Carrere, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It’s inevitable that bands who are well-deserving of fame, fortune and attention fall to the wayside while other groups ascend to those pinnacles. If you say the words “The Big 4” to thrash metal fans, for example, they will be able to name dozens of other bands who deserved just a sliver of that spotlight.

Saxon most definitely came up on the early fringes of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but they never quite got the adulation and attention that groups like Iron Maiden and Motorhead received. Their self-titled 1979 debut shows a band who, while still trying to hone their own unique sound, was well on their way towards doing so, and is a forgotten treasure.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Some may blame the fact they were signed to a French label that apparently had no idea how to record, much less what to do with, heavy metal bands. Some may blame the slightly incongruous songwriting that opens the disc, causing tracks like “Rainbow Theme” and “Frozen Rainbow” to sound similar to Judas Priest in their Rocka Rolla days.

The fact, however, is that even the weakest tracks on Saxon prove to be entertaining, and while the original release of this album clocks in at under half an hour, vocalist Biff Byford and crew made use of every second to create an album that, overall, is extremely entertaining and listenable.

“Big Teaser” might have sounded a bit like something that The Sweet would have left on the cutting room floor, but Saxon turns it into a fun little number that shows the true capabilities of the band for the first time. The dual guitar attack of Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn, backed by the rhythm section of bassist Steve Dawson and drummer Pete Gill, simply lay down a groove that is impossible to escape. Similarly, the entire second half of the album is filled with back-to-back head slammers that will leave newcomers to Saxon asking, “Why the hell didn’t this get more attention?”

A fair question, indeed. Perhaps the slight hints of Sweet-like glam rock was enough to keep the early fans of NWOBHM a bit guarded. But the simple fact is that Saxon is an extremely solid debut effort, even though Byford and crew had not quite yet cemented the direction their music would eventually go. For a first try, this is more than just an admirable one, and remains one of the to-be-discovered gems in their vast discography.

Rating: A-

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