With the heart attack suffered by frontman Biff Byford back in September 2019 and the global pandemic which followed shortly after, NWOBHM legends Saxon have had a rough old ride the last couple of years. Therefore, Carpe Diem (Silver Lining Music) – translated from Latin into English as “sieze the day” – stands not only as an album title but as a clear and heartfelt message to all.
Steadfastly refusing to fall into the trap of becoming a legacy act – a fate which has befallen many other bands of their years – the Barnsley battlers may have been around since 1977 but have consistently maintained the energy to keep producing new material which sounds as spirited and tenacious as ever. Biff might be seventy-one years old but you’d never know it from listening to this, the band’s twenty-third (twenty-four if you include last year’s Inspirations covers record) full length studio release.
An historically charged epic about the Roman empire, the title track is fast paced and dynamic, containing all the hallmarks of any classic Saxon opener. ‘Age of Steam’ features one of the heaviest riffs the band have produced in years, the song not sounding a million miles away from Judas Priest territory, although considering the record was produced by Priest guitarist/knob twiddler Andy Sneap, this is hardly surprising.
‘The Pilgrimage’ slows things down a touch, the slightly more sombre cut possessing echoes of Iron Maiden before ‘Dambusters’ picks up the pace again, another brand new song that sounds like you’ve known it for years. ‘Remember the Fallen’ is an inspirational cut about those who lost their lives during the pandemic while ‘Super Nova’ is another driving, Priest-like track with an outstanding solo from guitarist Paul Quinn.
The ghostly ‘Lady In Gray’ is subtly backed by haunting keyboards while ‘All for One’ is based on classic French novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. ‘Living On the Limit’ is another fast paced blast of old school metal with a sensational, emotive solo from Quinn before the album closes with the freezing polar winter of ‘Black is the Night’.
Seemingly unable to write a bad album even if their lives depended on it, Saxon deliver the goods once again. Guitarist Doug Scarratt‘s riffing is a tight as ever as is the locomotive rhythm section of bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler – another member of the band not altogether unfamiliar with health issues during the past few years. Boasting classic riffs and melodies which sound like they could have been written during the Power and the Glory and Crusader (Carrere) years, Carpe Diem feels like slipping into an old pair of comfortable shoes and stands as yet another highlight in Saxon’s long and illustrious career.
Buy the album here: https://www.saxon747.com/
8 / 10