Saxon_Battering RamThe Elder Godz of the NWoBHM are making a major statement in 2015. Iron Maiden dropped their first ever double album last month, Satan hit this month with a righteous release and here comes Saxon‘s twenty-first album, Battering Ram. Let that number soak in for a moment – twenty-one goddamn albums of heavy metal thunder! That’s an accomplishment few bands will ever equal and they certainly deserve every bit of  goodwill they’ve earned over their long career. I wasn’t thrilled with 2013s Sacrifice, finding it rather dull and without many memorable moments, but the same can’t be said for Battering Ram. It takes the heavier approach featured on Sacrifice and uses it to good effect on a superior collection of metal anthems to guarantee an energetic album that belies the collective age of the musicians involved. It also works as a sampler platter for the sounds of the early 80s British metal scene, and that’s pretty nifty if you ask this old-timer.

The opening title track is appropriately beefed up and energetic, featuring some nice, Maiden-esque trilling guitar harmonies and a very metal vocal performance by Lord Biff Byford. It’s such a simple song but the earnest, hard-edged delivery sells it, as do the heavy, crunching riffs. This will go over big at the outdoor festivals next year for sure. The rockers keep coming with the hurly-burly “Destroyer” and the raucous, gritty smoker “The Eye of the Storm.” All are 110% pure, working class NWoBHM and sound surprisingly fresh and vibrant today thanks to the added dose of crunch.

“Kingdom of the Cross” is another moody Saxon power-ballad dealing with the horror and loss of war. The offbeat spoken word segments call to mind Motorhead‘s “1916,” and the soft, sad chorus is appropriately emotional and striking. This is similar in vibe to their classic “Broken Heroes,” and it definitely has the same gravitas. Another somewhat usual cut is “Queen of Hearts,” which bases itself around a very Nevermore sounding riff while exploring a trippy Alice Through the Looking Glass theme. It takes a few spins to completely sink in, but once it does it’s there to stay for a spell.

Later on we get treated to “Three Sheets to the Wind (The Drinking Song)” which is about as close to an AC/DC tune as Saxon will ever get, and the chants of “more wine, more beer” are good, rowdy fun. The album winds out strong with the Mount Everest themed “Top of the World,” which may be the pick of the litter, packing in sweet harmonies that remind me of Somewhere in Time era Maiden along with a chorus lifted straight from The Tenth Dimension era of Blaze Bayley (how’s that for a dichotomy?).

Saxon_2015a

As enjoyable as most of this is, there are a few underwhelming cuts that may have been better left behind, like “Hard and Fast” and Stand Your Ground.” Neither requires skipping, but they don’t have as much going for them as their peers. “The Devil’s Footprint” is better and I like the fast-paced energy and guitar-work, but the chorus is flat and lets the song down.

What I like about the album is the way snippets of their fellow NWoBHM legends flash through the music. Besides the obvious Maiden and Judas Priest riff here or idea there, some of the harder stuff is reminiscent of classic Raven and even the more recent output of Satan, but none of it feels like mimicry, which is admirable.

If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s the rock-steady voice of Biff Byford. His nasally crooning mixes the machismo of Bruce Dickinson with the grit of Udo Dirkschneider and he seems to get better with age. He sounds particularly fired up on these songs and showcases the pipes of a much younger man. He’s especially effective on “Kingdom of the Cross” where his understated singing really puts the material over. His enthusiasm seems to spill over to Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt who lift their harmonizing and riffing a few steps higher than usual for a feisty and at times,  speedy outing. The guitar tone is great and adds a lot of punch, making this feel harder and meaner than most of the Saxon catalog.

Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Battering Ram sees this pack sounding spry and hungry, and it looks like there’s still a lot of hunt left in them. 2015 is the year the British invaded again, and we certainly had it coming. Keep going boys, for Queen and Country.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: UDR Music
Websites: saxon747.com | facebook.com/saxon
Releases Worldwide: October 16th, 2015

 

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • CarvedInStone

    Good review! I really like this album as well. a step-up from Sacrifice. It’s a shame that they don’t get as much attention as their other peers. It seems like when someone in Iron Maiden as much as let’s one rip we get a headline. And if you compare discographies Maiden’s is very patchy while Saxon, other than that dry spell in the late 80s when they wanted to commercialize their sound, has always released quality material.

