When a classic metal band are nearing the cusp of their seventies in age, new material from them can either be surprisingly amazing or a total downfall. Saxon’s newest effort Thunderbolt fits the first description, as this is one of the best albums they’ve dropped since the turn of the new millennium. Biff Byford and co. do not hold back for a single second, despite their old age. Musically, it’s quite comparable to Judas Priest’s newest effort Firepower, but honestly, I think I like this one better by just a hair.
Those who seek a throwback record to the classic era of Saxon are going to be mildly disappointed. Yes, there are still traces of that here, but the sound itself it totally different, and there are actually quite a lot of drops from the power metal flask. Tracks like “Nosferatu” are very epic and include some operatic features, and the lyrical themes of fantastical beings certainly add to this. Speaking of which, there’s a lot of Norse mythology touched on as well, which gives way to Amon Amarth’s very own Johan Hegg doing guest vocals in “Predator.” The combination of his harsh vocals mixed with Biff’s cleans are a beautiful combo.
The more typical Saxonisms make their way in on some of the faster tracks. Songs like “They Played Rock N Roll” stick to themes that the band always hit in the past, and the guitars in this fire through faster than a train on a straight track. Clean production makes every note and every drum kick come through very clearly, so you pick up on everything and nothing goes missed. This is where the comparison to Judas Priest’s newer works come in, as their tracks are constructed and produced in a very similar manner. Likewise, the riffs are absolutely crushing, and there are so many of them! Vocally, I’d compare it more to the modern Deep Purple albums, as its basically Ian Gillan made more powerful.
If you think this is all too much to swallow, it still doesn’t end there. Harsher tamperings inspired by modern forms of metal seep into the cracks with tracks like “Sniper.” This one slows down the pace and darkens the guitar chugs to a very unsettling degree. This may be hard to believe, but there may even be something that comes close to a breakdown in this song, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Really, there’s more weight to Thunderbolt than there has been to any recent Saxon record. These classic metal gods really know how to keep on delivering, and anyone who is a fan that let this slip under the radar must give this disc a spin. There’s power metal, speed metal, clean production, death growl features and borderline breakdown sections all packed into an overall classic metal bottle. This record is out in multiple formats and can likely be found in your local record stores and most online vendors.Thunderbolt came out on February 2nd, 2018 on Silver Lining Music. Give this a spin, and take a trip to Valhalla!