Saxon – Thunderbolt – Record Review
By Vince Andreasen
People have long joked that the only living things that would survive a nuclear war are cockroaches and Cher. I’m beginning to think we can add Saxon to the survivors list. This band has been going strong for 40 years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, or changing for that matter. Thunderbolt is their 22nd studio record and everything you would expect from these metal pioneers. 43 minutes of riff driven, gut punching, vintage metal based on mythology and tales of yore.
2015, May 5- Saxon-Stir Cove, Winsel Photography-1900
The band manages to sound ageless and antique at that same time. This record could just as easily followed Wheels of Steel from the early 80’s. Lead singer Biff Byford is in the second half of his 60’s and belting out vocals stronger than many metal men half his age, and original guitarist Paul Quinn and fellow guitarist Doug Scarratt have created an arsenal of killer riffs. And I have to give props to Nigel Glockler’s solid drumming and Nibbs Carter’s excellent bass work. Musicianship is top notch throughout the record and the band is incredibly tight.
Throughout their career I’ve thought Saxon’s music would be perfect soundtrack material, and this record is no exception. Even the thematic intro Olympus Rising would be a perfect opening score to a Mad Max film. Their music provides the essential grit and pulse for cinematic fight scenes amongst gladiators, medieval knights, or Norsemen. And songs titles like Thunderbolt, Sons of Odin, and A Wizards Tale fit right in. I’ll admit I find the subject matter cheesy and predictable at times, and had my finger resting on the skip button for Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz) based on the title alone. But, Nosferatu turned out to be one of the stronger tracks on the record. It‘s haunting, atmospheric, and yes… it is in 3/4 time.
Saxon-Thunderbolt ArtThe highlight of the record for me was They Played Rock And Roll, a tribute to former touring partners Motorhead. It captures the essence of Motorhead musically while retaining the Saxon persona with Biff’s vocals. It even includes a live sample of Lemmy shouting “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll.”
In the late 70’s Saxon was part of the new wave of British heavy metal, and despite never achieving the level of recognition of fellow bands like Iron Maiden, they have persevered and continued to produce great records that remain true to their brand of metal. Thunderbolt is another solid record in their vast catalog, and I certainly don’t expect it to be their last. Long live the mighty Saxon.