Thunderbolt is my first Saxon album (I know, super late to the party) and I am impressed. The only song I knew of prior to this was ‘Wheels of Steel’. Groovy track that I liked whenever it came on, but not enough to get me to check anything else out. Then, prior to the album’s release a few months ago I stumbled on (aka, someone posted it in one of their blogs) the video for the title track:
Well, my ears perked! Then I read how another track was written and dedicated to Motörhead! Specifically about Saxon’s time with the band during the ‘No Sleep To Hammersmith’ tour. Take my money, please!
There is a total of 12 tracks that clock in at 47-ish minutes, and let me tell ya, these geezers rock! 67-year-old lead singer Biff Byford must consume an extraordinary amount of Omega-3 fatty acids because he doesn’t sound a day over 35. Guitarist Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt rock out some solid licks as they swap back and forth for lead guitar duty. And the rhythm section is held down tightly by Nibbs Carter on bass and Nigel Glockler on drums.
Thunderbolt opens with ‘Olympus Rising‘; a short and slow instrumental that acts as the build up track diving seamlessly into the swingin’ ‘Thunderbolt‘. ‘Thunderbolt’ is about Zeus and the crew are about to get medieval on the Titans who are making war on earth. Great tune to kick off the album with.
‘The Secret of Flight‘ is next which is one of my favourites. The lyrics follow humanity’s advancements in aviation. A history lesson that rocks! ‘Nosferatu, The Vampire’s Waltz‘ is not a bad song but I found it a little boring. The band must disagree though because they gave it an official video and there are two version of it on here.
‘They Played Rock And Roll‘ is the track that is dedicated to Motörhead and they honoured them with a great tune. It has a Motörhead-ish sound with Saxon flavour. The lyrics fit in some recognizable references well and you just know that Lemmy would have covered this one himself à la the RAMONES covering his R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
‘Predator‘ has a real solid groove and would have been my favourite tracks if it didn’t feature the vocal “Cookie Monster” styling of Johan Hegg. Hegg is admired greatly by those who enjoy hearing dudes breath inwardly while belting out a tune, but they do nothing for me. (Believe me, it is a blessing. There would be too much to listen to if I enjoyed it.)
The next five tunes are all killer. They start with ‘Sons of Odin‘ which has ‘Dio’ vibe. ‘Sniper‘ is straight up rockin’ metal. Its slow chug during the bridge and screaming guitar solos are highlights. The dueling guitars during ‘A Wizard’s Tale‘ is fun to listen to. ‘Speed Merchants‘ is a rocking driving metal tune with a catchy chorus. And finally, I’m not sure why ‘Roadie’s Song‘ is buried at the bottom of the album since it is easily one of the best. I would have put this one in at the number 3 slot.
‘Nosferatu (Raw Version)‘ is a not available on vinyl. I really didn’t need another version of this tune.
Thunderbolt is Saxon’s 22nd studio album…. Twenty-second… and it is an overall solid metal album. Producer Andy Sneap (This dude is on some sort of monster roll lately as he also co-produced Judas Priest’s recent solid output Firepower) captured whatever makes Saxon swing. I personally would have switched up the song order a bit (I regularly skip Nosferatu both times) and would have told cookie monster to stay home, but these are minor grips for what otherwise is perfection.