By Jay Oakley
Twenty-two records. Twenty-two! Some bands can't make it to one. There might not be a band that is a model of consistency more than Saxon. Thunderbolt is the latest in a line of very strong records that shows that the Saxon train is at full speed with plenty of fuel.
"Olympus Rising" is an instrumental opener that is tough and sinister. Based around the drums with an eerie synth sound. The title track "Thunderbolt" is fast and aggressive. It immediately shows that Biff's (Byford) vocals are still top notch. Fast guitars and crushing drums with a chorus that screams for audience participation. "The Secret Of Flight" is highlighted by very strong backing vocals. It still packs those speed riffs but the harmonies delivered by the band come shining through. "Nosferatu (The Vampire's Waltz)" is a power track. The guitars are pushed forward with bass coming over the top. It's slower but emphasizes the ideas and, to a certain degree, creepiness that makes you think darkness, castles and blood. "They Played Rock And Roll" is a standout track. Written for Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, it's fast and full of balls. They title says it all. This will be the first song you'll want to listen to immediately again and that went for me too. "Predator" is the darkest song on the record. It;s a different level of heavy with deep, black vocals guested by Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth. It pairs well with "Nosferatu" if you need to feed you sinister side. "Sons Of Odin" is a straight European-style power metal design. It's a step slower but puts both the drums and bass in the foreground. "Sniper" follows and takes that step right back. Guitar heavy with a fast vocal delivery. "A Wizard's Tale" is a headbanger. Heavy build, solid vocals and drum forward. It makes you raise your fist and swing it. "Speed Merchants" is the other standout track in my opinion. Fast, guitar forward and makes you want to go running to your car. How could you not love a song about fast cars? Everyone loves fast cars. "Roadie's Song" has a higher vocal delivers and puts the bass back in the foreground with the guitars highlighting it. It's strong and you immediately start bobbing you head. It's infectious and unstoppable. The closing track is a raw version of "Nosferatu." It's not quite as polished but that adds to it's charm as the track is a bit gritty and grimier.
All-in-all, the album is sick. So much strength and amazingly written. Saxon are wrapping up their incredibly successful US tour with Judas Priest and are preparing to hit Europe with Y&T.