Heavy metal was a big deal in 1980 and so were Saxon. Keen to capitalise on the success of Wheels Of Steel and its accompanying singles, the band were strong-armed into the studio to write and record the follow-up. It could have been a rush-job disaster but the haste gave Saxon a no-frills, street-level edge. It was just four months from the release of Wheels Of Steel and Saxon already had another all-time classic album on the shelves with 1980’s Strong Arm Of The Law.
This album does not hang about as Saxon motör through one banger after another. Heavy Metal Thunder is a blazing ode to everyone’s favourite music, To Hell And Back Again alternates melodic verses with a charging chorus and the high-flying 20,000ft is a relentless live mainstay. The excellent Hungry Years adds a bit of variety with its heavy blues shuffle, the bouncy Sixth Form Girls is a working-class vignette with more intelligent lyrics than the title would suggest and the title-track is pure classic rock with a cool sliding riff and swaggering vocals. But the album’s most classic track is saved for last as Dallas 1pm tells the tale of the JFK assassination with its tense Faith Healer-esque intro, ringing AC/DC chords and a haunting closing section that climaxes with a scorching Graham Oliver guitar solo. It’s a breath-taking conclusion to a blast of an album.
Releasing two albums this wonderful in the space of a year was an incredible feat and its hard to separate them. Wheels Of Steel has the slight edge in strength of tuneage but Strong Arm Of The Law is more pedal-to-the-metal. The label opted to name the album after its lead single but its intended title was originally “Heavy Metal Thunder”. They should have stuck with that cause that’s exactly what you get on this superb album. Fill your heads.