I've been a Saxon fan since Into The Labyrinth (2009) and they, along with bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Accept, encompass everything I love about traditional heavy metal: big hooks, tasty and heavy riffs, slamming grooves and big and catchy melodies. Saxon have been on a winning streak of amazing albums ever since Lionheart (2004) with the last album Sacrifice (2013) and its predecessor Call To Arms (2011) being some of the strongest albums they've released in my honest opinion, and the band's new album Battering Ram continues that streak.
Right from the pummeling metal attack of the title track and "The Devil's Footprint" to the soothing and dark ballad vibe of "Kingdom Of The Cross", everything we love about Saxon is present on the album. The title track comes running out of the gate with a delicious melodic twin lead, then escalates with a punishing riff, followed by Biff Byford's unmistakable vocals. "The Devil's Footprint" is without a doubt the heaviest track on the album and it sits alongside "Hammer Of The Gods", "Sacrifice", "Dogs Of War", "Need For Speed", "Warrior" and "Solid Ball Of Rock" as one of the heaviest songs in the band's catalog. If you love the faster tracks, "Stand Your Ground" and "Hard & Fast" carry a huge vibe of some of the band's faster songs from the early years like "Motorcycle Man" and "20,000 Ft.". Other highlights of the album include "Queen Of Hearts" and "To The End", both of which are slightly slower tracks.
The sound is impeccable, and that is mainly thanks to the production duties of Andy Sneap. Honestly, when Andy Sneap produces a record, you're in for a seriously heavy treat. I personally think Andy Sneap should produce every metal record. The album closes with the darkness of "Kingdom Of The Cross", which was a poem written by Biff in celeration of the 100th anniversary of the first World War last year, and it features David Bower from Hell reading the poem. A haunting, yet soothing and majestic track. This is the only experimentation to be found on the album.
Saxon have been going full steam since 1979 and Battering Ram is proof that they still have a lot of gas left in the tank. The guitar partnership between Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt is as strong as ever with their ability to unleash brutal and tasty riffs and memorable leads. Nigel Glockler still gives impressive and powerful drum performances, Nibbs Carter's bass is still punishing and Biff has lost nearly nothing on his vocals. I wouldn't say this album tops Sacrifice, but it's on the same level of greatness. You know what you're getting with Saxon and that's pure quality heavy metal thunder! Pick this album up now!
Highs: Great songwriting, great performances and great production.