    • Saxon always existed in Maiden and Priest’s shadow, which is unfortunate. They’re the classic second-tier act but have a lot of great material and just keep on going.

  • Stefunal

    I just love how these gentlemen are just going on releasing good material. Their “Call to Arms” album of 2011 was the first metal album I bought, by the way.

  • Wilhelm

    I never got into these guys, but this song is pretty good. The lyrics are cheesy and maybe too much gloss in the production stage but it’s cool to see these grandpas belting out the metal.

  • SelfIndulgence

    Never really got into Saxon much, but their existence couldn’t be denied. Even had to cover Denim and Leather in one band because our guitarist felt it was important.
    This new track actually sounds better than I expected. What else have I missed?

    • Stefunal

      If you didn’t get into the 80s Saxon you might wanna try their outputs in the new millennium. Top notch heavy metal, and quite infectious, too.

      • I’d check out their Unleash the Beast, Lionheart and Metalhead albums to start.

        • Stefunal

          Yeah, Lionheart is fantastic. Really, do check it out.

          • SelfIndulgence

            OK I picked up Lionheart yesterday. Mon Dieu I have been missing out. So much catching up to do compiled with what is becoming a very interesting October based on the reviews here.

            Must find a way to pause time.

        • CarvedInStone

          “Call To Arms” is a good place to start as well. It’s a nice mixture of their 80s sound and their modern sound.

        • Jón Aldará

          “Beyond the Grave” is an incredibly powerful number!

      • SelfIndulgence

        Guilty as charged. With limited funds from my paper route in the early 80s I had thought maybe one of my friends would have picked up a Saxon album, but instead they all got into the glam metal/rock scene heavily.
        I was moving into the darker, heavier scene so eventually I just never came back to checking them out which is sad because anyone who was alive back then knew they were part of the NWOBHM.

        I shall atone and check out what I have missed. Thanks all.

        • CarvedInStone

          If you have a problem with the production (I find it quite weak at times on the early albums) I’d recommend checking out their “Heavy Metal Thunder” compilation. They re-recorded 13 songs for that one and it has most of their hits.

          I get that re-recordings are often frowned upon but I consider this one of the good ones. And according to the Metal Archives they re-released it in January together with a bonus live album recorded at Bloodstock 2014 so it should be easily available.

          • That’s actually one of the very few re-recordings I like.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I recommend you start with their first three albums: “Wheels Of Steel”, “Strong Arm Of the Law” and “Denim and Leather”.

      Maybe find an early compilation. But whatever you do make sure you check out the following songs:

      – Princess of the Night
      – Wheels of Steel
      – Heavy Metal Thunder
      – Denim and Leather
      – Motorcycle Man
      – 747 (Strangers in the Night)
      – Suzie Hold On
      – Strong Arm of the Law
      – Dallas 1 PM

      I am the first to recognize that “Suzie Hold On” might not be everyone´s favorite Saxon song but it has an awesome opening riff and I have a soft spot for the song.

      • Did you just leave “Crusader” off the list?? That’s their biggest song!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Well… I don´t like Crusader that much… I made the short list based on my favorite songs. ;-)

          • Blasphemer.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Blasphemer I like a lot! But that’s Sodom.

  • You wot m8?

    Meh.

  • Pimpolho

    I must say, this review reads as a 3,5; but it is a great one nonetheless. Saxon is my favorite NWoBHM band.

    • Just shy thereof due to a few less nifty tunes.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Holy shit… I consider “Dogs Of War” as one of Saxon´s “newer” albums. After reading the tagline referencing it I checked good old Metal Archives and found out… it is 20 years old.

  • Oberon

    The best thing about Saxon is that they don’t break the bank to see them live, unlike Maiden or Priest

  • I can’t believe Biff still sounds the same. Amazing.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Buttered ram more like….Good to see these fellas still producing quality metal!

  • nichols1

    This has got to be in the top 3 of the best Saxon albums they ever made. Songs 2 and 3 are good but every single other song on this cd are GREAT !

  • nichols1

    This an amazing cd. The amount of grrat songs surpasses any previous release from Saxon (yes its that good). Songs 2 and 3 are good but the rest are absolute classics. How they were able to pull this off in this stage in there career I wouldn’t know. Buy this immediately.