Saxon-Thunderbolt-A Review

Saxon is set to release their 22nd studio album, Thunderbolt, on February 2nd, 2018.  22!?!?  Let’s think about that for a second.  The band will tour North America with heavy metal legends Judas Priest in March and April.  Judas Priest have released 18 albums since 1974.  Saxon, 22 since 1979.  That’s an incredible output of music.  Vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn, are the only original members remaining in the band, but the newest member, guitarist Doug Scarratt has been in the band since 1995.

Regarding the new album, Byford comments, ““This is album 22, and it’s called Thunderbolt. It’s a Storming Smashing Thundering collection of tracks we’ve been crafting with producer, Andy Sneap and it’s finished, ready to be unleashed. Stand clear and fasten your seat belts!”

Jude Falcon, Let’s Rock’s master reviewer, had never heard of Saxon until the new album was sent to him.  What did he think?

Saxon Who? I genuinely had no clue that Saxon existed until about ten days ago when Ken sent me an email asking me to review their new album entitled “Thunderbolt”. Since we are never too ancient to learn about new things, I dove right in with both ears open. I have to say that “Thunderbolt” gives quite a jolt to the soul and a shock to the ear buds that left me with a smile on my face, an extra pep in my step and the want to listen to more Saxon as promptly as possible.

If you are reading this and know who Saxon are, good for you, but I feel like there may be more people like me who have been living under a rock since 1977 (I wasn’t even born yet) and may require a quick history on Saxon, so here goes. These Rock Gods hail from South Yorkshire and were declared as one of the pioneers in The New Wave of British heavy metal. They had eight UK Top 40 albums in the 1980’s as well as success in Japan and in the U.S. Saxon has sold over 13 million albums worldwide and has influenced metal acts from Slayer, Megadeath, and Metallica all the way to Dream Theater. 

Now that you know a little about Saxon let’s get to the album that I have been listening to for the last few days. At first listen I thought these guys had the sounds of the bluesy hard rock styling’s of artists like Cinderella and Tesla mixed with Ozzy and Iron Maiden with an element of Diamond Head’s thrash metal to make it a complete package that I was destined to fall head over heels in love with(these are some bands I actually know of). It then occurred to me that quite possibly Saxon were the inaugural musicians that made all the metal music that I have grown up listening to possible, for that I say”Let’s Rock”! Upon closer listen, I found that every single one of these guys is an excellent player that takes full command of their instrument. Their skills immediately garnered my full attention and respect which made me seek out earlier records of theirs. Their current album “Thunderbolt” was produced by Andy Sneap who’s worked with everyone from Kill Switch Engage to Machine Head and the mix is masterfully metal and melodic. The drum sound is enormous, the guitars are cutting and crisp, the bass guitar is growling and certainly not understated, and the vocals are everything one could ever hope for.

Album:

Thunderbolt has a bold beginning with a great build up prior to an excellent crescendo for the conclusion. It commences with a track entitled Olympus Rising which sets the stage for the epic story Saxon will tell you over the course of the next eleven ecstatic embellishments. In today’s digital age of downloading the one or two songs you want, it’s nice to see bands still writing albums with a definitive story arc. After the introduction is the title track Thunderbolt which opens with an explosion of drum fills, tasty and dynamic guitar riffs with a dual guitar harmony at the end which is certain to make any metal fan smile. Secret of Flight kicks off with a thunderous intro that has a fake out lull until the guitar riffage takes you to a radiant place that most are sure to enjoy. After that we have Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz) with the element of darkness that all good metal alums must have. I mean who does not like a song about the prince of darkness? In the middle of the album we have They Played Rock And Roll that seems like an autobiography of Saxon, which is pretty lackluster musically in my opinion until the guitar solo which saves it from being automatically skipped. Predator starts out with a cool groove with nasty bass riffs and a nice kick that leads into a killer lead riff. The bass drum rhythm during the solo along with the guitar harmonized solo had me sold. Sons Of Odin is reminiscent of Dio’s Heaven and Hell from a musical stand point but with lower tuning and a darker edge to it. I really dug the spin that Saxon put on it and the direction they took this tune in. Sniper takes us back to good ole thrash metal which is placed nicely in the line-up of songs. I especially liked the bridge before and after the guitar solo in this one. The heavy break down at 2:35 is tremendously titillating. Third to last we have A Wizard’s Tale, which is more metal goodness that has a really cool rhythmic beginning with a full stop. but the half timed rhythms in the chorus make this song completely different than anything on the album. Second to last is Speed Merchants that begins with speed metal guitar riffs and is all about going fast, engines, and racing to the edge of control. It is perfectly placed at the end of the record with it’s tight stops and wicked guitar solo. It might be my favorite song on the entire album. Last but not least is Roadie’s Song, which is an ode to all of the hard working men and women who make Saxon sound amazing, look cool and make their shows look so bad ass. It’s good to hear that they appreciate their roadies so much that they recognized them with their very own rock song.

The bottom line is: do yourself a favor and check out the new album by Saxon because it’s inclusive good music for the whole family to enjoy. Even for Grandma! (if she’s cool, that is)

Saxon are:

Biff Byford – lead vocals

Paul Quinn – guitar

Doug Scarratt – guitar

Nibbs Carter – bass

Nigel Glockler – drums

  Thunderbolt Track Listing

1. Olympus Rising

2. Thunderbolt

3. The Secret of Flight

4. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)

5. They Played Rock and Roll

6. Predator

7. Sons of Odin

8. Sniper

9. A Wizard’s Tale
10. Speed Merchants

11. Roadie’s Song

12. Nosferatu (Raw Version) (not available on vinyl)

SAXON North American tour dates with Judas Priest and Black Star Riders

Mar. 13 – Wilkes Barre, PA – Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

Mar. 15 – Youngstown, OH – Covelli Centre

Mar. 17 – Uniondale, NY – Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Mar. 18 – Washington, DC – The Anthem

Mar. 20 – Newark, NJ – Prudential Center

Mar. 22 – Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun Arena

Mar. 23 – Worcester – Palladium

Mar. 25 – Ottawa, ON – The Arena at TD Place
Mar. 27 – London, ON – Budweiser Gardens

Mar. 28 – Oshawa, ON – Tribute Communities Centre

Mar. 31 – Detroit, MI – Detroit Masonic Temple

Apr. 02 – Minneapolis – The Amorey

Apr. 03 – Milwaukee, WI – Riverside Theater

Apr. 05 – Green Bay, WI – Resch Center

Apr 06 – Hammond, IN – Venue at Horseshoe Casino (no BSR)

Apr. 08 – Bloomington, IL – Grossinger Motors Aren

Apr. 10 – Casper, WY – Casper Events Center

Apr. 11 – Loveland, CO – Budweiser Events Center

Apr. 15 – Kent, WA – ShoWare Center

Apr. 17 – Portland, OR – Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Apr. 19 – San Francisco, CA – The Warfield

Apr. 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Microsoft Theater

Apr. 21 – Las Vegas, NV – Las Rageous Rock Festival

Apr. 24 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre

Apr. 26 – Tulsa, OK – BOK Center

Apr. 28 – Dallas, TX – The Bomb Factory
Apr. 29 – Sugarland, TX – Smart Financial Centre

May 01 – San Antonio, TX – Freeman Coliseum 

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