Friday, March 1, 2024

Saxon – Hell, Fire and Damnation

Saxon have been bringing ‘heavy metal thunder’ to the world for well over forty years and in this time have released several classic albums and songs now regarded as classics. Whilst it’s a truism they don’t garner anything like the respect bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are accorded, nonetheless, they’ve more than created a ripple on the rock scene. On this new album, they show they’ve lost none of their fire and passion and there’s a surfeit of Saxon’s signature sound of ferocious riffing allied with some clearly defined sense of melody.

While other bands took a sabbatical because of Covid 19, Saxon released two albums of covers, showing where their ‘inspirations’ came from, and now Hell, Fire and Damnation (an old Yorkshire expression suggesting frustration at something .. “hellfire and damnation, what’s tha done now?”) follows on from 2022’s Carpe Diem and shows Saxon are still masters of their craft. It’s a ten-track album packed full of top-quality rock riffs and some fine playing, with Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler having replaced the departed Paul Quinn, and contributing to some quite superb dual playing alongside Doug Scarrat. Tatler was a fine choice, given what he doesn’t know about rock and metal probably isn’t worth knowing.

The album begins with ‘Prophecy,’ with Brian Blessed’s stentorian tones invoking images of universal, ongoing battles between good and evil, between Heaven and Hell, and asking which one will triumph, before the band enter on the title track, a fast, riff-based rocker straight out of the Judas Priest playbook, with Biff asking “in the battle for good and evil, which one will succeed?”  What’s immediately noticeable as the album progresses is just how strong this collection of songs really is. There’re some damn fine tunes here with the lyrics tackling weighty issues. ‘There’s Something In Roswell’ talks about conspiracies to prevent awareness of UFOs being known more widely “..there’s something in Roswell, don’t believe the lies”. ‘Fire And Steel’ is an homage to Sheffield, with steel from the city being “red hot and heavy,” featuring powerful drumming from Nigel Glockner. ‘Witches In Salem’ focuses on the horrors of being tried for witchcraft in superstitious times “..witches of Salem, victims of hate”.  ‘1066’ .. “the day the conqueror came” .. is set against a backdrop of some fast powerful riffing, while ‘Pirates Of The Airwaves’ celebrates pirate radio stations like Caroline and London .. “rebels of the airwaves playing rock ‘n roll” .. which those of us of a certain age definitely remember! The album concludes with ‘Super Charger,’ a flat-out driving rocker.

For fans of classic rock, this is a hugely enjoyable album, featuring everything associated with Saxon well to the forefront .. good songs, superb guitar work, powerful drumming from the ever-impressive Glockner and Biff demonstrating, at the sprightly age of 72, he sounds amazing and is still one of rock’s premier vocalists. This is a consistently good album from a band who continue to be a rock powerhouse, who knows just what their fanbase wants and delivers it with swagger, panache and not a little class.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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