Nima : Has Saxon actually ever released a bad album? Not that I know of. Okay, they have certainly released lesser albums, but in its – by now – forty years the British legend has never really done a poor job. Especially since 1995’s ‘Dogs Of War’ they have only released great to excellent albums, in my opinion. Besides, Saxon has never been a band that only relied on ancient glory, but sounds fresh and contemporary on each record, while still remaining true to both the fans and themselves. Their 22nd studio album (‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ not included) ‘Thunderbolt’ also proves that anno 2018 Saxon has not lost any of its energy enthusiasm and creativity whatsoever, and that they are far from done.
Unlike ’Sacrifice’ and ’Battering Ram’ that showed a heavier, and at times a more progressive approach ‘Thunderbolt’ sounds a bit more traditional in general, despite its contemporary character. And don’t get me wrong, because the album definitely doesn’t lack power nor heaviness and diversity. Immediately after the short intro the album takes off firmly with the title track and although the song sounds contemporary, it has an old-fashioned and traditional vibe to it. Especially the verses even remind me of the ‘Power & Glory’ days. The mood is immediately set, and it is clear that we are in for a treat. ‘The Secret Of Flight’ is a delightfully versatile and dynamic track that in my opinion would have fit well on ‘Unleash The Beast’ or ‘Metalhead’, with tasty, Priest-like riffs during the verses. ‘Nosferatu’(The Vampires Waltz)’ on the other hand is quite slower, heavier and more epic, and has a beautifully dark and theatrical vibe. That heavy and epic part also goes for ‘Sons Of Odin’ and to a certain level also for ‘A Wizard’s Tale’. With numbers such as ‘Sniper’ and ‘Speed Merchants’ we also find sturdy up-tempo pounders that traditionally put the neck to work. ‘Predator’ however is somewhat of surprising, which is due to the supporting grunts! Whether we’re dealing with effects or a guest vocalist is not clear to me, but that doesn’t matter. I must say that the growls fit perfectly well with this song. As for the rest this is simply a tasty heavy pounder. ‘Roadie’s Song’ (which as the title already implies is a tribute to the roadie life) on the other hand is a typical old-school rocker that brings back the glory days.
The fastest song, and also my personal highlight, is ‘They Played Rock And Roll’; an ode to Lemmy and Motörhead. This song has the character and the atmosphere of Motörhead and simply blows away everything in its path. Also the lyrics make this song extra special and awake (especially so short after Fast Eddie Clarke’s passing, even though the song was created long before his death) a lot of emotions. But my god, what a blast of the song this is. Definitely an “instant classic” as far as I’m concerned.
All in all ‘Thunderbolt’ is not a surprising record, but indeed an unadulterated Saxon album with the same high qualities the band has guaranteed for forty years. Something that cannot go unmentioned is the fact that after all these years the gentlemen march on as energetic – or maybe even more energetic – and enthusiastically as ever, which definitely demands respect. And then there is Biff… it’s almost as if his voice is made of fine wine and whiskey, there it only gets better and more powerful with time. And also on this album he is simply magnificent! And finally I find ‘Thunderbolt’ to be one of the strongest albums that Saxon has delivered in this millennium, and together with ’The Inner Sanctum’ the biggest potential classic. Hail!