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Heavy metal by the numbers for four decades - 60%

kluseba, February 3rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Silver Lining Music (Digipak)

Saxon has been playing heavy metal by the numbers for four decades but for some unfathomable reason, the British quintet is still around and quite popular. I've decided to give the band's new record a few spins since Saxon is going on tour with the much more energizing, talented and variable Judas Priest. It turns out Thunderbolt is neither among Saxon's best cuts from the late seventies and early eighties nor among the group's worst records from the late eighties. The band's twenty-third studio record doesn't offer anything new to the genre but is performed with passion and convinces with a crunchy production.

Among the few highlights, I would probably mention the epic and very melodic ''The Secret of Flight'' which would have deserved some radio airplay if it had been released in the band's early career. The majestic and slow ''Sons of Odin'' sounds like Black Sabbath gone Manowar with powerful bass lines, simple but efficient riffs and emotional vocals and could actually work very well in concert. ''Sniper'' is probably this record's heaviest track as it recalls Judas Priest's signature style and invites to bang your hand and raise your fists.

Listening to Thunderbolt is entertaining once because Saxon performs with passion and is inspired by the numerous heavy metal bands that have managed to stand out and revolutionize the genre while Saxon have mostly played it safe. As soon as you give this release a second spin though, the songs become dull and predictable as they are too closely inspired by other heavy metal legends and prove that Saxon have never quite found their own style after all these years. That isn't necessarily an entirely bad thing because Thunderbolt could please to numerous traditional heavy metal fans and would be an appropriate introduction to the genre for younger audiences because you get some Accept, Judas Priest and Manowar influences all at once to only name a few examples and inspirations.

In the end, Thunderbolt is an average heavy metal record that is enjoyable to listen to once and whose songs should work well in concert. Still, Saxon still doesn't have enough to offer to stand out among its peers which is quite saddening after four decades. I respect the band's genuine passion for the genre and that they have been around for such a long time but artistically speaking Thunderbolt just isn't impressive at all. What the band offers here isn't enough to justify a purchase of this record and even similar traditional heavy metal bands like Anvil have recently been releasing more interesting records while younger genre bands like White Wizzard have already outclassed Saxon a long time ago.