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Saxon

Strong Arm of the Law

Review by Greg Olma

Saxon was very prolific in the early days as this was their second release in 1980.  They released Wheels of Steel four months prior to this record, and both are considered classics.  You have to remember that the NWOBHM was in full swing by this point with Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Diamond Head all releasing their debut albums.  This was actually my first taste of the mighty Saxon and I have never looked back since.  There is something special about this early material that still stands the test of time.  The band plays each track like their lives depended on it, and each one of the eight tunes has a sense of urgency about it.  I feel it was at this point that Saxon was finally hitting their stride and really honing “their” sound.  I liken it to Judas Priest because Rocka Rolla sounded like a band trying to figure out who they were and Saxon’s self-titled debut had the same lack of focus.  Their previous record Wheels of Steel cemented things like Sad Wings of Destiny did for Priest, and Strong Arm of the Law just built on top of that sound.  While I like every song on this album, I can honestly say half the album consists or NWOBHM classics, and every self-respecting metal fan should own it.  As a side note, the tracks are being reviewed in the order they were presented on the original UK version.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Heavy Metal Thunder
Things start off with some thunder claps and then this frantic, fast rocker blasts out of your speakers.  Even as I write this review, I want to headbang as this is that type of song.  The band play this tune with such intent and conviction that you can’t help but go along for the ride.  Even though the tempo comes close to thrash, there is melody and groove that rides along the top and makes the whole experience memorable.
To Hell and Back Again
Overlooked deep cuts are ones I tend to gravitate towards, and this one is no different.  While things slow down a little from the opening track, the chorus speeds up again and the guitar work of Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver is awesome.  There is a little double bass drumming added in, and you can hear the Motörhead influence here and there on this disc.
Strong Arm of the Law
The band shift gears for the title track and throw the listener a boogie rocker.  The guitar riffs are really infectious, and the chorus is extremely catchy.  It’s a simple so but oh so effective.  This one is often in their set list even to this day.
Taking Your Chances
Motörhead sounding riffs usher in this mid paced rocker that has a very upbeat tempo which is kind of a cross between their speedy numbers and their boogie tunes.  Both Quinn and Oliver were underrated (even at the time), but you can’t hide their guitar talents.  There are multiple solos in this piece and they are both frantic and melodic.
20,000 Ft
If you were looking for a thrashy Motörhead sounding tune, then look no further.  This is another fast rocker that contains a simple yet catchy chorus.  You can almost hear the seeds of Metallica coming through and, while Motörhead gets a lot of credit for the thrash movement, Saxon deserves that recognition as well.  As I mentioned previously, this is one of those tracks that belongs in every metal collection.
Hungry Years
Things start off slow with some somber guitar work, and then it kicks into another Saxon boogie rocker.  It is the longest song on the record but it doesn’t feel like because it doesn’t meander from its main purpose which is to rock and groove the listener.  As with the rest of the album, the guitar work on here is superb.
Sixth Form Girls
If I had to pick the weakest moment on Strong Arm of the Law, this would be it but by no means should it be skipped.  It’s a little faster than their usual boogie tunes and it has that classic Saxon sound.  I just feel it is missing some of the magic that the other material contains and with a little work, this could have been a great tune as well.  Just remember, the band released two great records four months apart.
Dallas 1 PM
The record ends on a serious note with a cut that deals with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  It’s a slower boogie track with added sound effects of gun shots and news reporter dialogue.  This tune also contains some of my favorite guitar work from Quinn and Oliver.  It's a fantastic way to end an almost flawless record.
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