Classic Album Review – Saxon “Rock the Nations” 1986

  The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was always more of an umbrella than a straitjacket, with few in-scene penalties for exploring a variety of rock-based sounds. I like to think that it was in this ecumenical NWOBHM spirit that Saxon approached Rock the Nations, a record that someone in a more cynical mood might call 50 percent direct response to Defenders of the Faith and Pyromania, with another half dedicated to putting out some feelers towards the lucrative, burgeoning LA rock scene of the time.

The album roars out of the gate with the title track, full of Defenders-style bombast (and similar ridiculous drum recording), and keeps the ball rolling with rapid-fire historical number “Battle Cry”, a tale of the Battle of Culloden they can claim was theirs way before Braveheart was cool. The first half of the record also contains strong no-nonsense numbers “Waiting for the Night” and “We Came Here to Rock”.

And then things get a bit weird. “You Ain’t No Angel” contains a level of leering lechery unsustainable by anyone but Aerosmith, “Running Hot” is merely forgettable, and the record ends with two ballads, one of the “power” variety and one less so. Stuffed in there as well is the questionable curio “Party Till You Puke”, a Quiet Riot type number with piano by none other than Elton John!*

So yeah, that happened. Rock the Nations is half of a solid record, with a bit of attempted ocean-crossing showing through the cracks. 5 out of 10

The album has definitely made an impression on some, particularly Manowar. I’m not sure what their opinion of its sonic attributes might be, but they did steal the entire cover concept 20 years later:

*If you want to see where Elton’s head was at in this period, have a look here. As for the song itself, it’s harmless fun, and EJ gives it his all. It’s private theory of mine that it was playing in the room where Andrew WK was born.

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