The results are immediate and it’s fair to say Saxon are at the height of their powers metal wise. In 2004 who would have thought that?
Written by: Dangerzone
SERIAL: SPV 085-69692 CD
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Biff Byford – vocals * Paul Quinn – guitars * Doug Scarrat – guitars * Nibbs Carter – bass * Jorg Michael – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Witchfinder General * 02 Man And Machine * 03 The Return * 04 Lionheart * 05 Beyond The Grave * 06 Justice * 07 To Live By The Sword * 08 Jack Tars * 09 English Man O War * 10 Searching For Atlantis * 11 Flying On The Edge
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Twenty five years since their self titled debut Saxon, continue to go from strength to strength. ‘Lionheart’ is a pure heavy metal statement with all the vitality of their debut. One of the issues I took with Graham Oliver leaving the band in 1995 was Saxon losing their trademark dual guitar sound which gave them an identity all their own.
Doug Scarrat, now a Saxon veteran, has stamped his own mark on the band, as the band continues to plough on with the sound they first discovered on ‘Unleash The Beast’ in 1997. It might not sound like classic Saxon, but that’s because this version has developed such a unique metal guise of their own, that it sounds fresher with every release.
‘Lionheart’ could almost be more ‘classic’ than the 80’s glory years, if it wasn’t for a few tracks which tend to make up the numbers sadly. Stratovarius drummer Jorg Michael supplied his talents for the album as Fritz Randow left the band to explore other directions according to reports.
The song-titles alone make this a success without even hearing it, and it leaves a lot to live up to as a result, just glancing at titles like ‘English Man O’ War’ enough to make one shake their head. ‘Witchfinder General’ is a blazing opener, Saxon at their speedy best, and leaving one wondering how Biff manages to maintain that voice at his age, whatever it may be……I say 57.
‘Man And Machine’s main riff is astoundingly raw and made for headbanging, the track moving at speed also. One of Saxon’s heaviest excursions riff wise since ‘Altar Of The Gods’ surely. The title track is the sound of Saxon past and present, an atmospheric anthem which recalls the spirit of ‘Crusader’, shifting from quick to slow in the blink of an eye. If this had been recorded in 1983 it would be heralded as legendary. Well this is classic for 2004 anyway.
‘Beyond The Grave’ has the same downtuned nature as much of 1999’s weak ‘Metalhead’, which sees Saxon flirt with a modern metal style while never abandoning their ideals, especially the guitar solos.
Shredding riffs highlight ‘Justice’, Biff’s wailing higher than at any point of Saxon’s career. Nothing can beat the aggressive riffing of ‘To Live By The Sword’, with lyrics regarding ‘the shogun’, although the minstrel like ‘Jack Tars’ is an acoustic departure with an intriguing medieval tone.
‘English Man O War’ shames Manowar themselves in relation to who is the present day ‘Kings Of Metal’, the obsessive riffs and trademark Saxon melody lines intact and fresher than the tired American punters. The album finishes flat with the slower ‘Searching For Atlantis’ and ‘Flying On The Edge’, which were placed poorly trackwise. They sap the albums energy, failing to meet the criteria set by the preceding fare.
Notwithstanding those two let-downs, this is an exercise in classic metal which few can touch. It is the sort of album I wish Iron Maiden would make, short, punchy and catchy metal that doesn’t involve five listens to digest before it is appreciated.
The results are immediate and it’s fair to say Saxon are at the height of their powers metal wise. In 2004 who would have thought that? Saxon outshine bands decades younger than themselves and prove how nobody has replaced them, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Slayer, Metallica, Judas Priest etc as metal bands who produce albums you really want to hear.
This exorcises the bitter memories of ‘Metalhead’ and rates as Saxon’s best overall effort since ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ in 1990. Considering ‘Man And Machine’s play count has now reached 47 on my computer I think that’s a safe comment to make.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)