Maidenfans Album Club: Arch/Matheos - Winter Ethereal (2019)

Kalata

Out of the Silent Planet
@Kalata seems a much bigger Saxon fan - is this album well regarded? I see the reviews from the time were devastatingly bad.
Yes I am. And yeah, this album is not received well by a lot of the fans. I quite like it. But with the next album, Solid Ball Of Rock (1991) the fans were back again behind the band. After that (after 1991) they had to wait until The Inner Sanctum album (2007) to bring back a lot of old fans and won a new ones - the album was called ''the best work in years'' at the time.
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
Yes I am. And yeah, this album is not received well by a lot of the fans. I quite like it. But with the next album, Solid Ball Of Rock (1991) the fans were back again behind the band. After that (after 1991) they had to wait until The Inner Sanctum album (2007) to bring back a lot of old fans and won a new ones - the album was called ''the best work in years'' at the time.
See, that's interesting to me. So if you wanted to make me a Saxon fan, what album would you present?
 

Kalata

Out of the Silent Planet
See, that's interesting to me. So if you wanted to make me a Saxon fan, what album would you present?
For sure not Destiny. The triptych classic albums are mandatory: Wheels Of Steel (1980) Strong Arm Of The Law (1980) and Denim And Leather (1981).

I personally will add Innocence Is No Excuse (1985) too.
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
For sure not Destiny. The triptych classic albums are mandatory: Wheels Of Steel (1980) Strong Arm Of The Law (1980) and Denim And Leather (1981).

I personally will add Innocence Is No Excuse (1985) too.
Interesting. So what, in your opinion, makes Destiny stand out. I can see why hardcore Saxon fans might not enjoy this so much, goodness knows I didn't, but that fact that you do means there might be something I am missing.
 

Kalata

Out of the Silent Planet
Interesting. So what, in your opinion, makes Destiny stand out. I can see why hardcore Saxon fans might not enjoy this so much, goodness knows I didn't, but that fact that you do means there might be something I am missing.
At the end is to each their own, but I quite like it because it has that glam metal vibe (that I like a lot) and the production is pure 80's (another thing that I love) - great riffs and melodic songs. Even the album cover is good. I think I can say that I really like the production on this album. The album contains two classics for the band - ''I Can't Wait Anymore'' (amazing ballad) and ''S.O.S.'' / The only two songs that carry the old sounding of the band are ''From Whom The Bell Tolls'' and ''Red Alert''. And I quite like the other ballad ''Song For Emma''. The only song that I think is weak in this album is ''Jericho Siren''.... the opening track (which is a cover song) is not bad too. I think this is a unique album in the band's discography.
 

The_7th_one

Ancient Mariner
There are a lot of bands with bad or solid good albums. I wouldn't to say that this album is shit at all. There are at least three or four solid songs, but…you can look a lot of bands with albums with two solid songs in one album and the rest are fillers.
 

Dityn DJ James

A coma stole my name.
Oh lord, this forum is actually gonna have me re-listen to Destiny by Saxon. Kalata, I have to say that your obsession with this album is a little beyond me but I am starting to understand it. You are correct in saying it is a very unique album. The only song I remember being passable was that Ride Like the Wind cover. I have some words on this album, but I'll save them for a bigger post I'll probably do tomorrow after I re-listen to it. I have to admit that I'll probably have a lot to add. I did the long trek through Saxon's discography before (save for Forever Free and Rock the Nations) in 2015. I think Saxon never broke through mainly and largely because of Biff. I don't think he has a very commanding presence on their 80's albums. I mean listen to the opening two minutes of Somewhere in Time, then the opening two/three minutes of Screaming For Vengeance, then go and listen to the opening two minutes of Denim and Leather (one of the highest acclaimed 80's Saxon albums by fans, hardcore fans, and critics). Biff has character, and energy, but Rob and Bruce's respective performances on their heavy hitting 80's albums are punchy, potent, and demand attention through and through.

Biff just didn't have that in my opinion. And from what I understand from other Saxon fans, his stage presence live in the 80's was similar to his presence on their 80's albums.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Like Phantom, I never really got what it is that draws people to Saxon. I understand that as a part of the NWOBHM, they embodied the "working man" sort of spirit, playing, as WatchMojo aptly put it, "meat and potatoes heavy metal". The problem is, I don't like meat and potatoes. Meat is often too dry for my taste and plain boiled potatoes are one of my least favorite foods. I like something with more style, something that's a little more dressed up, so to speak. I can dig a song like "Princess Of The Night", but it isn't one I'll come back to often because there are more exciting bands out there from the same era - Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. But to each their own; this just isn't a band I can connect to on an emotional level.

