Saxon

Forever Free

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Building quickly upon the foundation laid down by 1990's modest career turnaround, Solid Ball of Rock, Saxon definitively gave up trying to mimic Def Leppard and what few other British bands successfully crossed over to the American market, and fully embraced the down-to-earth, hard-hitting heavy metal style they'd once excelled at with 1992's impressive Forever Free. Scratch that: call it unbelievable, because giddy disbelief was exactly what was felt by the majority of the band's remaining loyal fan base after being walloped upside the head by Saxon's strongest, catchiest, and, yes, heaviest set of songs since 1985's Innocence Is No Excuse -- maybe longer. From the opening title track's nostalgically anthemic denim-and-leather narrative through to the heretofore pent-up party atmosphere of closer "Cloud Nine," Forever Free positively bristles with muscular riff machines ("Hole in the Sky," "Down and Dirty," "Can't Stop Rockin'") and kinetic speed metal pounders ("One Step Away," "Nighthunter") and lets up on the accelerator but twice: the first being for the evocative ballad "Iron Wheels" (not written about motorcycles, incidentally, but undervalued blue-collar laborers of many stripes), and the second for the distinctly funky, only slightly more accessible "Grind," which was still anything but a concession to mainstream radio. That's right, for all their recent musical sins committed in the name of superficial glam metal glory, the members of Saxon appeared close to fully rehabilitated on this unquestionable return to form, and henceforth they would rarely, if ever, turn their backs on true heavy metal again.

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