Hailing originally from Yorkshire, the British heavy metal band Saxon were the first band I ever saw live in concert, way back in 1982 on their “Eagle Has Landed” tour.
Although the group endured some lean years during the late 80s and early 90s in the UK and had to deal with legal issues over ownership of the band name with former members, they remained popular in Europe, particularly in Germany.
Since the release of “The Inner Sanctum” in 2007 the band have seen their profile and success steadily rising once more here in the UK. Indeed their last studio album, 2013’s “Sacrifice”, gained a higher chart position here than any of their albums since 1988.
Now, in October 2015, comes studio album number twenty-one, the appropriately titled “Battering Ram”.
Things kick off with the title track with some of the great in-your-face heavy metal riffing that these guys have perfected over the years before the majestic voice of Biff Byford comes in.
With production work by Hell guitarist Andy Sneap (as with “Sacrifice”) the sound here is razor-sharp and heavy. Sneap is adept at providing perfect state of the art heavy metal production.
“The Devil’s Footprint” – another superb hand-banging number – begins with some narration provided, I believe, by Sneap’s bandmate David Bower describing a folklore tale of devilish goings-on a snowy night in the year 1855.
The tempo drops slightly for the chugging Alice In Wonderland themed “Queen Of Hearts” before picking back up for “Destroyer” and the self-explanatory driving song “Hard And Fast”.
Throughout the album Byford’s vocals are stronger than you would expect for a man of approaching 65 years of age! Both Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt provide incisive guitar riffs and excellent solos, whilst bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler both provide rock solid foundations. It’s especially good to hear Glockler in such good form given that he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm late last year.
Other top tracks include “Stand Your Ground”, the monolithic “To The End” and the eerily atmospheric World War I epic “Kingdom Of The Cross” (featuring a poem read by Bower). To be fair, I don’t think that the record wouldn’t have suffered if the final (bonus) track of “Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)” hadn’t made the cut, but that’s a minor quibble.
The limited deluxe edition of the album comes with a second disc entitled “Saxon Over Sweden 2011” containing the band’s appearance at that year’s Sweden Rock festival.
As was the case with Motörhead’s recent “Bad Magic” album (being what you’d expect from that band) this record is pretty much what you would expect with Saxon – and that’s no bad thing.
For fans of the band, or just good old-fashioned traditional heavy metal, you can’t go wrong with “Battering Ram”. A natural follow-on from “Sacrifice” this album has everything that is good about Saxon in the 21st century. It’s good to have them back.
1. Battering Ram / 2. The Devil’s Footprint / 3. Queen Of Hearts / 4. Destroyer / 5. Hard And Fast / 6. Eye Of The Storm / 7. Stand Your Ground / 8. Top Of The World / 9. To The End / 10. Kingdom Of The Cross / 11. Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)