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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.