Dogs of War

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Even though Saxon had convinced many skeptics that they might still have plenty of quality heavy metal to offer thanks to career-saving early-‘90s albums like Solid Ball of Rock and Forever Free, a three-year recording hiatus and another independent label change hardly foreshadowed an imminent return to glory for the band's wary, ill-treated fans. And yet, wouldn't you know, the old Barnsley bums managed just that with 1995's absolutely massive-sounding Dogs of War, an album few imagined Saxon capable of, following years of embarrassing creative misfires. Once past its thunderous opening title track (an unqualified Saxon classic for the ages), Dogs of War delivered a slew of improbably memorable and distinctive numbers, including the ever-reliable biker anthem, "Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)," the fittingly ominous "Great White Buffalo" (no relation to the Ted Nugent staple), the slow-building "Demolition Alley," and the slate-cleaning mission statement of "Yesterday's Gone." In fact, there wasn't a single outright dud in sight (OK, "Walking Through Tokyo" excepted), and this ensured that Dogs of War hit home with a level of confidence and, most importantly, honesty, that Saxon hadn't displayed in eons. No more mindless anthems for poodle-haired arenas they'd never fill; no more sappy-ass ballads for groupies they'd never lay; no more mediocre grist for the major-label mill they'd never even be allowed to touch; no more bullsh*t, period -- just straight-ahead heavy metal that felt like a balm to the band's long-suffering faithful, and served as a fitting last call for longtime guitarist Graham Oliver, who bowed out of the group after two decades of service following this release. [Dogs of War was reissued by Steamhammer/SPV in early 2006 with curt liner notes penned by singer Biff Byford, and a pair of live bonus tracks in album standout "Great White Buffalo" and reliable old warhorse "Denim & Leather."]

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