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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.