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Review: Saxon - Wheels of Steel
Wheels of Steel

Label: Carrere Records
Year released: 1980
Duration: 38:54
Tracks: 9
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: April 25, 2018
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
Wheels of Steel

Rated 4.5/5 (90%) (22 Votes)

One of the earliest NWOBHM bands, the U.K.'s Saxon has existed since 1977 and beat Iron Maiden to the debut album punch with Saxon in 1979. The band was insanely prolific early on, releasing no less than six original albums between '79 and '84 with Wheels of Steel their second and probably most well-known. Like Maiden and Diamond Head, Saxon had a loud, proud, rough and ready sound that built on the heavy rock of the 70s, but they also possessed an ear for catchy riffs and pop-friendly melodies their peers didn't (except for maybe Def Leppard) and fused them into a unique sound that no other band, NWOBHM or not, could match.

Wheels of Steel is close to a "greatest hits" record for Saxon with the entire first side being compilation and live staples for over 30 years. The riffs on "Motorcycle Man" and "Wheels of Steel" are classics in every sense of the word and it is next to impossible to avoid breaking out the air guitar when they come on. "747 (Strangers in the Night)" tells an unusual story about airliners in danger of crashing, highlighted by the soulful soloing of guitarists Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn. Vocalist Biff Byford has the prototypical hard rock/heavy metal voice, one that is just as comfortable growling a verse or hitting a high note during a chorus. There are a few weak tracks, which isn't a surprise considering how much material Saxon was cranking out during the early 80s, but on Wheels of Steel the weak songs are actually quite good while the good stuff is awesome.

Saxon were not the heaviest band of the early NWOBHM but their straight-ahead rocking heavy metal helped define the movement and inspired countless bands over the years. Wheels of Steel is a great album for anyone that likes hard rock/heavy metal and a mandatory release if you call yourself a fan of the NWOBHM.

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