‘Carpe Diem’ Shows Saxon Has Not Lost A Step In Its Now 45 Year-Plus Life

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Saxon released its latest album this week in the form of Carpe Diem.  The album, released Friday through Silver Linings Music, came more than three years after the release of Saxon’s then latest album, Battering Ram (2018).  The band’s 23rd album (yes, 23rd), it is another offering that the metal masses will appreciate just as much as the band’s established audiences. That is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike.  The singles the album has already produced do well to make that clear, and they are just some of the songs that prove that statement.  ‘Living on the Limit,’ which closes out the album, also shows how the album’s overall content makes the record engaging and entertaining.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Dambusters,’ which comes early in the album’s 46-minute run, is another example of what makes the record successful.  It will be discussed a little later. ‘All For One,’ a late entry to the record, is yet another example of how the album’s content makes it enjoyable.  It will also be discussed later.  Each song noted is important in its own way to the whole of this album.  All things considered, they make the album in whole, one of the best of the year’s new hard rock and metal albums so far.

Carpe Diem, the 23rd album from Saxon, is another impressive offering from the veteran hard rock band.  That is proven through its overall content, as its current singles have already shown.  They are just some of the content that shows the album’s strength.  ‘Living on the Limit,’ the record’s finale, does its own share to show how much the album has to offer.  The song’s high-energy musical arrangement blends the band’s familiar power metal leanings with a more modern hard rock influence for a hybrid sound and approach that lends itself just as much to the likes of Judas Priest and Motorhead as to so many current bands who have used them and Saxon as influence for their own music.    From the song’s beginning to its end its solid time keeping, its equally rich bass line, vocals, and sharp guitar riffs make the composition a strong finish for the album and an equally clear example of the role that the album’s musical arrangements have on the record’s overall presentation.  The energy in the song’s arrangement pairs well with the seeming message in the song’s lyrical theme, making for even more engagement and entertainment.

The seeming lyrical theme featured in ‘Living on the Limit’ is that of making the most of life, even despite everything happening.  That is just this critic’s interpretation and should not be taken as the only interpretation.  The inference comes as Byford sings in the song’s lead verse, “We want a slice of everything/To see the world we’re living in/Take a chance and take a leap/What we sow is what we reap/Don’t be afraid to ride the storms/Just take the bull by the horns/Living on the limit.”  That brief statement speaks volumes.  It comes across as encouraging listeners to take that chance in life, to go out and do more, to take risks and live life.  From there Byford continues delivering the seeming message as he sings, “All the world is like a stage/Just read the lines and turn the page/We wanna feel adrenaline/Just wanna live and take it in.”  This verse presents what seems like a contradictory statement to help deliver the inferred message.  That note of just reading the lines and turning the page seems like a metaphorical way to talk about how we all just go through the motions every day even though, as he states further, “We wanna feel adrenaline/Just wanna live and take it in.”  This is more of a declarative statement about how we as people want to just live life, not just go through the motions.  It pairs so well with that seeming encouragement in the song’s lead verse about taking that chance and doing more in life.  The song’s third and final verse continues in similar fashion, furthering the seeming message even more.  When it is considered along with the content in the song’s first two verses, the seeming message becomes even more the likely case.  To that end, the song’s seeming lyrical theme is proof enough of how this song helps make Carpe Diem a strong album.  The positive energy in the song’s musical arrangement pairs with the seeming positive message in the song’s lyrical content to make that even clearer.  Keeping all of this in mind, ‘Living on the Limit’ proves to be just one of the songs that shows what makes Carpe Diem successful.  ‘Dambusters’ is another notable addition to the album.

‘Dambusters’ stands out in part due to its musical arrangement.  The song’s arrangement is a full on Motorhead-esque composition.  From the rapid fire guitars and drums to Byford’s very vocal delivery, the whole is a direct leaning toward the aforementioned band.  That should come as no surprise as the band has taken on works from Motorhead in the past.  The song clocks in at just under three-and-a-half minutes, but in that time, the manner in which the song was composed and performed will leave listeners completely fulfilled, feeling like it is longer in the best way possible.  The energy in the performance works well with its lyrical content, which seemingly makes reference to the Royal Air Force’s famed World War II bombing run known as Operation Chastise.

Operation Chastise was conducted in the overnight hours of May 16/17, 1943.  The 617 Bomber Command, known as the Dam Busters, destroyed two hydroelectric power stations and breached two dams – the Mohne and Edersee dams – along the Ruhr and Eder vallies.  The resulting damage set Germans’ military operations in the area back by months.  It also changed the course of bombing raids used by Allied forces in the process.

