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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Saxon

Metalhead

Review by Mike Korn

I can attest personally to the fact that Saxon is one of the best live heavy metal bands on the planet, having just seen them demolish The Attic with UDO in tow. These dudes have been plying their trade for many years and never have they wavered from their desire to provide pure, unadulterated metal. These “dudes” are Biff Byford, Paul Quinn, Doug Scarlatt, Nibbs Carter and Fritz Randow.

Their newest CD "Metalhead" follows in that vein(as if the title didn't give you a clue!) as it offers 11 tracks of thundering chords and blazing solos. But, as heavy as it is, I have to say this does not pack the punch of Saxon live. The record is excellently recorded and played but often it plods along in sort of a mid-paced groove, with many songs sounding fairly similar in approach. It's certainly not a bad album but I wish it could capture the intensity of the live show. Even the tracks from "Metalhead" were transformed into monsters on stage.

For all those who hold true metal dear, I recommend "Metalhead". Just do not expect a classic in the vein of past Saxon efforts like "Strong Arm of the Law", "Wheels of Steel" or "Denim and Leather".

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro
Things kick off with a synthesized, eerie intro - pretty standard stuff, really.

Metalhead
This is a very crunchy, moderately paced song that builds a tank-like intensity as it goes along. It is fairly anthemic and really kicked butt live.

Are We Travellers in Time
More mid-paced crunch is on show here, with a faintly Middle Eastern feel to the riffing. This one is nothing to write home about.
Conquistador
The track begins with...you guessed it...flamenco type guitar before building into a moderately fast song with some Spanish overtones. Good twin lead work lends to a somewhat epic feel. It features good lyrics, another Saxon trademark.

What Goes Around
More commercial than the other tracks, I found this rather tepid. A dated 80's feel hangs over it.

Song of Evil
Hard-hitting British steel is on show here, with Biff Byford's vocals excelling at creating some catchy patterns. This was another one that blew doors off live.

All Guns Blazing
No, this is not a remake of the Judas Priest song! It is the fastest, most aggressive cut on the album and one of my favorites.
Prisoner
More melodic tendencies are on display here. It is fairly fast paced and with more lead work, but still rather average. This cut is similar to stuff from their "Crusader" album.

Piss Off
I thought this would be a fast, punky track from the title, but it's another mid-to-slow cruncher and not very memorable.

Watching You
Once again, I thought this was a pretty typical track, with little to distinguish it. It is not really bad,but when you compare it to past classics like "Princess of the Night" and "747", the weaknesses become apparent.

Sea of Life
The obligatory album-ending epic, this is pretty good, with some slow, majestic riffs. The chorus is highly melodic and soft and there's a balladic feel on the verses. Despite this, the song is powerful, with good soloing from Quinn and Scarlatt. It is a worthy successor to tracks like "The Eagle Has Landed".

You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
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