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Saxon - 'Hell, Fire And Damnation'


My love affair with then-rising NWOBHM stars Saxon began more than forty years ago when a friend at school introduced me to ‘Wheels Of Steel’ – it was brash, it was loud and I was hooked! I’ve followed them ever since, seen them numerous times over the years and still play their not inconsiderable back catalogue on a regular basis.

Incredibly, ‘Hell, Fire And Damnation’ is their twenty-fourth studio album of new material, and what’s more they still sound as brash, loud and majestic as ever! Led from the front as always by the inimitable Peter Rodney “Biff” Byford, the reversal in their fortunes that really kicked off big style with ‘Dogs Of War’ back in 1995 continues apace here... for a guy in his early-seventies, Biff certainly shows the young Metal pretenders just how it should be done!

Remarkable in many ways – not least because it’s the first Saxon release to feature Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler who replaced a retiring Paul Quinn earlier this year – how they manage to keep churning out albums of this quality after the best part of five decades in the business one can only marvel at, but thankfully they do. As always, Biff’s lyrical observations deftly sidestep the usual Rock ‘n’ Roll clichés, and with Andy Sneap once again working his magic in the producer’s chair, the faithful (or anyone with a rebellious spirit) are in for a treat.

The dulcet tones of acting legend Brian Blessed add gravitas to opening preamble ‘The Prophecy’ – a seething morass of broiling emotions straight from the cesspits of hell – before the purring V12 that is Saxon firing on all cylinders kicks in with the sprawling title track and before your senses even have time to recover, the rumbling bass of Nibbs Carter ramps up the tension as the band launch into the anthemic

‘Madame Guillotine’, its juxtaposing moods bringing to mind long cherished classics like ‘747...’ and ‘Dallas 1pm’.

From here on they can do no wrong as they kick up a shitstorm with the rabid ‘Fire And Steel’, the crunching ‘There’s Something In Roswell’, marauding ‘Pirates Of The Airwaves’, magnificent ‘Witches Of Salem’ and the ear shattering ‘Kubla Khan And The Merchant Of Venice’.

Tatler has slotted in seamlessly alongside Doug Scarratt, both playing muse to Biff’s vocals... Saxon just keep on getting better!


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