Steamhammer / SPV Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Biff Byford and the rest of the gang in Saxon have to be getting really pissed off. They've been cranking out albums since the '80s, and are considered one of the forefathers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Yet they've never been able to capture an audience like Iron Maiden. Instead, they've marched to their own beat, with thir small but loyal legion of fans, putting out albums that have been quite pleasing -- at least insofar as the ones I've listened to.

my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Metalhead, the band's 1999 release, is another one of those discs which sadly seems to be destined to become a forgotten gem. Too bad that the bulk of the civilized metal world doesn't know what they're missing in this band, as this disc keeps a successful streak alive for Byford and crew.

Following an uncredited intro track (performed by Nigel Glockler), Saxon kick off with the title track, and proceed to do what they've done best for so long -- play rock music which will suck the listener in hook, line and sinker. Sure, there's not as much flash in the guitar work of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, but in the whole picture (where the song is the thing of importance), they don't need to be doing Joe Satriani impressions.

That's what is special about both Metalhead and Saxon. There is great emphasis placed on the song, not in showmanship. If anything, this helps to tone down the music to a point where even someone who claims they don't like metal would be willing to give songs like "Are We Travellers In Time," "What Goes Around," "All Guns Blazing" and "Sea Of Life" a fighting chance.

Oh, sure, there's still the occasional tie to the old days, like when Byford lets loose with a balls-on-a-benchsaw scream or they heavily invoke evil imagery as they do on "Song Of Evil" (hey, at least they don't hide it); these are the only times where things go a little south for Saxon. I'd prefer to see them manipulate the music so it sounds relevant in 2000 than trying to recapture old glory. (To the band's defense, they rarely fall into this trap.) And there are one or two songs, such as "Piss Off" and "Prisoner," that aren't the easiest to get into.

Fortunately for Saxon, the missteps are few, and the joys on Metalhead are many. Saxon has been in the music game for a long time, and it would really be nice to see their efforts rewarded somehow. If they could re-awaken interest in the band with this disc, something tells me they'd be considered one of the leaders of the Third Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Steamhammer / SPV Records, and is used for informational purposes only.