In 1982 it was time for a rethink in the Saxon camp. They had been turning their attention to America and while they slogged in support slots and club gigs Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were enjoying impressive Stateside commercial breakthroughs. Saxon’s management and label set their sights squarely on American success and the Yorkshiremen were packed off to Atlanta to record their next album, 1983’s Power & The Glory, with hopes of finessing their sound and upping their game.
While the UK fans and critics might have suspected the band would soften their edges, Power & The Glory turned out to be Saxon’s most Metallic release yet: former Kansas producer Jeff Glixman helped them achieve their best sound to date with layers of massive guitars and a charged rhythm section put straight in your face. A combination of hot-rodded British steel and radio-friendly sheen in a similar vein to Judas Priest’s hit Screaming for Vengeance album. The steelier moments are the most impressive: as Power and the Glory’s tense album-opening riff breaks into the verse it’s like you’ve been launched into battle. Biff Byford gives a rousing vocal and the lyrics are an alluring combo of proud valour and anti-war sentiment. It’s another classic jewel in Saxon’s crown. Redline’s pneumatic shuffle breaks into a classy open-road chorus and Warrior is a scything speed-metaller. The Quinn/Oliver guitar duo are in peak form throughout the album but Warrior’s berserk, slurry guitar solo from Paul Quinn is one of the band’s best.
The album is less sure-footed when it aims for airplay. Watching the Sky is enjoyable but stock and Nightmare is not quite the star single it wants to be (despite its coruscating guitar solo and cool harmony vocals). But even at Power & The Glory’s weakest the band thunders with conviction, enlivened by the hurricane energy of new drummer Nigel Glockler. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Side 2 opener This Town Rocks which, although it works better live, is a veritable showcase for Glockler’s combustible drumming. The icing on the album’s cake though, is the return of the debut’s prog rock elements to the band’s style. Midas Touch overcomes its daft lyrics by combining a weighty Sabbath-grade riff with Frozen Rainbow-style mellow verses for satisfying light and shade and The Eagle Has Landed closes the album with another Saxon classic: an interstellar journey with lush, spacey guitars and a hefty riff so dramatic you can almost overlook its similarity to Priest’s Victim of Changes. But despite the familiar riff it’s still one of Saxon’s more creative tracks and a great album closer.
Power & The Glory was Saxon’s purest heavy metal release to date: there’s little of the older Saxon’s blues and boogie here. While fans might miss the knockabout, rowdy style of albums like Wheels of Steel the progression is understandable following the slight diminishing returns of previous album Denim and Leather. It’s a more fully-realised and consistent album with less Rough and Ready-style throwaway filler but it doesn’t quite rack up the same quota of classics as previous records. Sadly, as far as their invasion of the US went: Saxon came, Saxon saw, but Saxon failed to conquer. Even in the UK they found their commercial grip loosening. But metal fans whose taste runs to the epic and the martial (and don’t mind a bit of drivetime pomp) will find that this album is an absolute blast. The title-track alone makes it worth the price of entry and no metal collection can be complete without it. While often overlooked in favour of the preceding “classic trilogy” it truthfully forms the last in a quadrilogy. This is a lively and exciting record that fulfils the promise of its title. You can feel the power and, even though Saxon probably weren’t getting as much of it as they’d like, you can definitely feel the glory. What more do you want from a metal album?
HMO Rating: 5 out of 5
[Saxon – Power and the Glory]