Saxon – Battering Ram
Label: UDR Music
Release Date: October 30, 2015
With over 35 years of recording and touring under its belt, NWOBHM stalwarts, Saxon, have nothing left to prove. So it comes as no surprise that the band’s 21st studio album, Battering Ram, finds the band doing what it does best, while still pushing its own envelope. In 2013, Saxon released Sacrifice, an album as powerful as anything in the group’s canon of iconic metal. With Battering Ram, Saxon continues further into the territory opened on Sacrifice, with perhaps a bit more weightiness and progressive flair. Andy Sneap (Accept, Megadeth, Arch Enemy) handled the full production reigns on the album this time, freeing vocalist Biff Byford to concentrate on the creation of the record.
The album opens with the driving gauntlet of the album’s title track. A riff guided missile right to the cranium. One of the things that stands out immediately is the power and nuance of Byford. The man can take a solid song and make it a beast just on the strength of his delivery alone, but guitarists Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn are equal to the task. Nibbs Carter‘s bass rumbles like heavy thunder. The song stands alongside seminal tracks like “Denim and Leather” as a war cry for metalheads.
Byford channels his love of history bringing to life an old folk tale on “The Devil’s Footprint”. Drummer Nigel Glockler pounds the drums like a piston on overload as he propels the song forward. A stuttering guitar riff rings in Byford’s twisted spin on Alice in Wonderland; more malice than Alice. The track plods along with a cinematic undercurrent and highlighted with some nicely layered progressive elements that add depth to one of the album’s darker and more intriguing moments.
“Destroyer” is a straight forward, prototype Saxon anthem, with a crawling riff and a pummeling rhythmic attack. “Hard and Fast” is delivered in a similar vein with more of a galloping guitar line. The track is a hybrid of the band’s 80s work and the modern feel of Sacrifice.
Most of the songs on Battering Ram fall into the classic Saxon mold, like the menacing attitude of “Eye of the Storm” or the juggernaut race of “Stand Your Ground”. “Top of the World” opens with a riff that recalls “Princess of the Night” before bursting into a melodic maelstrom, and moody, storytelling vocal line, while “To the End” is more of a slow-rolling tempest.
The album’s final track, “Kingdom of the Cross” is a bit of a departure for Saxon. Byford hails it as his epitaph for the first world war. It features only Biff singing, Nibb’s bass, and keyboards from Nigel, plus special guest David Bower reciting Byford’s poem. It is a nice closing to the record. Those fans who grab the deluxe version will also get the party-rager, “Three Sheets to the Wind (Drinking Song).
Saxon has always delivered solid if not thunderous slabs of memorable metal, but with Sacrifice and now Battering Ram, the band is showing a renewed sense of power and sonic charisma. Battering Ram can hold its own against any of Saxon‘s back catalog, with Byford’s iconic voice leading the charge. Nearly four decades on and 21 albums deep, Saxon are still creating headbanging fury for the metal faithful!