The seeming story of the well-known bombing operation comes throughout the song, including right from the song’s lead verse in which Byford sings, “Long before the twilight/The planes are standing by/Ground crew gather in the dusk/Low voices asking why/No one knows the target/The mission has begun/Flying into history/To drop the bouncing bomb.”  The bombs that were used in Operation Chastise were dubbed “bouncing bombs” because they bounced across water to their targets.  They bounced in order to avoid possible interception by torpedo nets and ensure the highest possible velocity when they hit their targets.  The bombs were developed by British engineer Barnes Wallis.  So again, here is even more proof of the story that the band is telling here.  From there, Byford sings about the planes taking off and making their way to their targets and dropping their bombs.  He further pays homage to those who returned from the mission and those who did not.  Approximately 53 aircrews were lost in the mission and three airmen were captured.  This story will appeal to any military history buff and to any casual fan of history.  When its appeal pairs with that of the song’s musical arrangement, the whole makes the song even more proof of what makes Carpe Diem another successful offering from Saxon.  ‘All For One’ is one more notable addition to the record.

‘All For One’ presents a musical arrangement that is pure vintage power metal.  The comparisons here are once again so similar to that of Judas Priest, but also have just as much modern rock influence.  The result is yet another composition that while familiar, also boasts its own identity separate from that of the album’s other entries.  Keeping that in mind, the arrangement alone offers its own share of appeal.  The lyrical content that accompanies the song adds even more to the song’s engagement and entertainment.

The lyrical content featured in ‘All For One’ is notable because of its originality.  In the case of this song, the song apparently tells the story of the Three Musketeers.  Few if any other acts out there can say they have taken on the classic literary story in song form.  The very mention of “You stand by your comrades to the end/Steadfast belief/Your will will never bend” alongside the mentions of flashing steel and musket flashes, protecting the king, and Grenadiers further illustrates that story.  Given, Saxon is hardly the first band to take on a literary work.  Symphony X, for example, has taken on the story of The Odyssey.  Mastodon has taken on the classic tale of Moby Dick in its song, ‘Iron Tusk.’  Heck, even Machine Head has taken on a literary classic in ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ which lifts from author Ernest Hemingway’s timeless novel by the same name.  Plenty of other bands’ works could be listed here.  The point of this is that even though Saxon’s take on author Alexandre Dumas’ equally timeless story is so enjoyable, and maybe even a way to get people who otherwise might not have read the novel to give it a chance.  The band is to be applauded for that and for its own unique originality here.  Taking into account the fact that the band has taken on a literary classic and coupling that with the song’s fully engaging and entertaining musical arrangement, the whole makes the song overall yet another of example of what makes the overall album enjoyable.  When the song is considered along with the other works examined here and with the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes the overall album another fully successful offering from Saxon.

Saxon’s latest album, Carpe Diem, is another engaging and entertaining offering from the band.  Its success comes through its musical and lyrical content alike.  The songs examined here make that clear.  When they are considered along with the album’s singles and with the rest of the album’s works, the collective makes the overall album one of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums so far this year.

Carpe Diem is available now through Silver Linings Music. More information on Carpe Diem is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.saxon747.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/saxon

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/SaxonOfficial

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Saxon Debuts ‘Remember The Fallen’ Video

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Saxon debuted the video for its latest single this week.

The band premiered the video for its new single, ‘Remember The Fallen’ Tuesday. The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming album, Carpe Diem, which is scheduled for release Feb. 4 through Silver Lining Music. The band premiered the video for the album’s lead single/title track Nov. 2.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Remember The Fallen’ is everything that audiences have come to expect from Saxon throughout the course of its long life. In other words, that power metal approach is just as prevalent as ever. Front man Biff Byford’s vocals are just as strong as ever, too. The comparisons to Judas Priest’s best works are just as inescapable.

The song’s lyrical theme takes on the topic of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to Byford.

“I wanted to write a song about COVID, about the people that have died, and give my perception of how it seemed to happen,” he said. “Certain aspects of it all are quite mysterious, and of course, it hasn’t finished yet, has it? We should all remember those who have died as a group of people not really knowing why they died, because the information wasn’t there.”

The video for ‘Remember The Fallen’ serves to illustrate Byford’s message. There are visuals of items, such as people staring through glass and wearing masks, a reporter (also wearing a mask) covering the pandemic, and empty classrooms. Alongside the visuals is footage of the band recording its single/album.

