The Mighty Saxon release masterful album Hell, Fire and Damnation!!
Review by Ike Thomas
With Hell, Fire, and Damnation, the 24th studio release from the UK’s Saxon, the band showcases its status as a premiere heavy metal group, beginning in 1975 as a charter member of the NWOBHM bands and continuing to rule rock right through to today.
Right from the start Hell, Fire, and Damnation leaps from the speakers as an in-your face (and ears) instant classic. The ominous, haunting opening track titled “The Prophecy” foretells the direction of the music which is about to take the listener on a trip through time on an album making direct reference to historical characters and events. The tone and timbre of the songs reflect that of the stories, setting the mood and serving the lyrics spectacularly. In doing so, Saxon showcases their talents with the maturity and professionalism that comes from being an established, top notch power band.
The title track, “Hell Fire and Damnation”, packs a big, huge, drum punch to the face. The power of Nigel Glockler’s playing style projects a massive sound with extraordinarily crisp precision and timing throughout the entire album. To my ears the drums are highlighted, sitting a bit forward in the mix and it sounds amazing. A particularly ferocious guitar tone compliments the thunderous drums and, yes, I turned up the volume a bit here.
“Madame Guillotine” opens with Nibbs Carter’s commanding bass line featuring a lusciously fat tone, rich and defined. The song later transitions into an ethereal, floating guitar solo break demonstrating continued great song craft. While the lyrics implore “Don’t lose your head” I’m betting the majority of Saxon concert goers will, at least metaphorically, lose their heads during this soon-to-be arena thumping favorite.
“Fire and Steel” follows as a high energy song, again featuring a great drum track. Then, it’s on to…
“There’s Something In Roswell”. Super thick guitars from Brian Tatler and Doug Scarratt send this song straight into the stratosphere. To quote the Pete Rodriguez song, “I like it like that”. *Full disclosure, I turned the volume up even more here*
There is plenty of good, fun ear candy and samples woven throughout the record, well placed and utilized primarily in the intros. They all work very well, serving as song setups and providing aural intrigue and texture
“Pirates of the Airwaves” coaxed another volume boost out of me. Killer ending riff to this one.
“Witches of Salem” has an attention getting opening leading into a sinister sounding guitar riff that does solid justice to the song’s lyrical message on bigotry and judgment.
Biff Byford’s vocals on the album are strong, clear, and positioned well in all the tracks. His voice sounds amazing with incredible range and control, putting the crowning touch on the songs in a commanding fashion.
And, thankfully, there was enough headroom left for one last volume bump on the closing track, “Super Charger”. The song does justice to the sound of a skull rattling, growling hemi Mopar blasting past on the motorway.
Saxon’s Hell, Fire, and Damnation is a well recorded, mixed, and mastered album by Andy Sneap and produced by Sneap and Biff Byford. It sounds big at low volume and even better at high volume. The pacing of the songs throughout the album is superb and results in a well crafted work of art.
Put Saxon’s Hell, Fire, and Damnation on full blast and prepare to be rocked!!! Consider it a strength and conditioning program for your neck in preparation for your next Saxon concert.