Die hards will swarm to this one
Starting out as one of the founders of the emerging N.W.O.B.H.M. (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) in the late '70's/early '80's, Saxon has maintained a successful career throughout their thirty years in the metal scene where many of those from the same era have simply disappeared into obscurity. From the late '90's, Saxon's particular brand of traditional/power metal has witnessed quite a resurgence in popularity (Particularly throughout Europe), with their 2004 release Lionheart hailed by many as one of the band's strongest releases in more than a decade.
In celebration of this classic release, Saxon documented the entire experience for future prosperity, which has eventually been compiled on their new double D.V.D. To Hell And Back (Which coincidentally is released a mere eight months after the release of their equally praised seventeenth studio release The Inner Sanctum).
The first D.V.D. begins with the documentary entitled 'The Movie'. In just under two hours, The Movie lays bare everything from the band's recording of Lionheart, the promotion behind the album (Including the behind the scenes footage while making the promotional video clips for Beyond The Grave and Witchfinder General, the creation of the album artwork and the lyrical content), the beginning of the tour, the eventual end of the long three year cycle and everything in-between. The documentary boasts interviews from all the members of the group throughout (Vocalist Peter 'Biff' Byford, guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, bassist Tim 'Nibbs' Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler), along with various live footage shot throughout their all encompassing world tour.
On the positive side, the interview footage is refreshingly honest, and very British-like in its delivery (Particularly in the humour). The spliced live footage is also genuinely realistic, with the band putting in some truly commanding performances (Especially the band's cover of King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King), whether they happen to be performing in front of a few hundred people in a club, or to a sea of ten's of thousands at a festival. For those strictly after the live performances only, there is an option. Again, there's plenty of variation between performances, with the contrast between the band's smaller club gigs and stadium shows on offer. But on the negative side of things, The Movie as a whole tends to drag a little. At close to two hours long, only the true diehard Saxon fans will manage to maintain an interest throughout the entire disc in the one sitting.
On the second disc, Saxon still has plenty to offer up fans, starting with a collection of promotional video clips. After seeing the making-of segments on the first disc, many will be interested in seeing the completed versions of Beyond The Grave and Witchfinder General. Apart from those two, we're also offered up If I Was You, Let Me Feel Your Power (All of which are lifted from 2007's The Inner Sanctum) and the single version of I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive) (Which features guest vocals from Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, Helloween's Andi Deris and Rose Tattoo's Angry Anderson).
There's also a twelve track live performance from the group's Rocksound Festival appearance in Switzerland in 2006. In terms of clarity, consistency and performance, this particular performance alone is worth paying the money for To Hell And Back Again, even if the crowd does seem a little unresponsive. Elsewhere, there's a rendition of Judas Priest's You've Got Another Thing Comin' with Doro (Which originally appeared on Doro's 2007 D.V.D. 20 Years: A Warrior Soul), and two solid performances (Man And Machine and Requiem (We Will Remember)) from Rock For Asia 2005.
Saxon still has what it takes some thirty years after they first began both in the studio and on the live front. But where the band seems to falter a little is on the D.V.D. front. To Hell And Back Again is interesting, but overall a little lacking compared to their 2003 effort The Saxon Chronicles.
But for all of the negatives pointed out, Saxon fans will find plenty of classic metal in To Hell And Back Again to keep them entertained. Newcomers on the other hand might be advised to start out with the band's last few albums before venturing into the band's latest D.V.D. effort.