I finally got to listen to the new Saxon record, Thunderbolt and all I can say is “Wow!” While I was expecting a good record from these British vets I frankly wasn’t expecting something so incredibly fresh as I received. This record immediately grabs you with the quality in its production and the clear trajectory and development of the tracks. The musicians in Saxon prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that after all these years they are really at the very top of their game. It’s clear these gents spent hours upon hours honing their craft and putting these songs together. What a nod to quality here!
“Secret of Flight” is a beautifully crafted song with a breathtaking chorus. The track features some blistering leads on guitar and some great traditional wishbone sound at times featuring axemen Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. This song is undoubtedly one of classic British new wave heavy metal structure but is at the same time vastly updated sonically for the current age of metal we’re in. In a sense the song is going to sound both familiar in form but very fresh in composition. “Nosferatu” is another cut from the record that does a fantastic job of blending the old with the new. There are touches reticent of early Def Leppard here and there along with a killer Andy LaRoque style guitar solo. It’s like Saxon took their own experiences and the experiences of their peers to create an amalgam that’s able to blend so many classic sounding elements together in one complete composition. Similarly, the song “Sniper” is going to remind you more than a bit of Roy Z and how he was able to integrate the past with the present on his groundbreaking production work with Rob Halford and Judas Priest.
Another favorite of mine on Thunderbolt is “Sons of Odin.” Now, the song title alone, of course, piqued my interest, and while there’s certainly no black metal here, Saxon delivers a killer cut featuring some intense bass work from Nibbs Carter that really drives the song. Like many other songs on the record, this track has an very memorable, sing along chorus. Adding to the texture is some great lead guitar choral work from Scarratt and Quinn. No doubt this is a song you’ll want to hear live in the arena. (Note: I’m hoping to hear this live in the arena on the current US tour). “Roadies Song” gives fan a more traditional sounding, radio-friendly rocker and “Speed Merchants,” likewise, doesn’t stray much from standard formula. “Wizards Tale” offers a bit more progression with some intense lead work and a massive vocal performance from Biff Byford. Byford… such great vocals on Thunderbolt. An absolute joy to listen to this man sing.
Andy Sneap produced Thunderbolt and he was completely zoned in. Sneap just totally delivers and really helps the band create a monster of a record that’s going to turn so many heads. This is some of Sneap’s best recent work. If you’ve never really given Saxon a listen before or if you only remember their material from the late 80’s, it’s time to reconsider. This is an incredibly solid record that no doubt will sound great on vinyl and only gets me even more pumped seeing them on tour in the US shortly!