(Silver Lining Music)
Written by: Kenneth Gallant
8 Out of 10
The mighty Saxon return with their 22nd studio recording; proving they still have the staying power to be relevant and vital as ever. The album entitled “Thunderbolt” forges ahead with 12 epic tracks of molten metal goodness; embracing that continual conviction of becoming denim and leather demi-gods from the NWOBHM.
This time out, the band go for that big epic sound to get you fist pumping and ready for a series of tracks that would put Manowar to shame. The ominous sounding instrumental (Olympus Rising) at the beginning sets the tone for the glorious first track “Thunderbolt’. The lyrics touch upon the gods of ancient Greek mythology, but the razor sharp riffs are spot on in support of this rousing number. “Secret Flight” continues on in a similar vein covering the exploits of Icarus in support of the gift of flight. There is a great deal of melody here and the riffs soar throughout; proving this number is a great compliment piece to Thunderbolt. I really enjoyed the creepy and monstrous “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)”; as the sonic proceedings slow down, but the ominous textures really drive this number.
The thunderous attitude picks up again on “They Played Rock and Roll”. The track motors along at a great clip and at times feels like it could have appeared on 1981’s Denim and Leather album. I really got into “Predator” after the meaty riffs pounded holes in my eardrums. There’s an underlying death metal esthetic here, which might be a first for this band, so who says musicians mellow with age! “Sons of Odin” get back to that Manowar vibe and man do they let that rip loud and proud. This is also the track that Biff Byford shines best on vocally for my tastes, so move over Rob Halford – here’s another front man who can still belt out those tunes for his age. “Sniper” is a simple foot stomper that doesn’t let up for the duration of three and a half minutes. The riffs push the song to a satisfying finish; so if anyone is looking for a standard metal tune then this is it.
“A Wizard’s Tale” is a track that explores the boundless magic found in the tales of Camelot. The track strives to maintain the melody and it proves to be a descent number. Slotting “Speed Merchants” next is a stroke of genius as the prototypical thunder roars into life as a rancorous affair of riffs and a chorus that will surely get everyone in the moshpits going ape-shit over. “Roadies’ Song” pulls back on the reigns a bit; detailing the life of a roadie, but it’s a little on the dull side for my liking. The album ends on a return to “Nosferatu”, but entitled the raw version. I’m not sure this track is necessary, but it’s still a satisfying number. That riff that roars to life in the final two minutes of the song is still sweet music to my ears.
I was reading a few other reviews online and was a bit surprised that some find this album to be a serviceable heavy metal record at best. Personally for me there is a lot more going on here then what you would find in most young bands of today. Yes, Saxon is old boys still plying their trade to the heavy metal arena, but they are so prolific doing it that you can’t deny their contribution as a musical entity. I dig them still after all these years and Byford and the boys still know how to cut killer tunes to satisfy my heavy metal cravings.
Thunderbolt won’t disappoint and if you are digging the brand new Judas Priest record, then give this release a spin too. In fact Saxon and Priest are hooking up for a tour together this summer and it promises to be an epic affair. I’m giving this record eight thunderbolts out of ten and I can’t wait to hear these tunes live at some point this year.