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I rarely discover a band's discography in order of release. Often, I find my experience of a band starting somewhere other than their debut release. Saxon are no exception to this rule. My first taste of Barnsley's finest was "Power & The Glory" from 1983 (and I didn't hear it until 1989). I only got around to their debut full length about 4 years ago, some 3 decades after it was released.
At first listen it was a little disappointing. A bit tame for usually more extreme tastes as I get older perhaps. However, it has grown in stature over the past few years of occasional spins as part of the Original Album Series box set I picked up on holiday one year. The initial, pensive reaction to the mid-paced and bass heavy, ploddy NWOBHM esque, near cabaret feel was thankfully replaced on repeated listen with the understanding that this not only was a fine piece of late 70s hard rock but that so much of the sound that was to influence me throughout the 90s was literally dripping out of the speakers.
I actually quite enjoy the melodic and kind of mysterious opening to the eponymous debut. "Rainbow Theme" & "Frozen Rainbow" feel like the band aren't giving too much away too early on in the record/their recording career. The more upbeat "Big Teaser" is pure Yorkshire cock rock and by the time we are at the end of track four we have been treated to a variety of pace, skilled musicianship and harmonious band performances come the final throes of "Judgement Day".
There's little to not enjoy throughout side one. Yes, Biff's vocal range is limited but his ability marries perfectly with the tight playing of his band mates. It's hard not to chuckle through side two's penultimate track"Still Fit To Boogie" with it's defiant message of wanton youth a little tarnished by the delivery and the subsequent years, but Oliver and Quinn's guitar work on both rhythm and lead carry the track through superbly.
Don't get me wrong, "Saxon" is not perfect. Whether I am typing this in 1979 in red and black striped trousers or in my tracksuit bottoms in 2019 there's criticism to be levelled. For instance, it never quite feels exciting or moving even. It just plays well and quite safely in the corner. It is like a candle sat on a very big saucer, you don't mind leaving the room with it still lit for 5 mins because you know it'll be fine and won't run away with itself and spill wax all over your sideboard. For an eight track record there's remarkably a piece of filler present in closing track "Militia Guard". I mean it is played well enough and Dawson's bass makes it sound like every other track on here, but it is just oddly paced and feels a bit unnecessary.
Let's acknowledge though that this record is 40 years old this year. It might not be my favourite Saxon record and it might not even be my second or third favourite. It is however, still getting plays.
Apparently this is the first of the band's albums to be recorded by Colin Marston and while it is undeniably an album of quality atmo-black compositions, I have reservations about the polishing of the band's sound which has toned down the urgency of the music and resulting in, for me, an album that feels a bit neutered.
An album of Post-Rock inflected Atmospheric Black that has a little more going on than a lot of their contemporaries. Veering from melancholic to discordant to blisteringly heavy, this is sufficiently interesting to stand out in the crowded scene of nature-themed black metal releases and, for me, is the band's best album.
This is DoG's fifth album and is an exploration of the philosophical idea that it is the finite nature of life that makes it worth living. This takes the musical form of atmospheric black metal in the vein of Saor or Winterfylleth. It's blasting is often counterbalanced by gentle, calming sections of acoustic recuperation before once more launching into their pummelling attack. The songs are nicely structured so that neither form overpowers the other and exist in a kind of balance, possibly representative of life itself.