Saxon – Call to Arms (2011)

Back in the 80s when I was a teenager “Denim and Leather” was one of my anthems along “Breaking the Law”, “Wrathchild”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and many others. The golden years of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal were gone with the eruption of the grunge, the raging of thrash and death metal and the insurrection of the industrial genres. Bands like Judas Priest managed to re-innovate them self album by album through the 90s, but most of the others survived only by touring Japan and Germany where still are a large fan base for the old-school metal while others simply disappeared, shot down in flames. Saxon had 8 UK Top 40 albums in the 1980s, including 4 UK Top 10 albums, numerous singles in the Top 20 singles chart and sold more than 13 million albums worldwide. Still, getting to their 19th studio album, seems to be unexpected.
Vocalist Peter “Biff” Byford never had the voice and status of a “metal god” as Ozzy, Halford or Dickinson and after “Crusader”, their sixth studio album released in 1984, which by the way, sold over 2 million copies, gradually I lost my appetite and any interest in them.
I was curious what Biff and his band mates delivering now days. Obviously heavy metal. “Call to Arms” is a Whitesnake like ballad, while the rest of the album is a balanced drifting between classic hard and heavy schemes. It’s enough to read the titles of the songs: “Hammer of the Gods”, “Back In ’79”, “Surviving Against The Odds”, “Mists of Avalon”, “Call To Arms”, “Chasing the Bullet”, “Afterburner”, “When Doomsday Comes”, “No Rest for the Wicked” and “Ballad of the Working Man”… It’s not quite surprising, Biff never stepped out of the circle of the cliches, it’s enough to recall the titles of their records: “Wheels of Steel”, “Strong Arm of the Law”, “Power & the Glory”, “Innocence Is No Excuse”, “Rock the Nations”, “Solid Ball of Rock”, “Forever Free”, “Dogs of War”, “Unleash the Beast”, “Metalhead”, and so on.
Surviving against the odds? Strangely, I still prefer to listen this old-school metal from bands like Saxon, rather than the copy bands born after the 90s. “Afterburner” sounds just like Motorhead, “When Doomsday Comes” which featuring on the “Hybrid Theory” soundtrack is a huge reinterpretation of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” and this might be not so surprising while current Purple keyboardist Don Airey make a guest appearance on the album and each and every song bring back memories of the 80s. Still, “Call to Arms” is not the worstest thing I did listen lately.
Last time I listen Saxon in 1998 with their “Dogs Of War”, “Call to Arms” sounds more honest and straight, against all the classic schemes and cliches – “show me your hands” 😀 – Saxon plays exactly what they supposed and expected to play and they do it with the same energy and commitment as they did it back in ’76… or ’79.

Saxon – Official Site

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