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Alright, let's dive into the sonic cataclysm that is SAXON's Hell, Fire and Damnation.  Picture this – a band that's been kicking it since the late '70s, now dropping their twenty-fourth studio album. Yeah, you read that right. Twenty-four. These Brits, famous for "Denim and Leather" and "Wheels of Steel," aren't just resting on their laurels; they're unleashing a heavy metal onslaught that refuses to bow to the hands of time.  I appreciate it when a classic metal band can not only stick to their roots, but continually crank out solid work year after year, or in Saxon’s case, every other year for 40 damn years.

Brian Blessed, the 2013 Spirit of Hammer Award winning vocal performing kicks off "The Prophecy," adding a cinematic touch to this metal opera. It’s a nice touch that sets the tone.  Produced, mixed, and mastered by the maestro Andy Sneap who has worked similar magic with Accept, this LP isn't your run-of-the-mill nostalgia trip. The twin guitar attack hits you square in the face from the first track, and each riff is solid throughout. The lead single, "Hell, Fire and Damnation," is a modern-day Saxon anthem that doesn't shy away from their unmistakable signature sound.  It launches into a solid crunching riff and sets the tone for the album.  Unrelenting classic British Steel.

Now, hold onto your leather jackets because we've got Brian Tatler joining the fray. Yes, the same Tatler from Diamond Head. Original axeman Paul Quinn might had retired from the road, but the quintet, still featuring Doug Scarratt, Nigel Glockler, and Nibbs Carter, is still a force to be reckoned with.  If you are a NWOBHM fan you won’t be disappointed.  Tracks like “Madame Guillotine” with it’s great tempo change and solid riff throughout, really hooked me, probably my favorite track. Biff Byford's vocals are solid throughout it’s insane that he has kept his voice in check since the 70’s at the level he is at.  His range is as impressive as ever.

As you get deeper into the album cuts like "Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice" and "Super Charger" are like sonic punches to the gut – a relentless barrage of fists and stomping boots. They're proof that Saxon's decades-old formula still packs a punch, reminiscent of the thunderous "Wheels of Steel" from 1980.  There is nothing about the album that feels dated, just classic.

But hey, not everything is smooth sailing on this metal voyage. Saxon has a long obsession with historical lyrics and that is clearly on display here. From Roswell to the Battle of Hastings, Merchant of Venice and 1066, it's like a heavy metal history lesson that might be a tad exhausting for some. Sure, we love our metal with a side of history, but the theme seemed a bit forced, that said Hell, Fire and Damnation isn't just an album; it's a sonic odyssey. Biff Byford, with his tales of Salem witches and Battle of Hastings, does a fair job of weaving his tapestry of mystery and mayhem. The 2024 Saxon version is a mature beast, still hungry and with a finger on the pulse of the metal realm.

This album is a testament to Saxon's enduring rebellion. The addition of Tatler to the mix adds something that I think really elevates the album. Whether you're a grizzled metalhead or a fresh recruit, Hell, Fire and Damnation is a wild ride through the annals of heavy metal history. So, crank up the volume, throw up the horns, and let Saxon remind you why they're still kings in the heavy metal kingdom.


Hell, Fire, & Damnation Tracklist

  • The Prophecy
  • Hell, Fire And Damnation
  • Madame Guillotine
  • Fire And Steel
  • There’s Something In Roswell
  • Kubla Khan And The Merchant Of Venice
  • Pirates Of The Airwaves
  • 1066
  • Witches Of Salem
  • Super Charger



Dave Blass

Photojournalist - Toronto

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