Hell, Fire and Damnation


Forget discussions and debates, focus on music and bang your head hearing to the new album of the English Metal warriors!
December 15, 2023

The NWOBHM is over, but its main core of ideas is still alive: it wasn’t only the rebirth of Metal after a time hidden in the underground, but a whole new way of playing Heavy Metal, a set of conceptions that enables the band to give a step forward in relation of what was done in the early years of the 70s, and that allow the birth of new subgenres into Metal. There are great names, and others that never got the respect they really deserve. One can say that SAXON is a successful name of those years, but these warriors truly deserved more respect and success. One spin on their new album “Hell, Fire and Damnation” states the reason for these words.

The quintet comes with an important change: as everyone knows, Paul Quinn (guitarist and one of the longest-serving members of the group along Biff) left the band after 45 years. On his place is another veteran into NWOBHM: Brian Tatler, of the legendary DIAMOND HEAD. One could ask if such change could affect the music of the quintet, but the answer is no, for it’s the very same mix of a vigorous and strong form of traditional Heavy Metal with touches of 70s Hard Rock (a usual way for NWOBHM acts), but in the updated form that the fans of the band are used to hear on their albums; but at the same time, the band is sounding heavier, full of energy and aggressive, what depicts that they revisited some lessons of times of “Dogs of War” (1995) and “Unleash the Beast” (1997) (pay attention to the outfit of “Hell, Fire and Damnation” to check such aspect). It seems that they want to show who the best band of NWOBHM in activity is...

Again - as happens since “Sacrifice” (2013) - , the quintet worked with Biff sharing the duties of production with Andy Sneap (who also did the mixing and mastering of the album), with the helping hand of Seb Byford and Jacky Lehmann on the recordings. It brings to “Hell, Fire and Damnation” a modern and aggressive sonority, but it’s defined and full of energy as well, with the melodies being fully clearly heard understood. And the artwork of Péter Sallai is darkened and disturbing, fitting on what is delivered by the band. As guest, here is the English actor Brian Blessed on the narration on “The Prophecy”.

As happens with bands of long careers, there’ll be a lot of discussions between those who advocates that SAXON isn’t doing anything different than the usual (forgetting the reactions when they tried something different in the era between “Innocence Is No Excuse” (1985) and “Forever Free” (1992)), or complain about the album’s sonority (everyone is tried to deal with such thing); others will say that the inner value of the band is that they know what they’re doing (especially today, when countless bands copies what the quintet offers to its fans). The one thing that must be stated on this review: that’s “Hell, Fire and Damnation” is the best album of the band since the 90s, and transpires honesty in every second of music.

The album opens with a climatic intro, “The Prophecy”, with pompous and darkened orchestrations an epic narrative. It prepares the fans for the assault called “Hell, Fire and Damnation”, a song filled with an amazing level of energy and aggressiveness (sharpened by excellent melodies), excellent chorus, and it’s the typical one for opening an album (with excellent blazing guitar riffs and melodic solos of Doug and Brian). Following, “Madame Guillotine” is a hooking and heavy song filled with excellent melodies and arrangements

“Fire and Steel” is fast and have some elements of Speed/Power Metal (as the excellent double bass parts), with a thunderous work of Nibbs and Nigel on bass guitar and drums supports the weight. And “There’s Something in Roswell” comes as a massive onslaught of melodies based on hooking guitar riffs and arrangements (with some touches of Hard Rock on them).

“Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice” is another song with a combination of elements between classic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, with melodies that are easy to hear and like (and with excellent vocals, of course). The same can be said about what’s heard on “Pirates of the Airwaves”, where the melodic side inherited from Hard Rock becomes even more evident, but with an oppressive weight imposed by the rhythms and charming backing vocals during the chorus. These two remind a lot the era of the band during 1985 and 1992 (described some paragraphs above).

A bit more into a 80s tendency, “1066” has sinuous harmonies with charming melodic constructions, and a hooking chorus that is easy to sing along (and the contrast between heavier moments with a more melodic part with solos is really great). And on “Witches of Salem”, the band brought back a heavier side of their music with some intricate arrangements and aggressive appeal with such slow set of tempos. Closing the album, “Super Charger” comes with a simple and classic outfit (heavy guitars with Hard Rock/NWOBHM traits, solid and simple rhythms, excellent melodic vocals).

Again: “Hell, Fire and Damnation” isn’t asking the fans and critics (again, as written some paragraphs above) permission to the band to keep doing what they want to (and that they do since the band’s beginning), but to show that SAXON is far from retirement, is still relevant today, and one of the those who are still releasing albums with frequency. There band is not a legend and cult without reasons…

Final words of the review: if you like SAXON, you’ll love “Hell, Fire and Damnation”. It’s simple in this way.

10 / 10









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"Hell, Fire and Damnation" Track-listing:
  1. The Prophecy (intro)
  2. Hell, Fire and Damnation
  3. Madame Guillotine
  4. Fire and Steel
  5. There’s Something in Roswell
  6. Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice
  7. Pirates of the Airwaves
  8. 1066
  9. Witches of Salem
  10. Super Charger
Saxon Lineup:

Biff Byford - Vocals
Doug Scarratt - Guitars
Brian Tatler - Guitars
Nibbs Carter - Bass
Nigel Glockler - Drums

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