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SAXON Hell, Fire And Damnation

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Tuesday, January 16, 2024 @ 10:30 AM


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SAXON
Hell, Fire And Damnation

Silver Lining Music, 2024




British heavy metal veterans SAXON are back with their twenty-sixth studio album just in time for the start of the new year. It also comes with an important personnel change. Even though guitarist Paul Quinn, now 72 years of age and member of the band since 1976, and singer Biff Byford have been regarded as an indivisible team, Quinn announced to end his touring life last year. He still acts as some sort of backup on the present album, though. The new SAXON axeman to step in Quinn's shoes is Brian Tatler of DIAMOND HEAD fame. With Nigel Glockler on drums, Nibbs Carter on bass, Dough Scarrat and the aforementioned Brian Tatler on guitars, we have just the storm-and battle-hardened SAXON crew to guide us through the journey of Hell, Fire And Damnation.

And what a rough and hot journey it is! After the intro "Prophecy", a theatrical declamation delivered by internationally-renowned actor Brian Blessed OBE, the title track kicks in with full SAXON force - a strong number with a catchy shout-along chorus in the finest NMOBHM fashion. "Madame Guillotine" tells the story of Marie Antoinette, a melodic mid-tempo groover with a wonderfully atmospheric half-time section leading to the guitar solo. The ensuing "Fire And Steel" is a salute to the city of Sheffield in northern England, one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and a world-famous centre of the steel industry for more than a century. As the title of the track suggests, this number kicks serious arse. And yes, it sounds a lot like JUDAS PRIEST, which is absolutely fine.

Unfortunately, after three such strong numbers, the tension begins to wane. "There's Something in Roswell" has a hypnotic mid-tempo groove but is otherwise not the most captivating track on the album. With a nod to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Shakespeare, "Kubla Khan And The Merchant of Venice" takes us to the world of English literature. Again, this track also sounds a bit like off-the-shelf stuff. Even after the third time listening to it, very little of it sticks, so let's move on to "Pirates of The Airwaves". Here, Biff and the boys are definitely back on track. The number stands out with a killer chorus and lead guitar work in the best SAXON style. "1066", the year of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest, is a true headbanger worthy of the name of SAXON and without doubt one of the highlights on this album. The half-time middle section provides a welcome and refreshing moment to catch your breath in this adrenalin-driven headbanger. "Witches of Salem" adds a bit of eerie horror feel to the album while the high-octane closing track once more showcasts SAXON's stellar heavy metal songwriting qualities featuring Biff Byford's soaring vocals and highly virtuoso guitar work.

Despite the little tail-off in the middle, Hell, Fire And Damnation is a brilliant album with everything you want from SAXON: ball-grabbing riffs, melodic and catchy vocal lines, mythological and historical stories, all wrapped up in some of the finest heavy metal music in true British fashion with a crystal clear and brilliant production sound.

4.5 Out Of 5.0


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