Album review: SAXON – Thunderbolt (Tour edition)

SAXON - Thunderbolt (Tour edition)

Silver Lining [Release date 07.09.18]

To promote their forthcoming tour, Saxon’s latest opus gets a swift rerelease with a couple of bonus tracks.

Formed in the late 70s, Saxon were front runners in the era’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a genre they’ve long since transcended to become one of Britain’s best and most consistent metal bands. This, their 22nd studio album, was originally released in February of this year.

The band have had their ups and downs and line-up changes, and since the turn of the millennium have been on a roll so good you have to wonder how, after so long, can they keep this up, and Thunderbolt turned out to be one of the band’s heaviest and most successful.

So we now get this tour edition. The “Cash-In” debate will forever rage (it has been with Deep Purple over their last few studio albums), but this time there is a point. In this case, it is rare that a new release hasn’t immediately coincided with a UK or European tour like the tour that this release is on the eve of. A timely reminder of how good Saxon are.

And where it is more relevant for Saxon than probably any other band has to be Saxon’s confidence in their new material. I saw Saxon 20 years ago and they played one track from their then new album, and that was a cover version; a few short years later they were regularly playing 5, 6 or even 7 from a new album. Saxon catalogue exploration and set list variation epitomises why I regularly turned down free tickets to see bands like Motorhead.

To the album; the CD opens with the building intro of ‘Olympus Rising’ before the title track comes in – heavy, hard and catchy too. ‘The Secret Of Flight’ epitomises the power metal (originally a genre inspired by the likes of Saxon) that they now play with aplomb. There’s a Maiden hint to the guitar before some solid catchy crunchy riffs come in. And Biff’s vocals are as clear and solid as ever. Look after your vocals and they look after you, as Biff has told me. A more staccato feel to the dark and gothic ‘Nosferatu’.

Saxon and Motorhead crossed paths many times throughout their career, and their last tour was hit by the death of ‘Head’s Lemmy, and here is the tribute to their 1979 tour together in ‘They Played Rock’n’Rol’l. A fitting tribute musically and lyrically.

With the twin guitar of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, on blistering form, the band are completed in their most stable line-up by bassist Nibbs Carted and drummer Nigel Glockler.

The whole album just rocks. Seriously essential. It’s one of their best. And this edition adds one track previously limited to the previous digipak and two new live tracks. Welcome? Very. Value? Well I would have liked more. Many fans will have this already and buy it again. The booklet is good and there’s a mini poster too.

A timely reminder of how good Saxon are, how good the new album is, and what to expect on the tour.

It’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have it, especially if you’re going to see them live. Which I strongly urge you to do.

See you in London. *****

Review by Joe Geesin

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.

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