Saxon – Solid Ball of Rock

Saxon - Solid Ball of Rock (1991)
Saxon – Solid Ball of Rock (1991)

The 90s were a challenging time for classic metal acts but, for Saxon, the decade got off to a promising start. The “10 Years of Denim & Leather” back-to-basics tour rejuvenated the band. Aiming to carry the momentum into the studio, the band signed with Virgin Records and headed to Germany to record their comeback album Solid Ball of Rock.

Released in 1991, Solid Ball of Rock finds Saxon returning to a heavier, err… ballsier style. It opens with its title-track and most enduring classic: the band taking Bram Tchaikovsky’s Jerry-Lee Lewis inspired rock n’ roller and giving it an AC/DC-grade kick up the arse (with a cool nod to The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in its Faith Healer-esque intro). It’s followed by the equally thrilling Altar of the Gods. Bolstered by the writing contribution* and forceful playing of new bassist Nibbs Carter, it’s a belter of a track with an aggressive, metallic approach that recalls the classic days of Power & the Glory while also pointing the way forward to the band’s future power metal leanings.

2016-09-18-15-59-28

It’s an encouraging opening but doubt sets in with Requiem (We Will Remember). The album’s only single, it maintains the feel-good vibe but its sentimentality, U2 jangle and “whoa-ohs” don’t sit well with me. But it proves to be the album’s only real wobble: the remaining tracks alternating between straightforward, open-chord rock n’ roll like I Just Can’t Get Enough and I’m On Fire and top-notch galloping Priest-y metal like Lights in the Sky and Baptism of Fire. The rock n’ roll tracks are a bit disposable by Saxon standards but have an enjoyably bouncy vitality while the metal tracks add crucial depth and grit with the epic, enigmatic Refugee adding class to the album’s late stages. It’s a strong combination of styles and a cohesive collection.

Back Cover - Demon reissue with bonus tracks
Back Cover – Demon reissue with bonus tracks

The overall sense with Solid Ball of Rock is of a band rediscovering their spark and spirit. Sticking to the basics but simultaneously mapping out new directions. The album did great business for the band and, although there were still challenging times ahead, Solid Ball of Rock is a pivotal Saxon album: a joyous, rocking reboot. The story of modern Saxon starts here.

*Nibbs’ remarkable dominance of the writing credits here turns out to be an exaggeration. With litigious former managers breathing down Saxon’s neck they protected their royalties by crediting most of the songs to Nibbs: the only member of the band with no links to their past contracts. Crafty buggers.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Mah copy
Mah copy

[Saxon – Altar of the Gods]

Advertisements

37 thoughts on “Saxon – Solid Ball of Rock”

  1. Saxon again! Dammit man, this time I gotta get me some of their stuff. Mike and I are working out dates for our annual Taranna pillage and plunder. I’ll be looking for this band. I always feel like I’m lagging far behind!

    As for this one, “feel-good vibe but its sentimentality, U2 jangle and “whoa-ohs” ” gave me pause, but if it’s the only wobble, I can skip button it all day long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, get involved! Get some Saxon down ye!

      As for Requiem… it’s a wobble but it’s not bad enough to skip. It’s still an ok track. And I’m being a bit controversial there cause a lot of people really like that one. But I’m not “people”. I’m the HMOverlord!!

      Like

      1. I’ll see what I can do. Sonic Boom is gonna be my best bet, of our usual haunts…

        As for the wobble, I tend to think of it as the other way around: What our infernal and all-knowing HMO says goes, and anyone who says they know better is daft! So you’re not being controversial, the rest of them are!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t listened to this one yet. Well, not a proper listen. I actually transferred a few Saxon albums onto the ol’ iPhone for listening to on my travels, but this wasn’t one of them. May need to add it, though, cause it seems I’m missing something!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the 90s more now than I did when it was the 90s! A lot of my favorite bands did start to go off the boil then though… the stuff that was good didn’t really reach me until later. I spent a lot of the 90s just finding out more about older music though so no harm done. Those were my educational years!

      Liked by 1 person

The Heavy Metal Overlord awaits your response!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s