Carpe Diem was produced by Andy Sneap (Fozzy, Skinlab, Exodus). Sneap mixed with album alongside Byford.

 More information on Carpe Diem is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.saxon747.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/saxon

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/SaxonOfficial

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Motorhead’s Latest Live Recording Will Make Lots Of Noise Among The Band’s Most Devoted Audiences

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music/Motorhead Music

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic slowly continues to decrease and live shows   continue to make their return just as gradually, some bands are starting to announce their returns to the road. Others meanwhile continue to wait and see how things go or continue work on new studio material. Others still have simply been doing their part to give audiences their live fix with new live recordings. Motorhead fits into that latter group.  The band is scheduled to release its 14th (yes 14th) live recording Friday through Silver Linings Music, which also handles records for the band’s fellow British heavy metal act Saxon.  The recording, Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin, is a 15-song concert that was originally captured Dec. 5, 2012 at the Berlin Velodrome in Berlin, Germany.  It is a presentation that will appeal primarily to Motorhead’s most devoted audiences.  That is proven in part through the recording’s set list, which will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performance of the set list adds to its appeal, to a point.  It will be discussed a little later.  The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin.  All things considered, they make this latest of Motorhead’s many live recordings another presentation that will appeal to the band’s most devoted audiences.

Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin is an intriguing new offering from Motorhead.  It is a presentation that will appeal largely to the most devoted of the band’s audiences.  That is due in part to its featured set list.  The set list runs 15 songs deep and pulls from much of the band’s early catalog.  It is the same set list that the band performed for much of its shows on its Kings of the Road Tour, which was ironically in support of Motorhead’s then latest album, 2010’s The World is Yours.  Only one song featured in the set list – ‘I Know How to Die’ – is from that album.  The other songs featured in the set list reach farther back.  That includes going all the way back to the band’s 1979 sophomore album Overkill and all the way up to 1992 album, March or Die.  Given, four albums from that stretch are omitted here – Motorhead (1977), On Parole (1979), Iron Fist (1982), Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987) – but that still does not matter.  That the band would treat audiences to so music from nine of its albums covering such a rich portion of its catalog is something special.  Add in a guitar solo that the band dubbed ‘String Theory’ that sounds like it belongs on a Pink Floyd record – which is quite a way to break up the otherwise nonstop energy in this set list – and the noted audiences get a set list that forms a solid starting  point for the recording. The overall set list is anything but unfamiliar.  Much of the set list featured here is composed of songs featured in many of the band’s existing live recordings.  That aside, longtime fans will still enjoy it.  The band’s performance of the set list adds its own touch to the presentation here.

The performance of Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Campbell, and Mikkey Dee throughout the course of its performance here is notable because of its role in keeping audiences engaged and entertained.  As has already been noted, the concert, for the most part, keeps the energy high.  Even in more laid back moments, such as in ‘Metropolis,’ and ‘You Better Run,’ the band still manages to keep the energy flowing through the slower but still heavy arrangements.  Campbell works his way through each song expertly, complimenting Dee’s drumming and Kilmister’s bass work so well.  Kilmister’s confidence as he leads the way is just as entertaining.  Dee meanwhile, deserves his own praise, as he solidly keeps  the time in each high-energy composition. The band keeps the banter between songs to an extreme minimum, instead letting the songs and their energies do the talking.  The power in each song’s performance does much to illustrate the band members’ confidence, making for even more engagement and entertainment for listeners.  When the entertainment and engagement ensured by the band’s performance is considered along with that generated by the concert’s familiar set list, the recording proves even more appealing to the noted fans.  Thee two elements are only a portion of the recording’s presentation.  The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements.

It should be disclosed here that this critic was only provided a streaming audio presentation of Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin, rather than a streaming video link.  To that end, this discussion will focus solely on the recording’s audio production.  If a streaming video link is provided at some time, then this discussion will include a focus on that aspect.  Having noted all of this, the audio production that went into the audio-only presentation of Motorhead’s new recording is positive in its own right.  It is rich and fully immersive.  Kilmister’s semi-mumbling vocal delivery style is just as present here as on any of Motorhead’s studio recordings.  Campbell’s guitar cuts through in each song, including the deeply moving ‘String Theory’ guitar solo.  Dee’s cymbal crashes, snare hits, etc. are just as well-balanced against Campbell’s guitar and Kilmister’s vocals and bass.  At no point in the concert is any one part overpowering against the others.  The effect is that it makes the recording’s general effect just as appealing for audiences as the concert’s content.  When that content and the presentation thereof is considered together, the result is a presentation (at least in terms of the concert’s audio presentation) that Motorhead’s most devoted audiences will appreciate.

