At the end of the 80's, Saxon had released a number of albums under EMI without becoming the successes that both parties wanted. Although there had been attempts --Innocence is No Excuse
being the strongest pursuit -- their faces were known only in Germany and almost completely blown over in England. Once their record contracts ran out, they were dropped from the label and signed with SPV to produce one or two more strides to fame before rising again with an individual sound.
Solid Ball of Rock
became their most successful album since the 80's (a recognition of sorts, I suppose). Although, what they released for the mass-market would inevitably turn into a mundane ballad-fest, right?
The title-track starts the album with a slight absence of metal, more classic rock actually as the title too truthfully suggests. It opens everything up well enough to attract some commercial success, but perhaps estranging for the fans. Altar of Gods
brings back the speed riffing and goes back to basics in both song-writing and musicality, while Requiem
creates an atmosphere more suited to lighters. It was written for the musicians that had passed on in the last 20 years. The chorus is catchy, but the solo is moderately short and the instrumentals are unheeded for this track.
Then the next 3 tracks are executed to satisfy the needs of any fan in doubt; that's about 12 minutes of classic Saxon, good metal that's addictive, catchy and powerful yet melodic. That is until Ain't Gonna Take It
drives this album into a form of pecuniary downfall.
I'm on Fire
plays after the previous number, and seems to retain the same flaw that have kept this album down, although, it is more enjoyable than Ain't Gonna Take It
. Overture in B-minor-Refugee
looks like a slight step-up for a fallen record, with a stronger rhythm and great solo until it begins to drag on.
After the instrumental Bavarian Beaver
seeming lessly brings Crash Drive
in, the album ends on a slightly better note. The bass-line is pounding all the way through and would have tied up all the loose ends if there hadn't been so many to begin with.
Shots for commercial glory are usually sad and disappointing for fans, but make a great 15 minutes on the charts for whatever metal band aiming for glory; perhaps the lesson that needs to be taught is: know your target before shooting off tomorrow's forgotten ballads.
Anyone unfamiliar with Saxon shouldn't make this their first purchase, but although the album seems to be a 15 year old for sale sign, there are some amazing tracks here, that are definitely worth a listen.
: Altar of Gods
, Lights in the Sky
, Baptism of Fire