When a gap between a band’s first and latest work is 37 years (that is 10 more years than I have of life), you begin to wonder if it isn’t time to stop because said band is almost definitely losing steam, as is the case for Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and many others in the rock/metal scene. To the crusaders of Saxon, though, this is merely a number, because they continue to grace us with top-of-the-notch music, true as ever to their roots. Without any doubt, Saxon is the only one of the NWOBHM creators still releasing strong albums periodically. Biff Byford (vocals), Paul Quinn (guitars), Doug Scarratt (guitars), Nigel Glockler (drums) and Nibbs Carter (bass) are back on the horse to amaze you once again with their 21st full-length, ‘Battering Ram’.
Managing to keep the atmosphere of their previous endeavors such as ‘Into the Labyrinth’, ‘Call to Arms’ and ‘Sacrifice’, what we have here is another display of honest, consistent and straight-up heavy metal, filled with attitude and maturity. Ope
ner “BatteringRam” mixes heaviness with speed, delivering great energy with a toned-down chorus that will fit perfectly live. “The Devil’s Footprint” has a cool spoken intro and a masterful performance by Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, taking their already impressive chemistry to the next level.
“Queen of Hearts” slows down the pace a little, showing that the process of distributing the songs was thought through to the minor details, and its riffs certainly hover in your head for a while. “Destroyer”, “Hard and Fast” and “Stand Your Ground” serves as odes to the better days of the NWOBHM in the 80’s, with glimpses of blues and rock’n’roll, cool bass lines and a stellar performance by Biff Byford, who in spite of edging towards 65 years of age never lets you down. “Eye of the Storm” is highlight of the album in my opinion, which gives you a demonstration of the darker, heavier side of Saxon with a powerful chorus and another lesson in riffing by axemasters Doug and Paul. It’s simple and direct, as it always been with them.
While the effort remains strong through almost the entire album, the song “To the End” feels like filler to me, and although not compromising the work, it’s just not on par with the other songs. Fortunately, the closers “Kingdom of the Cross” and “Three Sheets to the Wind (The Drinking Song)” do the job of ending the album in high standards, with the first being presented as an homage (common by Saxon’s standards of paying tributes to various people on their songs), and the latter being a scapegoat to the more serious approach presented in early tunes.
When I think about a reliable band, Saxon’s named is the first one on my mind, and for good reason. Showing no signs of slowing down, these giants once again deliver a quality effort worthy of the band’s respectful discography in ‘Battering Ram’. With a lot of highs and very few lows, the album is yet another strong release for those seeking sanctum in traditional heavy metal, with a touch of speed here and there. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t born when Saxon released its first album or are old enough to have witnessed their entire career; this album is for you. After 37 years of denim, leather, thunder, power and glory, it becomes clear that only death can stop these Elder Gods of metal.