Home > *Music, Reviews > Saxon – Call to Arms: Review

Saxon – Call to Arms: Review

Saxon has been around for quite some time now, I’m sure we can all agree on that. On June 3, they released their latest album entitled Call to Arms. Now what we may disagree on is how good this release actually is. Personally, I think it is quite average.

The Music (rating: B-)

  1. Hammer of the Gods
  2. Back in ’79
  3. Surviving Against the Odds
  4. Mists of Avalon
  5. Call to Arms
  6. Chasing the Bullet
  7. Afterburner
  8. When Doomsday Comes (Hybrid Theory)
  9. No Rest for the Wicked
  10. Ballad of the Working Man
  11. Call to Arms (Orchestral Version)

Call to Arms hardly strays from the heavy metal genre. There are gruff vocals mixed with distorted guitars and driving basslines, which is basically what one expects from heavy metal. In fact, the sound is of vintage heavy metal. The most contributing factor is likely the bright guitar tone and the lighter distortion. With this record, one can expect much old-school head-banging action.

With Call to Arms, the music is quite familiar and safe. There are some decent riffs and catchy tunes, but everything has been done many times before and much better too. Regarding the riffs, it is not even the lack of technicality that hurts it. It is more so the blandness and lack of creativity and originality that hurts its quality. And within songs, the riffs are only tweaked; there is actually not much variety. What that means is a song will give a riff and make minor adjustments throughout the track but never giving a different riff. A song basically only has one riff and attempts to disguise it, as in “Hammer of the Gods”. Actually, I would go further to say that the riffs are heavily repeated throughout the whole record. There are either long note chords or a combination of palm-mutes and two-note chords, both of which comprise “Mists of Avalon”.  With this album, Saxon basically takes what has already been established to work in heavy metal and expand upon it for ten songs.

As for the instrumentals in general, they too are quite familiar and safe in Call to Arms. The bass and the drums are painfully stale. With the former, most basslines are just root notes picked on-beat, like on “Chasing the Bullet” and “When Doomsday Comes”. And to the drummer: change your beats once in a while! This is overkill on the one-two-one-two alternation with the bass and snare, such as on “Back in ’79,” “Surviving Against the Odds,” “No Rest for the Wicked,” and so on. And the hi-hat is used much too frequently. Though he might not be the greatest, it is clear (especially in “Afterburner”) that the drummer can do better than most of what he does on Call to Arms. And as stated before, the guitar work is on par with average, both regarding technicality and inventiveness. The vocals are the strongest aspect of the album. They are short of mind-blowing, but the phrasing and tone is appropriate, and the power is definitely there. But with such shorthanded support, the vocals cannot be realized to their full potential, no matter how great.

The orchestral moments in Call to Arms are the album’s highlights. They even have both an orchestral and a non-orchestral version of the title track. It easily shows how much better the music can be with the inclusion of strings. It also shows how empty and unnecessary some tracks are, especially the non-orchestral version of “Call to Arms”. If symphonic parts were written for all songs, the album may have been much better. Unfortunately, it is not the case here.

With all parts accounted for, Call to Arms is quite average. In general, the music is at a higher level than average. But with as much repetition as in this record, there is a definite deficit of long-lasting value. Stellar songwriting and instrumentation would be able to salvage the quality had they been present. Call to Arms is not necessarily a bad album. But for a genre that has been in existence and in circulation for so long, Call to Arms offers very little innovation or awe-inspiring performances and is definitely not a must-hear.

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Categories: *Music, Reviews Tags: , , ,
  1. george
    June 30, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Why would you even bother to write this, Saxon is pretty metal, Boney M. is pretty disco…

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