Rating:
7.0
Saxon - Saxon
21 May 1979


Disc I
01. Rainbow Theme
02. Frozen Rainbow
03. Big Teaser
04. Judgement Day
05. Stallions Of The Highway
06. Backs To The Wall
07. Still Fit To Boogie
08. Militia Guard

Disc II [2009 remaster bonus]
Son Of A Bitch Demos
01. Big Teaser
02. Stallions Of The Highway
03. Backs To The Wall
04. Rainbow Theme
05. Frozen Rainbow
BBC Sessions
06. Backs To The Wall
07. Stallions Of The Highway
08. Motorcycle Man
09. Still Fit To Boogie
10. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
Live At The Monsters Of Rock Festival
11. Judgement Day
12. Still Fit To Boogie
13. Backs To The Wall
14. Stallions Of The Highway


NWOBHM: The new wave of British heavy metal; perhaps the most influential movement in metal history. Bands like Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, Raven, Blitzkrieg and Saxon dragged heavy metal - barely breathing after coming off worse in a bareknuckle brawl with punk - kicking and screaming into the 1980s. Just examine its legacy. Speed and aggression spawned thrash, lo-fi production and dark imagery begat black metal and the rest, as they say, is history.

It's often debated who is responsible for birthing the heavy metal genre - Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple? If you had a colour in your name you appear to be in with a shout. The matter of the first NWOBHM band is muddied slightly too. Motörhead and Judas Priest often crop up, despite being well established before its explosion. Maiden are far and away the movement's most successful sons. However, read the notes accompanying the 2009 remaster of Saxon's eponymous 1979 debut and you will find that it is apparently "widely regarded as the first LP released by a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band."

Indubitably important then, but is it any good?

Well, first NWOBHM album or not, many of the songs on Saxon look backward for their sound, rather than blazing the trails that the band would roar down on seminal releases in the following two years. Saxon were formed from the remnants of two bands: the progressive, Sabbath-loving Coast and the blues and hard rock based Son Of A Bitch, and it shows here. Singles "Big Teaser" and "Backs To The Wall" have more in common with the likes of Status Quo, being straightforward rockers, and as such are fairly forgettable.

Where things get more interesting, if still nodding to the past, are when Saxon show a bit more of a progressive edge. For example, "Judgement Day" starts off sounding quite ordinary, but moves through a pretty epic mid-section before hitting a nice groove towards the end. Opening cuts "Rainbow Theme" and "Frozen Rainbow" really make a suite in two movements, melding seamlessly around Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn's Thin Lizzy-esque dual leads and one of Biff Byford's better vocal performances. The bass intro is crap, though!

The two really noteworthy tracks here, though, are closer "Militia Guard" and "Stallions Of The Highway". The latter marks the first of countless biker anthems which would pepper subsequent releases. It is also the best indicator as to future performance, showcasing some of the speed and drive that Saxon would go on to develop. "Guard" is interesting for its lyrical content - violence is never far away in metal - and its darker, more serious tone. It's one of the few Saxon songs that offers something a little bit unexpected (in a good way, rather than a "Surprise, we play hair metal now!" way).

As a record, Saxon is very short (shorter than Reign In Blood, believe it or not!) and more than a little confused about its personality. Saxon would refine their sound and identity quickly after their debut and release much better albums. But then again, they would also release music that is a lot, lot worse…

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 7


Band profile: Saxon
Album: Saxon


 


written by LordFezzington | 01.04.2013


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



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