By Monk

Artwork for Carpe Diem by SaxonIf the Ünited Kingdom had it’s own “big four” of metal bands, top of the list of contenders for inclusion undoubtedly would be Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead and Saxon. While the latter named may not have achieved the global, arena-filling success of, particularly, the first two (in much the same way it could be argued that Anthrax never quite achieved the same level of recognition as their West Coast counterparts),  the Barnsley boys have nevertheless stayed true to their roots, battering their way to this, their 23rd studio album in their storied 45-year long career.

Building slowly, before exploding to life with a classic winding riff that would put most thrash bands to shame, coupled a stunning vocal declaration from Biff, the opening, title track is an old school Saxon banger, as my younger colleague Jase would say, very much in the ‘Crusader; vein: in fact, it is that album which this one most closely resembles, especially in its mock grandiose approach. Thematically, however, ‘Age Of Steam’ harkens even further back into Saxon’s heritage, echoing both the sound and subject of ‘Princess Of The Night’.

‘The Pilgrimage’ once again echoes the ‘Crusader’ era, especially in its pomp (but no ceremony) and atmosphere.  Yet again, despite the consummately brilliant performances of his fellow performances, the highlight is Biff’s absolutely incredible vocal: it’s extremely hard to believe that this a man in his 72nd year, as he once again proves that looking after your voice results in titanic performances such as this. It’s followed immediately by another defiant middle finger salute of defiance to the young guard of metallians, as ‘Dambusters’ rip roars with a youthful intensity: the opening riff alone is enough to achieve the mission of its subject matter, while Biff’s vocal once again is glorious in its majesty.

Biff has always loved a lyrical twist, and he delivers just that on the huge ‘Remember The Fallen’, a tribute to those who have fought and died, not during the wars which have been the subject of so many of the band’s songs over the years, but a war on a different front: the pandemic which has afflicted so many of us over the past two years. It’s a theme that, in retrospection, permeates much of the album, with ‘Carpe Diem’ a clarion call for us to enjoy life while we can, ‘The Pilgrimage’ a message about a journey to a better place and ‘Dambusters’ an anthem about doing what it takes to survive…

One complaint I have had about Saxon albums over the years is that they have tended to fall off in the second half, with the first parts loaded with the big pops and the latter section seeming to be supplements. This is definitely not the case with ‘Carpe Diem’, as the passion and intensity continues for the duration of its run time. ‘Supernova’ is another high energy ripper which explodes like it’s title, while ‘Lady In Gray’ is yet another slice of retrospective pomposity, the dark riff and Biff using the lower end of his range to fully explore the song’s denser feel. ‘All For One’ thrashes like a true metal maniac, echoing the ire of the title track, while ‘Black Is The Night’ grunts and grooves like an angry teenager kicking his bedroom door and closer ‘Living On The Limit’ sounds like the nascent Yorkshiremen reliving their early career with suitable aplomb , energy and enthusiasm.

I’ve said it many times before, but the old guard of metal are not standing down any time soon. Saxon are continuing to seize their day, and defiantly so.

  • ‘Carpe Diem’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.
  • Saxon tour in November:

Saxon 2022 tour poster

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