Trends may come and trends may go, but New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers Saxon carry on carrying on (as Spinal Tap would put it), year after year, label after label, lineup after lineup, through thick and thin, no matter the cost. And credit their persistence, because by the mid-'90s the long suffering quintet had begun to overcome an incredibly long streak of bad business decisions and misguided artistic directions to forge a respectable comeback -- primarily in Europe. Released in 1999, Metalhead arrived squarely in the midst of this modest comeback, and its title clearly references the earnest, pop-averse, patently obvious heavy metal hallmarks that allowed Saxon to make this recovery, once they embraced it once again. Led by the instantly recognizable voice of frontman Biff Byford, the quintet (recently revamped with new German drummer Fritz Randow) rips into action with the bombastic title track, then rolls into one of its best all-around songs of the decade in the regal "Are We Travellers in Time." Ensuing thrash-outs "Conquistador" and "All Guns Blazing" prove surprisingly convincing, and despite losing some focus on the intermediate tracks, Metalhead finishes strong with the epic sweep of "Sea of Life." Mind you, none of it is groundbreaking stuff, at the end of the day, and while there's little hope it will lure younger fans to Saxon's cause, at least the old metal warriors appear to be having fun again, rather than trying to be something they're not. This is music to the ears of their veteran followers, who remember what horrors came before.
by Eduardo Rivadavia