Saxon - Call To Arms

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Now in their 35th year, British heavy metal veterans Saxon are preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of their most popular albums, Denim And Leather on tour this year, but not before releasing their 19th studio album and playing some shows to support that. Initially Call To Arms sounds like Saxon trying to recapture their youth, which is not what their regained popularity in recent years has been based upon. The riffs on Hammer of The Gods are brighter, softer, and simpler, much like they were on now-classic albums like Strong Arm of The Law and Wheels of Steel; they sound like a band out of ideas - blazing solos aside. Biff Byford does turn in one of his smoothest vocals in a decade, but that's the only real positive. Later Surviving Against The Odds and the AOR-tinged Mists of Avalon pull the same trick, to similar effect. The slower, heavier tracks are the only ones which sound like current Saxon, and fortunately there are more of these, eventually. Amongst the three throw-back songs is a track titled as though it should be of similar style, but is a thoroughly more modern sounding song, Back In '79. The slower, heavier motif is continued finally on track five, the title track, which again sees Byford deliver a fine vocal. Another couple of more successful attempts at the older sound in Chasing The Bullet and an era-bridging Afterburner keep the momentum going, and from there the resurgent metal of Saxon's recent years is back. The string-based accenting of the riffs in When Doomsday Comes (Hybrid Theory) may be a borrowed idea, but along with the muscular No Rest For The Wicked, Ballad For The Working Man and an excellent orchestral version of the title track, it closes the album in a manner it's a shame the rest of the album didn't set out to begin with.

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2011, Albums, Heavy Metal, Quick.Play Reviews,

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