Saxon - Battering Ram - (8.5/10)
Published on November 22, 2015
2015 is a very strong for the NWoBHM, with Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Satan and now Saxon delivering new albums and so far all of them have shown that these old dogs still have a lot to give, showing many of the way younger bands how it’s done. Saxon are standing in their 38th year of operation and Battering Ram is their 21st album in that span, which in itself already is a legacy only very select few bands are able to command.
For more than two decades the Englishmen have been riding high on a wave of pure heavy metal and anno 2015 they still do not show any signs of slowing down or wearing out, even at a combined age of 262 years, and even at age 64 Biff Byford is holding the frigate steady with his presence alone. And despite their age there is no watering down of the British steel, the title of the album is the program, powerful, direct, channelling the collective experience of the band into a compact and efficient opener that appropriately sets the pace for the 45 minutes to follow.
The almost rock’n’roll-ish touch that some of the past few albums have had, is largely scaled back in favour of a more classic heavy metal approach, while avoiding falling into a predictable pattern at the same time. Dark yet powerful and double-bass driven “The Devil’s Footprint” meets the classic straightness of “Destroyer” meets no-frills “Stand Your Ground” and more groovy “To the End” in what can only be called a classical Saxon record from the beginning to the end.
Somewhat sluggish “Queen of Hearts” and a little ho-hum “Hard and Fast” can’t fully keep up and don’t quite meet the usual Saxon standard (and what is it with these odd harmonies in the middle of the otherwise excellent “Eye of the Storm”), preventing Battering Ram from breaking into even higher regions of album of the year lists, but there is one more ace up the Englishmen’s sleeve, at the end (just before the bonus track “Three Sheets to the Wind (The Drinking Song)”, stands one of the most intense and harrowing pieces the band has ever written: “Kingdom of the Cross”. For the most part only consisting of a simple rhythm, bass and some keyboards, Hell fronter David Bower recites a poem telling the the haunting story of World War 1, its feelings and its horrors, his expressive voice fitting perfectly to convey the intense emotion the words contain and Byford only briefly comes in for the chorus. From a band that used to sing about a train bringing mail and standing in a queue, this is some deep and intense stuff that will occupy your mind for a long time, especially when paired with the simple, but ever so efficient melancholic melody threading through the track.
Ever since infamous Destiny in 1988 Saxon seem to be incapable of releasing a weak album and Battering Ram gloriously continues this legacy. No fan shall feel disappointed and it is (almost) as good of a first contact as any to get a taste of this band, which still is going strong after all these years and is a reminder that metal can keep you young. Even at its advanced age, the NWoBHM is keeping the metal flowing!