Saturday, 7 July 2012

CD Review: Wheels Of Steel, by Saxon (1980)

Landing somewhere between a less frantic Motorhead and a less inspired AC/DC, Saxon's brand of heavy metal is honest, hard working, and predictable. Once a track's structure is established, few surprises can be expected. The band achieved success at the forefront of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the early 1980s, but a limited tool set and lack of evolution meant that Saxon's heat never fully ignited into a lasting legacy.

The band's second album Wheels Of Steel was an early success, and in 747 (Strangers In The Night) featured one of Saxon's best known hits and most solid compositions. Inspired by the true story of a jet airliner stranded prior to landing in New York due to a landing lights power failure, 747 packs a solid punch with an inspired hook and beefy melody.

When the songwriting isn't as strong, Saxon lean heavily on the vocals of Biff Byford to see them through. His energetic high-pitched delivery is among the more distinctive in metal, and makes up for generally lacklustre guitar work around him. Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn rarely set the world on fire in terms of innovation, interplay or interesting solos, often resorting instead to deliberate repetition of pleasant-enough but also quite simple riffs.

Opener Motorcycle Man, title track Wheels Of Steel, and closer Machine Gun benefit from a blue collar ethic and authentic endeavour to deliver sharp-edged metal, and in the case of Machine Gun, the rapid repetition is raised to a ridiculous rock n' roll romp in the name of rollicking fun.

The other five tracks on Wheels Of Steel are close to throwaway, the album more than half full of instantly forgettable and unimaginative soundalike material.

Wheels Of Steel gains admirable traction about as often as it bogs down in the mud of limited talent.


Biff Byford - Vocals
Graham Oliver - Guitars
Paul Quinn - Guitars
Steve Dawson - Bass
Pete Gill - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Motorcycle Man - 8
2. Stand Up And Be Counted - 7
3. 747 (Strangers In The Night) - 10
4. Wheels Of Steel - 8
5. Freeway Mad - 6
6. See The Light Shining - 7
7. Street Fighting Gang - 6
8. Suzie Hold On - 7
9. Machine Gun - 8

Average: 7.44

Produced by Saxon and Pete Hinton.
Engineered by Will Reid Dick.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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