Saxon – Thunderbolt
Released: February 2nd, 2018
Saxon Line up:
Biff Byford / lead vocals
Paul Quinn / guitar
Doug Scarratt / guitar
Nibbs Carter / bass
Nigel Glockler / drums
When you think of (the ridiculously hard to pronnounce) acronym NWOBHM there are a slew of bands that immediately spring to mind: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead and of course the mighty Saxon. These are the bands that shaped the sound and image of heavy metal for decades to come. The trademark soaring operatic vocals, galloping guitars, thundering drums, it all began with The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. But it was more than just music, NWOBHM was an image as well. Before spandex and makeup, it was denim and leather that bought us all together, and Saxon lead the charge. Legend has it Lars Ulrich wearing a Saxon t-shirt lead to a meeting with Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel . ‘Hit The Lights’ appeared on the Metal Massacre compilation, thus one of the biggest metal bands in history was born.
So Saxon gave us Metallica… they’ve also given us over four decades of metal. And 2018 sees the Englishmen releasing album number 22. Some bands are lucky to write 22 songs, let alone that many albums. But you can’t keep a good band down. So here I have in my hot little hands a Thunderbolt with 11 brand new songs. The first thing you notice is, this is most definitely a Saxon album. The boys haven’t lasted this long by doing musical 180’s, going synth or writing disposable pop tunes, they are as dependable and solid as a steam train.
The album kicks off with ‘Olympus Rising’ it’s more of a prelude than full song running at only a little over a minute and a half. It reminds me of the ‘Crusader Prelude’ from the album of the same name, and that’s a good thing. Crusader is not only one of my favourite Saxon albums, it’s one of my favourite albums full stop! The instrumental rolls into the title track. This song hits like a Thunderbolt. Big drums, huge riffs and Biff Byford’s unmistakable vocals. I’m not usually a fan of comparisons between now and a vocalist’s so called heyday because no one needs reminding they are getting older BUT…. Biff Byford is singing as good at 67 as he was in his 20’s. His singing style has changed slightly, but he still hits every note. I guess the rock n roll lifestyle works for some.
The Saxon freight train continues with ‘The Secret Of Flight’ lyrically the boys have delved into a nice bit of mythology. There’s swords, sorcerers in ‘A Wizards Tale’, a dabble with the undead in ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz)’ The latter a riff heavy mid-tempo stomp, it’s atmospheric and oozes evil, the drums hit like a steak through the undead’s black heart. Of the 11 songs on this album so many deserve a special mention, none more so than the sixth track ‘Predator’. All the elements of a great Saxon song are here, but with the addition of some killer death growl vocals. They add a level of brutality that’ll make your hair stand up.
For me the absolute stand out track doesn’t even sound like a Saxon song. The fifth track sounds like it was written by those other metal legends Motorhead. It is of course a tribute to the band. ‘They Played Rock n Roll’ is a rip snorter, and a perfect way to honour the legend, Lemmy Kilmister. The tributes continue to flow with a track penned for the unsung heroes of rock n roll, the aptly titled ‘Roadie’s Song’ pays tribute to the masters of the load in and load out. Let’s face it, with out them the show would not go on.
All in all Saxon deliver a great album that is unapologetically classic metal, with a few surprises thrown in. Thunderbolt can rightly take its place alongside some of the best music Saxon have released.
Saxon – Thunderbolt tracklisting:
- Olympus Rising
- The Secret Of Flight
- Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz)
- They Played Rock n Roll
- Sons Of Odin
- A Wizards Tale
- Speed Merchants
- Roadie’s Song
- Nosferatu (Raw version – not available on vinyl)