REVIEW: SAXON – “Thunderbolt”
British powerhouse Saxon are back with their TWENTY-SECOND album, ‘Thunderbolt.’ (Twenty-two albums! When have you done twenty-two times lately? I can hardly do twenty-two push ups!) Due for release on February 2nd via Silver Lining Records, ‘Thunderbolt’ is a solid, no B.S. heavy metal album that will surely be a delight for Saxon fans and traditional heavy metal enthusiasts alike.
The album begins with the dramatic introduction that is “Olympus Rising.” A sole guitar and commanding drums combine, and are joined by a symphonic hum as it builds and jumps into the album’s title track.
I really like the opening to “Thunderbolt.”A commanding guitar riff, and Nigel Glockler’s drums make way for Byford to launch into the first verse which sets a powerful stride. As we get to the pre-chorus Byford shrieks “Unleash the gods of war!”Afirst-rate guitar solo exchange between Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, before a little break down and we hear that riff again. “Thunderbolt” is a solid start to the record and a great title track.
“The Secret of Flight” is good one. When researching the record, I read that Byford’s lyrics in this song highlight his passion for human flight so I wanted to listen carefully to hear the story he had written.
The highlight of this track is the vocal harmonies throughout verses and chorus. The guitar riff complements those harmonies nicely. Getting to the chorus and we hear Byford sing: “Man has always looked towards the sky/And dreamed of one day learning how to fly/To soar just like an eagle out of sight/They’re searching for the secret of flight!” The second chorus leads into a slightly slower, lower bridge and another guitar battle between Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. “The Secret of Flight”is a highlight on the record.
Up next is “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)”and is a dramatic tale of the creature of the night, the vampire.Beginning with some old school, circa 1930’s horror movie organs, the slower cadence of this song fosters a theatrical feel. I listen carefully to Byford as he shares his story of the shadows in the dark. “Nosferatu, creature of the night/Nosferatu, darkness kills the light” is sung in the chorus, and it could almost be a song in a broadway play! The song closes with a gentle guitar solo fading away.
“They Played Rock n’ Roll” is a tribute to the immortal Motorhead and starts the way a Motorhead tribute should – hard and fast! The opening bars of this song are incredible and when the guitar soars over the introduction it’s clear that this is a heartfelt tribute from Saxon to their friends. Nibbs Carter’s bassline is front and centre throughout the track and I wonder if it was mixed this way as a further nod to our Lemmy. Halfway through the song appears a clip from Lemmy declaring “We are Motorhead and we play ROCK N ROLL!” It’s a lovely addition to an already exceptional tribute.
Up next is “Predator” with Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg adding a darker element in tandem with Byford’s higher vocals. Once again Carter’s bass sits up front on the track. The tempo of “Predator” is slower to previous track and adds to a more sinister feel.
There’s no slowing down in the second half of ‘Thunderbolt’ either. Tracks like “Sons of Odin” and “A Wizard’s Tale” might be slower in cadence yet still deliver strong drums and excellent guitars. I find myself becoming absorbed into Byford’s lyrics. The stories he tells are my favourite part of this record.
“Speed Merchants” is high energy and adrenaline-fueled song about racing cars, complete with the chorus lyrics “speed merchants/take it to the limit/lovin’ every minute.” I have a vision of a grinning Biff Byford ripping around a race course in a Bugatti Veyron when I listen to this song!
The record ends with “Roadie’s Song” which is a fun way to end the album. It is a fond account of Saxon’s life on the road, and with lyrics like“16 beds inside the bus, step inside be one of us/A Roadie’s life is what we choose/and the wheels keep rolling on”it sounds like they wouldn’t have it any other way.
As my first deep listen of a Saxon album, my favourite part of this record is Byford’s ability to play story teller through his lyrics. That, combined with the excellent musicianship of the band has produced a fantastic heavy metal album.
Overall, ‘Thunderbolt’ is jam-packed with consistent, catchy, no-fuss heavy metal. It’s a record that will ensure lots of satisfied heads nodding along, and fists in the air.