NWoBHM Stalwarts Saxon have been enjoying a renaissance of late, but in truth they never really went away. During the late 80s and early 90s, when the UK was in the grips of hair metal and later grunge / alternative metal, Saxon signed to Virgin Germany and seemed to almost camp in Europe.
The three albums for Virgin German (Solid Ball Of Rock, Forever Free and Dogs Of War) saw a transition in sound, mixing melodic metal with a new found heaviness, and a subsequent rejuvenation in both sound and popularity. All three were recently reissued by Demon, and the latter ‘Dogs Of War’ is also being issued as a picture disc LP.
Having settled with drummer Nigel Glockler and bassist Nibbs Carter, this was the last album to feature original guitarist Graham Oliver. The opening title track is as solid and heavy as Saxon get, a blistering rhythmic number that could both influence and be influenced by the melodic end of Metallica. There’s some very neat guitar lines and the rhythm section really benefits from the solid production. ‘Burning Wheels’ is as heavy and is a real classic Saxon track, Biff Byford’s vocals are on form and distinctive too. There’s a touch of shred to the guitar work and some good interplay between Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn. ‘Don’t Worry’ is slightly more melodic, with a slight commercial edge, while ‘Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)’ has a rock’n’roll edge and some more blistering guitar work. Hold On is one of the more commercial tracks on the album, a nod back to the late 80s, it’s slick but catchy too. Side two kicks off with The Great White Buffalo, a much more chunky feel with quiet moments. The whole album has a polished yet heavy feel. Politics aside with Graham Oliver leaving, it’s a damn fine and much underrated and overlooked album. A solid metal edge and, well, it’s Saxon. 8/10