If the last couple of years have achieved anything, it’s to have reintroduced many of us to the joy of simple pleasures. As ever, that’s where Saxon come in. A reassuring and reliable presence in heavy music for over four decades, Biff Byford’s tireless crew would be an easy band to take for granted, were it not for their eerie ability to keep making great records like this, their 22nd studio album – or 23rd, if you include last year’s enjoyable, shambolic covers set, Inspirations.
Not every recent Saxon album has scaled the heights of revered early classics like Wheels Of Steel and Denim And Leather, but Carpe Diem is plainly a keeper from the opening seconds of its thunderous title track. Admittedly, one might question the efficacy of seizing the day when people are still spit-spraying malevolent microbes at each other, but it’s a sentiment that suits Saxon perfectly, and it’s a typically bolshy slab of hard-driving melodic metal, replete with a gloriously punchy Biff vocal.
Thereafter, this is simply a textbook Saxon album: great songs, giant choruses, gritty musicianship and absolutely no fucking about. There are fast, furious, swashbuckling anthems like Age Of Steam (not a direct sequel to Princess Of The Night, perhaps, but close enough), Dambusters and Super Nova; there are grandiose, prog-tinged mini-epics like Lady In Gray and The Pilgrimage; Black Is The Night is as gnarly and evil-sounding as anything Saxon have ever recorded and then there is the closing Living On The Limit, an unusually snotty, sub-three-minute speed metal knees-up that sounds custom-designed to cause havoc at live shows.
Naysayers will continue to say nay, but Saxon have survived for more than 40 years because they are, as Carpe Diem proves again, really fucking good at this shit.
Carpe Diem is out February 4 via Silver Lining Music