Released: 2012, Nuclear Blast Records
I hate these multi-format, digipaks. They are so hard to figure out. Is it a DVD with a bonus CD? Is it a CD with a bonus DVD? Where do I file it with my CD’s or DVD’s? What a pain. Unfortunately, the packaging for Kataklysm’s IRON WILL falls in that category. Well, for me I’m officially classifying it as a DVD with two bonus CD’s. The sticker on the front says it is documentary so that’s what I’m classifying it as, that’s why it is in our Vicious Viewing section instead of our normal CD review section. Back to the packaging for a moment (I don’t know why I worry about such unimportant things) the presentation is a bit weak. The four discs come housed on a regular digipak. The is no booklet but instead there is a big, fold-out poster style sheet with very little information. No lyrics, very little info about the live concert. Where was the concert? When was the concert? The design and layout and very visually appealing and the grey landscape works well with the bands ominous and looming spiky logo. Despite the odd presentation, this collection is really Kataklysm’s 20th Anniversary package and in that sense it is really, really cool. Content is king and we can certainly overlook the design issues.
The documentary is utterly massive. It is over five and a half hours long! I’m not kidding. To the best of my knowledge it is the longest Metal documentary ever produced, unless perhaps if you include all the three Iron Maiden documentaries on DVD as one film. I don’t. IRON WILL is almost too long. That is a long time to sit through any documentary even for a die-hard fan of the band. I broke it into three viewing sessions (2 hours, 1.5 hours on DVD One and 2 hours on DVD Two). The documentary is very thorough with tons of still shots of the old days, old footage, grainy VHS bootleg footage and more. Many people are interviewed, friends, roadies, tour Managers, Managers, Record industry people, and almost every ex-member even Sylvain Houde, which was a major treat. The doc runs chronologically following every album, every tour, every line-up change and more. IRON WILL is amazingly in-depth and well done. Although much of it is Maurizio and the other guys sitting in front of a plain backdrop talking, there are enough visual extras to make it interesting. Each chapter roughly corresponds with a phase in the bands career. The mood is also kept a bit light because all sorts of musical sound-effects and noises are added. Some of the stories and footage will bend your mind! You really get a sense of how hard it is too be a working musician. My favourite segment was probably the story of the disastrous tour of Mexico in 1995. I can’t imagine what the band had to endure to live the dream and it is not surprising that Max quit (for the first time) after that tour.
The film could have been edited slightly differently to cut it’s run time. For example, spliced through the actual film itself were clips of ‘Max TV’ which was essentially home-movies from the road as a cameraman followed drummer Max around, backstage, goofing around. While fun and entertaining, it really interrupted the flow of the film. For example, Maurizio would be very seriously discussing some album or event and suddenly it cuts to Max goofing around and some live footage from a couple of years ago. There are quite a few of these ‘Max TV’ segments and I think they could have all been compiled as a bonus feature, called it some sort of ‘Video Tour Diary’ (which is exactly what is was) and reduced the run time of the actual, historical documentary by maybe an hour. I’ve seen many Metal documentaries and IRON WILL is certainly one of the very best.
The two bonus CD’s are pretty cool. CD One is the audio of the Summer Breeze concert in it’s entirety, which is good because I don’t like it when a band releases an edited version of the concert (usually dropping drum solos and stage/crowd banter). This is technically Kataklysm’s third live album and I hope one day it gets issued as a stand alone CD in a jewel case with it’s own booklet. Officially titled ON FIRE AT SUMMER BREEZE, it is a 16-track effort that runs a little over an hour and thankfully only has five tracks repeated from the last live album in 2006, LIVE IN DEUTSCHLAND-THE DEVASTATION BEGINS. Come to think of it…LIVE IN DEUTSCHLAND was never released separately either, it was a bonus on the DVD. That a bad habit the band has to break and start releasing these live albums as live albums, not just a bonus CD with a DVD. Oh well. The sound is fantastic and the performances are energetic and inspired. Recorded on August 19th, 2011 in Dinkelsbühl, Bavaria, Germany it’s a great concert of the band at the height of their power. This is far superior to NORTHERN HYPERBLAST LIVE!
CD Two is a 19 track greatest Hits CD spanning most, but not all, of the band’s career. It would have been nice if they had included more information about what song was from album, what year etc. In terms of being a 20th anniversary retrospective, the track selection is quite weak. There is no logical sequence to the songs and there are no songs from VICTIMS FROM THE FALLEN WORLD (understandable because it is a different record label) and nothing from THE PROPHECY either. The songs are weighed heavily (9 of 18 from the last 3 albums) from the last five years. I would have liked to see a couple cuts from each of the nine albums instead.
Most significantly there is one new unreleased track called ‘Iron Will’ and it is classic Kataklysm. It doesn’t say if it was a left over from an album session or a brand new track. My feeling is that it is a brand new track recorded for this package especially because the lyrics are self-referential and inspiration. This is the kind of info they should have included in the package. When was this song recorded? Where was this song recorded? This is the kind of little extra stuff true fans want to know and should have been included in the booklet. Regardless, it’s a good song!
Although I was critical of this package in many aspects, ultimately those things are probably not that important to most fans. What is cool is that this monster 9+ hour, four-disc set will give you everything you ever wanted to see, hear and know about one of Canada’s greatest Death Metal bands at an amazingly low-price too! The movie is great, the concert is great and the bonus CD’s give you lots of extras too. IRON WILL-20 YEARS DETERMINED is a fine testament to this legendary band.