There’s something to be said for perseverance and there aren’t many metal bands as prolific at this stage of their career as British stalwarts Saxon. “The Saxon Chronicles” is the third release (alright, it’s a re-release but it still counts) from the band since their last studio album, 2013’s “Sacrifice“, and is a mixed bag of goodies spanning the band’s early days with their classic line-up through to 2001 and their triumphant set at that year’s Wacken Open Air Festival.
A look at the second DVD disc in the collection is where the longtime fans will likely find the most joy as there are literally dozens of TV clips of the band throughout the 1980s – including vintage Top of the Pops footage and an interview with a very young Richard Madeley on Yorkshire TV – and into the ’90s and with singer Biff Byford being given a tour of the Big Breakfast house by Keith Chegwin. There’s nothing overly exciting here – unless you consider the sight of Cheggers in a leather Saxon tour jacket exciting – but old-school Saxon fans will lap up the NWOBHM setting of the early videos and, if anything, it does give an indication of why Saxon have remained eternally popular amongst British metal fans.
Probably the most interesting (and amusing) part of this disc is the 10-minute behind-the-scenes footage of Biff Byford trying to lip synch for the video to ‘Unleash the Beast’ and cracking up, just before bassist Nibbs Carter and guitarist Paul Quinn have to mime with their instruments on a hill top and Carter has to ‘sing’ a chorus to get his mark. It all looks so easy when you see today’s pop acts miming on TV…
As is the nature of odds-n’-sods collections “The Saxon Chronicles” is designed for the hardcore fans who simply must have every news snippet and video clip that the band have ever put out, and on that level it succeeds. But what makes this package a possible curio for the as-yet unconverted is the inclusion of the band’s 2001 Wacken Open Air set on DVD. Showcasing the band as their commercial momentum was beginning to pick up again during the declining nu metal years, this is a Saxon hungry and out for blood as they tear through a set of established classics like ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Wheels of Steel’ and ‘Denim and Leather’ plus more modern material like ‘Metalhead’ and ‘Cut Out the Disease’, and if anybody should need convincing of why heavy metal has such a fanatical following then this show is probably all you would need to show them. The fans-only nature of live DVD’s aside, the sight of a sweaty Biff Byford lit up by an eagle lighting rig during the audience participation part of ‘Wheels of Steel’ is all you need to see to want to be a part of this thing called metal, and if an on-fire Saxon can’t convince you then nothing will.
Rounding things out with “Rock n’ Roll Gypsies”, a live album recorded in 1989 that may not ignite like the Wacken set but is still as tight as the band’s spandex, “The Saxon Chronicles” is a must-have set for the faithful but also has a little bit of intrigue for those curious about Barnsley’s Big Teasers and why, in 2015, they remain as well-loved and vital as they ever did.