October 13th, 2004

Saxon's latest effort in a looong line of studio records is definitely not among their classics. The reason? Well, I'd say one word more especially describes why this album falls short, somewhat.... Generic. Predictable, uninspired riff constructions in the style of Primal Fear's weaker tracks, appear on a bunch of the tracks that end up being labeled as total filler. I'll start with bitching about those.

The second track, "Man And Machine", lacks any sort of passion or inspiration. Generic guitarwork reeking of the more riff-heavy bands of the Euro power metal scene, and completely uninteresting vocal lines, which leaves you wondering what happened to the band who made the ridiculously catchy "Denim And Leather" and "Motorcycle Man", or how about "Rock Is Our Life" from the "Killing Ground" album? Total loser of a track.

The closing track "Flying On The Edge" is just more of the same uninspired crap, and "Beyond The Grave" is just ridiculous, over-melodic and lame.
"Searching For Atlantis" is also a bit of a filler track, though it has kinda grown on me in time. A balladic tune with some pretty inice chugging riffage under the mellow verses provide some interesting stuff. Not great, but not too bad either.

But aside from this, must of the stuff is pretty good. Opening track "Witchfinder General" is probably the best song on here, and could be compared to the top material on "Killing Ground". Similar riffstyle to the filler tracks, but here they totally nail and master that style, and give Primal Fear a hard kick in the sternum. Coupled with an awesome vocal delivery (Biff Byford still rocks after all these years) and incredibly punchy, powerful vocal lines, this song is a total winner.

Shortly after, we go a little power metal with the keyboard driven "The Return", a nicely executed epic intro to the title track, "Lionheart", which is further ownage.
Epic true metal in the vein of "Crusader", with very nicely done though somewhat generic under-verse guitar melodies providing a strong atmosphere together with powerful vocal lines, and then goes into that awesome chorus.
Damn nice middle section also, getting heavier and heavier until it somewhat abruptly takes us back into the melodic verse. Great stuff.

Of the remaining stuff, it's mostly kinda average modern Saxon stuff. A nod to the modern euro power scene in some of the riffwork though a bit heavier than that stuff. Sometimes they do it well, but occasionally it does get rather uninventive, and it feels like something's missing.
However, songs like "Justice" and "To Live By The Sword" (Ninja metal!) does it really good, and exceed most other Saxon songs in heaviness, some of the riffs almost bordering on speed/thrash. Almost.

"English Man'O'war" (Pirate metal!) is also damn good. Crashing power chords and soaring vocals presenting a nice image of a battle by sea, the cannons pounding holes in the wooden hull, or something like that. Very cool.
Oh yeah, and the acoustic "Jack Tars" which leads into it rules too. Jolly jack tars, brave men and all! Word.

Though the highlights here are definitely "Witchfinder General", "Lionheart" and the speedy "To Live By The Sword". Insane riffage on that one, and also an outrageously catchy chorus. And the middle section is fucking orgasmic - Biff Byford > j00.
Great stuff here, showing that Saxon definitely haven't lost their touch, despite some weaker moments on this album.

All in all, "Lionheart" honestly doesn't live up to my expectations of one of my top 5 bands, but still a worthy addition to your Saxon collection, especially if you get the limited edition with the kickass patch on it. I have mine proudly shining on the shoulder of my badass denim vest.
Saxon carries on the flag of true heavy metal, and although not quite as good as the album that came before it, Saxon is still a leading force in the world of heavy metal.

Saxon for the 21st century - 95%

Almogaver, October 13th, 2004

1997’s Unleash the Beast was the turning point for Saxon’s evolution. From the AC/DC-ish compositions they evolved to some kind of high quality power metal that fits very well with Byford’s way of singing and the 80’s legacy. Metalhead and Killing Ground continued in this new path, but now here comes the best album of the new Saxon era. Lionheart is the album that defines at its best the kind of metal that Saxon is doing actually: we can define it as a sum of traditional NWOBHM and european power metal. Lionheart is the best Saxon of the early 80s and the Best Saxon of the late 90s. Lionheart is Saxon for the 21st century.

I will talk about the most defining songs of the album. Witchfinder General is the best example of the new Saxon sound: fast double-bass drums, elaborated guitar riffs and catchy chorus from the never aged voice of Biff Byford. The bridge creates more modern atmospheres (something that will be repeated in Beyond the Grave and Searching for Atlantis), something I don’t like at all but fits in the new Saxon sound. Man and Machine keeps on with the Wicthfinder General conception, but with slower drums and even better chorus. I must say the production of the album is absolutely perfect. Producer Charlie Bauerfeind has made a great job mixing both analogical and digital recording systems.

Now here comes the masterpiece of the whole album Lionheart. The Return is an instrumental/orchestral intro that leads us to the best song of the album. Lionheart resumes the Saxon sound for the 21st century: it reminds us to 1984’s Crusader but also (in its faster parts) to the power metal that Saxon began to play in 1997. Paul Quinn and Doug Scarrat are certaintly better guitar players than they were some years ago. Biff said in an interview that Graham Oliver wasn’t able to play that kind of new Saxon stuff because he didn’t improve as a guitar player. We can’t say the same about the current axemen. They make fantastic solos during the whole album. Lionheart is epic and great. It becomes a metal hymn because of the awesome chorus. Absolutely great.

After some less inspirated and more modern attempts (Beyond the Grave and Justice) To live by the sword is again a good example of the new Saxon era. Elaborated and rapid riffs and traditional chorus that reminds us to the times of Power and the Glory. Jack Tars is an acoustic cover of a traditional english song and it’s an extraordinary intro for English man’o’war, another epic and fast song in the line of Witchfinder General. Searching for Atlantis is a more modern and even adult composition, but the chorus are again catchy and comercial, while Flying on the edge is a less inspired song with funny lyrics.

Lionheart is an extraordinary album, It will become a classic. I’m sure.

Lets hope the new Priest is this great! - 95%

icedray, October 5th, 2004

Holy shit. Yes, holy shit. I cannot get over how great this album is. These ol' Brits have released, IMO, their best record in their 25 year career* (footnote - at this time, I still have not heard Unleash The Beast). Saxon deliver a no filler (yes, NO FILLER) metal classic. Eleven great tracks compose this masterpiece and each one is worthy of your time and money.

I will not go into a song by song breakdown but I will note the truly exceptional. The album starts off with "Witchfinder General" which shows that Saxon can roll with the times and not sound outdated but still manage to sound like Saxon. Great way to open the album.

Next up is the song that Priest hopes to write on their reunion album - "Man and Machine". Folks, this is what metal is all about. Riffs crushing, solos blaring, and very high headbangin' factor.

This is followed by an intro into the title track. The title track may be the best song Saxon has ever done and that, my friends, is really say somethin'.

Other stellar tracks include English Manowar and Justice where Biff just shines. This may be his best vocal performance.

Top notch performances, songwriting, and great cover art lead to what may be not only the best Saxon cd of all time but the best metal album of 2004. These ol' geezers still have it in them. Who knew?

HIGHLY recommended.