Courtesy: Militia Guard (Silver Lining Music)
Veteran hard rock act Saxon has, for more than four decades, been entertaining audiences the world over with its own brand of music. Considered by most to be one of the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the band has easily maintained a place for itself the entire time both in the rock realm and within the musical universe overall. Now with the recent release of Thunderbolt, its 22nd full-length studio recording, the band continues to show why it is still one of rock’s elite acts and just as relevant today as it was in its infancy. That is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. Its lyrical themes are just as worth noting here as its musical arrangements and will be discussed later. The album’s sequencing rounds out the elements that prove this album’s power. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of Thunderbolt. All things considered, they make the album another hard-hitting strike from Saxon.
Thunderbolt, the 22nd full-length studio recording from British hard rock outfit Saxon is a solid new musical strike from the veteran band. It is a record that proves Saxon is still one of rock’s elite acts and just as relevant today as it was in its infancy. This is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements. Right off the top, the band takes audiences on a familiar musical ride with the up-tempo arrangement at the center of the album’s title track — a ride that instantly conjures thoughts of Judas Priest set alongside some of its own heavier material. The arrangement at the center of ‘The Secret of Flight’ meanwhile brings about thoughts of Metallica circa 1984 (the year that Ride The Lightning was released). Keeping in mind that Saxon has composed similarly styled arrangements throughout its history, this serves to show Saxon’s own likely influence on Metallica’s sound. The comparison to Judas Priest returns once again in the album’s third full-length song (and fourth overall since the album’s opener was only a 1:35 intro track) ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz.’ This time it is a comparison to Priest’s more recent work. One of the most standout arrangements presented in this record comes in the Motorhead tribute (yes, there’s even a Motorhead tribute here), ‘They Played Rock and Roll.’ From its driving guitar riffs to its bass work and solid time keeping, the song is a solid, wonderful tribute to yet another of the rock world’s elite. It goes without saying that this song is one of the album’s best works, musically speaking (and lyrically, but that will be discussed later). ‘Predator’ is another great classic hard rock/metal addition to this album that stands out not just because of its arrangement, but also because of the guest appearance by Amon Amarth front man Johann Hegg.’ Hegg’s familiar growl juxtaposed by Saxon front man Biff Byford makes quite the impact. That’s especially the case when their vocal deliveries are joined by the song’s musical lines. The end result is its own standout work that will keep listeners just as engaged as any of the album’s other works. That includes ‘Sons of Odin,’ which once again, bears some resemblance to works from Judas Priest (again, both musically and lyrically), ‘Sniper’ which brings about another comparison to Metallica stylistically speaking and ‘Speed Merchants,’ which boasts its own Motorhead comparison. Between all of these songs and those perhaps not noted here, it becomes clear that the stylistic comparisons to Saxon’s counterparts and its own prior works makes the musical component of this record critical to its success both in itself and when considering its role in Saxon’s overall history. The record’s musical arrangements are only one of the items to be discussed in examining the album’s whole. Its lyrical content is just as important to discuss as its musical material.
The lyrical themes presented throughout the album are so important to note because there does not seem to be one connecting theme from one to the next. From the tribute to Motorhead to the completely random piece about vampires to songs apparently about Norse mythology and even fantasy — ‘A Wizard’s Tale’ — and so much more, the lyrical themes that make up the body of this record run the gamut so to speak. ‘Sniper’ will have listeners talking just as much as those noted songs. The same can be said of ‘Secret of Flight,’ which apparently seems to follow the history of flight, and ‘Roadie’s Song,’ which is in fact about a roadie’s life. On one hand, the simplicity and range of the songs’ lyrical themes leaves one wanting to ask is Saxon just out of ideas. On the other hand though, at least little doubt is left as to the message in each song. There is no metaphor or anything of that mature to lead to misinterpretation. To that end, the band deserves credit for the songs’ lyrical themes. Keeping that in mind alongside the power of the songs’ musical arrangements and audiences get an album in Thunderbolt that again, shows why it is such a strong musical strike from the veteran rock outfit. That juxtaposition is just one more part of what makes this record another sign of Saxon’s solid spot in the rock realm today. The record’s overall sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
Thunderbolt‘s sequencing is important because it plays just as much into listeners’ engagement and entertainment as the record’s musical and lyrical content. The sequencing, in regards to the record’s musical content is so important because of the energy maintained throughout the arrangements. ‘Thunderbolt’ and ‘The Secret of Flight’ give the record a solid, up-tempo start while ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz)’ boasts its own energy through its heaviness even though it isn’t the up-tempo rocker that its predecessors prove to be. Keeping that in mind, it still maintains the energy established in those songs even without being as fast-paced as them. that energy picks right back up though, in ‘They Played Rock and Roll’ and continues on through ‘Predator’ before the band again opts to go slower yet heavy again in ‘Sons of Odin.’ Considering the seeming pattern that is built through the up and down of the album’s tempos so far, one would be right to assume that from the slower, but heavy ‘Sons of Odin’ gives way to another more up-tempo piece in ‘Sniper.’ That energy carries on to the album’s end in the very 1980s-esque ‘Roadie’s Song.’ It ensures even more listeners’ maintained engagement. Considering this along with the balance of energies throughout the rest of the album, it can be said with ease that plenty of thought was put into this album’s sequencing in regards to the energies in its arrangements. When this is considered alongside the arrangements themselves and the songs’ lyrical content, the end result is an album that audiences will agree is — again — another solid musical strike from Saxon.
The sequencing in regards to the album’s lyrical content is just as important to discuss in examining the album’s overall sequencing as its musical arrangements. The album starts out with a song centered — seemingly — on Greek mythology in ‘Olympus Rising’ and ‘Thunderbolt’ before moving on to a commentary of sorts in the history of flight from its peaceful roots to its destructive current use. Considering that one of the refrains in ‘Thunderbolt’ states “unleash the Gods of war,” this can be argued to be a relatively smooth transition from one song to the next. Whether that connection was intended is anyone’s guess, but it is there. ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz’ and ‘They Played Rock and Roll,’ while totally separate from one another in their themes, make for an entertaining change of pace lyrically speaking. ‘Predator,’ ‘Sons of Odin’ and ‘Sniper’ all seem to have similar lyrical themes that while not exactly the same, seem close enough to understand why they might have been grouped together. ‘A Wizard’s Tale,’ like ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz),’ is another random transition that actually because of that randomness, still works in keeping listeners engaged. ‘Speed Merchants’ and ‘Roadie’s Song’ are about as separate as can be from each other and from ‘A Wizard’s Tale.’ This is important to note because it presents even more lyrical variety for listeners, in turn ensuring once more those listeners’ engagement. When this is considered along with the engagement insured through the album’s musical sequencing, its arrangements and lyrical themes, these elements all join together to present a record overall that is another electrifying new effort from one of the justifiably most respected hard rock bands out there today.
Veteran hard rock band Saxon’s latest full-length studio recording Thunderbolt is an electrifying new effort from one of the most respected bands in the hard rock community today. That is proven in part through arrangements that from start to finish will keep listeners engaged with their sounds and energies. The lyrical themes, as random as they can be throughout this album, leave little doubt as to their subject matter because they are so simple. While that might be bad to some point, it is also good being that so few bands take and have taken that route. The album’s sequencing, both in regards to its energies and its lyrical topics plays its own integral part to the album’s whole. Each element is important in its own way, as has been pointed out here. All things considered, they make this album one that will entertain Saxon devotees and hard rock aficionados alike. It is available now in stores and online and at the band’s current live dates. More information on Thunderbolt is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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