Earlier this week Saxon re-released their 12th studio effort, Dogs of War. Thanks to Demon Records, it's been remastered, tweaked, and is being released on picture disc! It's the last album to feature Graham Oliver, a long-time member. But while the album signaled an end to an era, it perhaps also gave way to a new beginning.
By the early Nineties, heavy metal had really let itself go; it was way too bloated. Even Saxon fell victim to the hairspray sound, their albums in the late Eighties (Rock the Nations and Destiny) were polished and slicked up for commercial radio play. Well, by the time Grunge came up, the Golden Age of heavy metal was over and it was time to put up or go home. Saxon looked back to their roots and started to put out more raw sounding albums. Carrying on with the success of Solid Ball of Rock and Forever Free, Dogs of War continued the heavier direction the band was taking. The album set the foundations for the modern heavyweights like Sacrifice, their latest album. It's an important, and often overlooked piece of Saxon's history.
The album is a heavy one, the first two tracks ("Dogs of War" and "Burning Wheels") really knock you down on your ass. However, there are some traces of the polished sound from the 80s -old habits die hard, don't they- so there are a few tracks that are on the melodic side like "Hold On." They boogie down with "Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home)", a catchy tune with a bouncy riff about motorcycles (c'mon, it's Saxon, it's their thing!). There are times where it's more rock 'n' roll than heavy metal, but that's not always a bad thing. Overall, it's a real solid album, even with a few dud tracks about buffaloes and prowling through the streets of Tokyo. It's still full of great, crunchy riffs with searing guitar solos and soaring vocals. The record starts out strong, has some good tracks like "Big Twin Rolling" and "Demolition Alley" in the middle, and finishes off on a good note with "Yesterday's Gone."
It certainly benefited from the remastering though. The sound is a lot punchier, it has some balls to it. Compare it to the older version, and the old one feels a little flat. It really adds some color to the songs, as they sort of pop out with dynamics. I can only imagine what it sounds like through my vinyl player, rather than my fancy computer speakers.
Granted, it's not one of their classics like Strong Arm of the Law and Wheels of Steel, but it's still an integral part of their discography. It's a strong output from a time where heavy metal was passe, and that's something to commend them for. Without it, they would have still been a relic of the 80s and would have been washed out with the rest. This album definitely shows that they still had it in them.