Saxon - Hell, Fire and Damnation
by Kevin Wierzbicki
Saxon's last album, 2023's More Inspirations,
was a covers album featuring the band's take on songs by the likes of KISS, Nazareth, Cream, The Who and ZZ Top; here the long-running English band, still fronted by singer Biff Byford, is back to rocking original material. The album, the band's 24th studio effort overall, opens with the ominous "The Prophecy," a brief piece where actor Brian Blessed speaks over a doom-y instrumental about, you guessed it, the coming hell, fire and damnation. Appropriately enough, the spoken word piece leads into "Hell, Fire and Damnation" which begins on a sludgy note, but after a hellish scream from Byford shredding guitars kick in and Biff sings of the battle of good versus evil. Guitarists Doug Scarratt and Brian Tatler play a big part throughout as does the rhythm section of drummer Nigel Glockler and bass man Nibbs Carter; Glockler pounds away like a man possessed on "Fire and Steel" while the twin guitars pour out molten ore on the tribute to Sheffield Steel and the workers who make it. Saxon move on to the otherworldly with "There's Something in Roswell," a retelling of the alleged crash of a UFO in New Mexico; that "aliens or not" history will forever be subject to speculation but Saxon tune into historical fact on the melodic metal of "Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice;" the cut just might make some metal heads look it up and maybe become as fascinated with history as they are with metal gods. "Pirates of the Airwaves" is probably a little bit autobiographical as Byfford sings about the joys of listening to pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg back in the day; those and others were unlicensed outlets that played whatever they wanted when they wanted and in so doing turned listeners on to new and vintage musical treasures. "1066" is more musical history (involving Saxons, of course!) while the self-explanatory "Witches of Salem" features "I'm being burned at the stake!" shrieks and a catchy vocal hook in the chorus; the song's lyrics don't glorify what happened in Salem, instead they proclaim it as bigotry. Hell, Fire and Damnation
is a very satisfying listen that will please Saxon fans of all eras including newbies who are just now getting hip to this beloved band. Release date is January 19, 2024.