Saxon – Dogs Of War (Review)

Saxon – Dogs Of War (1995)

Saxon tried to learn their lesson from the rushed and patchy Forever Free album. They took a bit more time over the follow-up and headed back to Germany’s Karo Studio and the production team that proved so successful with Solid Ball Of Rock back in 1991. That album was a return to hard rocking form for the band but still found them moving forward, albeit in a fan-friendly fashion. While Solid Ball Of Rock was mostly full of good time AC/DC-style stompers, 1995’s Dogs Of War was an edgier affair and much more redolent of the band’s older style. But, for one member of the band, this album would be the last.

Fans of Saxon’s warrior epics like Power And The Glory and Battle Cry will delight in the opening title-track. It’s a total belter with a chunky, ballsy sound and an explosively thrilling chorus. It’s the albums best track and the only enduring classic here but the rest of the album is far from disappointing. If you know anything about Saxon you’ll know that when they start singing about vehicles it’s game on! And Burning Wheels and Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home) are loud and dirty transport rockers that take you right back to classic albums like Wheels Of Steel. And as well as recalling the classic days, Saxon also keep things fresh with some tastefully incorporated contemporary elements too: The Great White Buffalo is a moody, swampy epic and Don’t Worry has a rootsy, almost-grungy feel but climaxes with mesmerising guitar work that is pure, classic Saxon.

It’s impressive stuff but the album isn’t without its wobbles. Walking Through Tokyo is a blundering low point and a couple of enjoyable but essentially forgettable closing tracks find the album running out of steam. But it’s a minor quibble when there are so many great tracks here. Even Hold On, a potential mis-step with it’s Jovi-esque feel and Tommy & Gina lyrics, ends up being feelgood fun with a killer arena-ready chorus.

In a challenging era when British metal bands were generally falling by the wayside or falling apart, Saxon had rediscovered their fighting form, releasing their strongest, grittiest, most traditionally metal album since their glory days. But, as well as taking on the world, they were also squabbling among themselves. The relationship between frontman Biff Byford and guitarist Graham Oliver was faltering and some of the guitarist’s work on Dogs Of War had reportedly been re-recorded by a session guitarist. And when an unauthorised release of the band’s first Donington set was traced back to the guitarist, he was dismissed from the band. The loss of this talented musician and charismatic performer in such acrimonious circumstances was a blow to fans but they could take heart in the fact that – with this enjoyable, overlooked metal banger – Saxon were finally sounding like their old selves again.

26 thoughts on “Saxon – Dogs Of War (Review)”

  1. I’m not convinced by this one. Some good moments, but never really quite gets its hooks in to me. Feels like it just runs out of steam… but I’ll give it another bash. Cause you never write a Saxon album off, innit?

    Also, I just don’t like the album art. That’s something they could really have improved on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the cover is cool. Reminds me of Crusader…

      This has always been a mid-period favourite for me so I’m expecting people to think I’m over-egging it a bit.

      It does run out of steam but when I listen to the last songs, they’re good in isolation. I think it’s just a problem with the album flow. It’s a bit too long and it’s easy just to press stop when Walking Through Tokyo comes on!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Talking about wheels, the “Denim and Leather” album had two songs about trains. Maybe that’s why it’s my favourite Saxon album. I never heard this one before but it does sound promising.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I started with a Greatest Hits (loved it) and went straight to Denim & Leather (loved it more). I am now going back to the beginning and listen in order. It will be awhile before I get to Dogs of War since it was not until ’95.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice! I think starting from the beginning and working your way through is a good strategy for Saxon. If you start getting bored, then pick the newest album and start working your way back too! Some of their recent albums have been ace (spoiler!)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I more amazed that Quinn by the looks of it has a huge mop of hair on the back of a 1995 album whereas on 1982’s Eagle he’s sporting the Jabs from the Scorps bBall hat look!
    Must have gotten the Kevin Dubrow 1985 Hair Enhancement package at a discount!

    Liked by 1 person

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