Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Saxon “Hell, Fire and Damnation”: Barbarian old-timers

A problem Saxon has always been that while they have always been a very legit NWOBHM band, fate had them play in the same league as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. With all the above-mentioned legitimacy and sympathy, which is hard not to have for them, they could not win this competition. Which does not mean that, as in the case of, for example, Anviltheir career is a series of failures.

On the contrary: since 1975, that is, for almost 50 years, they have been occupying this slightly lower shelf, in fact each time delivering material at a decent level. And since they do it very regularly, and this time for the 24th time, I can only wish them good health. Although, which is hardly surprising, health may be in short supply, as evidenced by his resignation as a guitarist, the only other Biff Byford original band member Paul Quinnwhich it currently replaces Brian Tatler With Diamond Head.

“Hell, Fire and Damnation”, which can be heard in the very camp intro, is definitely a very epic album for Saxon. The title track balances somewhere on the border between heavy and power metal, which will be an advantage for some, and an unforgivable disadvantage for others. Well, the chorus is nice and perfect for the audience to sing it at a Wacken. Already at this level you can hear that the guitar duo Tatler/Scarratt gets along just as well as Quinn/Scarratt, and Byford’s vocal form is still very decent. Just this epicness…

It’s better in “Madame Guillotine”. Not that it lacks pathos, but it’s probably the most classic NWOBHM I’ve heard in a very long time. A very old-school verse, a bit Priest-like in the guitars, a nice story about the French Revolution with an absolutely hit chorus, a bit like from Def Leppard or even (oh, I can already hear the thunder on my stupid head) Mötley Crüe. Way to go. We see the power of Byford’s vocals – and the guy is 73 years old – again in “Fire and Steel”, where he seems to be trying to race with Udo Dirkschneider. And the band itself with Priest’s “Rapid Fire”. Again, I may say that I prefer it when the Saxon swings a little instead of galloping, but it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

Apart from barbarian and battle themes (and the French Revolution), we also encounter ufos, as in the classically Saxon “There’s Something in Roswell”, a Mongol khan (“Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice”; although the power-metal chorus yuck!), witches from Salem, and even the Battle of Hastings (“1066”), so it’s hard to complain about the shortage of quite typical metal staffage. There was even a place for pirate radio stations, which by broadcasting from coastal waters in the 1960s and 1970s bypassed the government monopoly on broadcasting, and which introduced young people to rock music, which was frowned upon by public broadcasters.

“Hell, Fire and Damnation” is an album beautifully immersed in the past. Very, very outdated. And this is probably its greatest advantage. No dressing up, no pretending to be younger than you are. There is something charmingly sincere about it and it seems that no one, but Saxon, intends to say the last word in the near future. Bah! The penultimate one too!

Saxon “Hell, Fire and Damnation”, Warner


PS On March 30, Saxon will play (as a special guest with Uriah Heep) at Tauron Arena Kraków alongside Judas Priest.