Saxon - Killing Ground

Year of Release: 2001
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:43:00

Saxon is a wonder. To have remained up and near the fore of heavy metal for this long must mean something, and in the wake of their masterful MetalHead release comes Killing Ground.

A two minute intro is followed by the title track "Killing Ground." From this first note, it appears that the band is less guitar heavy than their previous release. In fact, as the CD moves through, it is apparent that the guitars are tuned down a fraction and, if it is possible, they are sounding more mature. What does maturity mean to a band that has been around for this long? In my opinion, they are concentrating more on the melodies than the down and out dirty heavy metal: something that I thought MetalHead had in droves. Suffice to say that it's not as heavy as hoped.

Killing Ground is extremely well played and there's generally an old-time feel to it with a beefed up production - songs such as "Coming Home" and "Hell Freezes Over" (hey, it's AC/DC). Biff Byford (v) is not as intense on this album, but he sounds fine - you can tell it's him and his voice is still capable; again, like the music, it just lacks a bit of aggression. It needs a bit more of the H in NWOBHM. It sounds more rock-oriented than metal oriented, although it gets heavier as the album moves on. The band play tightly with bass solos from Nibbs Carter and the guitar work of Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn is outstanding to say the least ("Running For The Border"). In fact, the solos are one of the drawcards.

The songs they do branch out on include the title track, "Dragons Lair," and "You Don't Know What You've Got." These songs have that extra bite to them whether vocally or in the musical department. Probably the finest track off the album is the divine "Deeds And Glory," a wonderfully diverse track that is heavy musically, varied vocally, and one of the best choruses I've heard in a long time. The wonderful solos that ensue are really pumping. They really went out of their way on this track, even though the lyrics are more than a little clichéd (but when a song is as good as this, who cares). More please! I must admit I was a bit annoyed with the track "Shadows On The Wall" - the overuse of distorted vocals was just plain annoying, and considering that the song is actually quite good, the modernised attempt just tends to irritate.

There is a difference on this album than on their last - and I can't say for certain that it is for the better. There are definite stand outs and the songs that aren't as "metal" are still great songs, but they lack that Saxon "metal" sound. Their cover of King Crimson's "Court Of The Crimson King" is monumental - a bit weird to have it playing as one of the opening tracks, but it gives a good twist on the original. The album finishes off with the "rocky" "Rock Is Our Life" - a glorious, kick-arse end.

Overall, if I were to recommend a recent Saxon album, I would have to say give MetalHead a listen. Killing Ground doesn't bring anything new to the scene, and it doesn't have the impact of past albums.

P.S. Is the bonus disc of re-recorded old Saxon material worth it? For new fans, yes. For older fans, they prefer the older material. For me, 9/12 for the double disc version.

[This review originally appeared November 2002 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Prelude To War (intro) / Killing Ground / Court Of The Crimson King / Coming Home / Till Hell Freezes Over / Dragon's Lair / You Don't Know What You've Got / Deeds Of Glory / Running For The Border / Shadows On The Wall / Rock Is Our Life

Biff Byford - vocals
Nibbs Carter - bass
Doug Scarratt - guitars
Paul Quinn - guitars

Saxon (1979)
Strong Arm Of The Law (1980)
Wheels Of Steel (1980)
Denim & Leather (1981)
Eagle Has Landed (1982)
Power & The Glory (1983)
Crusader (1984/2002)
Greatest Hits (1984)
Innocence Is No Excuse (1985)
Rock The Nations (1986)
Destiny (1988)
Rock 'N' Roll Gypsies (1990/2002)
Solid Ball Of Rock (1991)
Forever Free (1992)
Anthology (1992)
Best Of Saxon (1994)
Dogs Of War (1995)
Unleash The Beast (1997)
Live At Donnington (1997)
A Collection Of Metal (1997)
The Eagle Has Landed, Vol 2. (1998)
BBC Sessions (1998) Metealhead (1999)
Live At Donnington, 1980 (2000)
Burrn! Presents Best Of Saxon (2000)
Killing Ground (2001)
Coming To The Rescue (2002)
Live In The Raw (2002)
Heavy Metal Thunder (2002)

Genre: Traditional Metal

Origin UK

Added: February 20th 2005
Reviewer: Gary Carson
Artist website:
Hits: 834
Language: english


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