So going into Destiny, I was less-than-enthused, particularly after reading some of the previous posts. Surprisingly, I did not dislike this album. If you want the long and short of it, it's a solid release. Hopefully you want a bit more of an explanation, because I'll give it to you anyway.

I get why Kalata likes this album. It is an undeniably '80s release. Quite frankly, many parts throughout feel as though they're '80s pop, beefed up for a metal audience. Not surprising that said audience would feel disgruntled by it. As LC said, the hallelujah choruses are a dime-a-dozen, and a lot of the songs have a very similar style to them. Not an inherently bad thing, but it does hold the record back somewhat.

On the subject of those choruses, I actually don't think they're all that bad. Some of them are catchy, fun, and enticing. For example, "I Can't Wait Anymore" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" start off their choruses quite well. "How long must I stand out in the cold? Can't you see the writing's on the wall?" and "How many children must die on the wall?" are pretty awesome. My issue is that they don't quite complete them well. The latter song is unfortunately stuck in second gear too much throughout and that undermines an otherwise cool subject matter, that of the Berlin Wall. For the former song - one of the album's two ballads - I'm left a bit disappointed because the lyrics are absolutely stale and Biff doesn't sell them.

That's another thing I don't really care for here - the vocals. Biff is strong enough for a band like Saxon, but without a truly electrifying frontman like Halford, Dickinson, hell, even Di'Anno, it's hard to really grasp the vocals. He's like the UK's version of Udo, but without being truly interesting like the Accept frontman is. It's mostly when the backing singers come in for the choruses that I get sucked into the songs.

With that said, he does do a very good job with the album opener, a cover of Christopher Cross's "Ride Like The Wind". I can get this one more, it feels like the sort of song I'd expect from a band like Saxon. My one issue is that they make it about a minute longer than it needed to be, but the chorus is good enough to make up for a lot of that. The other song I thought was very good was "S.O.S.", which is also probably my favorite song on here. The lyrics, discussing the ill-fated voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic, aren't very exemplary, but Saxon manage to make it an enjoyable listen, more involving than a lot of the songs on here.

The one oddity of the record is "Song For Emma", which is firstly a pretty bad title (who is Emma? why does she matter?), and secondly... the album's other ballad. I actually enjoyed listening to the song as a whole, but the lyrics are for sure stuck in that '80s sort of style and thus undermine what they were going for. The rest of the album is nothing more than rockers that are decent in the moment, but don't really stick with you. "We Are Strong" is the album's lowpoint, nothing terrible but it just feels so paint-by-numbers it's unreal. "We are strong, we will survive," is the same sort of song that many metal bands were writing at the time, with some more successful endeavors than others. "Red Alert" is the band's "Smoke On The Water", written about Chernobyl, and while the subject matter is interesting, the song kinda isn't. If this is typical Saxon fare, then I don't really dig it.

So to answer LC's original question... well, yeah. I haven't been won over to the Saxon fanbase with this record. While Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, even Def Leppard were all going places and doing interesting stuff with their music, Saxon stayed run-of-the-mill, at least for me. You listen to Somewhere In Time and Hysteria, two albums stuck within the context of the '80s. You've got the synths, you've got that unique sound that everyone was trying to get at, and so forth. They're undeniably '80s releases. However, SiT is undeniably metal, and Hysteria is unabashedly hard rock with pop leanings. Destiny just feels like pop turned metal, and while I can enjoy listening to it, it's not a very noteworthy release in the wider spectrum of music.
 
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Kalata

Out of the Silent Planet
Oh lord, this forum is actually gonna have me re-listen to Destiny by Saxon. Kalata, I have to say that your obsession with this album is a little beyond me but I am starting to understand it.
You should give this album a chance. You may like it, especially if you like the glam metal approach of it. :)
Like Phantom, I never really got what it is that draws people to Saxon. I understand that as a part of the NWOBHM, they embodied the "working man" sort of spirit, playing, as WatchMojo aptly put it, "meat and potatoes heavy metal". The problem is, I don't like meat and potatoes. Meat is often too dry for my taste and plain boiled potatoes are one of my list favorite foods. I like something with more style, something that's a little more dressed up, so to speak. I can dig a song like "Princess Of The Night", but it isn't one I'll come back to often because there are more exciting bands out there from the same era - Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. But to each their own; this just isn't a band I can connect to on an emotional level.

