Classic NWOBHM; brilliant remaster
Tom P. the Underground Navigator | Park Forest, IL USA | 11/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How exciting it must have been to be of age in Britain in 1980 and part of the burgeoning underground hard rock/heavy metal scene. '80 arguably saw the NWOBHM movement at its absolute peak, with debut LPs being released by the scene's top contenders, most notably Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang and Girlschool.
With the exception of Iron Maiden, none of those groups however, not even Def Leppard, would chart that year as high as Barnsley's Saxon. Their breakthrough LP (and second overall) "Wheels of Steel," released in March of '80, peaked at #5 in the U.K. national charts, an astonishing feat in itself, but even more astonishing is that they would unleash its follow-up a mere seven months later.
And the amazing thing is that October's "Strong Arm of the Law" LP didn't suffer a bit from the usual sophomore slump and was actually even MORE rockin', even FASTER and overall better than its predecessor.
This record is chock full of mini metal masterpieces, not the least of which is opener "Heavy Metal Thunder," yet another of Saxon's odes to their legions of headbanging fans. The mere title indicates that here was a group that wore their metal colors with pride at a time when many of their peers were trying to distance themselves from that label. From there, the title track is another monster of a rocker, and the group's record company seemed to agree at the time, as it was released as a successful single from the LP (singles were a big thing at this time). And who could forget that Saxon were arguably one of, if not the fastest band to exist in heavy metal in 1980. Just listen to the velocity of stand-out speed metal scorchers like "20,000 Ft." and "Sixth Form Girls" for proof. You just did not find tempos this rapid in music at the time without crossing over into hardcore punk.
And finally, in 2009, nearly 30 years after Saxon's peak, their early albums get CD releases that actually do these essential recordings justice. Because if you ask me, the poor mixes of previous pressings all but stripped the music of its original rawness and power. I am happy to report to you that you can in good confidence replace any previous Saxon CDs in your collection with these remasters, as I did. The mere term "remaster" is ambiguous when dealing with music made long before the digital age dawned, as it usually involves replacing the original mix with something presumably "cleaner" and more up to date (read: sterile) that all but ruins it. To me, the best remaster of an album from 1980 is one that attempts to replicate the sound of hearing a brand new copy of the original vinyl. These 2009 Saxon remasters do just that, so much so that I've officially retired my worn old Carrere LP pressings of these albums.
If that weren't enough, each reissue contains expanded liner notes with input from frontman Biff Byford himself, along with various clippings from the day and reproductions of the back covers of each LP, making them essential for collectors.
To summarize, mandatory NWOBHM album, and remasters that give these 30 year old recordings a new lease on life. Highly recommended."
Metal Masterpiece - reissued
Justin Gaines | Northern Virginia | 10/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Iron Maiden may be the best known band from the legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene, and rightly so, but there was a time when Saxon was the dominant NWOBHM band. Actually, once Maiden acquired Bruce Dickinson and took on the larger world stage, it was Saxon that best embodied the sound and spirit of the NWOBHM scene. The speed, the frantic energy, the "denim and leather" attitude - Saxon had all that and then some.
Originally released in 1980, Strong Arm of the Law was Saxon's third album, and is arguably their best work. It's still hard to imagine the band releasing such landmark albums as Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law in the same year, but that was how prolific and high-octane Saxon was at the time. With Strong Arm of the Law, Saxon continues the hard charging, riffs n' wailing heavy metal sound found on Wheels of Steel, pounding out mammoth rockers like "To Hell and Back Again", "20,000 Feet" and "Strong Arm of the Law" as well as "Heavy Metal Thunder", one of metal's all time greatest anthems. Between the speed of the guitar riffs and Biff Byford's vocals, not to mention the pure energy of the whole thing, it's easy to see why Saxon was so influential in the early heavy metal scene. Strong Arm of the Law is heavy metal perfection.
Strong Arm of the Law is an essential NWOBHM album, an essential British metal album, and an essential heavy metal album. If you call yourself a metal fan, you need to have this album on your shelf. It's just that simple.
Edition Notes - EMI reissued Strong Arm of the Law (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 of Strong Arm of the Law features expanded liner notes by Metal Hammer Magazine's Jerry Ewing and a hefty eight bonus tracks, doubling the original album's length. The first four bonus tracks are BBC session recordings of "20,000 Feet", "Dallas 1PM", "The Eagle Has Landed" and "747 (Strangers in the Night)". The remaining tracks are remixes or alternate versions of various Strong Arm songs. Between the remastered sound, liner notes and bonus tracks, there are plenty of reasons to replace your old version of Strong Arm of the Law.
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!