Saxon – Hell, Fire and Damnation (Silver Lining Music)

Monday, 15th January 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

Glorious times for this veteran UK metal entourage in Saxon. Their profile has never been bigger in all parts of the globe – even gaining a chance to tour stateside with Judas Priest when Thunderbolt was released, as well as developing a couple of inspiration-related records (Inspirations and More Inspirations) showcasing different influences of their childhood. Last year Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler took over for Paul Quinn, the first significant lineup change since drummer Nigel Glockler rejoined the group back in 2005 – leading us to the 24th studio album in Hell, Fire and Damnation. The approach to traditional heavy metal with plenty of melodic muscle and finesse hasn’t waned even in the twilight years of their career – it’s a very down to earth approach that still creates plenty of memorable, headbanging worthy moments that maintain energy, passion, and unquestionable glory to the cause.

The powerful riff foundation of Doug Scarratt / Brian Tatler as a duo aligns seamlessly in this metal juggernaut that’s hard to resist at mid-tempo to faster paces – especially when bassist Nibbs Carter and Nigel add in their sophisticated skills, weaving in tasty low licks or heads down drumming pertinent to the song on hand. Whether cruising in comfortable, highway altitude for “There’s Something in Roswell” all the way to hitting upper octane gear on “Fire and Steel”, rest assured these gentlemen possess adequate knowledge in key hooks, constructing material that gets even the distant festival attendees shouting or screaming along to the material. The subjects of ancient to recent history seem to have captured vocalist Biff Byford this time around, from “Madame Guillotine” to “Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice” great standouts to his natural story telling versatility, delivered in his strong metal to the bones style that can raise hair follicles in higher prominence when need be. Supplemental witch screams support “Witches of Salem”, the seductive mid-tempo groove nature juxtaposed against a wall of riffs and bluesy lead break interplay that could make this a future set list mainstay – while Andy Sneap weave his magic final touch as co-producer (along with Biff), mixer and master to the utmost reaches of professionalism.

When it comes to the second/third generation of heavy metal’s enduring appeal, Saxon belongs front and center in the conversation due to their ability to not just parade out a bevy of standouts from their past but create an equal amount of killer tracks over the course of their discography from the 90’s, 2000’s, all the way through to 2024 through Hell, Fire and Damnation. Still believing in the album format, let’s hope retirement isn’t in the cards for another five or ten years.

Saxon official website

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