If you were a fan of the classic wave of British heavy metal that hit the United States in the late 70’s and early 80’s, then it is safe to assume you have a few SAXON releases in your collection. That collection could be on vinyl, cassette, or CD as Saxon has managed to outlive all various sorts of media with their storied career.
SAXON is one of the few still waving the flag and carrying the banner for the wave of British metal. They have now released what is incredibly their Album number 22, Thunderbolt, which comes two and a half years after the critically acclaimed Battering Ram. Saxon lives by the motto “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”, and has once again stayed true to what made them a standout from the British wave. Not only has the line-up remained pretty much intact, but also has the sound.
The opening song "Olympus" opens with guitar tone that builds and is full of the approaching motorcycle sound Saxon is famous for. Vocalist Biff Byford once again shows why he is one of the most respected vocalists in the business on this track.
For me, the most outstanding track on Thunderbolt has to be "The Secret of Flight". The hint of gothic symphonic rock and the guitar harmonies showcased in the intro take you straight back to classic mid 80’s sounds of Priest, Maiden, and of course Saxon.
There is some heavier material on this release such as "They Played Rock And Roll", which is dedicated to Lemmy and Motorhead. The two bands have played together often over the years, including here in Las Vegas. Saxon was due to promote Battalions Of Steel across the UK with Motorhead when Lemmy died. There is also a lyrical reference to the 1979/80 live works the two bands did together. “Predator” is another one of the straight in your face heavier tunes.
In addition to the heavier tunes, Thunderbolt is loaded with some melodic yet still heavy tunes. "Secret Of Flight” really gives the rhythm section of bassist Nibbs Carter and Nigel Glockler a chance to shine, but there are other melodic tunes to be reckoned with such as “Nosferatu” and “Sons Of Odin”, an obvious Thor reference befitting the Saxon theme and artwork.
The British wave of heavy metal may be getting older, but with releases like Thunderbolt by Saxon, it will never die. Long live British heavy metal and long live Saxon!