The audio-only presentation of Motorhead’s new live recording, Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin will appeal to any of the band’s most devoted, longtime audiences.  that is proven in part through its set list.  While clearly familiar, featuring a number of songs that are also featured in many of the band’s existing live recordings, the set list does well in its presentation of the band’s early catalog.  That is despite the fact that the concert was part of a tour that was meant to support then far more recent studio recording.  It celebrates Motorhead’s developmental years, which will itself appeal to the noted audiences.  The band’s performance of the recording’s featured set list will keep audiences engaged and entertained what with the energy exuded by each musician as the group makes its way through the set.  The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements.  Even considering that solely of the audio presentation, every level is expertly balanced throughout.  That is a tribute to the work of those who recorded the concert on site and those who handled the production in post.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin a presentation about which Motorhead’s most devoted fans will make plenty of noise.  Louder than Noise…Live in Berlin is scheduled for release Friday through Silver Linings Music and Motorhead Music.

More information on Motorhead’s new live recording is available along with all of the latest Motorhead news at:

Websitehttps://www.motorhead.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/myMotorhead

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Silver Linings Music Premieres ‘Rock It’ Live Clip From Motorhead’s New Live Recording

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Motorhead fans got another preview of Motorhead’s forthcoming live recording over the weekend.

Silver Linings Music, which is scheduled to release the band’s new recording, Louder Than Noise…Live in Berlin, April 23, premiered a live clip of the band performing its single, ‘Rock It‘ Friday. The clip is the second from the recording, coming more than a month after the recording’s first clip — that of the band performing ‘Over The Top‘ — was released.

The concert featured in the recording was originally captured Dec. 5, 2012 at the Berlin Velodrom. Approximately 12,000 people attended that concert.

The forthcoming recording will release on CD/DVD combo pack, 2LP, digital, and deluxe box set. The box set contains the recording on each noted platform and a bonus “Motorhead branded passport cover.”

The set list runs 15-songs deep and also features Motorhead hits, such as ‘Doctor Rock,’ Damage Case, and ‘Ace of Spades.’ The recording’s full set list is noted below.

Track Listing:

I Know How to Die – Live in Berlin 2012

Damage Case – Live in Berlin 2012

Stay Clean – Live in Berlin 2012

Metropolis – Live in Berlin 2012

Over the Top – Live in Berlin 2012

Doctor Rock – Live in Berlin 2012

String Theory – Live in Berlin 2012

The Chase Is Better Than the Catch – Live in Berlin 2012

Rock It – Live in Berlin 2012

You Better Run – Live in Berlin 2012

The One to Sing the Blues – Live in Berlin 2012

Going to Brazil – Live in Berlin 2012

Killed by Death – Live in Berlin 2012

Ace of Spades – Live in Berlin 2012

Overkill – Live in Berlin 2012

More information on Motorhead’s new live recording is available along with all of the latest Motorhead news at:

Websitehttps://www.motorhead.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/myMotorhead

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Silver Linings Music To Release New Motorhead Live Recording

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Motorhead fans will get a new archived live concert from the band this spring.

The band is scheduled to release its new live recording, Louder Than NoiseLive in Berlin April 23 through Silver Lining Music. The concert featured in the recording was originally captured Dec. 5, 2012 at the Berlin Velodrom. Approximately 12,000 people attended that concert.

The forthcoming recording will release on CD/DVD combo pack, 2LP, digital, and deluxe box set. The box set contains the recording on each noted platform and a bonus “Motorhead branded passport cover.”

In anticipation of the recording’s release, Silver Linings Music has released a live clip of the band performing the song ‘Over The Top.’

‘Over The Top’ is just one of the songs featured in the forthcoming live recording. The set list runs 15-songs deep and also features Motorhead hits, such as ‘Doctor Rock,’ Damage Case, and ‘Ace of Spades.’ The recording’s full set list is noted below.

