|Review: Saxon - Lionheart|
Year released: 2004
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: January 12, 2005
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Rated 4.26/5 (85.19%) (27 Votes)
It always takes me a couple of listens before I start liking a Saxon album. ANY Saxon album. I don't know why. In the case of "Lionheart", it took more than usual, as at first I thought it was the worst Saxon album in several years (without it being actually bad.) For the past couple of days I've been wondering what the hell I was thinking back then. In short, this baby kills. The more I listen to it, the more I think of it as a balanced mix between the excellent "Unleash the Beast" and their early 80s material. The usual Saxon recipe is here - some fast rockers seasoned with a few more "relax" numbers that rock while bordering on the ballad (eg. "Searching for Atlantis".) The difference here is that it's a bit more refined, with a cleaner sound than usual. That doesn't work for all bands, but it worked for Saxon. The rockers still sound aggressive enough, and the more "ballad-ish" songs are not "flowerized" by that sound either.
The songs are all at least good, no really boring (or god forbid, annoying) moments on this album. Some songs definitely standout from the crowd, such as the excellent starter "Witchfinder General", a fast rocker that's also quite catchy (in other words, it's been stuck in my head for the past week), "Man and Machine" is another fast one, not as catchy but quite headbang-inducing. The title track is also quite outstanding, a bit epic-sounding, alternating between fast and slow-paced with great vocal lines, resulting in another one that you can't shake off from your head. "English Man of War" is another ass-kicking rocker a bit in the same vein as "Man and Machine". Hell, I'm gonna stop here before I end up listing them all. This album pieces together sounds from now classic Saxon material. "Lionheart" is proof positive that the band has stayed true to its roots without going stale and downright repetitive: These guys "still have it", it's that simple. A nice slap in the face to those who judge a band solely by the age of its members. Saxon have a lot to teach to lesser bands.
What I thought would be one of my disappointments for 2004 has ended up turning into one of my favourite albums. Just more proof that sometimes if an album doesn't get you with the first couple of listens, it's worth giving it another try after leaving it alone for a month or two. Mind you, some people immediately named this one of the best Saxon albums, and one of the top of the year, and I recall calling them either crazy or over-enthusiastic. But in the end it turns out they were right. Highly, highly recommended for Saxon fans (who most likely already have it) and for fans of traditional heavy metal in general.
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