Ahhhh, Saxon. So many years under that belt. In the right (or wrong?) light, frontman Biff Byford looks like the walking dead. Just what exactly keeps the old dogs running so long? Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, and Motorhead have all made waves in the metal scene in the past year for one reason or another. Hmmm . . . except for Dio, all those guys are Brits. Maybe it’s something in the water over there. Fellow countrymen Saxon tend to fly just beneath the general radar here in the States. I guess they just never reached that legendary status that makes our materialistic, icon-driven culture take notice. Oh, and the lack of a distinct personality within the band probably hasn’t helped either. Nevertheless, the band has soldiered on, releasing just a shitload of albums over the years, and show no signs of slowing down on their latest, Lionheart.
This essentially picks up where Killing Ground left off, having erased some of the more annoying aspects of Metalhead and just getting down and dirty with the old-school metal. “Witchfinder General” is a perfect opener, and one of the best tracks here, harkening back to the old days of Denim and Leather. After dropping back to mid-tempo for a few tracks, they kick back into gear with another heavy one, “Justice”, and another, “To Live by the Sword”, and the album follows that direction all the way to the end. Well, there’s the exception of “Jack Tars”, a brief acoustic bit about a pirate, which I can only assume serves as a prelude to “English Man O’ War”, but I can’t prove it.
It took a couple of listens, but this album has really grown on me, and is probably the best of their more recent efforts. The only Saxon fans I can see being disappointed with this album are the ones who gave up on the band once Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson split and formed Oliver/Dawson Saxon. You know, the same type of people who gave up on Cryptopsy after Lord Worm left. If their best years are behind them, no one bothered to tell them. A solid ball of traditional metal that is well worthy of your time.