Saxon – Carpe Diem Review

I’m tempted to open this particular scribbling with some proclamation like, “Saxon probably shouldn’t be making albums this strong this late in their career.” But then again, who am I to say what a metal band shouldn’t be capable of 45 years into their career, especially since so few of them have made it that far? (Not to make these Yorkshire lads feel old or anything… but…) After all, one of the few bands who has lasted almost that long topped our year-end list last year.

Release date: February 4, 2022 Label: Silver Lining.
So whether or not they should be making albums this good as they’ve moved into their fifth decade, what matters most is that Saxon is making albums this strong at this point, zipping through ten tracks of damned fine traditional metal, the very kind that they helped to make “traditional” with iconic records like Strong Arm Of The Law and Wheels Of Steel.

At the tender age of 71, and now eighteen months or so past a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery, vocalist Biff Byford can still wail, his voice a little weathered from the earliest era, but that only adds an even grittier feel that perfectly fits the band’s post-millennium sound. And it’s in that feel, that slightly heavier approach that Saxon has undertaken in the recent past, that Carpe Diem truly shines, matching up with Sacrifice as the best Saxon album since the classics (or at the very least, since the mid-90s).

Scarratt and Quinn have meshed into a fine guitar tandem, and here they crank out riff after riff on rock-solid rockers like the title track or the pandemic paean “Remember The Fallen” or closing driver “Living On The Limit.” The moody pomp of “The Pilgrimage” and the groovy stomp of “Lady In Grey” are the album’s slower numbers, both highlights and both exactly the kind of epic-tinted arrangements that Saxon does so well. Drummer Nigel Glockler holds the entire thing up with the spirit of someone half his age, lending Carpe Diem an almost electric energy. Produced by the ever-reliable Andy Sneap, Carpe Diem has that certain heft and sheen, but in true Sneap-ian fashion, it retains its punch, not too slick, not too shiny.

So yes, Carpe Diem is a great entry into Saxon’s catalog, but it’s not entirely impeccable. An argument could be made that all of what I described above is virtually Saxon-by-numbers at this point, that Carpe Diem doesn’t do anything new. But then again, Saxon has never been a band that was full of surprises. They’re a high-quality ale and a comfortable chair on a beautiful summer afternoon: You’ve been here before, but you’re happy to go back as often as you can. Like Motörhead and AC/DC, two bands with whom they share a certain kindred spirit, Saxon does what Saxon does, and no one does it any better.

And the other criticism is that, even at only ten songs in 44 minutes, there are some moments towards the end that do feel a little “been-there,” like “All For One” and “Black Is The Night.” Neither song is a bad one – nothing on Carpe Diem would qualify as such, I maintain – but perhaps a smidgen more variety would’ve helped in the album’s second half, even as I literally just said that Saxon isn’t a band that typically branches out too far. Still, tracks like those two have a way of hooking themselves in deeper a little later on, when the shine starts to fade from the more immediate numbers, and I’ll certainly take a solid Saxon ball of rock over a lot of lesser metal, any day of the week.

So yeah, get yourself a high-quality ale and a comfortable chair – it’s a bit early for summer here in the Northern Hemisphere (you lucky Southern bastards), but there’s enough fire in these old geezers to keep us warm.

Saxon probably shouldn’t be making records this strong this late in their career. But thankfully, they did.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

  1. I love that metal bands often last for so many decades. Countless bands achieve this. It is a phenomenon not seen in other types of music, including rock even. The reason is that metal never dies. I am thrilled for this Saxon album.


  2. This is a really good Saxon album, their last five albums have all been stella. I agree, while nothing new it is Saxon at their best. I loved all the songs on the album but particularly ‘Age of Steam’ ‘Dambusters’ ‘The Pilgrimage ‘ and ‘Supernova’.
    Great stuff, indeed crack open an ale and Bang thy head!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.