Album Review: Saxon, Thunderbolt

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal helped usher in a new era of metal glory during the 1980s. Bands back in the 70s like KISS, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath were going through changes that resulted in lackluster success or break-ups. So, groups like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motörhead ushered in new sounds and groundbreaking riffs, that fans could not get enough of. Today, most of the bands from back then are still together, still cranking out hit records and selling out arenas. Most importantly, they have not lost any of their lust for rock ‘n’ roll. Saxon is another band from the NWOBHM era, that just seems to get better with each new record. Releasing their 22nd album, Thunderbolt, Saxon is showing up the music world. After reaching critical acclaim with the last 3 records, could they continue that streak? Earphones in, let’s find out.

Starting with the short intro song, “Olympus Rising,” it grabs our attentions. Next thing you know, Saxon hits us with the self-titled track. Already, I am falling in love with the riffs they have created. Frontman Biff Byford is 67 years old, and he still sounds like a singer in his 20s. It amazes me, just how good he sounds after so many years. The riffs and solos played on this album, are some of the best created by the guitar duo Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. They contain a pinch of the 1980s flavor, that fans loved to hear. Drummer Nigel Glockler steadily hammers and wails away on the kit, while bassist Nibbs Carter slays the music, with his sweet bass lines. Each member of Saxon nails down their roles and created classic heavy metal, that fans can come to admire.

All of their songs have a different story to tell, mostly dealing with mythology. From “Son of Odin” to “The Secret of Flight,” I can just envision what the story is like from the words they penned down. Not only do they sing about Greek mythology, but they also go into topics of warfare (“Warfare,”), hunters (“Predator”), and vampires (“Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz)”). With each new song, Byford brings that old school flair we love to listen to. On “Predator,” he gets some help from Amon Amarth vocalist Johan Hegg, who lays down his raspy technique under Byford’s smooth style. That is an effective combination for a song. They also paid their respect to the fallen Motörhead leader Lemmy, when they wrote “They Played Rock and Roll.” The album closed out with “Roadies’ Song,” which is a classic metal riff, saluting the roadies who help put the shows together. If that is not respect to the non musicians of the band, I do not know what is.

Through and through, Saxon has built another masterpiece, that will be remembered as one of their best works. Byford and Quinn are an efficient team, that knows what the fans want in a metal record. They do not usually stir away from the recipe that has been responsible for all their success. Thunderbolt is everything a metalhead wants in a heavy rock ‘n’ roll record: strong riffs, sizzling solos, powerful vocals, and potent lyrics. To answer my question from earlier, the critical streak continues for them. To Saxon, I salute you. Horns Up!!! 10/10

01. Olympus Rising
02. Thunderbolt
03. The Secret Of Flight
04. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
05. They Played Rock And Roll
06. Predator
07. Sons Of Odin
08. Sniper
09. A Wizard’s Tale
10. Speed Merchants
11. Roadie’s Song
12. Nosferatu (Raw Version) (not available on vinyl)

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