Formed in the South Yorkshire industrial town of Barnsley , just as punk was conquering England in 1977, Saxon wore their lack of fashion as a biker badge from the beginning. By 1981, they were rivaling Iron Maiden and Def Leppard for head of the grassroots New Wave of British Heavy Metal class, and they even named an album Denim and Leather. They'd started out steeped in '70s pomp and blooze, but soon were streamlining their approach to the level of sometime-tourmates Motorhead. On 1980's Wheels of Steel (which beat Grandmaster Flash to that phrase by a year), anthems like "Machine Gun" and "Motorcycle Man" anticipated thrash tempos to come. Still, though stars at home, Saxon didn't even dent the U.S. until their sixth album, in 1983; the highest they ever climbed on the charts was an unstaggering No. 130 with 1985's widely maligned Innocence Is No Excuse. By then, they were slicking up in an apparent attempt to keep up with the poodle-haired hordes crossing over to MTV, not that MTV cared. But Saxon kept plugging away with shifting lineups regardless; their 2009 album, Into the Labyrinth, is as respectable an effort as you could ask for from such geezers.
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