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Saxon always perform well and the shows at Wacken Open Air are no exceptions and I've also seen two of the shows, displayed on this DVD, on location. This band play sets well over two hours and still give their fans what they came for, even if the festival sets usually are shorter due to obvious reasons. This DVD sums up their three latest shows at Wacken cut to a 160 minute show and since Heavy Metal Thunder - Live is released in a variety of formats, a DVD with all three full shows is available as well.
In recent years Wacken more and more have turned out to an event, rather than a one hundred percent metal festival and many German metalheads nowadays prefer visiting other festivals instead. Even if there are up to 80,000 ticketholders, there seldom are that crowded on the actual festival area. The distance in the safety zone between the stage and the front row is way too long and it's hard for the crowd and the band to interact, which I think is visible on the DVD. After three or four long days and nights, often with serious amounts of alcohol ingested, metal festivals are exhausting experiences and the crowd's endurance is impressive nevertheless.
To film performances at festivals is nothing new, as it's a rather smart move for bands like Saxon that don't play arenas on their world tours. The settings of lights, depth, size, number of cameras, etc can not be compared to shows at clubs or at thousand capacity venues. When this DVD flips back and forwards between three different shows in five years, I think it gets rather annoying seeing the band change their clothes faster than Superman in a phone booth and I lose track when there's no continuity, even if sixteen songs and over half of the playing time is from '07 and with only four songs from '04; three of them with former drummer Fritz Randow.
Most songs are state of the art. One favorite is followed by next, even if a couple of songs shouldn't have made it to this best of-version. Songs like Unleash The Beast and The Eagle Has Landed are proven to be at their very best when played live. Bassist Nibbs Carter's almost constant headbanging and movement adds another dimension to their live performances and lead vocalist, Biff Byford, have total control, even if the front row is far from him. The picture quality could have been better. It's not all sharp and there's also a big difference in stage lighting between the oldest and the latest recordings.
What about the bonus features? Nothing extraordinary and also way too short. The behind the scenes-part, where the band talks about Wacken, is just over ten minutes long. Also included is a slideshow with pictures from '92-'09. That's it. Bonus material are however just bonuses and clearly on this DVD, they were just added for the sake of having some special features to follow the main purpose with this release. My recommendation would be to check out the full shows rather than this version, even if this is a decent piece of work.
also review of: Thunderbolt
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