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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Saxon - 1980 Wheels Of Steel
Saxon - 1980 Wheels Of Steel

ALBUM: Wheels Of Steel
LABEL: Carerre
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1990, Parlophone, CDP 7 92116 2 * 2009, EMI, 50999 6 94445 2 4


LINEUP: Biff Byford - vocals * Graham Oliver - guitar * Paul Quinn - guitar * Steve Dawson - bass * Pete Gill- drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Motorcycle Man * 02 Stand Up And Be Counted * 03 747 (Strangers In The Night) * 04 Wheels Of Steel * 05 Freeway Mad * 06 See The Light Shining * 07 Street Fighting Gang * 08 Suzie Holds On * 09 Machine Gun


Despite the slew of Saxon material represented here at Glory Daze it really is an embarrassment that it's taken 'Wheels Of Steel' this long to be included. I'll be honest, it's been a few years since I listened to this and I'm delighted I revisited it as this truly has to be one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. In a year that saw the NWOBHM at its strongest, Saxon certainly made a huge claim to releasing the best metal album of that year, no small feat when you consider the likes of Iron Maiden, Raven, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest etc all clogging record store shelves with legendary product. Something sets this apart however, its heavy beyond belief and far removed from 1979's debut. Not even Saxon themselves would sound this heavy ever again.

The Songs
In their early years Saxon had a quasi-biker image and this is reflected glaringly with surely one of the all time classic openers, 'Motorcycle Man'. The template is set from the opening bars, speed, riffs and Biff yelling louder than Ian Gillan in his prime. The Oliver-Quinn tandem rattles off wild solo after solo. Anthems are plundered at will, 'Stand Up And Be Counted' a beautifully harsh piece of metal that would have denim clad outcasts banging their heads all throughout England. The albums most remembered track is obviously '747 (Strangers In The Night)' which has become dulled after decades of overplay, but is still a major part of Saxon's history. There is no denying the ferocity of the title tracks main riff, one of the heaviest ever and enough to blow away AC/DC in my opinion. It's essentially six minutes of the same riff and it's a tragedy Saxon would veer away from this direction in the years to come. There's no letting up, 'Freeway Mad' a manic slice of boogie that lays waste to anything Motorhead were doing at the time. The frantic pace is maintained by 'See The Light Shining', a great anthem which represents a band at the top of their game. Biff's ode to growing tough in Barnsley is blasted out in grimy and rough fashion with 'Street Fighting Gang' which is metal from the street indeed. This is how metal is supposed to sound. 'Suzie Hold On' is a rare weak moment, perhaps slightly restrained after such a prolonged onslaught from the first seven tracks. This is fixed by what can only be described as one of the earliest thrashers put on disc, 'Machine Gun'. I'm stunned by just how fast this is for 1980 and it makes Venom look like lightweights. The wailing feedback surely inspired future acts like Slayer and the end result is pure noise.

In Summary
For some time I've grown wary of Saxon's current direction and it's obvious when exposed to this monstrous example of classic metal, now a staggering 31 years old. When compared closely, Maiden's debut can't compete and Saxon were definitely ahead of the pack. It's a shame 'Strong Arm Of The Law' released that same year wasn't up to par, lacking the bite of 'Wheels' despite still being an easy classic ('Taking Your Chances' is monumental). Any newcomer to heavy metal however should listen to this immediately, it's where a legend was born and metal was played as heavy as possible.

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#1 | gdazegod on January 02 2011 11:48:12
A couple of further Saxon reviews in the pipeline.. 'The Eagle Has Landed (Live) 1982 and 'Crusader' 1984.
#2 | sabace on January 12 2012 19:12:26
excellent review!
#3 | Jez on March 11 2013 20:04:04
One of the best NWOBHM albums ever released, and without a doubt Saxon's finest moment. Exceptional all the way through, especially the opening 4 cuts. Saw them on the 'Wheels Of Steel' tour back in 1980 and they are still one of the best live bands i have ever seen. Superb.
#4 | reyno-roxx on March 11 2013 20:35:01
Agreed, a great live band. My favourite Saxon album though is 'Strong Arm Of The Law'. Had that on my Walkman/Phone on the way to work last week coincidentally enough.
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