saxon_band_colour108It’s a quiet week for new releases so we thought it was high time we caught up with a few meaty reissues to hit the rushonrock office in the last few weeks. And if you like your metal heavy and British then this is the place to be.

We’ve got a hat-trick of remastered Saxon records with the brilliant Biff Byford sounding spiffing on all three. And then there’s the deluxe expanded editions of Black Sabbath’s self-titled album and the eerie Master Of Reality. Enjoy.

saxon denimSaxon – Denim And Leather (EMI)

In an agae when albums came around every few months this was Saxon’s fourth and we’re only talking 1981! If you weren’t prolific then you weren’t going to make it at the outset of the NWOBHM (even Leppard were churning them out at the rate of one a year back then) and if that sometimes meant the quality wasn’t always fantastic then the sense of urgency made for some magic music.

Denim And Leather is a glorious case in point with singles Princess Of The Night, And The Bands Played On and Never Surrender making this a must-have record of its time. There are some who say this is Saxon at their creative peak and you know what? They might just be right.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Hot Leather

saxon powerSaxon – Power And The Glory (EMI)

If Denim And Leather was a metal tour de force then Saxon seemed to be losing their way somewhat when this record took its bow in 1983. Perhaps the constant touring – and subsequent fan adulation – in support of the previous album made for a band part fatigued and part complacent. But for whatever reason this is one Saxon record you really don’t need to own.

The title track is set apart as a true Saxon classic but after that there’s too much music mired in mediocrity. This Town Rocks is too close to Spinal Tap to be taken seriously and The Eagle Has Landed hints at something so much more than it really was. Distinctly average.

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Lacking Power

saxon crusaderSaxon – Crusader (EMI)

So much better than its immediate predecessor but maybe a little too polished for Saxon die-hards, the cracking Crusader delivers on several levels. It might not have done for Biff and the boys what Pyromania did for Leppard but given a different throw of the dice and better artwork it might have done.

LA-based Kevin Beamish’s production isn’t typical Saxon but it does give the band a more focused sound and the anthemic Just Let Me Rock fuses the old with the new to dazzling effect. Rock City is a step up from This Town Rocks but only just and by now you’re left wondering just what Saxon’s fixation with settlements is all about…

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Saxon And On And On

sabbath sabbathBlack Sabbath – Black Sabbath (Universal)

This has got to be the scariest Sabbath record of all with its spooky artwork, pounding bass lines and some truly painful singing from Ozzy. Never an album to be listened to alone, after dark, it takes on a new level of eeriness in its remixed and revamped form.

Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me) was always one of Sabbath’s very best but check out the alternate version on CD2. Another unexpected gem on the extra disc is the instrumental version of the title track – without Ozzy’s vocals it becomes an even more devilish monster capable of driving the most stubborn of neighbours from their homes if played at the requisite high volume. Not that we’ve tried, of course.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Blackened

sabbath masterBlack Sabbath – Master Of Reality (Universal)

In 1971 the heavy metal landscape was particularly bleak and Black Sabbath were leading the way as the ultimate harbingers of doom. But as the series of studio outtakes which dominate the extra disc of this deluxe edition prove – there was always a lighter side to the devil’s messengers.

Tracks like Sweet Leaf, Childen Of The Grave and Solitude do sound chillingly different to – if not better than – the originals now they’ve been touched up and remixed. But the two versions of COTG which pepper the additional disc offer an even greater insight into one of Britain’s best and most ambitious heavy metal acts.

This might not be deemed the best Black Sabbath record ever but it’s the best example of a band prepared to push the boundaries and discover its true potential.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Masterful