Saxon - Dogs Of War (Reissue) -SPV Records 2006
Running Time: 62:05
I can almost see the metal world's collective shrug when informed of this
album's reissue. The band hasn't even had a hit single in their country of
origin for over two decades, and has never charted in the US whatsoever, yet .
Praise be the gods of metal, though, in that Saxon could really give a shit for that type thing. Byford and the boys have been soldiering on in almost as many lineups as they have albums since their 1979 inception, which places them as one of the few remaining bands who where There At The Start of what is oft' looked back fondly upon as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Dogs Of War, however, stands as a pivotal album in the Saxon catalog. On this one, Saxon left behind the maojrity of Forever Free's admittedly hard rock influence, and began the first steps in their return to - note the capital letters - Heavy Metal. The midpaced throb of the title track quickly gives rise to the typical shout-along chorus for which Saxon has always been known. It's 'Burning Wheels' that really puts the pedal to the proverbial Metal here, though. Saxon's name was
made in the passion of the delivery, and in their Motorhead-like simplicity, which lent itself to the crafting of memorable songs without all the pomp and circumstance that would define the 80s careers of bands like Iron Maiden. Nowhere is this more evident than in the racing riffs of 'Burning Wheels'. Still, even solid albums often have their mis-steps, and 'Don't Worry' trips things up quite effectively. I'm not quite sure if Byford was into the Rolling Stones' country music phase, but the laid back Southern rock chorus seems more at home on an album by The Allman Brothers than on a Saxon project. Well-played, but badly placed. Things jump back into gear with the rollicking 'cycle anthem 'Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)', but falter slightly with the decidedly bubblegum 'Hold On'. Every Saxon album has its pinnacle, and on Dogs Of War, that honour goes to 'The Great White Buffalo'. The guitars of Paul Quinn and producer Rainer Hansel act as more percussive instruments during the verses, and soar into dual lead glory at all points appropriate. Between the skillful fretwork and Byford's gravelled wail in the finale, 'The Great White Buffalo' belongs firmly etched in Saxon stone as one of "the greats". Of course, after ascending the mountain, one must usually descend into the valley, which is where the band spends the next three songs. 'Walking Through Tokyo' is one of those songs tailor-made by bands that are "big in Japan", and simply screams "B-side". A hooky 'Yesterday's Gone' ends the album proper, leaving a double live shot of 'The Great White Buffalo' and 80s National Metalhead Anthem 'Denim & Leather' to finish Dogs Of War 2006 in fine Metal form.
For those new to the band, I'd suggest picking up 1981's Denim & Leather and moving forward from there. If you're a Saxon fan, though, this reissue is a worthy addition to your collection as a snapshot of a legendary band returning to the roots from whence they sprung.