In this crucial five-year period for NWOBHM stalwarts Saxon, the group signed (perhaps unwisely?) to Carrere, a singles-oriented disco label; yet despite management and distribution issues, the band ultimately carved a niche with a series of classic albums. Capturing the late 70s zeitgeist (melodic and not-quite-metal), their debut album was strong, if not fantastic; Saxon weren’t yet firing on all cylinders.
That all changed with their second album, 1980’s Wheels Of Steel: every song is a classic, with sleek production that foregrounds the precise guitar riffs and Biff Byford’s powerful voice. The same year’s Strong Arm Of The Law is much the same, only faster and heavier, and arguably remains Saxon’s most consistent release. By the following year’s Denim And Leather, however, the band are already a little frazzled. Despite including several first division songs, overall the album tries too hard to be iconic.
After 1982’s live stopgap The Eagle Has Landed, Saxon entered the studio refreshed for the following year’s The Power And The Glory, adding a commercial edge which was to shape their career for the next few years. It’s follow-up, 1984’ underrated Crusader album, sounds MTV-friendly but, ironically, signing to major label EMI marked the end of Saxon’s most commercially successful period. This set, however, more than testifies to their oft-neglected status as one of the UK’s great metal bands.