Saxon's hard rockin' debut - remastered
Justin Gaines | Northern Virginia | 10/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Saxon may be one of the best known bands that emerged during the celebrated New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) era, but before their genre defining albums Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law and Denim & Leather, the band issued this often-overlooked 1979 debut album.
Prior to this album's release, Saxon was operating under the unlikely moniker Son of a B!tch. The band was more or less a merger of SOB, which featured Graham Oliver, Steve Dawson and Pete Gill, and Coast, which included Biff Byford and Paul Quinn. Coast was a heavy prog rock band and SOB was a heavy blues rock act. It made for an interesting combination, to say the least. The Saxon debut sounds a bit like a pairing of Kansas and AC/DC. It's a heavy album and rocks pretty hard, but there's a bluesy, boogieing vibe as well. Wheels of Steel this ain't, though you can hear the future Saxon sound peeking out in the melody and speed of songs like "Stallions of the Highway" and the NWOBHM prototype "Militia Guard".
The Saxon on this debut recording may bear little resemblance to the Saxon that would totally redefine the British metal scene just one year later, but this is still an album that's absolutely worth owning. It's a great look at the formative stages of one of Britain's most important metal bands, and is a pretty rockin' album at that.
Edition Notes - EMI reissued the Saxon debut (along with the rest of the early Saxon albums) in 2009. EMI has been responsible for some of the best-sounding classic hard rock reissues lately (see: Whitesnake, UFO, MSG and the Scorpions), and their Saxon reissues do not disappoint. In addition to the digitally remastered sound, the reissue features expanded liner notes by Metal Hammer Magazine's Jerry Ewing and a whopping 14 bonus tracks, more than doubling the original album's length. The first five bonus tracks are the original 1978 Son of a B!tch demos. After that come five BBC session recordings. The live b-side of "Judgement Day" from the Suzie Hold On single comes next, followed by three live songs recorded at Donnington in 1980. Between the remastered sound, liner notes and sheer volume of bonus tracks, there are plenty of reasons to replace your old version of Saxon.
PS - When you line up the spines of the EMI Saxon reissues they form the Saxon logo and the Wheels of Steel cover icon. I'm a total geek for stuff like that!"