TITLE: Wheels of Steel
YEAR RELEASED: 1980
CHART ACTION: #5 UK
SINGLES: Wheels of Steel (#20 UK), 747 (Strangers in the Night) (#13 UK), Suzie Hold On
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not around these parts
LINEUP: Biff Byford, Graham Oliver, Paul Quinn, Steve Dawson, Pete Gill
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from UK band becomes a NWOBHM classic and showed the commercial potential of that genre in the UK.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Saxon’s second album was a revelation to the UK music business. It hit #5 and spun off two singles, showing that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal could be a commercial force.
The album is full of riffs, guitar interplay, melodic solos, driving tempos – you know, the usual NWOBHM menu. Not only do they have riffs and guitars all over the place (the title track riff – my goodness), they also can write hooks on occasion.
A lot of the record is at a quick tempo, but I think the detriment of singer Biff Byford. His high-pitched vocals don’t have a lot of power when he’s got to sing ultra fast. When he slows down a bit, his vocals really work, and that’s why “747 (Strangers in the Night)” is such an effective track.
I can see why this was a hit in the UK – the US music industry didn’t have the machine to bring this out to the general public, so it became a underground metal community gem.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: “747 (Strangers in the Night)” was written about the Northeast Blackout in 1965 and how a Scandanavian airliner had to land in the dark.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, demos and live cuts and a b-side
GRADE: B+: One of the hard-to-get albums (in the US) that kick started the tape-trading era of metal, which then developed into a full-out metal scene.