Saxon: Heavy Metal Thunder - Live [Blu-ray]
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(Apr 09, 2013)
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The silver eagle has finally landed for US audiences! After enjoying a limited "Fan Club Only" UK release Heavy Metal Thunder - The Movie Saxon's wonderfully unfiltered and intimate account of their ascent to the upper echelons of heavy metal will finally enjoy a US release. The double-disc set features the soon-to-be-celebrated story of Saxon while the second disc is packed with bonus features including a full-length performance (on St. George's Day) from April 23rd 2008.
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Top customer reviews
The extras are very good, three hours of them, including two 50 minutes shows: one in Germany 1981, the other in London in 2008.
I called Amazon customer service and all they could do was offer a replacement and take note of my complaint. I mentioned that the Blu-Ray cover insert was reversible, on the outside the UPC was different then the one on the inside. I also noticed that the inside of the cover insert had the green label with the German text and a #12 on it but not the outside. What I think is going on here is that they just flip the insert over depending on what country they are selling it to. I'm convinced that there is no difference between the import or US version. I told the customer service person this but we thought we would try another one anyway. Guess what?, same thing. So as long as they're selling both versions buy the import, it's cheaper. According to the manufacturer the disc is region free and a comment made to a review of the import version on Amazon says it plays fine on a US Blu-ray player. I'm taking 1 star off just because of the issues I had with this and not because of the content, which is excellent.
I own everything Saxon has ever put out and if I were to recommend a single video to a new fan this would be it. It is the most comprehensive of them all. Probably not the best for concert footage but certainly the best for learning about the band. They are totally underrated and under appreciated here in the states. For concert footage I'm really fond of "Saxon Chronicles". Another one that's a great bargain is "Heavy Metal Thunder - Live - Eagles Over Wacken" which gives you 2 CD's and a DVD. Long Live Saxon!
Led by founding members Biff Byford and Paul Quinn, Saxon's history is not without some controversy and contentiousness, including the ouster of founding members Steve "Dobby" Dawson in 1985, and Graham Oliver in 1994. Despite these and other happenings, the tone of the documentary attempts to be upbeat and mostly positive, emphasizing the good times, and the band's many notable accomplishments. While there are some emotional moments regarding past conflicts, Dawson and Oliver both appear extensively in the documentary, offering their thoughts. Rather than anger, the ousted members seem to have feelings of regret, while Byford seems unforgiving, and very determined regarding leading Saxon forward.
In 1976, singer Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn, joined forces with guitarist Graham Oliver and bass player Steve Dawson, and along with drummer David Ward, they formed the band "Son of a Bitch". Later renamed Saxon, the band was signed to the Carrere label and released their debut album Saxon in 1979. During the 80's, the band produced a string of hard rocking albums, and experienced increasing success, before the decline in popularity of heavy metal in the early 90's.
After Oliver was dismissed in 1994, he and Dawson formed the rival band Oliver/Dawson Saxon, creating a situation that eventually resulted in legal proceedings to determine the ownership of the "Saxon" name, and a decision rendered in favor of the Byford/Quinn led Saxon. The documentary doesn't delve deeply into these matters, putting a mostly positive spin on things, which is probably for the best.
Byford is featured in interviews with others, like Lemmy from Motorhead, but these are exceptions, as most of the interviews with the members of Saxon, features them alone. The atmosphere is mostly laid back, and the statements made appear to be frank, however there are few emotional outbursts, or warm interactions between bandmates.
In and out the band, drummer Nigel Glockler may have the most animated personality. Doug Scarratt has made tremendous contributions since joining Saxon in 1995, and it's a shame that we don't hear more from him. Testimonials by friends of the band like Metallica's Lars Ulrich and others, provide context, and add a little more heart, but Heavy Metal Thunder isn't quite the glorious celebration it could have been.
Technically, the movie is well edited, mixing interviews, backstage footage, still photos, and miscellaneous video clips, with recent and archival footage of the band. Anyone interested in Saxon's history, minus the legal squabbles, should find this an interesting and enjoyable two hours.
Iron Maiden are never mentioned, but Maiden and Saxon are probably the two most significant bands, to emerge from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). While Maiden's songs often involved historical themes, Saxon began their careers with songs that stressed their working class background. How far Saxon has come, is truly remarkable. Heading into their fourth decade, the band has been one of the most productive heavy metal acts in the post 2000 era, and amazingly their music seems to keep getting stronger.
Besides the documentary, the Bluray also includes a number of bonus features, highlighted by a 1981 appearance on The Beat Club (57 minutes), and a 2008 St. George Day live performance (51 minutes). The Beat Club footage is classic material, which illustrates how important Graham Oliver was, and how well he and Paul Quinn complemented each other. A 20 page booklet with some cool photos, rounds out the package.