Like recent efforts, Saxon can’t decide who they want to be. One minute they’re blazing a trail as if it’s 1990, the next it’s back to the mediocre modern metal.
Written by: Dangerzone
ALBUM: Call To Arms
LABEL: Militia Guard Music/UDR, EMI
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 Hammer Of The Gods * 02 Back In 79 * 03 Surviving Against The Odds * 04 Mists Of Avalon * 05 Call To Arms * 06 Chasing The Bullet * 07 Afterburner * 08 When Doomsday Comes [Hybrid Theory Soundtrack] * 09 No Rest For The Wicked * 10 Ballad Of The Working Man * 11 Call To Arms [orchestral version]
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Before I sat down to write this review of Saxon’s nineteenth studio album I seriously asked myself why was I bothering. After all it’s been literally decades since they made a compelling metal statement, despite the acclaim continually heaped on them since 1997’s Unleash the Beast’.
Their last effort ‘Into the Labyrinth’ was abysmal but like always I couldn’t resist the urge to see if Saxon had sunk further or finally redeemed themselves after so many turgid years and albums.
Like recent efforts, Saxon can’t decide who they want to be. One minute they’re blazing a trail as if it’s 1990, the next it’s back to the mediocre modern metal approach that has epitomized these stale legends for what seems like forever.
The production isn’t quite as heavy handed as usual however and you get the feeling opening track ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ is an attempt to recapture what these guys were pushing back in the 1991-1995 era before Graham Oliver pissed off for good.
Of course ‘Back in 79’ is a blatant attempt at a ‘Denim And Leather’ type anthem, but it doesn’t have the same effect, despite the ode to metal. It plods along with little melody to recommend it unfortunately.
The lads try to get back to 1993 again with ‘Surviving Against The Odds’, a reasonable piece of traditional Saxon it has to be said. It just feels a tad too late at this stage of their career. Adding some 80’s synth touches is the forced atmospheric bludgeon of ‘Mists Of Avalon’ which doesn’t have the charm of the bands 80’s AOR escapade.
Forward to the title track, another slow track with the awful downtuned riffing and Biff sounding like he could expire at any second. Changing styles yet again, ‘Chasing The Bullet’ sounds like a half-baked leftover from ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ but lacking the urgency.
There has to be a full-on thrasher naturally, this time ‘Afterburner’ is the offender. I thought this was Judas Priest for a minute, knee-deep in their ‘Painkiller’ phase. Saxon have been writing this song for years and realistically it’s impossible to distinguish it from a forgotten track like ‘Nighthunter’ from 1993.
The symphonic keyboards that perpetuate ‘When Doomsday Comes (Hybrid Theory)’ are ghastly and despite a fast section, it can’t save this major yawner. That also describes ‘No Rest For the Wicked’, a total write-off in all areas. Who enjoys this monotonous downtuned slop?
There’s no life in Saxon’s music anymore. Biff then tries to reclaim his throne as metal’s working class hero with ‘Ballad Of The Working Man,’ an obvious Thin Lizzy copy guitar-wise and a retread of about 100 other Saxon tracks.
31 years ago Biff was cranking out ‘Street Fighting Gang’ like a man possessed, making this even more painful to endure. On top of all this is an orchestral version of the title track, a right pompous farce. Give it up and write something about riding a motorbike Biff. Remember that?
So another year, another forgettable Saxon release. Like Motorhead and Iron Maiden, the utter predictability of their music has reached its zenith. It isn’t a bad thing when a band repeats themselves, but when they choose to do it in such bland style you can’t help but give up.
Of course there will be the usual minority of people claiming this to be Saxon’s ‘best yet’ and how ‘underrated’ they continue to be. Give it up. When this album concluded on my player the next track following was ‘A Little Bit of What You Fancy’ from ‘Crusader’. I started banging my head immediately. I didn’t do that once with ‘Call To Arms’ and I never will.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)