Review by Vinny for Saxon - Crusader (1984)
Saxon's importance in the world of metal is often overlooked. As I mentioned before elsewhere on MA, their first four albums contain some of the most consistent material of the late 70's/early 80's and even Power & The Glory (although by no means terrible) holds a special place in my heart in terms of a nostalgic piece as opposed to the overall quality of the record. Enter Crusader which on paper showed so much promise but unfortunately served little purpose other than to confirm the golden run of albums was well and truly over and the commercial appeal of the band was at the forefront of proceedings, sacrificing quality song writing in the process.
Now let's be clear here, Saxon aren't epic song writers. A lot of the themes of their songs rest heavily on stereotypical subjects such as motorbikes, girls and partying. This simplicity in the songs was completely their niche and I loved them for it because the quality of the musicianship carried the basic themes perfectly. Once this dipped in quality then the holes where impossible not to fall through, and unfortunately Crusader is full of holes (craters arguably).
It is not to say that moments such as the sassy pace and enchanting lead work of just Let Me Rock aren't good enough, they are just not frequent enough. When balanced with the awful A Little Bit of What You Fancy you have to wonder if the same band wrote the whole album. The whole performance feels restrained even on the better moments of the record and there's a constant feel of each band member wearing a neon flashing light on their backs, blazing "Play Us On The Radio" in striking red font for all to see. As a result there's a feel of a complete lack of passion in the record and a sense that the old NWOBHM vibes just got dumped in favour of friendly hard rock for the masses.
Layered backing vocals milk harmonies for all they are worth and do nothing to actually better the output as Byford is probably the only consistent performer on here and certainly the only one recognisable/comparable to previous output. Not horrible, but a bloated album that craves attention more than actually earning any.