Jan 10, 2024

Hell, Fire and Damnation is the 24th release from the storied career of heavy metal's elder statesmen and pioneers of the NWOBHM movement, Saxon. The album is co-produced by Biff Byford and Andy Sneap for the Silver Lining Music label. In "Hell, Fire and Damnation", Saxon delivers one of their best albums in years with a powerful dose of classic heavy metal. The tight, slick sounding album produced by Byford and Sneap, the latter having also revitalized Judas Priest’s sound, has what everyone has come to expect from a Saxon record.

 At the forefront of the album is the twin guitar attack of Doug Scarratt, with new addition and heavy metal legend himself, Brian Tatler of Diamond Head. Tatler makes his influence felt throughout the album, making an immediate impact on the title track, a riff of his own lending itself to what would kick off the album. A story of good versus evil, with the alure of the track cemented with the amazing spoken word of iconic British Actor Brian Blessed on “The Prophecy” & video shot in an old church, resulting in an epic track. The guitar work shines throughout with the crunchy opening riff to the powerful track "Fire and Steel", the song is propelled forward by drummer Nigel Glockler and bassist Nibbs Carter laying the groundwork for the fast-moving tribute to the city of Sheffield, whereas "Super Charger" moves at the breakneck speed of its lyrical subject, drag racing, with Scarratt and Tatler racing to the finish line with their dueling solos.

 Biff Byford's vocals are in supreme form and his historically laden lyrics run the gamut of content throughout the album. "Just let me introduce you to Lady Guillotine/ She'll be pleased to meet you/but please don't lose your head", Biff sings on the cheeky earworm "Madame Guillotine”. “Follow the Silk Road far to the East/Riches await you beyond your belief” Biff paints a cinematic picture on "Kubla Khan and the Merchant of Venice". “1066” recaps the war between the Vikings and the Saxons at Stamford Bridge (the Battle of Hastings). The UFO tractor beam riff opens the song “There’s Something in Roswell” with Biff proclaiming that yes there was something out there and we are not alone. “Pirates of the Airwaves” recalls an era of the pirate radio stations breaking the hold of the mainstream radio, broadcasting the songs of the rebels of the time.

 The 10 track disc clocks in at about 41 minutes with each song an efficiently compact entity. The guitars are sharp and rhythm section tight, with strong vocals that avoid most of the metal cliches, this has the sound of an inspired band which makes for an extremely satisfying listen. Hell, Fire and Damnation showcases Saxon’s enduring energy and mastery of the genre, and while the overall sound may feel familiar, the band’s consistency and passion make this album a solid addition to their discography.

 “Vinyl” Vince McDowell


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