Review Summary: A must have for anyone who calls themselves a fan of 80s metal.
The story behind how I obtained Denim and Leather is a long one, but one that I believe is worth repeating. It began in 2009, at the Progressive Nation Tour with Dream Theater and Opeth. During Opeth's set, Mikael Åkerfeldt made a comment about touring with Saxon and asked if anyone had heard of them. With the audience mumbling a half response, he proceeded to sing the chorus of the song 'Crusader' for a few notes before giving up and moving on. I took a mental note to torrent the band when I got home from Manchester, but I got drunk instead and forgot about it for several years.
Being a record collector, I occasionally go around charity shops looking for little gems to add to my collection. One day I came across the vinyl version of Denim and Leather. It wasn't the cheap price that made me buy it. It wasn't the axe S on the name or the flying eagle on the bottom. It wasn't the five burly rockers riding imitation Harley Davidsons on the back. What made me buy this record was the fact that the vinyl was blue. And none of my friends had a blue vinyl in their collection.
Biff Byford - Vocals
Graham Oliver - Guitar
Paul Quinn - Guitar
Steve Dawson - Bass
Pete Gill – Drums
Saxon is everything you'd expect from an early 1980s metal band. The lyrics aren't important, but they are catchy. The music is chocked full of riffs and solos and the drumming is as tight as the leather trousers themselves. The lyrics are about what is important to a metalhead; partying, motorcycles, music, more motorcycles and perhaps the greatest song ever about a train. This album has so much metal that it is literally oozing out of its pores.
If there was a proper way to open up a metal album, 'Princess of the Night' would probably be it. This four minute rocker is filled with guitar solos, amazing riffs and perfect drumming. This is a taster of the whole album and not once does it deviate from this sound. This is a classic of the genre.
Byford's vocals are excellent and are best seen on the second track 'Never Surrender', with his perfect high pitched Halford style vocals. Throughout the album he keeps the engine revving at full capacity and never once are they found wanting or not at their best. His powerful voice is just what this music needs to keep it in check, and it is never lost amongst the torrential downpour of excellent guitars and throbbing bass.
This album is packed full of brilliant guitar work, and the solos are some of the greatest you will ever find in metal. They are fast, rapid fire solos, that slam you in the face and don't stop pounding away until the album is over and you are left a quivering wreck. Their quest is simple, to riff and solo until your eyes begin to bleed and fall out of your skull. And they pull it off amazingly, they sound fresh and stylish the whole way through, there are no boring riffs to be found on this album.
There are many great things about this album. Everything is done brilliantly and there is not a single note out of place. The drumming remains amazing from track to track, with Gill beating away at a brilliant exhausting pace. Dawson also keeps up toe to toe, pounding away with his four string. There are no ballads or anything less than 100% metal. Saxon's style is simple, a powerful rhythm section and vocals combined with tremendous twin lead guitars, a style made famous by Judas Priest and done excellently on this album.
This album is a merry-go-round of metaltastic brilliance and it never stops giving no matter how many times that vinyl spins around. It's a tight, well produced British heavy metal album, that belongs up there with the great bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Manowar. Saxon never made it truly big, but they left behind a legacy of pure and simple heavy metal that the whole world should pay attention to and at least listen to once. If you like metal, guitar solos, motorbikes or any of the above, make sure you stop by Saxon station and ride that Princess of the Night until her fuel runs dry.