Saxon – Destiny (Review)

Saxon - Destiny (1988) Even the logo was wrong!
Saxon – Destiny (1988) Even the logo was wrong!

Rock the Nations was an encouraging but not entirely convincing return to the classic Saxon sound. With EMI breathing down their necks, Saxon made a last-ditch bid for stardom with 1988`s Destiny. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Destiny was the first (and only) Saxon studio album to feature the new rhythm section of bassist Paul Johnson and drummer Nigel Durham. Saxon were at a low ebb in their confidence and creativity, papering over the cracks with all sorts of formulaic 80s pop rock moves and an over-egged pudding of a production. Uninspiring songs like I Can’t Wait Anymore, We Are Strong and Song For Emma rely on stock pop rock moves and limp anthemry. And more promising numbers like Calm Before the Storm and S.O.S. struggle under layers of keyboards and backing vocals.

Look at the nick of these guys.
Look at the nick of these guys.

However, the band recaptures some of their classic might with For Whom the Bell Tolls and Red Alert. More dynamic, riff-heavy and fully-realised, it’s telling that these tracks rely less on the production bells and whistles. The album’s one true classic and standout track is Ride Like the Wind, a driving and charismatic power ballad reinvention of the Christopher Cross tune. It’s a brilliant cover and a should-have-been hit. It’s the only Destiny-era tune to endure in the band’s career and live repertoire. But even then, it’s no Broken Heroes, Battle Cry or Crusader.

Overall, Destiny is likely to be too syrupy for many fans of traditional Saxon and, even judged on its own merits as an AOR album (against, say, Magnum’s Wings of Heaven), it’s unconvincing. In fact, it’s one of Saxon’s worst albums. As worst albums go, it’s not a total disaster. There’s good stuff here and in the right mood even some of the ropier tunes can connect. But the patchiness, dissipating credibility and perceived commercial desperation of Saxon’s EMI years came to a head here. Before long the band were dropped from EMI, had fired their management and were taking time out to rethink and recharge. It would take years for the one-time champions of NWOBHM to fully recover.

Mah copy
Mah copy

38 thoughts on “Saxon – Destiny (Review)”

  1. This Tooooooooown Knoooooows Hooooooow Toooooo Rawk!
    I know HMO wrong album! Still though being a North American I punched out my Saxon ticket after Rock The Nations! (Party Til Ya Puke) I’m trying to recall if I ever seen this album advertised over here.
    You my friend are a true fan and its dudes like you that let this band survive til this day. Even with patchy albums as this one you still found stuff….awesome….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “stock pop rock moves and limp anthemry” Ye g-ds!

    Ride Like The Wind > Break Like The Wind?

    Are For Whom The Bell Tolls and Red Alert covers of Metallica and Rush?

    Clearly, they should have contacted our benevolently evil HMO (in 1987) before they even started recording, and said “Oh great and omniscient HMO, we beseech you, please tell us how to ‘turn up the good and turn down the suck!'” That would have solved everything! Imagine! Now THAT would have been an album of Destiny! Alas.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There’s a good quality copy of this in my local 2nd hand record shop – I came close to getting it last week, but pulled away at the last minute. I do like that cover though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, their logo is iconic. Perhaps this version without the cross cuts of combat express something. It does to me. Torch the choppers. Release something restless and wild. Burn the archive and see-saw-sew…hey, I should run like the wind of changing thoughts your post unleash. Thanks Scott, I’d fallen out of Saxon at the the time but came back after ups and downs of my own journeys.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think a lot of people had probably fallen out of Saxon at this point but I also see lots of people saying it’s the album that was their introduction. I guess, even if it wasn’t a big hit, Ride Like the Wind got enough plays on TV and radio to win some converts?

        Really looking forward to doing the next lot of albums though. Some really overlooked, great stuff coming up!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Love the posts. After 30 or so years of listening to Metal its time for some new music to me anyways….been listening to Intervals, Darkest Hour, Human Abstract, Mastodon…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Scott, even though I don’t know this album, I do recognize it from magazine ads. It struck me as looking verrrry different (cover wise) from past Saxon covers I’d seen.

    What I like best about your review is that there’s some tension — I’m cheering for them to succeed, you know? The ending of this chapter isn’t so upbeat, but since you say they later on recover, well, I’m on board for the next chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not an upbeat ending but I’m glad it’s not a total downer… it’s what was needed for them to get back on track. They toiled in obscurity for a while but their albums started getting better very quickly. Destiny is definitely their low point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haven’t gotten to this one yet (my Saxon education has stalled!), but I wasn’t looking forward to it. There’s just something about the cover. Look at the picture of them, too! All hair and little face. Can’t trust a band like that. No sir.

    Anyhoo, you’ve confirmed that this is one to approach with caution! (might avoid it!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this album. Basically all of it. All the songs effectively tell the intended story, which is part of what I love about bands like Saxon, Iron Maiden and Dio. ‘Where the Lightning Strikes’ is very underrated, IMO. A lot of these songs would have made great soundtrack tunes to a worthy action flick.

    Liked by 1 person

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