Like a fine wine, Saxon mature to its finest age, although I expect lead vocalist Biff Byford,one of two original members from the bands beginnings in Barnsley 1977 (the other being guitarist Paul Quinn), he would probably prefer a mug of Yorkshire tea!
Recently released new album Thunderbolt, number twenty two to be exact via Silver Lining Music, shows that they still continue to tap into a rich vein of song writing as they deliver eleven songs that grab you after one listen. They still wear their NWOBHM influences on their sleeves and another in your face and ears production from Andy Sneap show that their wheels of steel have no signs in grinding to a halt.
The curious instrumental ‘Olympus Rising’ (fitting in with the Greek mythology theme of the album) precedes the no holds barred rhythms of the title track ‘Thunderbolt’, first single to be released from it. It sprints out of the starting blocks on a biting main riff as Biff belts the lyrics out with the range and vigor as he did forty years ago over some snapping snare work from Nigel Glockler. ‘The Secret Of Flight’, tells the tale of Icarus as a Tubular Bells like guitar line weaves in and out of a full on drum driven gallop with the guitars of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt slashing like swordsmen. ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz)’ is an epic pounder with symphonic backing vocals as it kicks in midway with blazing leads.
‘They Played Rock And Roll’ is a spine tingling tribute to the sadly departed Lemmy Kilmister. It’s nothing short of a hammered out chest beating headbanger with a Lemmy soundbite midway as twin leads and fast footwork from Nigel raise the bar even higher. The simple but effective riffing of ‘Predator’ drives along the vocals with Biff being joined by Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. ‘Sons Of Odin’ has a ‘Heaven And Hell’ vibe in the pulsating bass lines of Nibbs Carter as the riffs crunch around Biff’s strongest vocal delivery on the album. They heavy things up even more with the mid paced razor sharp riffing in ‘Sniper’ matched by the intense power metal pomp of ‘A Wizard’s Tale’ as Biff’s lyrics nail the subject matter spellbindingly.
‘Speed Merchants’ is almost ‘Motorcycle Man’ revisited as it races full throttle on a myriad of fretboard burning riffing and the need for excessive miles per hour like lyrics. The guitar solos midway send it into overdrive as we come to the final track of a near flawless album ‘Roadie’s Song’, the second tribute here as Saxon honour the tireless work carried out by their road crew, point proven by a lyric of “Haul the gear set the stage, it’s never easy to earn our wage”.
Thunderbolt is available as a CD album Digipack, a 180gm coloured vinyl with a gatefold sleeve, a special edition boxset, a cassette tape and a Digital download. Here’s to album number twenty three!
Thunderbolt album track listing :-
The Secret Of Flight.
Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz).
They Played Rock And Roll.
Sons Of Odin.