Track Listing:

I Know How to Die – Live in Berlin 2012

Damage Case – Live in Berlin 2012

Stay Clean – Live in Berlin 2012

Metropolis – Live in Berlin 2012

Over the Top – Live in Berlin 2012

Doctor Rock – Live in Berlin 2012

String Theory – Live in Berlin 2012

The Chase Is Better Than the Catch – Live in Berlin 2012

Rock It – Live in Berlin 2012

You Better Run – Live in Berlin 2012

The One to Sing the Blues – Live in Berlin 2012

Going to Brazil – Live in Berlin 2012

Killed by Death – Live in Berlin 2012

Ace of Spades – Live in Berlin 2012

Overkill – Live in Berlin 2012

More information on Motorhead’s new live recording is available along with all of the latest Motorhead news at:

Websitehttps://www.motorhead.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/myMotorhead

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Saxon Announces Title, Release Date, Specs For New Covers Collection

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Saxon will open the new year with a new covers record.

The band is scheduled to release its new collection, aptly titled Inspirations, March 19 through Silver Linings Music. The 11-song record features covers of songs from bands, such as The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Thin Lizzy. Audiences can hear the band’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ famed song ‘Painted Black,’ which is featured in the compilation, here.

Front man Biff Byford, who released his own solo record School of Hard Knocks this year, talked about the band’s new compilation during a recent interview.

“We wanted to do an album based on our influences, the songs and bands that inspired us to write what we did and still do, and it was also interesting to see what my voice could do as I haven’t sung many of these songs before,” said Byford.  “We didn’t want to change any of the songs too much, just play them more like Saxon.  And we also think it’s very important to have – and share with the fans – some fun in these dark times.”

Alongside the noted covers, Saxon’s forthcoming compilation also features covers of songs from other acts, such as Motorhead, Toto, and Led Zeppelin. The collection was recorded at Brockfield Hall near York, in the United Kingdom. the structure was constructed in 1804 and houses the largest collection of paintings from Yorkshire’s impressionist artists — The Staiths.

Byford talked about recording in the facility during his noted interview.

“The warmth and feel of Inspirations had so much to do with being together in this magnificent place and doing it ‘old-school’ style,” said Byford. “This is how many bands back in the day -including some of the ones covered here- made such great albums, so it just felt really good to be able to do this somewhere like Brockfield Hall.”

Inspirations‘ track listing is noted below. The album will release on CD, vinyl, and digital outlets. Pre-orders are open.

Track Listing:

  1. Paint It Black
  2. Immigrant Song
  3. Paperback Writer
  4. Evil Woman
  5. Stone Free
  6. Bomber
  7. Speed King
  8. The Rocker
  9. Hold The Line
  10. Problem Child
  11. See My Friends

 More information on Inspirations is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.saxon747.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/saxon

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/SaxonOfficial

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘School Of Hard Knocks’ Is A Positive Presentation From Longtime Saxon Front Man Byford

Courtesy: Silver Linings Music

Biff Byford has, for more than 40 years, led the way for the famed hard rock band Saxon. Considering his expasive resume, one would have thought that Byford would have already released a handful of solo recordings by now.  Interestingly enough, he has not released any solo material.  That is until this year.  Byford released his solo debut album School of Hard Knocks Feb. 21 through Silver Linings Music.  The 11-song, 51-minute record is a work that longtime Saxon fans will appreciate just as much as fans of Saxon’s fellow British heavy metal counterpart, Judas Priest and even hair metal fans.  This element will be addressed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical material adds even more insurance of listeners’ engagement and enjoyment.  It will be addressed a little later.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of School of Hard Knocks.  All things considered, they make the album a presentation that rock and metal fans across the board will agree is a strong solo debut from one of rock’s most talented and respected vocalists and his fellow musicians — Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) on guitars, Christian Lundqvist on drums and Gus Macricostas on bass.

Biff Byford’s solo debut album School of Hard Knocks is a presentation that is certain to appeal to a wide range of rock and metal fans.  That is due in part to the record’s musical arrangements.  The arrangements are varied throughout the course of the album.  The album’s opener ‘Welcome to the Show’ is an up-tempo work that lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of KISS, Motley Crue and AC/DC.  The same applies to its follow-up, which is also the album’s title track.  One could even argue here that there are hints of Ted Nugent similarities in this case.  ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ changes the record’s pace, offering more of a power metal approach.  This song’s arrangement immediately lends itself to comparisons to works from Saxon’s fellow British metal counterparts Judas Priest, with its soaring vocals, driving guitars and solid time keeping.  ‘Worlds Collide,’ which immediately follows ‘The Pit and the Pendulum,’ could easily match up against any of today’s metal compositions and hold its own with ease.  Byford and company’s take on Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair’ is intriguing in the best way possible.  With its minimalist approach, it is just as enjoyable as its source material.  ‘Pedal to the Metal’ changes things up once again, going back to the power metal for which Byford has come to be known for crafting with his Saxon brethren.  At the same time, it is just as comparable once more to works from Judas Priest.  Much the same can be said of ‘Hearts of Steel.’  ‘Throw Down The Sword’ is a direct cover of Wishbone Ash’s song by the same name, and it changes things up once more, stylistically speaking.  As the album comes to its close in ‘Me and You’ and ‘Black and White,’ the feeling turns toward a more distinct 80s hair metal approach, with the first of the pair easily likened to a certain ballad from Poison while the latter is more akin to the sound that bridged the late 80s and early 90s with its hard-edged guitar-driven sound.  By the time the record reaches its end, audiences will look back and realize they have experienced a work that at least musically has taken them on a positive rock and roll ride from start to end.  That mix of rock and metal sounds is just one part of what makes the album worth hearing.  The record’s lyrical themes are just as important to its presentation as its musical content.

