NWoBHM legends Saxon have made a resurgence of late, their last handful of albums and tours rightfully receiving fantastic reviews, a rise of popularity in the UK, new fans and live shows that put bands half their age to shame. Then there's the current line-up, that's been to the most stable of late.
So just when you thought things couldn't get any better, we get Call To Arms, that hits you in the face like a sledgehammer.
Opener Hammer Of The Gods instantly grabs you, it has that modern sound of recent albums, with a nod of the early 90s hard metal the band went through, and furiousity of NWoBHM songs the band played in the early 80s. All the best bits of Saxon then? Well, yes.
Then there's Back In 79, a song about the band's roots, with that classic anthemic sound Saxon do so well. Recorded in Brighton, this track features several fans on backing vocals. And Surviving Against The Odds is just a full throttle metal track with a blistering guitar solo. Singer Byford sounds great, and the guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt trade riffs as if their lives depended on it.
The progressiveness of the last two albums hasn't been exorcised completely, Mists Of Avalon (at 5 minutes, the longest track here) nods to the live favourite Battalions Of Steel.
Call To Arms the title track is a slower track but comes over with power and passion. Then both Chasing The Bullet and Afterburner are full on metal, riffs and driving rhythms aplenty, bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler both on top form. The latter features some bursts of guitar harmonies that are just sublime, something that could be made more of.
Another highlight is the doomier When Doomsday Comes, which features keyboard player Don Airey (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy, Judas Priest et al).
No Rest For The Wicked is a chunkier number that works well, and the last and tenth track Ballad Of The Working Man opens with a metal boogie that shifts into a solid melodic heavy metal track.
Then, as a closer, there is an orchestral version of the title track, and it works very very with the subsequent huge swirling production. If Saxon did a whole album of this it would make a good stage show.
Saxon have made a sure fire album here, because it keeps the momentum of the last 2 albums without sticking to a formula, with strong nods back to the 90s metal and classic early 80s period. The balance is right, the balance is fresh. The band are tight, all working hard to stay on top of their game and it comes off.
A new album that is Spot On, energetic professional tight live performances that mix the catalogue well, and 5 lovely guys who give a shit about their fans, Saxon are in a good place right now.