Okay, so ‘Call To Arms’ has been out a while, but that doesn’t mean the 19th studio outing from British metal stalwarts, Saxon, isn’t worth shouting about. These guys have been hammering out quality tunes for over 30 years, and bar the odd near miss, each release has pretty much landed right on the money. Biff Byford and Co have a formula that works, a formula that doesn’t need messing with, and “Call To Arms” is another solid, horns in the air, anthemic release from these metal veterans.
Byford claimed that “Call To Arms” was “probably the best album we’ve written and recorded in the last 20 years”. Fair enough, we hear this time and time again, for practically every release we get, but he does actually have a point, it’s definitely pushing for a podium finish. It’s classic Saxon through and through, galloping riffs, Byford’s distinct soaring vocals and some pretty flamboyant fretwork from Messrs Quinn and Scarratt. ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ feels like a classic Saxon tune, and is a great way to launch the album. ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ flows into ‘Back In ’79’ and then ‘Surviving Against The Odds’ and you are completely immersed into Saxon of old. It’s completely enveloped with nostalgia, and ports you back to the heady days of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal faster than Bill and Ted could say “Excellent”.
That’s the thing with this album though, Saxon have not deviated from the same sound and the same feel throughout the decades. This in itself is not a bad thing, but it has to be said that ‘Call To Arms’ does feel dated. ‘Mists Of Avalon’ and ‘Call To Arms’ are tunes that will appeal to the Saxon army, with the latter being traditional ‘lighter in the air’ rock balladry at full force, with Byford’s vocals constantly stripping back the years, sounding as powerful now as they did in the 70’s. It’s a familiarity that most of the Saxon fanbase will appreciate, but does not break any moulds or challenge any boundaries.
‘Chasing The Bullet’ is a masterclass in why Saxon have been so successful throughout the years. Solid and pure, bang your head, hook laden metal. ‘When Doomsday Comes’ throws in the obligatory epic sounding monster of a track, with a guest appearance from keyboard maestro Don Airey, and with the album closer being a very impressive sounding orchestral rehash of the title track Saxon show they can be more than stripped back British metal.
“Call To Arms” does exactly what you expect. It’s solid Saxon through and through. It firmly sits in no messing familiar territory. These rock veterans don’t need to break the formula. They don’t need to win over millions of new fans. With “Call To Arms” Saxon have delivered the goods, and they are still proudly waving the NWOBHM flag.