Overall Score: 9/10 Songwriting: 9/10 Production: 10/10 Lyrics: 8/10 Pros: Great solos, great riffs, decent lyrics Cons: The vocals aren't quite on point, Andy Sneap clearly has "his sound" on records he produces
Every metal record should start with a high pitched “YYYEEEAAAAAHH!”. Thankfully, retirement dodging NWOBHM stalwarts Saxon have delivered this with aplomb on 23rd studio album Carpe Diem. Yes. Twenty-third.
This is the band who headlined the Whisky A Go Go in LA, supported by a young band making their live debut: Metallica.
Since then Saxon have gone on to inspire mockumentary movies, headline festivals, and perform entire albums in full by way of anniversary celebration. Then they still insist on putting in the work to release new material and keep gigging. It’s fitting the literal translation of the Latin album title is “seize the day” as these pioneers of metal have been doing for the last 45 years with frontman Biff Byford recently stating “we don’t sit on our past success, we’re always trying to make a great album.”
The opening title track sets the scene for 10 tracks of sheer hard rock heaven, although it’s a bit early in proceedings to have the slower, more thoughtful The Pilgrimage as the third track. When Dambusters hurtles at a pace Vin Diesel might struggle to keep up with though, there’s no time to sit and reflect, just simply get back in the fast lane.
When you’re making a metal record there are only two names that stick out in the minds of the majority: Rick Rubin and Andy Sneap. Only one of those is British, so the Yorkshire boys stayed at home (mainly due to some sort of cold that was going around at the time) and holed up in Backstage Recording Studios in Derbyshire with Andy at the mixing desk.
It’s around the point of Supernova, with its big crowd singalong chorus, that Carpe Diem feels similar to Judas Priest‘s Firepower. That’s not a criticism, it is understandable that two bands which formed in the 70’s in not dissimilar areas of the country, within the same genre would make similar sounding music. Especially when they work with the same producer who also happens to be in one of the bands. Not to mention, after 22 albums it’s fair to say a band has found their sound and know what their fans want to hear.
It’s not unfair to say Byford’s voice may not be quite on par with (Rob) Halford’s, but the simple fact a 71 year old man is still writing, recording and gigging heavy metal means he has moved past critique and should be respected and applauded for walking into a room.
All For One is another solid track, while Living On The Limit is a double kick explosion of Kill ‘Em All meets Overkill. Black Is The Night finishes everything off with a slightly slower tempo that is pitched just right to make necks ache.
This album surpassed any expectation. Any self-respecting metal head who’s never listened to Saxon before, should definitely check this album out. Younger rockers need to listen as well, if no other reason than to hear everything that influenced the bands they love now.
Carpe Diem releases February 4 via Silver Lining Music.
For more information on Saxon, like their official Facebook page here.