Saxon - Crusader review


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Band: Saxon
Album: Crusader
Release date: 1984

01. The Crusader Prelude
02. Crusader
03. A Little Bit Of What You Fancy
04. Sailing To America
05. Set Me Free [Sweet cover]
06. Just Let Me Rock
07. Bad Boys (Like To Rock N' Roll)
08. Do It All For You
09. Rock City
10. Run For Your Lives

It's time to conquer... and retreat.

Continuing down the path Saxon had taken on The Power And Glory, Crusader is a more rock-indebted album with an ear to what is being played on the radio; while the band hadn't fully forsaken their recent triumphs, you can hear that those days were in the rear view mirror as they were headed to the promised land that was the American market. While the quality of the album is a step down from the heights the band had reached, it is still a good record with moments of brilliance slotted in next to some good tracks; you'll still get your money's worth but it's not the bang for your buck that the band had offered up to this point.

The main difference you will notice is that the power the band bring to the table is harnessed and more controlled by the production; the heavy and in your face guitars have been given a facelift, replacing their intensity for a polished sound. Add to that the drums are not so much pounding but restrained, and you have an album that sounds more cohesive and dressed up, but at the expense of the band's working class charm. It doesn't ruin Crusader, but it does make it harder for you to give the band the benefit of the doubt at moments where before they could be excused or overlooked; whether that's because the production highlights these weaknesses or the strength of the album doesn't compensate for it is up to you.

There are other changes to the formula the band had perfected to this point, replacing odes to heavy metal, biking and planes with the central theme of wanting to rock in some form. The band lay the cards on the table for all to see' no longer are they the band who make heavy metal but they're now a band who rock. The problem with this lies in the fact that they aren't very good at convincing you that they can make you rock; they sign a lot of cheques but when it comes to cashing them in, the conversation rate is poor.

To get to the music itself, you have an album of radio-ready rockers that are smoothed and shaped so that they are easily slotted in on any radio playlist. "Sailing To America", "Rock City" and "Set Me Free" sound like many a song you would hear if you switched the dial over mid-song. While they are ok listens, they are far from the knock down drag out classics the band had made a habit of producing up until Power And The Glory.

If you ever wanted to hear a demonic Biff asking the rest of the band to make him boogie then good news, "A Litte Bit Of What You Fancy" has your back. The song itself is an upbeat rockabilly track that sounds like it was updated (for '84), but the band can't help but overcompensate and in turn ruin the vibe somewhat. The "ya daba doo" (I kid you not) from Biff and his over-the-top singing is too try-hard and is very off-putting. "Just Let Me Rock" is a mixed bag; while the idea is passable and the performance is solid, it is severely hampered by the production. Whereas you want to feel the power push and strike during the chorus, it is limp and weak, leading to what should be a guaranteed headbang moment being reduced to an "uhhhh, ok" response. If this song were to be re-recorded and more power and less polish applied, then I could see this song getting a much better reception, but in the form presented on Crusader it is a dud.

Of course there is the title track and its intro prelude; the one element most people agree on about this album is the quality of the song and for good reason. Slow, brooding, atmospheric and anthemic, it really seems out of place (which is odd for a title track) on the album given what makes up the rest of the record. It is the sole metal track on the record and the one that had the most thought put into it.

While being a step down from their prior work may seem like damning Crusader to the bin, it only serves to highlight just how strong the band were to this point. While this qualification means little when you are listening to the album knowing the band have done better in the past, it does give you a reason to give this album a listen if you are a fan of Saxon; it may not be the best thing they've put out but it does have its moments, the title track especially.

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: 13 users
22.01.2021 - 16:03
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
First album when band their classic nwobhm roots, character and Trade mark. American orianteded as you said, but then only USA gave good money for artists, Scandi, BeNiLux and German market was little, UK wont make you rich, South was South poor for metal, Japan was not discovered, Red Star felt later, so all was in USA
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