HEAVY metal legends Saxon have been around the world a few times and sold 13 million records since they started out in South Yorkshire 35 years ago, writes Graham Walker.
But there’s lots of life left in the veteran rockers who are still selling out venues and making albums.
Sacrifice, their 20th studio album, is out this week ahead of a 13-date UK tour.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Saxon’s documentary, The making of Sacrifice.
They’re on the road until Christmas, then it will be time off and back in the studio, says energetic front man Biff Byford.
It may sound like the lively rock and roll jet-set lifestyle of Spinal Tap – indeed a former Saxon bass player inspired the fictional rock band.
And it certainly isn’t the world of your ordinary 62-year-old. But then Biff is one of life’s extraordinary people.
He has no plans to hang up his microphone.
“Not at the moment. You’ll have to watch this space and see what happens,’’ he said
“We do three things. We have time off, tour and make albums. That’s our job and what we’ve done for the past 30 years.
“It’s brilliant. It’s great to be able to make albums and we’re lucky to still be doing it.”
Saxon, who began life in Barnsley, have had eight top 40 UK albums and five top 40 singles. They’ve played alongside Motorhead, Ozzy Osbourne and inspired the likes of Mettallica and Megadeth.
They even had Elton John play on one album. Taking a sharper, reinvigorated approach to their production, Sacrifice, out on UDR Records, features 10 of their strongest, heaviest and most inspired songs for years.
Recorded at LS Studios in Yorkshire and produced by Biff, with Andy Sneap mixing and engineering by Jacky Lehmann, it’s a worthy successor to their last album, A Call To Arms. It bristles with muscular metallic intent, Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt’s guitar work the best it’s ever been, while Biff’s vocals sound fresh and lively.
The songwriting harks back to a classic era in Saxon’s history, the likes of Warriors Of The Road, Wheels Of Terror and Stand Up And Fight. They have also added some unique recordings of revisited classics to certain formats of the release.
But there’s a contemporary twist, the classic Saxon sound absorbing the snarl, ferocity and attitude of contemporary bands such as Megadeth, as evidenced by the crunching title cut, Sacrifice. “Less tricks, more power!” roars Biff, real name Peter.
“It’s a lot heavier than the last one. A bit more intense. It’s getting fantastic reviews. We’re really pleased with it.
“Two or three of the songs are of our ’80s style, because that’s the album I wanted to make. I wanted to be more in your face.
“It’s our 20th album, so I think it should have a bit of the ’80s in it and modern sounds. It’s a mixture really. We’ve put an orchestrated version of Crusader on there, which was a huge song for us around the world and it sounds epic.”
The album is released in multi formats, including standard jewel case CD, limited edition deluxe digibook, vinyl LP Picture Disc, direct to consumer (D2C) fan package, available exclusively from online retailers and as a digital download plus one bonus song Luck of the Draw, exclusive to iTunes.
The UK tour includes Nottingham Rock City, on Friday, April 19 (0845 413 4444; www.rock-city.co.uk) and Leeds O2 Academy on Wednesday, April 24 (0844 477 2000; www.o2academyleeds.co.uk). Full tour dates and more at www.saxon747.com.