"Call To Arms"

By Dr. Abner Mality

This is the 19th official Saxon album. Roll that number around in your head for a minute, humanoids...19 ALBUMS! Now how many artists of any genre make it to that mark? Moreover, how many can say that Album #19 is one of their best? Not too fuckin' many, I'd say.

Saxon is surely a living and breathing example of the longevity-inducing powers of good British tea. Singer Biff Byford, who would be a dead ringer for Gandalf the Wizard if he wore a beard, sounds like a fresh young lad of 18 on "Call To Arms". His improvement and progression in the last decade has been nothing short of astounding. With "Call To Arms", Saxon have created an album that is a kind of guided tour through their many styles of metal. Opening cut "Hammer of the Gods" is so brisk and sharp, it cuts like a Saracen's blade. Amazingly crisp and energetic heavy metal,with a wonderful performance from Biff. In contrast, "Back In 79" is tank-crushing metal stomp reminiscent of "Denim and Leather" not only with its anthemic style, but its lyrics celebrating the band itself.  Those two tracks are the best, but you get no let down from there.

"Mists of Avalon" is more the kind of melodic power metal song that Saxon has tried its hand at in the last few albums. It's quite stately and elegant, a definite grower. The title track is the album's ballad, a story of men on their way to war, given depth and power by Biff's vocals and lyrics. The song is reprised later on with the addition of symphonic elements and may even be better the second time around. In contrast, "Afterburner" is a  furiously thrashing blitzkrieg, quick and deadly. Scattered amidst these tracks we also get a rough and ready "Ballad of the Working Man", an ominous "When Doomsday Comes" complete with synth solo and the very kick-ass "Surviving Against The Odds".

It all makes for a pure Saxon album, the best produced I think I've ever heard from them and played with more zest and vigor than is usual. To no one's surprise, this is highly recommended. Now I need to order some of that Barnsley tea...