Still showing little sign of slowing down, Barnsley’s Big Teasers are amazingly on album number twenty four (their nineteenth studio record) and playing as if ‘’Strong Arm Of The Law’’ was written only yesterday instead of nearly thirty years ago. SAXON: mighty in name, mighty in legend. So they never reached the heights of MAIDEN or PRIEST but I’ll tell you what, Biff and co have easily a repertoire of sheer unadulterated Heavy Metal classics that can more than comfortably compete with those of Harris and Halford.
SAXON’S continued resurgence in the land of Metal is consolidated on ‘’Into The Labyrinth’’ and like a well trusted friend who has remained absent for too long the traditional, riff heavy anthemic nature of SAXON’s music is an instant draw.
Lead by the hoary old rocker Peter ‘Biff’ Byford for nigh on thirty-two years it is this mans utter single-bloody-mindedness that has seen SAXON continue to impress, continue to gain new fans, continue to deliver top quality albums after many thought them only famous for inspiring Shearer, St. Hubbins and Tufnell in that film about exploding drummers.
I’ve been a fan of SAXON for as long as I’ve been a fan of MAIDEN (that’s twenty-five years plus) and whilst both bands have had very different careers there’s a huge sentimental emotion attached to both with SAXON maybe edging it for endearment. MAIDEN may well have conquered the world many times over but with SAXON they truly embody the spirit of Heavy Metal like few others and even though ‘’Into The Labyrinth’’ will not be held in as high esteem as ‘’Wheels Of Steel’’ or ‘’Denim Or Leather’’ there’s still an abundance of great music on offer.
The opening brace of ‘’Battalions Of Steel’’ and ‘’Live To Rock’’ encompass the classic SAXON sound: Highly Melodic, racing riffs and chest beating choruses and that unmistakeable voice of Biff. Okay the simplistic nature of the lead single ‘’Live To Rock’’ with its insanely catchy chorus is cerebrally non-challenging but this is a bread and butter SAXON track, a song that they have built a career on and it will be welcomed into the live set just as passionately as ‘’And The Bands Played On’’ and ‘’Dallas 1pm’’. The remaining tracks, from the Power Metal barrage of ‘’Demon Sweeny Todd’’, the overtly Melodic sheen of ‘’Valley Of The Kings", to the kind of ‘’Strong Arm Of The Law’’ re-visiting of ‘’Slow Lane Blues’’, capture the essential SAXON sound with assurance. However all is not shiny and bright with the obligatory ballad ‘’Voice’’ dying on its arse and ‘’Coming Home’’ not exactly suiting Biff’s discernable vocal outlay.
Still, that aside, for the most part ‘’Into The Labyrinth’’ is a sterling silver effort, worthy of high praise amidst a back catalogue jammed to the full with so many classic tracks. Still Heavy Metal to the core, still true to themselves and the fans, still a force to be reckoned with SAXON fully deserve their place in the Metal fraternity.
(Online February 1, 2009)