Released: 2018, Silver Lining Music
Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
Like a fine Swiss time-piece, Saxon is still on schedule with a new album every couple of years. There is not too much to report in terms of technical information, the line-up is the same and the band is now on Silver Lining Music. I suspect it is just a rebranding of Saxon’s old label UDR because all the old UDR artists (Motorhead, Alice Cooper, Annihilator etc) are now on Silver Lining.
Saxon are in the Top 10 most prolific Metal bands of all time because this is their 23rd studio album. I’m going to qualify that statement and exclude all those freaky, one-man Black Metal bands who write albums on their lap-top and release 10 or 12 digital-only albums a year. As for actual bands with multiple members who actually write, rehearse, jam, record, release a physical product and then tour, Saxon is among the elite with only a handful of bands (Loudness, Rage etc) in the history of Metal ever having released more than 20 albums.
Thankfully the quality of song-writing band performances has not suffered from the quantity and I will certainly admit Saxon is very comfortable with their signature sound and style. Cynics and critics might call it a formula but I am not one of those naysayers. However, I can certainly see the pattern; the epic instrumental intro, a few fast rockers, a mid-tempo piece or two, it’s perfect and I don’t want it to change. I’m going to leave THUNDERBOLT for a moment to demonstrate this example. For the last five albums, Saxon has written what I call ‘the song for the common man’. Each album has a song (usually the last track) that is a simple song about everyday working life that all working-class people can probably relate too.
-Into The Labyrinth has ‘Slow Lane Blues’
-Call to Arms has ‘Ballad Of The Working Man’
-Sacrifice has ‘Standing In A Queue’
-Battering Ram has ‘Three Sheets To The Wind’
-Thunderbolt has ‘Roadies Song’
So does this mean it is formulaic or bad in anyway? Not at all! Each of the above listed ‘common man’ songs are fine in their own right, but I can intellectually see why some harsh reviewers may not embrace that pattern or trend.
Back to THUNDERBOLT, lyrically the band stays the course with many historical/mythological themes; vikings, (Sons Of Odin) ancient Greece (Olympus Rising/Thunderbolt), modern warfare (Sniper) and Arthurian legend (A Wizard’s Tale) and vampires (Nosferatu). There are the usual songs about driving fast ‘Speed Merchants’ and the aforementioned ‘common man’ song…this time a tribute to roadies called ‘Roadies Song’. There is also a very nice tribute to Motorhead on a song called ‘They Played Rock ‘n’ Roll’. In terms of production, performance and execution, this album is as flawless as the last ten Saxon albums dating back to 1997 when they regained their direction with UNLEASH THE BEAST. The stable line-up is working like a world-class football side.
Saxon remain of the most consistent and prolific bands in Metal. I can’t think of another band that has had 11 albums in a row without a single misstep. THUNDERBOLT is another testament to this fact.
1. Olympus Rising
3. The Secret of Flight
4. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
5. They Played Rock and Roll
7. Sons of Odin
9. A Wizard’s Tale
10. Speed Merchants
11. Roadie’s Song
12. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz) (raw version)
Biff Byford – lead vocals
Paul Quinn – guitar
Doug Scarratt – guitar
Nibbs Carter – bass
Nigel Glockler – drums