Review by Sonny for Saxon - Thunderbolt (2018) Review by Sonny for Saxon - Thunderbolt (2018)

Sonny Sonny / March 01, 2019 / 1

This is the first Saxon album I've listened to released after 1984 and I went into it with low expectations, expecting nothing more than a rehash of old ideas and a band into it's fifth decade of existence going through the motions because they don't know what else to do. Man, was I wrong because Thunderbolt actually kicks ass as seriously as anything the Yorkshiremen have ever put out. The band haven't stood still in the intervening years since last I encountered them, their sound has evolved in a more power metal-inspired direction and it really suits them. Their knack for writing anthemic songs has been reinforced with steel-edged metal for a heavier and, dare I say, more energetic sound. Sure, they still sound like the old Saxon at times - They Played Rock and Roll is reminiscent in many ways of The Bands Played On, but this is a more "metal-sounding" Saxon to be sure.

Talking of They Played Rock and Roll, I've got to confess to becoming a little bit emotional on hearing it the first time. As I've said before I was a HUGE Motörhead fan and I fondly remember the 1979 Bomber tour with Saxon supporting Lemmy, Eddie and Philthy. I attended that gig at our local venue with a number of fellow metalhead mates, a couple of who are now gone. We all had a fantastic night and the track kind of bought back memories of long-gone simpler times when all we had to worry about was how to get the money for gigs, booze and weed and fuck everything else.

I think the most surprising thing about Thunderbolt is how great Biff Byford's voice still sounds. The guy is seventy years old now and here he sounds better than he ever has. Studio jiggerypokery can only cover so many cracks, so the guy as obviously still got the pipes to deliver an impressive performance. Musically, Paul Quinn and second guitarist Doug Scarratt deliver some amazing riffs and the greatest adrenaline-fuelled solos Saxon have ever delivered are fired off with deadly precision. The production job is superb, with crystal clarity that certainly does the album no harm at all and brings out the best in all the band members.

Tracks such as Thunderbolt, A Wizard's Tale, They Played Rock and Roll and my new favourite Saxon track The Secret of Flight are as good as anything I have heard from the band previously and this is seriously challenging Wheels of Steel as my favourite Saxon album. Respect to such a veteran outfit for not resting on their laurels and still being able to go toe to toe with the younger bucks and not be left wanting. Colour me impressed!

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