“Two years between albums has become the routine for Saxon, Biff Byford and his long-serving bandmates and with each new release such as ‘Battering Ram’, it continues a long line of faceless albums.
Written by: Dangerzone
ALBUM: Battering Ram
LABEL: UDR Records
SERIAL: UDR 037P01
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Biff Byford – vocals * Paul Quinn – guitar * Doug Scarrat – guitar * Nibbs Carter – bass * Nigel Glockler – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Battering Ram * 02 The Devil’s Footprint * 03 Queen Of Hearts * 04 Destroyer * 05 Hard And Fast * 06 Eye Of The Storm * 07 Stand Your Ground * 08 Top Of The World * 09 To The End * 10 Kingdom Of The Cross * 11 Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song) [bonus]
WEBLINKS: Site Link
To paraphrase Wrabit, there once was a time when the release of a new Saxon album was cause for excitement and sweaty palms. This was eons ago however and for the last decade or more it’s become a laborious task to force myself to put fingers to keyboard and document one tired effort after the other.
Two years between albums has become the routine for Biff Byford and his long-serving bandmates and with each release comes the claim about returning to their 80’s toots. Like Megadeth those claims are easily dismissed and ‘Battering Ram’ is the latest in a long line of faceless albums.
At least they don’t indulge in Iron Maiden type epics I suppose, but the generic power metal sound these guys adopted back in 1997 continues to taint their albums and in all honesty the excitement is non-existent.
This is interchangeable with anything since 1999’s ‘Metalhead’ and you’d be hard pressed to fathom any time has passed in the last 16 years. Biff’s familiar wail leads into the sometimes surging title track, probably one of the better moments here. It has shades of ‘Power And The Glory’ at odd moments, but the chorus is remarkably flat and kills the momentum.
The mystical tosh of ‘The Devils Footprint’ has some Victorian style keyboard effects, never palatable at the best of times and masking a by-numbers metal cut. This fantasy metal direction is even more overblown on ‘Queen Of Hearts’ and I’ll be honest, I’m sick of this type of metal. It plods along with all manner of symphonic keyboards and is a dud.
There’s a token ‘back to basics’ feel to ‘Destroyer’ with its subject matter concerning some metallic hero ala Judas Priest. It could be considered heavy and is indeed simpler, but having heard it all before and then some, it’s redundant by a mile. ‘Hard And Fast’ tries its best to do just that but doesn’t quite pull it off, paling to Saxon’s glory days in the 80’s. Where’s the energy?
There’s always one fast track and the offender this time is ‘Stand Your Ground’ which is no ‘Stand And Be Counted’. The band used to have an identifiable sound, which remained even when they shifted styles in the 80’s. But it’s been gone as long as Graham Oliver and without Biff’s vocals they’d be another German power metal outfit stinking up the joint.
Saxon can do that themselves however and one listen of the ponderous six minute ‘Kingdom Of The Cross’ is enough to convince me I’ll never listen to this again. The acoustic guitars and attempt at a progressive metal epic is beyond me. I can’t do it anymore.
As if to atone for this they follow up with a forced attempt at party metal in ‘Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)’. It’s totally out of place and doesn’t suit their style now. They could do this in the 80’s when they were genuinely fun, but now it’s sad and rather tragic.
Another Saxon album comes and goes without as much as a blink of an eye for me. I get the feeling I’ll still be reviewing them when I’m as old as Biff and saying the same things over and over (I might have to put an embargo on future releases. The point has been well and truly made.. Ed). Look, the band’s still here and giving it a shot, all credit to them.
But the days when I feared the end was coming and I’d have to go through life without the likes of Saxon, Maiden, Priest, Motorhead etc doesn’t fill me with dread anymore. If this is the best they are capable of then they could split tomorrow and you’d know it was the right move. But someone, somewhere will label this a modern day classic and claim Saxon are underrated. In what world I’m not sure, but certainly not mine.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)