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Saxon - 'Heavy Metal Thunder - The Movie' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/15/b5/3f/3220_saxonheavymetalthunderthemovie_1359591430.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 31, 2013    
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A well-crafted and entertaining documentary.

Saxon have been enjoying what have arguably been the best years of their career since 2004’s rebirth with ‘Lionheart’. A further three albums along and they’re still on peak-form, both onstage and in the studio. However, as with many longstanding bands there have been some line-up changes and ill-fated albums down the years, and there are those fans who prefer the classic ‘Wheels Of Steel’ line-up of Byford/Oliver/Quinn/Dawson/Gill than the current Byford/Quinn/Scaratt/Carter/Glockler incarnation. Where ever your allegiance lies there’s no question that both line-ups have produced some seriously outstanding heavy metal albums.

This long-awaited documentary details the band’s entire career from their origins as a struggling band in South Yorkshire under the moniker Son Of A Bitch to their initial record deal with the French label Carrere, their name change to Saxon and success with ‘Wheels Of Steel’, and the subsequent albums before selling out to the American radio with the love-it-or-hate-it ‘Crusader’ and then slowly finding success again with the metal fanbase in the 1990s and beyond. The documentary also touches on the disputes between Byford and Quinn and former members, Oliver and Dawson. Do fans want to see a reunion? It’s an ongoing debate but Byford doesn’t seem especially interested. There’s some bad blood between both camps but also some respect too. The documentary attempts to bring a balanced view to the argument. Former drummer Pete Gill refused to give an interview, which is a shame, while the standout interviewee has got to be Steve “Dobby” Dawson. He is hilarious with a series of fantastic anecdotes about copious cups of tea (no booze!,) sex in the back of Transit vans and drugs during life on the road. There are some anecdotes from Lemmy from the ‘Bomber’ tour which Saxon supported but the best tales of life on the road come from when they spent several years as a struggling outfit touring South Wales and the North East in the ‘70s.

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Saxon are probably the true kings of the underground metal scene, more so than Motorhead as Saxon have never shied away from the term, and this documentary shows the strong-headed determination of mainman Biff Byford. Metal needs guys like Lemmy and Biff. There’s a small interview with both legends together in the same room backstage at Motorhead’s 30th Anniversary gig at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, which I was fortunate enough to attend. My only criticism of the film is that it needed some padding out with interviewees; sure there’s Lars Ulrich doing his usual thing and Lemmy is always witty and articulate, but there could have been more musicians paying tribute to the band other than the very brief snippets at the beginning from Doro and members of Gamma Ray, Airbourne and Machine Head. It would have been good to get more input from the American thrash bands other than Metallica’s drummer.

‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ is a well-crafted and entertaining documentary and while it’s not as flashy as the Rush documentary ‘Beyond The Lighted Stage’ or as moving as the Anvil film, it is still must-see viewing for Saxon and metal fans alike. The second disc features a bunch of bonus material, including a full concert that was recorded on St. George’s Day, April 23, 2008

Neil Daniels

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