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Saxon

Thunderbolt

Review by Greg Olma

Saxon is more than just a band.  At this point, they are an institution that started in 1979 with the birth of NWOBHM and has consistently toured and put out records ever since.  I have been a fan since the Denim And Leather, days, and although they had a very slight dip in quality around the Destiny album (which I like a lot now but was not impressed when it was released), they have been firing on all cylinders since 1991’s Solid Ball Of Rock.  This new record continues the trend with 10 high quality/high energy tracks that fit nicely with their older catalogue.  For decades, Saxon have created their own sound, and they have stuck to it without veering off into other metal genres.  Like AC/DC and Motörhead, you know what you’re going to get, and I feel Thunderbolt will be one of their latter day classics.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Olympus Rising
This is an epic sounding intro that would make for a great concert opener.
Thunderbolt

Here is where the disc comes to life.  This is a mid-paced rocker that packs in that Saxon sound with a catchy chorus.  Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt trade off some great soloing, and Biff Byford puts in a great performance with that unmistakable voice.

The Secret Of Flight
Things speed up a little on this tune about man’s obsession with flying.  I have listened to this whole disc a few dozen times, and this is kind of the sleeper on the record.  At first you hear it and it’s good but it gets better with repeated plays.
Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz)

This cut has that epic feel just like their earlier classic “Crusader." The song starts with this some eerie keyboards, but quickly turns into that epic vampire tale.  Like the previously mentioned track, “Nosferatu” has the makings of a Saxon classic and will hopefully remain in their set list for tours to come.

They Played Rock And Roll
Dedicated to Motörhead (and probably Lemmy Kilmister in particular), this has a little of bit Motörhead influence, and is a straight up fast rocker.  It almost sounds like Saxon playing a song Motörhead song.  The lyrics mention their first tour with Kilmister and the boys along with other Motörhead references.
Predator
There is some swagger to this tune.  Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth lends his growling vocals here, and while I normally don’t like that vocal style, it works on “Predator." While this is a solid cut, it is probably my least favorite on Thunderbolt, which only speaks to the quality of the other tunes.
Sons Of Odin

Things slow down a little on “Sons Of Odin” and again, this is another sleeper track on the record.  It has that fist pumping tempo that would make this one a crowd favorite.  One of things that I have not mentioned earlier is that Byford always manages to come up with interesting and diverse lyrics.  The record is about half over, and we have had songs about Vikings, vampires and Motörhead.

Sniper
I think this is kind of a “sister song” to the title track with similarities in pace, feel, and chorus.  This gets back to my statement that Saxon have their sound and they stick to it but it never gets boring.
A Wizard’s Tale

The riffing really stands out on this cut with a catchy gallop around the vocals as well.  There is also an urgency in the performance as if the band was racing to finish the cut, but not in a speed metal way.

Speed Merchants
With a title like “Speed Merchants," you can expect a fast rocker, and Saxon deliver.  This cut starts off with the sound of speeding cars and quickly morphs into the fastest cut on Thunderbolt.
Roadies’ Song
For fans who want to hear the early 80s Saxon sound the band delivers with the closing (of the album proper) tune.  Dedicated to roadies, this has the same feel as “And The Bands Played On”, and it brings back so many memories with that older Saxon sound.
Bonus Track
        
Nosferatu (Raw Version)
I do like getting bonus songs but this one could have been left off.  It would have been better to either add another original tune or just end the record on the great track “Roadies’ Song."
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