SAXON - Battering Ram
September 16, 2015, 3 years ago
Now in the same category as jewelry and fine spirits (don't want to call them antiques!), Saxon truly are precious and getting better with age. After a spate of less than stellar releases kept them afloat during leaner times, most of the output since the dawn of the new millennium rivals their hallowed NWOBHM catalog. Silver haired frontman Biff Byford contends that this material is a little heavier, less rock ‘n’ roll than Sacrifice. What do you expect from an Andy Sneap production? The title track, an ode to the fans behind the barricade, comes leaping from the speakers, plenty of fleet-finger guitar from Byford's long standing henchman, Paul Quinn. A macabre, 200 year old tale, “The Devil's Footprint” begins with spoken voice-over (a technique reprised to great effect elsewhere on the platter). There's a little staccato, Americanized metal (Pantera?) in the guitar/drum interplay. “Queen Of Hearts” references the well-known Lewis Carroll character, utilizing a chess metaphor, with lyrics like; "Be careful where you tread. You might lose your head, to the Queen Of Hearts".
Speaking of literary inspirations (albeit a little different genre), “Destroyer” goes out to the Marvel comic of the same name, a fiery guitar driven number. “Hard And Fast” not only describes the music therein, but refers to an automobile, Quinn repeatedly bends the strings, like navigating a hair pin turn. A clap of thunder heralds “Eye Of The Storm”, a climatological warning that buzzes with energy and utilizes snippets of dire news predictions. Almost seamlessly into “Stand Your Ground”. Odd titular juxtaposition, although the latter deals with self-confidence, not fighting Mother Nature. “Top Of The World” is instantly recognizable as Saxon, while a plodding “To The End” is another "I need to tour" anthem. Atmospheric closer, “The Kingdom Of The Cross” is atypical, solemn keys and almost acoustic underpinning as Hell frontman David Bower reads a poem commemorating the century anniversary of WWI. Byford is heard only in the chorus. He is in fine form and Quinn stands out as the "star" across the ten tunes (the box set includes an 18 song live CD from the 2011 Denim & Leather Over Sweden tour). Gritty drunk as a skunk bonus track “Three Sheets To The Wind” owes a debt to the likes of AC/DC and Rose Tattoo. Can envision Quinn emulating a stiff legged Angus Young shuffle across the stage!