Review by Alan Holloway
19 albums down, and British metal stalwarts Saxon aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Although like most bands they are unlikely to ever recapture the lightning in a bottle of their classic albums, they are at least consistent without ever being complacent.
“Call To Arms” opens with a bold statement of intent, “Hammer OF the Gods”, also the best track on the album. Fast, fluid, melodic and heavy, it exudes the essence of Saxon throughout. Showcased on the recent tour, “Back in 79” is a little like a slower version of “Denim & Leather”, and like that song could well become a live favourite. It’s a good foot stomping anthem, but I’m more partial to some of the faster tracks, like the sizzling “Afterburner” and the fluid “Surviving Against The Odds”. Biff Byford still sounds as good as ever (I type this phrase a lot, I know, but he does!), and his vocals bring a healthy dose of personality to the songs. There’s plenty of crunchy guitar and intricate solos, and the band never substitute melody for power, always keeping the two balanced just right. Perhaps the least interesting track is “Call To Arms” itself, which plods on a bit, but there is a bonus orchestral version tagged on the end of the disc which really gives it some gravitas and much needed welly. Ideally, this would have been the main version.
There’s something here for any Saxon fan, basically. They seem to have settled into a good compromise between the melody of much of their 80s output and the sheer heavy metal of the late 90s and early 00s. “Call To Arms” can stand proudly beside any Saxon album before it, and that’s as good a recommendation as I have got.