The lyrical themes featured throughout the course of School of Hard Knocks are almost as varied as the musical arrangements that are presented.  ‘Hearts of Steel’ is an autobiographical piece about Byford’s life and career.  In turning his attention to ‘Scarborough Fair,’ Byford explained that song’s content in a recent interview.  “It’s a traditional medieval song, and the story goes that Paul Simon happened to hear somebody playing it in Whitby, which is just down the road from Scarborough,” he said. “But I wanted something which represented Yorkshire and it is a Yorkshire folk song, so we tried a new arrangement which made it a little heavier, and it works really well.” In other words, here in this song is a work whose roots go back ages and is distinctly different from the likes of ‘Wheels of Steel’ in its lyrical theme.  ‘Inquisitor,’ as short as it is – it clocks in at approximately one minute, 26 seconds – is a semi-spoken word piece that takes its inspiration from the Spanish Inquisition, yet another distinctly different topic from the lyrical content in the rest of the album.  ‘Me and You’ takes the more familiar route of a song centered on the topic of a relationship.  It’s just one more way in which the songs’ varied lyrical themes prove to be just as key to the album as the record’s equally varied musical styles.  That variance in content from one song to next continues to make the album appealing for audiences.  When it is considered with the variance in the album’s musical arrangements, that overall variance makes fully evident why the record’s content in general is so important to its presentation.  It is still not the last important element to examine.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

School of Hard Knocks’ sequencing is crucial to its presentation because the energies in the content is just as important as the content itself.  As already noted, School of Hard Knocks opens in very up-tempo fashion in ‘Welcome to the Show’ following its slow build in the song’s early bars.  From there though, the energy stays solid throughout the remainder of the composition.  The album’s title track keeps that energy flowing, and even picks things up a little bit more with its blues-based approach.  ‘Inquisitor’ pulls the energy back, but only briefly before the record’s energy picks right back up in ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’  That energy increases even more, again, in that already noted hard-driving metal opus that is ‘Worlds Collide.’  The energy pulls back again in the group’s cover of ‘Scarborough Fair.’  That moment of reserve only lasts a short time, though, as the album  progresses into the high-adrenaline ‘Pedal to the Metal’ and ‘Hearts of Steel.’  Once more, the album reaches one of its troughs as it progresses from ‘Hearts of Steel’ into the cover of Wishbone Ash’s ‘Throw Down The Sword.’  The relaxed feel and tone of ‘You and Me’ and the bluesy mid-tempo rocker that is ‘Black and White’ make for a fitting finale for the record.  The two songs never overdo the energy on the high or low end.  Looking back at all of this, it becomes evident that Byford, who produced the album, and everyone who worked with him made certain to put all the highs and lows at all of the right points.  The result is a solid balance of energies throughout the album from start to end.  That balance ensures even more, listeners will remain engaged and entertained throughout the course of the album’s almost hour-long run time.  Considering this element with the record’s overall content and the matters within the music and lyrics, the whole of it all leaves School of Hard Knocks a work that is a positive solo debut for Byford.

Biff Byford’s solo debut LP School of Hard Knocks is a surprisingly enjoyable offering from the longtime Saxon front man.  That is especially considering that he has spent more than 40 years at the band’s helm, the whole time without having released even one solo record until now.  The album’s musical content will appeal to a wide range of rock and metal fans while the lyrical content is just as certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained with its own variety.  The sequencing that is utilized throughout the album keeps the record’s energy balanced throughout its run.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of School of Hard Knocks.  All things considered, they make the record a work that is deserving of at least one listen by rock and metal purists alike.  More information on the album is available now along with Byford’s latest news at:

 

 

 

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