So going into Destiny, I was less-than-enthused, particularly after reading some of the previous posts. Surprisingly, I did not dislike this album. If you want the long and short of it, it's a solid release. Hopefully you want a bit more of an explanation, because I'll give it to you anyway.

I get why Kalata likes this album. It is an undeniably '80s release. Quite frankly, many parts throughout feel as though they're '80s pop, beefed up for a metal audience. Not surprising that said audience would feel disgruntled by it. As LC said, the hallelujah choruses are a dime-a-dozen, and a lot of the songs have a very similar style to them. Not an inherently bad thing, but it does hold the record back somewhat.

On the subject of those choruses, I actually don't think they're all that bad. Some of them are catchy, fun, and enticing. For example, "I Can't Wait Anymore" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" start off their choruses quite well. "How long must I stand out in the cold? Can't you see the writing's on the wall?" and "How many children must die on the wall?" are pretty awesome. My issue is that they don't quite complete them well. The latter song is unfortunately stuck in second gear too much throughout and that undermines an otherwise cool subject matter, that of the Berlin Wall. For the former song - one of the album's two ballads - I'm left a bit disappointed because the lyrics are absolutely stale and Biff doesn't sell them.

That's another thing I don't really care for here - the vocals. Biff is strong enough for a band like Saxon, but without a truly electrifying frontman like Halford, Dickinson, hell, even Di'Anno, it's hard to really grasp the vocals. He's like the UK's version of Udo, but without being truly interesting like the Accept frontman is. It's mostly when the backing singers come in for the choruses that I get sucked into the songs.

With that said, he does do a very good job with the album opener, a cover of Christopher Cross's "Ride Like The Wind". I can get this one more, it feels like the sort of song I'd expect from a band like Saxon. My one issue is that they make it about a minute longer than it needed to be, but the chorus is good enough to make up for a lot of that. The other song I thought was very good was "S.O.S.", which is also probably my favorite song on here. The lyrics, discussing the ill-fated voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic, aren't very exemplary, but Saxon manage to make it an enjoyable listen, more involving than a lot of the songs on here.

The one oddity of the record is "Song For Emma", which is firstly a pretty bad title (who is Emma? why does she matter?), and secondly... the album's other ballad. I actually enjoyed listening to the song as a whole, but the lyrics are for sure stuck in that '80s sort of style and thus undermine what they were going for. The rest of the album is nothing more than rockers that are decent in the moment, but don't really stick with you. "We Are Strong" is the album's lowpoint, nothing terrible but it just feels so paint-by-numbers it's unreal. "We are strong, we will survive," is the same sort of song that many metal bands were writing at the time, with some more successful endeavors than others. "Red Alert" is the band's "Smoke On The Water", written about Chernobyl, and while the subject matter is interesting, the song kinda isn't. If this is typical Saxon fare, then I don't really dig it.

So to answer LC's original question... well, yeah. I haven't been won over to the Saxon fanbase with this record. While Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, even Def Leppard were all going places and doing interesting stuff with their music, Saxon stayed run-of-the-mill, at least for me. You listen to Somewhere In Time and Hysteria, two albums stuck within the context of the '80s. You've got the synths, you've got that unique sound that everyone was trying to get at, and so forth. They're undeniably '80s releases. However, SiT is undeniably metal, and Hysteria is unabashedly hard rock with pop leanings. Destiny just feels like pop turned metal, and while I can enjoy listening to it, it's not a very noteworthy release in the wider spectrum of music.
I'm glad you liked most of the songs on this album, Diesel. I knew you gonna like some of them. Definitely it is a experimental album for the band. I like Biff vocals - he has a raspy voice, but he can't compare with Bruce, Rob or Udo.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Hmm, based on what I heard, I wouldn’t really say that Biff is a raspy vocalist (if raspy is something akin to NPFTD era Bruce). He’s certainly a more... throaty singer, I think. I’d probably like him more if he tried being more expressive with his style, rather than merely trying to be, er, solid.
 

Black Wizard

Cereal Litigator
I will try to listen to 'Destiny' at some point, but it won't be until the end of next week at the earliest.

In the meantime, I would like to nominate 'The Jester Race' by In Flames as our next album.
 

