SAXON - Strong Arm Of The Lore
by Martin Popoff

Doing up North America right, finally, is Saxon, keepers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal flame, the pure deal, writers of the saga and the lore, who along with Motorhead and Maiden, have been allowed to live while all others have flamed and flared. Central to Saxon's existence, and a point of pride to be sure, is the quality of the band's regularly arriving recordings over the last decade and more, ever since the lads became at peace with what they do best, which is big 'n' rich traditional metal riffing, exhorted at the mic by the lanky Biff Byford.

"The last three records, I think, from Lionheart on, we sort of progressed through those three," mused Biff in all his grey-haired glory, chatting at a tour stop in Toronto o'er the celebration of Saxon-ness that is the new record for '11, namely Call To Arms. "I think the songwriting chemistry was great on those albums, but I thought we reached a peak with that production team, so I wanted to use another team. I wanted to sort of get back to the roots a little bit, particularly with the lyrics. And I think the guitarists wrote some riffs that were just really great without all the production techniques that people sometimes use to make them sound better. So we wanted it more within the spirit of the '80s, but obviously with a modern edge to it. So I think we hit the bullet on the head, actually, because it seems that people are really psyched up about the album, just the way it sounds and the way it comes across on first listening. We also sent it away to be mixed. We hadn't done that for quite a while. Usually Charlie, the co-producer mixes it, and so this time we wanted somebody away, who wasn't as connected with the project. And we wanted it to sound British. That's one of the things we wanted to do, and I think that worked as well."

The Charlie Biff refers to is Charlie Bauerfeind, German, recording in Germany, and recording lots of bands. Nae, Biff wanted to shake things up a bit, and bring it back to Britain. Enter co-producer Toby Jepson.

"Well, Toby was really in charge of the performance of the band," notes Biff. "He really concentrated on Nigel's (Glockler) drum playing and the bass. He just spent a lot of time with Nibbs (Carter) and things, adding that great, live, one-take feel on the basic rhythm tracks, and Nigel was more arrangements and making sure what people played was good. So it was good partnership, really. And he worked more with the initial recordings, probably, rather than the overdubbing part of it. Well, in fact, we came to America with that (ed. Mike Plotnikoff at Bay7, a third cousin of this writer's - OK, not really, but close enough). It was a good partnership really. We weren't treading on each other's toes, which can happen when you have two singers working."

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