5 hours of Saxon…Bliss

“You’re reviewing the new Saxon DVD?” Asked my mate who is a huge Saxon fan. “I hope you’re going to give it 5 stars,” to which I asked why. “Because it’s Saxon.” He said and carried on brushing up. After telling him that Room Thirteen doesn’t deal in stars, five or otherwise, nor does it use the often clichéd 10 out of 10 system, I realised that it was nice to hear such a reaction to a new Saxon release. For too long I’ve heard, “Are they still going?” and “I’ve heard the name, but…” It’s not a response you want to hear to a band that helped mould the NWOBHM and in many ways shaped metal as it is today. Saxon persevere however, and for stalwart fans such as my mate, and the many around the world, this five hour long DVD of Saxon both in the studio and out on the road is a mouth watering spectacle.

‘To Hell And Back Again’ features two DVDs. The first disc is a documentary featuring the band’s life between two albums, including the ‘Lionheart’ studio recordings plus clips from the subsequent tour that took in WOA 2004 to name just one show. The second DVD consists mainly of live recordings from Rocksounds Festival, Switzerland 2006, Rock For Asia 2005 and a duet of ‘You’ve got another thing coming’ with Doro. Add some promo videos from the latest album, ‘The Inner Sanctum’, as well as full length versions of all the songs that appeared on disc 1 and you have a package that is good value for money.

The documentary is the usual band shenanigans from recording to touring. It’s interesting to see how bands work. Who has the ultimate power? Who has the ideas? Who chooses the direction and so forth? ‘To Hell…’ doesn’t disappoint on that notion. You also realise that Biff is a focused but stubborn man, but he has to be, and perhaps the reason why Saxon are still going after all these years. It centres around the ‘Lionheart’ recordings which gives it a dated feel. They’ve made a killer album since then and it would have been nice to have witnessed how ‘The Inner Sanctum’ was conceived. But it takes nothing away from life behind the instruments so to speak. Thankfully, the DVD is almost devoid of fans who like to queue outside venues and shout the name of their favourite band three-inches from the camera lens. In fact, the thing that comes across with Saxon is the whole Englishness of it all, from the embarrassment of shooting a promo to drinking wine, (not dirty beer, but wine).
The live footage is excellent. The sound is well balanced and breathes life into the old classics such as ‘Motorcycle Man’ and ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’. Saxon is a band that excels on stage and is the reason why disc 2 is far more appealing. The documentary is nice to watch, but I don’t think it will receive numerous spins unlike the second DVD. I would go as far to say that most new bands would be content on releasing the second disc on its own, an indication of what a good package this really is.

The promos are nothing you can’t find on ‘You Tube’ but they’re a nice added extra. I found it interesting that the DVD had only one subtitle option which was German, not even English. I think this goes a long way to explain where Saxon’s main fan base is located. Thankfully, I’m not hard of hearing and could understand every word Biff and boys were saying. As a fan of their older material it would have been a nice touch to have seen more of the live clips, promos and interviews of the band growing over the years. Iron Maiden have led the way in this approach with both their ’12 Wasted Years’ video (yes, video) and more recently ‘The Early Days’. I think the ‘To Hell And Back Again’ documentary would have benefited immensely from this sort angle, but hopefully that will be an idea for the future. Whatever nitpicking I may be doing this still doesn’t detract from the fact that this DVD is a good value for money and a great watch. A must for all Saxon fans. Now, how do I translate 4 stars into a number out of 13?