Released in November of ’99 Metalhead was the first SAXON album I actually got – and really liked! I vaguely remember a track from the Rock The Nations album received some radio play over here at the time (“Northern Lady” or “Waiting For The Night”), and I picked up that album in a cut-out bin not too long after. It didn’t make a huge impression on me and through a few moves the album was lost or given up (I hated packing things up, so on a few occasions parted with some records). Anyway, Saxon was not on a major label here, nor did I hear much else from them, aside from that cover of Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like The Wind”. In late ’99 I received the Metalhead CD (and bio) and put it on. The title and cover was certainly appealing to me, as a metal fan, and one looking for a great ‘new’ (old) band to discover and pick up on. Metalhead featured the founding members – Biff Byford and Paul Quinn, along with guitarist Doug Scarratt, bassist Nibbs Carter, and German drummer Fritz Randow (ex of German prog bands ELOY and EPITAPH).
From the opening build-up leading in to the title track I was expecting something big, and by the time I got to the end of the 4th song – I had to go back and re-listen! “Metalhead”, “Travelers In Time”, and especially “Conquistador” (love the acoustic intro before the band kicks in and the song takes off). These had my hooked and I listened to the first 3 songs repeatedly before I even got to the rest of the disc. And after that there’s really no duds here, this is a full-on classic metal album, with further great tracks like “All Guns Blazing” (killer intro) , “Watching You”, and epic finale “Sea Of Life”. Love the production, the big guitar sound, Biff’s distinctive voice; it all worked so well. A great album, and the follow up (w/ the same line up) made for a fine pair. Killing Ground featured another outstanding title track, as well a cool cover of King Crimson’s “In The Court Of The Crimson King”.
Saxon may not have caught on in North America the way fellow NWOBH leaders Iron Maiden did in the ’80s, but for the past few decades the band has consistently released solid albums, toured regularly, and also released live gems from their archives. Battering Ram [from 2015] got me back on track with the band, and then I saw Saxon in 2017 [w/ UFO] and it was a real eye opener. So, following the excellent Thunderbolt, a few side projects, such as Biff Byford’s solo album, the band’s covers’ album – Inspirations (released earlier this year), a slew of reissues and live releases, we get a brand new album Carpe Diem. By now most Saxon fans would be familiar with the title track issued a while back, a classic heavy riff & anthem based around the song “Carpe Diem (Seize The Day)” and a fine opener to an even better album, Saxon may be a heavy metal band who should’ve peaked decades ago, but here they are still coming up with an album full of songs amongst their best, offering not only their own thundering approach, but enough changes to keep things fresh from their previous records. On Carpe Diem, there is no shortage of tunes that will appeal to the Saxon faithful, from those big dark sounding riff rockers like “Super Nova”, “Black Is The Night”, “Dambusters”, and speedier “Living On The Limit (do I hear a twist on Sabbath’s “NIB” in there?). And Saxon never shy about timely topics and anthems deliver “Remember The Fallen” and “All For One”. Favorites here are the slightly slower “The Pilgrimage” which sits in that same class as “Lionheart”, (for me) and “Age Of Steam”, the best of the heavies here, killer intro and solo, with one of Biff’s historical content tales. Fantastic album from a band who’s still delivering their best. *Available on CD, vinyl (+colored0, cassette, and in Box set form!
*See the press release below for track-listing and more info…
Life hath no fury like a legend in full roar… and on February 4th, 2022, Saxon will show just that to the world when they release their 23rd studio album, Carpe Diem, through Silver Lining Music, serving notice to anyone who ever felt otherwise that they remain both vanguards and masters of British Metal. Comprised of 10 titanic tracks bristling with steel-clad riffery and proud intent, the Barnsely (UK) born band draw on a variety of ingredients from their career to forge what is their most dynamic release in many a year.
“It all starts with the riff,” says front man and co-founder Biff Byford, “if the riff speaks to me, then we’re on our way. It’s a very intense album, and that’s all down to the fact that the essence of a great metal song is the riff that starts it, and this album has loads of them.”
Unleashing today the title track’s roll-back attack, this is Saxon at their purest and most definitive; aggressively parading the pure metal flag and imploring fans old and new to gather and celebrate the very best of both Saxon and the genre itself.
“In Latin it means ‘seize the day’ and I think it’s a great thing to say;” continues Biff “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.”
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 strikes the ear as one of the most essential British metal statements of the last few years and not lacking in pace or bite, an album which will ignite the joy in stalwart supporters and attract a whole new legion to the Saxon fold.
“We want every album we make to go platinum,” says Biff defiantly. “We never make an album that we don’t expect to be fantastic because there are no laurels around here, and as a band, we’re always trying to do something a little bit new, a little bit daring. I love fast metal like “Princess of the Night” and “20,000 Feet”, and I try and bring that style of Saxon into the music now, but in a more modern style. We don’t sound like an old band on records because we’re not sitting back on our past success, we’re always trying to make a great album.”
The genesis of Carpe Diem’s fierce intensity lies in two extremely significant life events – “It’s been a difficult two years,” offers Biff with considerable understatement, “because I had the heart attack back in September 2019, so things went a bit pear-shaped for the band. And then Covid hit two or three months later, but luckily, we started writing and recording this album before Covid. We did the drums in Germany and we did the guitars in various places. I was doing a lot of writing while I was in the hospital bed, and we spent quite a long time writing and arranging the ideas that we all had. I do think it’s a very intense album, and maybe some of that intensity comes from the frustration of not being able to do anything in the Covid period.”
Carpe Diem Track Listing: Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) Age of Steam The Pilgrimage Dambusters Remember the Fallen Super Nova Lady In Gray All for One Black is the Night Living On the Limit
Produced by Andy Sneap and Biff ByfordAlbum mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap
Guitars recorded by Andy Sneap at Backstage Recording Studios, Derbyshire (UK); Vocals recorded by Seb Byford at Big Silver Barn, York (UK); Drums recorded by Jacky Lehmann (Audiosound) at Velbyproductions, Grünenplan (Germany).
All lyrics by Biff Byford. Backing vocals by Seb Byford