After finding themselves a qualified heavy metal producer in Pete Hinton, the members of Saxon recovered from their disappointing debut in fine form with 1980's career-defining Wheels of Steel. As well as effectively setting the template for the band's most successful efforts, the album's songs positively gleamed with a bright, metallic sheen similar to that exhibited by the chrome eagle hoisting a motorcycle wheel on its iconic cover. Wasting no time with niceties, Wheels of Steel kicked straight into fifth gear with one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's signature anthems, "Motorcycle Man." A proto-speed metal classic, the song also reintroduced the oft-recurring biker themes that would rear up again on the even more frenzied "Freeway Mad" and the album's epic title track (as well as on many future tracks). Another song joining "Wheels of Steel" in Saxon's career roll of honor was the dramatic, lyrically unique "747 (Strangers in the Night)" (which described an airplane's emergency landing), but a slew of additional standouts like "Street Fighting Gang," "See the Light Shining," the furious "Machine Gun," and the contrastingly romantic "Suzie Hold On" (perhaps the band's finest early ballad) rounded out the album in style. Really, only "Stand Up and Be Counted" hasn't aged all that impressively, but it alone can't hold back Wheels of Steel from topping the heap of essential Saxon albums, pretty much hand in hand with its immediate successors, Strong Arm of the Law and Denim and Leather.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia