SAXON
"Lionheart – Special Edition"

(SPV)

01. Witchfinder General
02. Man and Machine
03. The Return
04. Lionheart
05. Beyond the Grave
06. Justice
07. To Live By the Sword
08. Jack Tars
09. English Man'o'War
10. Searching For Atlantis
11. Flying On the Edge

RATING: 8/10

Sorta surprising to see a deluxe reissue of an unsung album less than two years old, but hopefully this fancy package will call a little more attention to SAXON's cause over here in the United States of Oblivion. They're known more here lately for their newsworthy extracurricular activities (fighting with former members over the band name, or singer Biff Byford's house burning down), and that's a damn shame — in a just world, SAXON's name would be up there in the pantheon with JUDAS PRIEST. Or at least as high up the totem pole as ACCEPT, fer Chrissakes!

Like PRIEST before them, SAXON experimented here and there with commercialized hard rock after their early classics. And like that band, it bit them in the ass, SAXON apparently doomed forever to cult-classic status. They've been on a roll for a few records now, though, "Lionheart" following up the equally-impressive "Killing Ground" and "Metalhead" releases (not that anyone outside mainland Europe seems to have noticed). What you get here is unapologetic, heavy-handed British metal class, with great songs and just the right amount of oomph, without any attempts at being something the band is not.

Highlights include righteously rockin' opener "Witchfinder General", one of those "we're back" salvos in the vein of "Painkiller" — a strong statement of intent from a band primed to kick ass. The title track just drips English class and pomp, its stately tempo echoing a gravity befitting the band's years. And who can deny the NWOBHM riff of "English Man'o'War", a storming rocker with a celebratory air, punctuated by Byford's phlegmatic, yet upbeat verse.

The main attraction in this reissue is a bonus DVD, containing a "making of" segment, a rough mix from the studio, a 5.1 high end mix, video and live clips. The whole thing comes in a nice embossed box, and even includes a rope with a clip on it to hang your backstage laminates on! Is all that enough to make you re-buy "Lionheart" if you own it already? That's your call, but if this granite slab of killer British metal isn't in your collection now, you might as well kick in the extra few bucks and have this nicer version instead.

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