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Saxon - Call To Arms

Label: Militia Guard Music
Format: CD
Released: 2011
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 7.5/ 10

Despite no North American release scheduled, Biff Byford’s ongoing metal legacy has issued a new disc throughout the rest of the world. Seems oxymoronic, but given the Brits’ excellent recent output, "Call To Arms" isn’t much of a metal record, rather a slower, bluesy hard rock, especially the AC/DC-ish ‘Chasing The Bullet’, but Hell, they were there at the beginning, so they’re allowed to look back, if so desired. Most closely aligned with the ’79 eponymous debut, which ended with a track called ‘Militia Guard’, now their self-financed label. That’s still one of my favorite Saxon platters!


In addition to the vintage sounding ‘Ballad Of The Working Man’ there’s even a track called ‘Back In ‘79’. The guitar laden opener ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ references "Dogs Of War", which it bears a stylistic similarity and apart from double bass driven ‘Afterburner’ the most conventionally metallic inclusion. There’s a simple rawness throughout, not easy to capture for a 30 year old band! ‘Surviving The Odds’ is upbeat. From the World War I era poster adorning the cover, to the titular love ballad (framed in a military backdrop) and ‘When Doomsday Comes (Hybrid Theory)’ the familiar refrain of warfare crops up, but the view seems contemporary, the muddled (muddy?) fight against terrorism rather than some historic noble cause. The aforementioned ‘Doomsday’ features keyboards, patterns similar to those used on Deep Purple’s comeback album "Perfect Strangers".

Ending with an orchestral arrangement of the title track is a bit unrewarding, so check out the two disc version, which includes a remastered 32-minute performance from Donington (the first Monsters of Rock festival), back in ’80! It was previously issued, without the band’s consent (as the misspelled Live At Donnington 1980) and contains Byford’s onstage charm and nitro-fuelled (oft less than three minute) renditions of ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Still Fit To Boogie’, ‘Freeway Mad’, ‘Back To The Wall’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’, the spirited 50s influenced guitar improv sing-along ‘Bop Shoo Op’ and ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’. Not sure what happened to ‘Stallions Of The Highway’ and ‘Machine Gun’, but still energy defined!

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