Music Video Distribution
Cast: Paul Di'Anno, Dennis Stratton, Brian Tatler, Rob Weir, Neil Kay, Jerry Ewing
Extras: Extended Interviews, Featurette, Interactive Quiz
For old-school Heavy Metal fans, a documentary about the inception and rise of their favorite music in the late 70s is always a godsend. If that documentary focuses on Iron Maiden, it becomes all the more valuable as Maiden has clearly become the most lasting and successful act coming out of that musical movement, celebrating successes and selling out arenas even 30 years after gigging in nightclubs around London.
But this is not an Iron Maiden documentary, let me get that straight. "Iron Maiden And The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal" is a look at the musical developments in the late 70s that spawned the rise of new wave metal bands such as Saxon, Def Leppard, Praying Mantis, Diamond Head, Samson, The Tygers Of Pan Tang and Iron Maiden. At the time, no one knew they were new wave – especially not the musicians themselves. The music they made was simply a reaction to the tastes of the time. Kicking Punk Rock into high gear and adding real musical virtuosity to the mix, these bands quickly found an audience. Spurred by the success of acts such as Judas Priest, Motörhead and AC/DC, this young generation of aggressive musicians carved out a segment of the market for themselves that would soon dominate the charts and eventually turn Heavy Metal into a mainstream music form that would later spawn some of the most successful records of the music industry.
Like many musical trends, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had its share of success stories and countless imitators who never had what it takes to begin with. But there were also a number of bands who should have made it that didn't. In this documentary, the filmmakers sat down with a number of the people who drove the industry at the time, such as Metal Hammer journalists, Sounds magazine editors and writers, record producers as well as legendary Soundhouse DJ Neil Kay to tell the whole story. We learn how these bands played their local gigs in front of small audiences until Neil Kay opened the floodgates by turning the Soundhouse into a metal-only discotheque. This gave these bands exposure outside their familiar home turf and quickly everyone wanted to play the Soundhouse – including Iron Maiden whose "Soundhouse Tapes" demo recordings are legendary to this date.
This created demand for this new kind of music that quickly translated into air play of certain bands on radio stations as well as coverage in music magazines. Before anyone knew what was really happening, there was a music movement going on that would influence the world and change the face of rock music within the short span of 2 years.
The documentary not only tells the history of the genre through the eyes of writers and industry people, but also through the eyes of the musicians themselves. Iron Maiden's original line-up members Paul Di'Anno and Dennis Stratton have plenty of face time in the film to recall the days when Maiden started to take off – and fortunately the years seem to have tempered much of the bad blood that followed their departure from the band. Also included are ample interview clips with Diamond Head's Brian Tatler, Tyger's own Rob Weir, Samson's drummer Thundersticks, the Troy Brothers who made up Praying Mantis and others. The result is a 150 minute ride down memory lane where every fan of the era will be reminded of some of the long forgotten highlights. Including some rare early footage and photographs of the band – including an very early video interview snippet with Iron Maiden's Steve Harris – this film is truly a treasure trove. The only sad thing about it is that it does not feature interviews with Iron Maiden members, such as Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson or Dave Murray to get their recollection of the early days.
The DVD offers a fullframe presentation of the documentary with a Dolby Stereo sound track. Both are serving their purpose perfectly well. Image quality is mixed, of course, with old video tape footage and faded photographs sprinkled in you can't expect too much. Most of us are glad that these images still exist in the first place. I would have liked some subtitles or closed-captions to gloss over the inconsistent audio levels in the interviews, but that's a minor quibble, really.
There is something special about seeing Iron Maiden on their first TV appearance playing at "Top Of The Pops" – insisting to play live when everyone else on the show was lip synching. The raw energy, the opportunity to see Di'Anno and Stratton as part of the band, all these are true gems, no matter how poor the quality of the material may be.
There are also a few extras on the release, such as an interactive quiz, additional interview clips, a small featurette about the radio station Radio 1 that championed many of the bands at the time.
Go, get your fix. Clearly "Iron Maiden And The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal" is a DVD that every true old-school metal head should check out. It simply rocks!