29 November 2015
Saxon - Battering Ram
Few names in metal music give as much reaction as the name Saxon; they have a polarising effect on anyone who hears that name and it is either one full of passionate hatred and a lifelong love coupled with a bemusement as to why the band are not as well received as they think they should be. The band have been through the wars, lost members who tried to take the name away from the rightful owners, became the jokers of heavy metal and have also experienced a renaissance of sorts over the last few year. They are obviously one of the most influential heavy metal act to ever exist and this is the first time I have listened to them in years, as I fall into the camp where I have never really gotten the band. I state this at the beginning as I always prefer to be honest from the start, also I would like to point out whilst they have not been for me personally I can see what people find so appealing about their music. It is usually high energy metal that does not really deviate from its original path, what is there not to like about that if that is what you want? So will this album convert me into a fan, will it fall or will it be somewhere in between? Well, there is only one way to find out.....
Starting the album is the title track "Battering Ram" and the song starts without any long solo intro, straight into it with the full band playing. It is a classic metal song that you will expect from Saxon all in praise of the heavy metal genre and it has a sing along section and shredding chorus which plays to the strengths of Saxon; but it also plays into those parts that people dislike as well. It is not out of the box and the lyrical content is cheesy at best. Personally, I am half way between both views - musically it is better than any other Saxon material I have heard before and the band sound tight, Biff Byford still has a strong voice as well and it does not make me want to reach for the skip button; however I still find the lyrics to be the weak link in this song, no matter how well they are sang. With a spoken word intro "The Devil's Footprint" that should have been recited by a classic horror actor (alas they have all passed into the beyond), it is a tale about horror and mystery that really is a horror film incarnate. This is much better to these ears, I can get into this number with its storyline that speaks in to me about Celtic horror and would have been great with a video featuring many horror images. Musically, it is another good metal song with an excellent solo that will have metal heads raising their horns in unison and some people wanting to buy a guitar once the shops are opened again. "Queen of Hearts" is a slower number with the sound like a church choir in the mix, it is your standard woman has done me wrong type of number and no matter how well it is played I have never gotten this type of number. It just does nothing for me and it feels a little dated to these ears, so I will be skipping onto the next number.
"Destroyer" is the fourth song on this album, the power is back to the forefront of this song and it is all about a destructive monster who creates chaos and leaves devastation in its wake. Another metal staple that has been used many times over the years, it reminds me a bit of "Nightcrawler" by Judas Priest; but it only reminds me of that song and reminding the listener of a superior classic is not a smart move. It is a sub-Maiden song to be honest, well played but not one that sticks in my mind once finished and making me hanker for Rob Halford & co. "Hard and fast" is a faster number, played to the best ability of the band and it sounds like a classic number which once again make little impression. I cannot fault their ability and the passion behind the song, but I get no joy from it or feel any hatred towards it either; all sorts of nothing going on for me at all sadly. "Eye of the Storm" is a better track from Saxon, at least it is musically It is has a slower, more intense feeling than other tracks on this album and on a musical level it works so much better than the best percentage of the songs which have preceded this song. Biffy Byford once again has a great voice and I would love to hear it deliver a better set of lyrics, however he takes those words and makes them work; for any metal singer if they can make something (no matter how silly), then that is a win in my book. "Stand Your Ground" brings the speed back up musically, technically it is another song which I reckon will be going down a storm at their live shows and it is one that I can appreciate on a technical bases. It has a brilliant solo, it is a head banger anthem that will have necks thrashing and heads spinning around the world. It still feels a little alien to my tastes, but it is still played very well.
"Top of the World" keeps the familiar pattern going for this album, the music is well played and I cannot fault the passion behind it; but it feels a little flat to me and there is not excitement or pleasure I get when the solo hits or that opening riff. No amount of professionalism will change that and this song is another example of that to me, well played but falling on the wrong ears. The next song is called "To The End" and it is the poorest song of the album, a slow hard rock anthem that is asking if the audience is with them and it has filler wrote all over it. It might be their tribute to their own fan base and I sincerely appreciate the sentiment behind the song, but this is the first song where even the music has not worked - it sounds as if it has took a Black Sabbath riff and modified it slightly, I am going to go to the next song before I say something in the style of our review Jerm (i.e. libellous). The penultimate song (last one of the proper album) is called "Kingdom of the Cross" which starts with a poem about war and the death that follows, it is a long and slow tribute to those who have lost their life to the great, never ending war machine. You can see where they were going with this song, it is once again well played and it is one of the better songs on this album; but I am not feeling it, but I appreciate the sentiment behind this song. Ending the album is the bonus song called "Three Sheets to the Wind (The Drinking Song)" which is all about getting pissed, it is fast pace and I just cannot get into it. I like getting drunk as much as the next guy, but this song just passes me by and the album ends on a weird note.
How can a band that have that much talent in their ability to sing, play guitar and drum sound as pedestrian as this? I can see what is going on, I can see the work that has went into this and it should be something that I am falling for; it just passes me by without even as much as a bye or leave. It is not the worst I have heard from Saxon and it is one of their better works for me; but it is not for me and it is probably something I will not be returning to. The marks here are for their passion for the music and the technical ability, again I will leave it at that.
4.5 out of ten - Well it is alright, but still......
Top track - Eye of the Storm
You can purchase Battering Ram on Amazon here
You can visit the Saxon website here
You can follow the activities of Saxon on Facebook here
You can stream Battering Ram on Spotify here
You can stream Battering Ram on Deezer here
You can stream Battering Ram on Tidal here
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