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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.