Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The granular sands of time flow, they flow through the narrow glass neck. From the top chamber to the bottom; falling in reverent cathedral silence.
The keeper of time raises his head; checks the timer. He looks across to gods of rock and nods. There is time and, indeed, energy aplenty.
Well-respected Barnsley metallic quintet Saxon is well into a fifth decade of recording, touring and generally taking their astute brand of rock n’ roll to the masses. The voracious ten tracks assembled here within long-player ‘Carpe Diem’ comprise the band’s 23rd studio release.
Due for release on Friday 4th February this fine release shines a light upon a band who are not slowing down or resting upon their collective laurels. The foot is pressing the accelerator hard with the focus being upon taking musical matters forward. The sound is unmistakably Saxon – heck you don’t get this far down the rock n’ roll line without creating a strong identity – but this certainly isn’t history regurgitated whole.
The strength of present-day Saxon is an inner core of resilience; this line-up has been together for close to two decades. Stability is the key for sure.
Raising the Saxon colours to get matters underway titular track ‘Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) is a perfect pace-setter. Coming a-knocking a ghosting keyed intro layered upon a tumbling drum beat brings in the first minute before a rapid percussive beat hammers down the door to permit the guitars to scream wildly and Biff to howl in trademark fashion.
Inspired to write this track by visiting Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman invasion of England Biff explains “In Latin it means ‘seize the day’ and I think it’s a great thing to say. it’s what the Romans used to say to each other on a regular basis, apparently, never having met one, I wouldn’t know! But we’re gonna do the ‘Seize the Day’ world tour, the album’s ‘Carpe Diem’, this song’s called “Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)” and it’s such a powerful thing to say.
With a slight Celtic undercurrent to the beginning ‘Age of Steam’ plows onwards down the tracks at tumultuous thundering pace. From the days of ‘Princess of the Night’ Saxon have told of the virtues of the railways and this wondrously guitar laden four minutes brings this theme bang up to date. There’s a delightful twist of Helloween-ish vocals herein from Biff that is lavished with scorching six-string solos from Doug and Paul constructed a upon rapid galloping beat solidly provided by Nibbs and Nigel.
The opening ethereal keys return as ‘The Pilgrimage’ opens up and are followed by a crisp, clean guitar sound which is soon ably supported by bone-crunching riffage. Hell’s Bells! There is an AC/DC feel that abounds as Biff cries out “It’s human nature to find the meaning.
In a top-notch interview with Metal Rules website Biff recently revealed [It’s] “is obviously about pilgrimages, whether they be 1,000 years ago or whether it would be just somebody last week who went to look at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Or went to see a battlefield where their grandfather died.
All these things, where you travel to see, worship, touch, or visit something like that, is a pilgrimage. And I just think the word is very cool. So, I wrote songs around the world and the different elements of pilgrimage. That’s what the song’s about.” Listening to the insightful lyrics this comes through in absolute bucket loads.
Ascending skywards with a blistering momentum ‘Dambusters’ takes off with Merlin engines screaming at full pelt. Continuing in the footsteps of the likes of Maiden, Sabaton and Blaze Bayley Saxon pay poignant tribute to the heroic airborne servicemen of WWII with their recount of the actions of 617 Squadron in Operation Chastise.
There is no relenting in the searing pace not that any has been called for.
“It came across the China sea, no-one knew the threat to you and me” Biff sings at the start of ‘Remember The Fallen’; a track reflecting upon the dramatic consequences of Covid-19 and the treasured folks those we have lost. For me this hard-riffing track has a ‘Dallas 1pm’ vibe about it throughout its five minutes plus.
Returning to Biff’s interview with the enigmatic Marko Syrjala of Metal Rules the Saxon frontman muses “Well, there are only so many songs you can write about the ancient stuff, and we’ve covered pretty much everything.
(Laughs) So, I wanted to write a song about Covid, about the people that have died, and give my perception of how it seemed to happen. There are certain aspects of it which are quite mysterious, and of course, it hasn’t finished yet, has it?”
The afterburners are well and truly ignited in the rapid ‘Supa Nova’. It’s a track chock-full of rock-melting riffage that phase effortlessly into gentle twin guitar segments that soar at altitude resulting in a well-rounded output.
With a gothic-sounding undercurrent ‘Lady in Gray’ has Saxon heading off into otherwordly realms. Stomping along in size twelve boots this track has a dark, brooding mood atmosphere with spectral keys swirling about the pummeling riffs.
Pure died-in-the-wool Saxon ‘All for One’ extols the exploits of Alexander Dumas’ creation The Three Musketeers in a timeless manner. The subjects covered within are wide and varied without a shadow of doubt. Be forewarned this is infectious!
Penultimate number ‘Living On The Limit’ rattles along like the veritable express train. Think Sabbath melded with Motorhead and you’ll get an idea of the brutal nature that this sub-three minute speedster exhibits at times.
The raging power is neatly countered, however, by the serene mid-song interlude featuring a delightful six-string solo. This sub-three minuter will have you reaching for the replay button guaranteed!
A fiercely pounding rhythm heralds album-closer ‘Black is the Night’ as Saxon take a nocturnal deviation. Another mellow segment in the middle of matters but once again it’s on the ball and proves an excellent bridge between the two heavier, meaty sections.
Produced by Andy Sneap (Judas Priest, Exodus, Accept and Priest guitarist) at Backstage Recording Studios in Derbyshire with Byford and Sneap mixing and mastering, ‘Carpe Diem’ ensures a further chapter of success in the Saxon biography.
NWOBHM flag-bearers, the god-fathers of British metal Saxon are hitting 2022 with power and guile. They have seized the day in fine style.
Carpe Diem Track Listing:
- Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)
- Age of Steam
- The Pilgrimage
- Remember the Fallen
- Super Nova
- Lady In Gray
- All for One
- Black is the Night
- Living On the Limit
BIFF BYFORD – Vocals
PAUL QUINN – Guitar
NIGEL GLOCKLER – Drums
DOUG SCARRATT – Guitar
NIBBS CARTER – Bass
Produced by Andy Sneap and Biff Byford
Album mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap
Carpe Diem the album is available to pre-order now, out February 4th 2022: https://smarturl.it/SAXONCARPEDIEM
Carpe Diem will be available in a variety of formats and pre-orders can be placed here: https://smarturl.it/SAXONCARPEDIEM