Dityn DJ James

A coma stole my name.
I’ll be talking a lot about Destiny in the context of Saxon’s discography as opposed to Destiny in the context of 80’s heavy metal. I will speak a little about where it falls in the context of 80’s heavy metal; but without spoiling much, Destiny doesn’t matter within the context of 80’s heavy metal. Now Saxon was big in the UK back in the day. Pretty big actually. Wheels of Steel in 1980 reached Top 5 in the UK and they were pretty quick to capitalize on that. They had another album in 1980 (Strong Arm of the Law) and one in 1981 (Denim and Leather). Commercially, those two didn’t fare as well, but atleast Saxon earned themselves a spot in NWOBHM history with their first 4 albums (the aforementioned three and their solid and quite overlooked self-titled debut).

Saxon is like if you took the ethos of an album like Defenders of the Faith from Judas Priest and stretched it out over 40 years and made a whole band based around it. Nothing in Saxon’s discography, atleast from what I’ve heard (I have not listened to Rock the Nations, the album that preceded Destiny, or Forever Free), touches Defenders of the Faith in terms of quality. Definitely not Destiny, that’s for sure.

You’d be quite surprised in the sheer dip in quality if you listened to 1981’s Denim and Leather then immediately jumped (skipping 4 albums in total: Power & the Glory, Crusader, Innocence is No Excuse and Rock the Nations) over to 88’s Destiny. Saxon’s dip in quality in the 80’s coincided with the departure of Pete Gill (who KILLED the drums with Motörhead from 1984-1986/7). I liked his replacement, one Nigel Glockner, but there was this proto-speed metal fury with Pete Gill that was absent from Saxon’s mid to late 80’s albums. Glockner would prove himself to be a competent drummer, however, in Saxon’s surprisingly stellar 90’s and early 2000’s work.

Important to note too, Glockner doesn’t play on Destiny. Nigel Durham takes his place. Also, one off bassist Paul Johnson plays on this album. So our core of the rhythm is just two one off members, which kinda sucks and you can tell their performances are lacking. I did like that Paul Johnson OK on this album, but Nigel Durham would’ve been better off in a B tier AOR group (and that’s what Saxon sounds like on Destiny!)
Nothing on Destiny sounds big enough. While there are some pretty interesting 80’s rock melodies that come out of the synths on Destiny (just occasionally), they just aren’t big enough I guess. They don’t sound like they could even fill 2,000 seats in an arena. They sound so uncool that I can’t even enjoy them ironically (sigh). The AOR (Album-oriented Rock. “An album rock format with [great] commercial appeal” Wikipedia) tendencies that negatively impacted Destiny began on their 1985 opus Innocence is No Excuse. But that one’s not bad! And the AOR tendencies had a positive impact on that release (in my book). Rockin' Again, Back on the Streets, Rock 'n' Roll Gypsy, and Broken Heroes all kick some serious ass off that album.

Something about that release was just so much more powerful than this one. Destiny lacks any real punch in its sound. It just sounds digital and plastic through and through. And the opener totally fools you. You think you’d actually be in for a decent time when you first hear the Ride Like the Wind cover. It’s a pretty good cover! It’s self-indulgent and often fun and cheesy. After that, this album is a sheer endurance test. Track after track, they all run together with nothing to separate them. This one is longer, this one is shorter, Biff says something on this one, Biff says something else on this one, it doesn’t matter. Side A comes and goes after that Christopher Cross cover, then Side B comes along with that same nonsense for the first three tracks. I’m serious when I say I sat at my computer just listening for something, anything, in tracks 2-8, and nothing ever came. Nothing stuck out. No cool melodies, no solos I liked, no lyrics, nothing. BUT, if you managed to not turn it off, you will find that tracks 9 and 10, the closers, rule.

Yeah I said it, Jericho Siren and Red Alert rock. Destiny is an endurance test with the reward at the end being two late 80’s buried gems by Saxon. I love the urgency in Red Alert and the chorus in Jericho Siren is simply wonderful. Real great surprises there. So I’ll tell you this, if you’re just browsing this thread with no intention of contributing (which is fine), just give Ride Like the Wind (Saxon’s cover), Jericho Siren, and Red Alert a listen. You can’t really regret it. Those three tracks are self-indulgent, AOR leaning metal tracks that stand as pretty solid forgotten gems of the late 1980’s.

