Hell, Fire And Damnation

Silver Lining
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Prophecy
02. Hell, Fire And Damnation
03. Madame Guillotine
04. Fire and Steel
05. There's Something in Roswell
06. Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice
07. Pirates of the Airwaves
08. 1066
09. Witches of Salem
10. Super Charger

SAXON is one of the most unyielding, persistent forces of metal. Founding member Biff Byford and his cohorts are poised to unleash the act's 28th album, "Hell, Fire And Damnation", a beast that's much more potent than virtually any and all new school purveyors of classic metal.

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal — typically abbreviated as NWOBHM (calm down old schoolers, as plenty of young folks are still getting their feet wet with our revered subculture and music) — stalwarts dole out 10 tracks of timeless metal that are true to the template that they were integral in creating. But, again, the album's vibrant and explosive energy is simply awe-inspiring. Virtually all old-school artists face line-up changes, and notably last year long-running guitarist Paul Quinn retired from touring. His replacement is formidable DIAMOND HEAD axeman Brian Tatler. Alongside seasoned guitarist Doug Scarratt, Tatler impresses throughout "Hell, Fire And Damnation", especially on the stripped-down, fist-pumper "Pirates of the Airwaves" that, at moments, strikes with the ferocity of the legendary unit's early material.

The airtight combo of drummer Nigel Glockler and bassist Nibbs Carter is crucial to the band's bombastic and driving nature. They anchor the ravenous "Witches of Salem", easily the release's most ominous point, while Byford and the six-stringers march in tandem. This unified attack wouldn't have the epic heaviness without the underlying rhythm section. "Hell, Fire And Damnation" is far from perfect, though. Final song, "Super Charger", sounds lazy and uninspired for the most part, outside of the electrifying guitar solos and a surging and bold shift midway through that's gone as quickly as it appears, which highlights Byford's higher register unlike his mid-range approach on the majority of the album.

Byford's lyrical content, as per usual, digs into history. There are biblical notions steering the title-track, discussions of the revolutionary heart and passion of 1700s-era France on "Madame Guillotine", and the absurd madness of old-world America is the focal point of "Witches of Salem". Some of the most interesting lyrics are on one of the most hook-laden and addictive tracks, "There's Something in Roswell". The hummable song that might even appeal to people who don't give a damn about metal, of course, touches upon Area 51.

The pioneering progenitors of heavy metal are indeed captivating for the fact that they remain steadfast in their mission and purpose, and are as prolific as ever. It will be hard to impress the many who almost exclusively stand by classics like their self-titled debut, "Wheels of Steel" or "Denim and Leather", as the case often is. But for those who do spin "Hell, Fire and Damnation" with open ears and an open mind, the rewards are plentiful. Byford and company seem as though they're going to keep making music until they are physically unable to do so.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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