Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live : Eagles Over Wacken

Saxon are without doubt one of the biggest icons of the NWOBHM movement from the late 70’s/early 80’s. They have been rocking us for some 30+ years, and they show no signs of letting up any time soon. These guys are among those that I grew up listening to, and were the breast milk of my heavy metal education.

Their new DVD/Album package is being released in several formats. The version I’ve been given contains a THREE HOUR DVD of live footage from their appearances at Wacken Open Air Festival from 2004, 2007 and 2009, bundled with a live double CD totaling 24 tracks recorded in Glasgow during 2011 on their Call To Arms  tour. Total that up, and you have 5 hours or more of classic British heavy metal. That’s a lot of rocking…..

The packaging is very good with a nice photo booklet featuring live shots, and a neat little digipack to keep it all in, so that it’s no bigger than a regular double CD case. The DVD obviously has set up for both stereo and Dolby 5.1 surround, and the sound quality from my home cinema system was very good. A DVD can never re-create the sound of a live concert, no matter how hard it tries, but I have heard some truly awful attempts at using the surround format for a live DVD. Thankfully, this is not one such occasion.

Another thing that never fails to amaze is the sheer power that still remains in the vocals of Biff Byford. He has one of the most distinctive voices in the rock world, and he can still belt out the tunes the way he did 30 years ago. The twin axe attack of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt is an interesting combination, as they are both totally different guitarists that have their own individual sounds. You can tell that during their respective solos, but when playing together their styles meld together to create a fatter sound. Nibbs Carter wields his bass menacingly and plays it equally as scarily. Yep the three guitarists certainly look as though they’re going to slice you in two at any second. All of this of course is kept together by the thundering sound of the skinsman Nigel Glockler. The band are very tight, having played together for a very long time, and they feed off each other all the time and the stage presence is nothing less than charismatic, you just have to keep watching.

The track listing reads, naturally, as a greatest hits compilation. Incorporating some of the classic Saxon tracks with the more up do date tunes, and it’s enough to keep it varied. I was worried that towards the end of the 177 minutes of DVD footage I would be getting a bit bored but I didn’t. It managed to hold my interest all of the way through. That could be something to do with the fact that I like Saxon a lot, or it could just be that it’s a very good DVD. That said though, if you’re not a fan of Saxon then you’ll unlikely buy this DVD, which renders my previous statement a moot point….

Any live album is a piece of history, marking a certain chapter of the band at that particular moment in time. This live album however features performances spanning 7 years (if you include the CD’s as well) so this is more of a documentary, without the unnecessary story telling. It’s also authored so that the tracks aren’t in chronological order on the DVD, so the different years are interspersed with each other. That also helps to keep it interesting, as you’re not watching the same thing for extended periods. I’ll admit that it’s the same band, but with the constant costume changing, different guitars, hairstyles etc, it breaks up the visuals enough to keep them fresh.

If you’re a fan of Saxon then this is going to be an essential purchase, as it’s a huge slab of rock history. For those of you who might not know who these guys are, then it’s worth checking out, to see just how us Brits did things 30 years ago, and in fact, how we’re still doing it. This is a friendly reminder that British rock music is still the best, and that the NWOBHM movement wasn’t just an accident. Oh and did I mention that it’s FIVE HOURS of pure heavy metal, from true masters of their craft. That should be a big enough selling point on it’s own……