Now, I would really like to forget about Destiny. It’s a rocky album with awful pacing. Dreadful listen. Saxon earned their place in British heavy metal history (squarely and firmly behind the heavy hitters of the genre like Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest) by never being able to release an album as good as Denim and Leather. And Saxon definitely closed out the 80’s on a pretty crappy note.
That being said, the following album, Solid Ball of Rock, is pretty great. But, if you don’t know anything about Saxon (not a single thing), don’t go for their 80’s albums first. Check out 2004’s Lionheart. It’s got Jörg Michael on drums (his only Saxon album). It’s a wonderful clash of hard hitting NWOBHM and German power metal storytelling and ferocity.

Destiny has left me exhausted, utterly exhausted. If you haven’t heard it in awhile, just listen to those three tracks I mentioned above. The rest is thoroughly not worth it. I did enjoy being able to share a few tidbits about Saxon along the way. They’re not a bad band, I just don’t listen to them as often anymore. Cheers.
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
As much as I did not care for Destiny, I'm actually pretty OK with the pick so far. It's not a unique album or interesting for the music, but it does speak to the crisis of conscience that was about to strike the heavy metal industry. Glam metal was becoming far more prevalent and lots of bands were changing their sounds to catch some of that wave. Maiden's change was probably truer to form, especially once the synths were reigned back in for Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. But it is worth noting that Maiden did the same thing Saxon did following their 1988 release: they stripped the sound back and tried to return to their roots. Priest did the same thing for Painkiller. For Saxon and Iron Maiden, it led to success. While No Prayer For the Dying and Fear of the Dark are not fondly remembered by now, Fear of the Dark was a #1 album and supported a huge tour and hit Donington and had the greatest metal-magic show in history for the final gig. Saxon's Solid Ball of Rock is often considered the last "classic" Saxon album. Painkiller, however, actually charted less successfully than Ram it Down and I don't see any Priest apologists claiming it was any better.

What was occurring in 1990 that caused these bands to pull their synths and go back to their roots? Why was Maiden successful at evolving their sound in the late 80s while Saxon and Judas Priest were not? And finally, why did varying measures of success envelop each band?

I think the answer is found somewhat in market forces. It may not have been the music that was the driving force. The American market was fractured at the time and Metallica had become the true titan of metal in North America, though their musical evolution began after the 1980s. Similarly, the outpouring of glam rock seems to have swamped a lot of smaller name metal, with only bands like Maiden able to punch through. But that would change in the 1990s - the departure of Bruce Dickinson, the wave of grunge and nu-metal, and general stagnation in heavy metal would lead to a dark decade.
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
Side A comes and goes after that Christopher Cross cover, then Side B comes along with that same nonsense for the first three tracks. I’m serious when I say I sat at my computer just listening for something, anything, in tracks 2-8, and nothing ever came. Nothing stuck out. No cool melodies, no solos I liked, no lyrics, nothing. BUT, if you managed to not turn it off, you will find that tracks 9 and 10, the closers, rule.
I did like Red Alert, I thought it was the only high point of the album (I truly despise that Christopher Cross song, and I also despise the idea of covers on an album like this). I will give Jericho Siren a re-listen later on your recommendation. Thanks for the detailed post! As someone less familiar with Saxon's history, I thought it was superb to get immersed a little into their evolution. I've gotten a sense that, other than Biff, the other band members have really been considered expendable over the years, but what I'm seeing now is that it depends on which motley crew he's put together on whether or not they will be able to hit Saxon's level of quality.

That cover, though. Does anyone have any information on why they chose that particular song? Was it an attempt to break into the US market? To put out a popular single? It's a really interesting choice for an album, especially one with such a divergent sound from the rest of the band's discography.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
I agree with you in the sense that I don’t like the idea of putting covers on an album... generally. I think if the covers are good then I don’t mind them, but as far as my band goes, I don’t care to add covers to albums because it’s supposed to be our stab a work of art and often a cover wouldn’t fit in. Personally I think Ride Like The Wind was good and fit in. I think some of your criticism may subconsciously stem from your dislike of the original? But then again, you didn’t like most of the album, so I dunno really. This post is no new information or anything, but it’s all typed up now and I might as well do something with it post reply
 

LooseCannon

Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
I'm generally not a fan of covers at all, but specifically in this case. I do dislike the original song, and I don't think this does enough to make it at all interesting or palatable, but that's what makes it really interesting - and that's why I'm wondering now!
 
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