Category Archives: Saxon

Saxon – Battering Ram [Album Review]

Saxon_Battering_Ram

Saxon – Battering Ram
2015, UDR Music

Buy the album

1. “Battering Ram”
2. “The Devil’s Footprint”
3. “Queen of Hearts”
4. “Destroyer”
5. “Hard and Fast”
6. “Eye of the Storm”
7. “Stand Your Ground”
8. “Top of the World”
9. “To the End”
10. “Kingdom of the Cross”

Band:
Biff Byford – Vocals
Paul Quinn – Guitars
Doug Scarratt – Guitars
Nibbs Carter – Bass
Nigel Glockler – Drums

Producer: Andy Sneap

Saxon is probably one of the bigger name metal bands from the ’80s that I’ve never really explored much. I’ve listened to their older stuff, but I’ve never owned any of it. They only Saxon album I own is 2009’s Into the Labyrinth. I liked it well enough but didn’t feel compelled to really check out the two that followed (outside of a few tracks). They also got lost in the shuffle because I’m always so far behind on reviewing music from any given year.

Well, proof that album art can be very important — I decided to give Battering Ram a spin based on the album’s artwork. This is a great album cover. So very metal, so very evil and so very ’80s. Fantastic.

The music itself matches the pure awesomeness of the cover art. I don’t think you could find a more authentic heavy metal album than Battering Ram. It’s Saxon being Saxon, no apologies needed. Maybe it’s just that I don’t check out the metal websites and message boards as much I used to, but it seems like this album has received less attention than the last few efforts from the band. That’s a shame because this is the best I’ve heard from Saxon in the last few years.

Highlights: “Battering Ram”, “Queen of Hearts”, “Top of the World”, “To the End”, “Kingdom of the Cross”

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Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life [Review]

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 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life
2014, Rhino Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio
Bonus Track:
15. Buried Alive – Jasta

Well, there certainly hasn’t been an absence of Dio-related releases since Ronnie’s passing. In the 4 years that Ronnie has been gone there have been two compilations, two live releases (a third is due shortly) and at least three tribute albums by my count. Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life is the third tribute album that I am aware of. The first two tributes were Jorn’s Dio (which Wendy Dio gave her blessing for) and Joey DeMaio’s Magic (which Wendy did not approve of), though I’m sure there’s probably more out there.

As far as star power and  talent goes, you won’t find a better Dio tribute: Anthrax, Halestorm, Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Motorhead, Biff Byford, Vinny Appice, Doro, Doug Aldrich… the list goes on and on.

Most these songs are played fairly straight and faithfully but it’s still interesting to hear Dio covered by other well-known artists and the songs cover his years in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the Dio band. The majority of these tracks range from good to excellent. Even Tenacious D (who I normally can’t stand) do a decent job.

There are a few tracks I do have an issue with though. For one, Killswitch Engage’s “Holy Diver”. I don’t like metalcore and never needed to hear a metalcore version complete with unnecessary pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde proud. I give them credit for trying to make the song their own, but it doesn’t make it a good cover.

Then there’s the cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. There’s a good line-up of musicians on the track and Oni Logan is a good singer but he lacks the power to really put that song over the top like Dio did. He doesn’t sound bad, but I don’t think he’s the right fit for a song like this, if that makes any sense.

Then there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Again, great musicians here. It’s Rob Halford backed by a collection of former Dio band members. Doug Aldrich’s presence is felt throughout the song and while he was in Dio before he joined Whitesnake, the song is given a slight makeover and comes across like a modern Whitesnake song. Halford sounds fine, but again, he doesn’t have the proper voice to be covering songs sung by Ronnie James Dio. Or songs sung by Ronnie James Dio that have been given a Whitesnake makeover. I’m liking this take on the song musically, I just think Halford’s vocals are out of place.

Glenn Hughes turns in a fantastic soulful performance on “Catch the Rainbow”. He is also backed by a collection of former Dio players. Motorhead & Biff Byford do a great job on “Starstruck” and I initially thought that was the Glenn Hughes track when I first heard it. “The Temple of the King” by Scorpions is wonderful as well. It’s a faithful cover of the original but it’s very cool to hear Klaus Meine on vocals.

The track that is garnering the most attention, obviously, is the Metallica track. I’m glad they are on this project because there’s no doubt they have brought eyes to this album that might not have given it a look otherwise. They do a good job covering four of Rainbow’s best songs.

The physical CD closes the album with the ballad “This Is Your Life” which is pulled from Dio’s 1996 album Angry Machines. The song is given extra weight considering the circumstances. Jasta’s “Buried Alive” is a digital album exclusive bonus track and is actually pretty good. Once again, Japan gets more material than North America because Stryper’s cover of “Heaven and Hell” and the Dio Disciples’ take on “Stand Up and Shout” appear on pressings over there. Seriously, what’s up with Japan always getting bonus tracks that never see the light of the day in the United States? I’ve never heard anyone actually address why that happens so often!

A few minor quibbles, but this isn’t a better Dio tribute album out and there probably never will be. Must have for Dio fans!

Highlights: “Rainbow In the Dark”, “Straight Through the Heart”, “Starstruck”, “The Temple of the King”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, “Catch the Rainbow”, “Ronnie Rising Medley”, “This Is Your Life”

SAXON – Into the Labyrinth

Saxon – Into the Labyrinth (2009, SPV/Steamhammer Records)

1. “Battalions of Steel” … 6:34
2.”Live to Rock” … 5:30
3. “Demon Sweeney Todd” … 3:51
4. “The Letter” … 0:42
5. “Valley of the Kings” … 5:03
6. “Slow Lane Blues” … 4:08
7. “Crime of Passion” … 4:04
8. “Premonition in D Minor” … 0:40
9. “Voice” … 4:35
10. “Protect Yourselves” … 3:56
11. “Hellcat” – 3:54
12. “Come Rock of Ages (The Circle is Complete)” … 3:52
13. “Coming Home” (Bottleneck Version) … 3:12

Band:
Biff Byford – Vocals
Paul Quinn – Guitar
Doug Scarratt – Guitar
Nibbs Carter – Bass
Nigel Glockler – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Matthias Ulmer – Keyboards

Produced by: Charlie Bauerfeind

One of 2009’s strongest releases is now in my possession! I’ve been aware of Saxon for a long time, and I’ve been tempted so many times over the years to pick up one of their albums, but they always seemed so expensive either online or in stores, that I never got around to it.

I kept hearing so many positives things about this album, I put it on my list of “wants” earlier this year and finally got around to buying it a month ago or so and it’s blowing me away. This is a classic NWOBHM release… in 2009!

Biff Byford’s vocals are great and the band delivers some great old school metal on songs like “Battalions of Steel” and “Valley of the Kings”, but they also try their hand at blues rock and succeed at that as well with “Coming Home”. “Voice” is my favorite song on the album though, I can’t get it out of my head.

I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on Saxon!

Highlights: “Battalions of Steel”, “Live to Rock”, “”Valley of the King”, “Crime of Passion”, Voice”, “Come Rock of Ages (The Circle is Complete)”, “Coming Home” (Bottleneck Version)

www.saxon747.com
www.myspace.com/planetsaxon

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