Saxon - Destiny review


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Band: Saxon
Album: Destiny
Release date: 1988

01. Ride Like The Wind [Christopher Cross cover]
02. Where The Lightning Strikes
03. I Can't Wait Anymore
04. Calm Before The Storm
05. S.O.S. (Too Bad)
06. Song For Emma
07. For Whom The Bell Tolls
08. We Are Strong
09. Jericho Siren
10. Red Alert
11. I Can't Wait Anymore [12' Mix] [2010 remastered edition bonus]
12. Rock The Nations [Live At Hammersmith] [2010 remastered edition bonus]
13. Broken Heroes [Live in Madrid] [2010 remastered edition bonus]
14. Gonna Shout [Live in Madrid] [2010 remastered edition bonus]
15. Ride Like The Wind [Monitor Mix] [2010 remastered edition bonus]
16. For Whom The Bell Tolls [Monitor Mix][2010 remastered edition bonus]

Oh, THAT record...

By 1988, Saxon had hit their fair share of potholes and bumps along the road in their pursuit of breaking America; where their last three records had flirted with a more radio-friendly and polished sound, Destiny discards this sense of restraint and full on embraces AOR. The resulting album, while not one of their brightest moments overall, was certainly their best effort in years as they decide to go for broke and make an AOR album, rather than try to entertain several demographics at once and please few to none.

While discarding any reservations about embracing new sounds and diving in head-first at the expense of your old sound is often something to criticise a band for, it is oddly one of the strengths of Destiny; regardless of your position on what Saxon should sound like, at least they're now giving their full effort rather than forsaking your interest for a half-hearted effort. Is Destiny a good record? Yes, I find it enjoyable for the most part. Is it a good Saxon record though? No, I would not recommend this to any fans who love the Wheels Of Steel sound of Saxon but find their toying with AOR/glam on albums like Crusader to be too much to stomach.

Have I taken leave of my senses saying this was good? Well keep in mind I like glam and cheesy music, so where you may find crap I find kitsch, and where you may find the synth sounds in "Calm Before The Storm" anathema, I find them anthemic. Where you may find "Where The Lightning Strikes" awful I find it, er, awful too; I may give this album more slack than others, but I'm no Mother Theresa.

If you have not heard this era of Saxon yet, then let me give you a brief summary: in order to break out into the big leagues the band had threatened to crack after the run of classics ending with a bang on Denim And Leather, the band focused on breaking the American market, which was in awe of the burgeoning glam metal scene by the mid-80's. Saxon decided the best way is not to beat them but to join them, slowly introducing more and more elements into each subsequent album (a few synths here, softer guitars, polished production... even spandex, ergh) with minimal success. Deciding to go for broke, Destiny is the culmination of these desires and efforts and as a result they pack this album with many of the hallmarks of a glam/AOR record: crap drum sounds, synths, sharp but smooth guitars, OTT vocals... ballads. Yep, Destiny has all of this and more.

So after all this preamble, what does the album offer up that is evidence of quality? Well, the Christopher Cross cover "Ride Like The Wind" is probably the best remembered moment off of the album, and it is understandable why. Being a left-field cover, it sticks out and as a song it is a good listen; again, if you are willing to take the songs as they are rather than as a Saxon song, it is good. Add to that the soft ballad "I Can't Take It Anymore", which is one of the better slow, morose lovelorn tracks you haven't heard in AOR. The highlights of the record have to be "Calm Before The Storm" and "S.O.S", which are two great rockers that show that even though their talents weren't utilized in a manner you want, the band were a dab hand at other styles.

Biff is surprisingly adept at crooning and smoothly singing about love lost and all manner of things you wouldn't associate with the band off the top of your head. Where the rest of the band sound somewhat out of place, Biff at the very least is able to adapt and thrive to a good extent. Therein lies the problem somewhat; Biff fronts a band who aren't built for this type of music. Oliver and Quinn are best at throwing out riff after riff and having songs built around them; here, you can hear the guitars but very few distinguishable or strong riffs shine through, with much of the album written around Biff or the synths. It's like taking your strongest weapon and blunting it; sure it'll do some damage, but you won't cut through the indifference or revulsion with it. Add into that the oh so 80's drums that you might as well have Mr T and Blake Carrington on the drum skins, then you have a sound that is stifled and powerless.

The band do makes passes at fans of old with songs like "For Whom The Bell Tolls", "Jericho Siren" and "Red Alert", but having flipped the object of flirtation around; where before they were metallers dabbling in AOR, these songs are AOR tracks with metal sounds bolted on. It is these songs that are some of the worst on the record, as crazy as it sounds, but ask yourself, would you rather a good song done in a style you don't think fits a band or a bad song that fits a band's style? "Red Alert" sounds too high-pitched and drenched in effects to please the band's metal fans of old, and I can't see the new audience clamouring for it either, pleasing no one as a result. "For Whom The Bell Tolls" shows promise and does lead you in on false pretences before hitting you with the wall of synths that is the chorus. It was going so well, then ironically comes to a complete and violent stop like hitting a solid wall (and add in some awful sounding guitars to boot).

The band do jump the shark to the point you could enter some of the songs into the pole vaulting events at the Olympics; tracks like "We Are Strong" and "Song For Emma" are so OTT they are enjoyable for any fans of cheese. Of course they are bad, but they are just as fun as well and while I can't say I'd want more of them, I enjoy them for what they are and in the limited quantity that the band give them in.

With all that said and done, I'm glad Saxon did shun the AOR sound and go back to the NWOBHM metal of old; where the band could deliver a few decent songs on Destiny, I preferred it when they were able to (and would) offer up a whole album of solid metal. It may not be the Saxon album you wanted, but if you take it on the merits of what is offered up in isolation, it is a good album for what it tries to be.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Production: 7


Written on 22.01.2021 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 10 users
22.01.2021 - 15:58
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Ride like a wind is best song here. Its radio friendly, female orianteded rock, soft sound. As aor album if Journey or other band would fix it. Yes it would be good, but as saxon album its bad, their worst imo.
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