March 15, 2021 Saxon – Inspirations (Album Review)
One of the pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Venom), Saxon was formed in 1977, in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. Among the most prolific bands on the scene, they enjoyed chart successes especially in the 1980s, via its early albums that notably included 1980’s Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law, 1981’s Denim and Leather, and 1983’s Power & the Glory. Despite the emergence of various newer bands and sub-genres in the decades that followed, the English band went on recording music, releasing an average of five albums every decade. In fact, to date, Saxon boasts of a 22-album studio discography; and a new one is coming soon.
Slated for release on Friday, March 19, 2021, via Silver Lining/Militia Guard Music, Saxon’s 23rd, titled Inspirations, is a collection of renditions of songs by some of the band’s influences. Eleven tracks in total, it is a mix of songs that inspired, influenced, and are vital to what and who Saxon are. An interesting dive into their past, it opens effectively with the darker and more ominous version of “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones and then followed by an obvious and deserving track, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” A couple of unlikely but equally interesting choices come in the forms of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” and Toto’s “Hold the Line,” humbly revealing two of Frontman/Vocalist Biff Byford’s musical idols from the softer side of Rock music.
Some more inevitable classics that Inspirations features are Black Sabbath’s “Evil Woman,” the ’80s Heavy Metal throwback feel of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Stone Free,” Motörhead’s “Bomber,” the breakneck groove and familiar howl of Deep Purple’s “Speed King,” and the almost unaltered take on AC/DC’s “Problem Child.” Finally, the heavy and hard-rockin’ new record ends with another surprise—a melodramatic execution of The Kinks’ “See My Friends”—a proper album closer—calm, serene, melodic, yet still metallic.
Inspirations proves that no amount of sonic climate change nor even a relentless pandemic could stop Byford and the rest of Saxon—Paul Quinn (guitars), Nibbs Carter (bass), Doug Scarratt (guitars), and Nigel Glockler (drums)—from ensuring that their musical legacy remains prolific and untarnished. Moreover, Saxon was able to stay as close as possible to the melodic traits of the selected tracks yet remain free in putting onto them the individual members’ respective touch. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Inspirations 4 out of 5 stars.