Review: Saxon – “Hell, Fire and Damnation” [Silver Lining Music]

Review: Saxon – “Hell, Fire and Damnation” [Silver Lining Music]

- in Reviews

Our world is volatile and now it staggers from the menace of nuclear war with another world wide pandemic to some tectonic changes in the society. So when we have at least a little “island of stability”, it is much easier to cope with all this stuff. Saxon, pioneers and founding fathers of NWOBHM are such “island of stability” in a way: no matter what happens in the world (and some shit really happened in 46 years of the band’s existence), they release new albums. Hell, Fire and Damnation, which was released in the beginning of 2024 confirms this rule one more time.

“Getting these shows in March 2024 with Judas Priest and Uriah Heep meant it made sense to push and get the album made faster,” says Biff Byford, “so, we got on with it in haste and pulled it out of the bag. It was tricky, but I think it’s safe to say we managed it well.” I need to say that someone is cunning here or the band reached the highest level of musicianship. Otherwise, how come that an album recorded “in haste” sounds much better than some albums, which were made in years? Produced by Andy Sneap (who also mixed and mastered the album) and Biff Byford, Hell, Fire and Damnation sounds really heavy, powerful and properly. There were also some changes in the band’s line up: in 2022 the founder guitarist Paul Quinn left Saxon and Diamond Head‘s Brian Tattler replaced him, which can be easily heard in contrasting guitar solos.

Musically, Hell, Fire and Damnation is a typical NWOBHM with quite simple, heavy riffs, potent rhythm section and Buff’s great vocals. I don’t know how he can do it but his vocals didn’t change through the years. Ok, maybe it got a little more raspy but it made the music better.

The album with this name can’t start without some dark and pretentious intro – here it is “The Prophecy”, where a spoken word from Brian Blessed can be heard. Right after it comes the title track “Hell, Fire and Damnation” with powerful riff, smooth verse and theatrical chorus. “Madame Guillotine” starts with grim bass intro and tells the story of Marie Antoinette, with ironic “don’t lose your head” in melodic chorus. Some double bass from the drummer Nick Glocker can be heard here as well, which is a little bit surprising but makes the song better. “Witches of Salem” is a grim historical canvas as well, maybe the most atmospheric in the album. “1066” is pretty dark too and has its atmosphere too but sometimes it sounds like a battle hymn. However, “There’s Something in Roswell” is much more groovy, with great vocals and intriguing intro.

“Fire and Steel” and the closing “Super Charger” are classic fast-paced bangers with distinctive riffs and powerful rhythm section. “Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice”, in its turn, is also quite fast song but much more various though. Sharp and tough riff here changes with melodic but still might chorus and technical solos adorn the song.

“Pirates of the Airwaves” as for me was lost a little bit among the other songs in the album. Yes, it’s classic, “typical” NWOBHM with simple riff smooth verse and chanting chorus, telling the story about pirate radio stations. It should be good but it sounds like too simple against the other tracks.

Nevertheless, let’s be honest: we all know what to expect from another Saxon‘s album. And here it is; includes all what the fans want. It’ll be too confident to say that this album will bring some new fans but the old ones, no matter if they are specific fans of Saxon or just genre lovers, will be happy.

Hell, Fire and Damnation was released on January, 19th via Silver Lining Music.

P.S. In the beginning of this review I mentioned “island of stability.” Frankly speaking, I believed that Motörhead was such “island” and it will never change. But here came December, 28th, 2015 and in one moment the band was gone with Lemmy (thanks to Phil and Mickey D, they handled their heritage respectfully.) Anyway, my idea is simple: don’t get Hell, Fire and Damnation as “another” Saxon‘s album.

It can easily be the last, while I really hope that I will write a couple more reviews but not the obituary.

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