Back in Arms way

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THE British pastime of queuing led to a perhaps unlikely extra pair of hands playing on the album that returns vintage South Yorkshire rock act Saxon to these parts.

Vendors of the steel-coated riff in all its fist-pumping, air-guitar glory, members of the band were getting travel documentation sorted when they spotted Rainbow/ELO/Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple keyboard legend Don Airey.

“We were at the American embassy in different lines queuing for our visas and by the time we’d got them, Don had agreed to come and play,” chuckles singer Biff Byford.

Don features on the track When Doomsday Comes, one of the key songs on their 19th album Call To Arms. The track also appears alongside No Rest For The Wicked in the movie Hybrid Theory, a sci-fi thriller which follows a group of British soldiers who find themselves in a life or death battle with an enemy far beyond their wildest nightmares.

The film, starring Neol Clarke, was directed by James Erskin who made One Night In Turin about England at the World Cup in 1990.

Heavy metal purists Saxon earned plenty of praise for Call To Arms this summer, the essence of which maniftested itself when the band were recording.

“This is probably the best album we’ve written and recorded in the last 20 years,” said Biff, the voice behind classic metal albums Strong Arm Of The Law and Wheels Of Steel.

“I know a lot of bands say that, but Call To Arms really does feel like that to me. It’s the perfect embrace of our past with a great modern edge.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the band found time to invite fans to sing on the nostalgic stomp of Back In ’79, thanks to a Byford brainwave the night before recording.

“We put something up on our website 24 hours before recording the track in Brighton - and funnily enough we had exactly 79 people show up on time to sing on the song.

“It was a fantastic result which is a direct tribute to Denim & Leather where we did the same exact thing.”

The band line-up these days puts Biff alongside guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, bassist Nibs Carter and Nigel Glockler on drums.

And the 11-track album, which has Saxon returning to Sheffield’s O2 Academy on December 18, was co-produced by singer/songwriter Biff and former Little Angels lead singer Toby Jepson.

“We’ve done our darker albums, our full-on metal albums, we’ve been to those spaces and experimented with them and people came on the journey with us,” adds Biff.

“With Call To Arms you have the culmination of those 10 years and the 20 years before it. I love this album. I love the songs. I love the sounds. It’s right on the money.”