That most British of institutions when we’re talking Heavy Metal, Saxon, say what the Romans said. And why not?
Release Date: 4th February 2022
Label: Silver Lining Music
Format: CD / digital / vinyl
“It’s what the Romans used to say to each other on a regular basis, apparently, never having met one, I wouldn’t know!” says Biff Byford in the way that only a Yorkshireman would.
Incredible to report that Carpe Diem is their 23rd album and having gorged on some prime Saxon on their long-delayed 40th Anniversary dates (live review) we’re ready to see what their new music sounds like. Well, actually, there’s a pretty good chance that we could guess what it sounds like, yet the background to the album adds a little undercurrent. Biff’s own health issues along with the thing which must not be named adds a little intensity in the general air of frustration and as good a time as any to espouse the ‘seize the day’ notion.
However, as Biff also points out: “the essence of a great metal song is the riff that starts it, and this album has loads of them.” Indeed it does as the title track, simply made to be a concert opener, releases the first of a series of pulsating riffs following an orchestral prelude. Utilising the old “They came, they saw, they conquered” line, it could easily refer to Saxon as much as the Roman legions and their eagles as they lay waste to whatever lies before.
Biff’s own Progressive leanings come into play on The Pilgrimage – not that Saxon are going all out Maiden with extended shape shifting tracks that swerve in various directions. It might be me, but there’s a hint of Hell’s Bells in the studious rhythm. In a good way of course as it proves a personal highlight, even on first listen, making quite an impression. The mighty Saxon march on with a genuine epic that slows the pace of the ferocity of the opening assault but all the better for it.
And it’s that clutch of frantically paced songs that showcase how all (ALL) the quintet seem to be firing on all cylinders – not least the massively underrated Nibbs Carter who surely must be ranking amongst one of the premier Metal bass players. As Lady In Gray (a vibe that recalls those glory days of Rainbow Rising) follows suit to the bigger production of The Pilgrimage, what becomes clear is that Carpe Diem and the philosophy of the very title, has inspired Saxon to turn in one of the albums of their career. They’ve had ups and downs, but let’s put cards on the table and declare that the new album is one that will stack up favourably against the unsurpassable early career trio of Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim & Leather.
The sentiment of All For One and Living On The Limit (the latter belting along with a Motorhead-esque frenzy where three minutes is simply enough) might be quite prophetic. As visions of mortality drift into view, loins are girded with the clarion call of “we will not waver, we will not rest.” Packing together a wealth of searing solos and monumental riffs, Saxon have certainly seized the day and delivered a late career highlight without any doubt.