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Live albums: The Good, The Bad and The Noisy

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    Posted: 25 Nov 2015 at 3:28am
This is an article I wrote quite some years ago about live albums. I own all the albums mentioned here. I have also acquired a lot more since. This is a long-ish article, but I hope it's of interest to someone out there! Oh yeah, if anything seems out of date, it's because of when I wrote it.

A Matter Of Live Or Death

The live album. Often maligned, sometimes misunderstood, a live album is the ultimate measure of the ability of a band. It is logistically difficult for many fans to ever get to see their favourite bands play live, so a live album is often the next best substitute. Most Metal bands were born for the stage, and thrive in the live environment. Others however, can’t match what they do in the studio, and either let the end product suffer or cheat. Sometimes used as a cynical stopgap or a label cash in, a good live album should be an event in itself.

 

A good live album should give a good indication of what a band sounds like. It should sound live, that is, mistakes shouldn’t be erased. It should convey whatever feeling the band generates live, be it energy, emotion or aggression. The ideal live album would be a single recording of an entire show. The missing visual element should not matter, letting the music speak rather than stage antics. Even if a fan owns studio versions of all the songs on a live album, the desire should be there to want this recording too.

 

This examination of live albums is by no means exhaustive or definitive. These are just what I have in my collection. There’s no pretence of objectivity whatsoever. This is just my opinions and my analysis, and my ranking of the albums, and no one else’s.

 

Setting The Standards

 

First things first, what are some albums which have been universally praised as being good live representations?

 

It's hard to go past 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith' (1981) by Motorhead. Often called the greatest live Metal album of all time, it shot straight to the top of the UK album charts, unheard of for a Metal album since the heyday of Black Sabbath. For it's time, it was heavy, fast and loose, and the success of the album was a tribute to the sub-cultures which Motorhead represented in the UK, and was a wake-up call to polite society as to the size of the not always visible underclasses. The album was recorded all round the UK while Motorhead were on tour during 1980 and 1981, and takes in a fair representation of the best of the band's early material. A nice touch is the intro to 'We Are The Road Crew', where one of the band's roadies introduces the song by screaming incomprehensibly. Unfortunately, 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith' hasn't aged as well as the seemingly indestructible Lemmy, and now feels dated. However, the album is a true representation of what used to be the cutting edge of Metal, and is an essential study in the history of Metal.

 

Iron Maiden reset the standard for Metal live albums in 1985 with the massive 'Live After Death'. Also rattling the top of the album charts, 'Live After Death' documented Iron Maiden's meteoric rise from promising young band in 1980 to unparalleled arena filling Metal Gods in 1985, culminating in "The World Slavery Tour". Double live albums had been the domain of overindulgent progressive rock bands of the 1970s, padding out songs with screeds of pointless musical masturbation, which may have been captivating in the atmosphere of the live environment, but comes across as plain dull on record. Maiden however needed no padding. With five studio albums selling by the truckload the world over, what would be left off the album? No expense was spared on the album, squeezing a shade under 100 minutes of music onto a double album. The band played multiple shows at Long Beach Arena and the Hammersmith Odeon, giving plenty of opportunity to set up and record the album. The time and effort spent to get everything right shows. The sound is near on perfect, and as a representation of a live Iron Maiden show, the only thing missing is a 12 foot tall Egyptian mummy rampaging through your lounge, and being crushed by hundreds of sweaty beer guts clad in Maiden regalia. Everything was left in the recording, including the odd dud note and Bruce Dickinson missing some of the lyrics in "The Number Of The Beast". Best of all is the crowd reaction and noise. During the dying notes of "Revelations", a member of the audience yells out "motherfucker!" quite clearly. The band tried to no avail to find the person responsible, to buy him a beer. Like all Maiden albums, even the presentation of the album is amazing, with a typical Derek Riggs cover and extensive liner notes outlining the process of recording the album, as well as facts and figures of the tour.

 

Flogging A Dead Horse

 

A lot of bands record live shows, songs and other bits and pieces during their careers, but for one reason or another, never release them. Suddenly, after the band has left their record label or disbanded, these live recordings pop up again as if out of nowhere. These are a nasty money grabbing cash in, of which the band is more than likely to see very little, if anything. How to identify such recordings: the band says "Don't buy this album!" Now, most bands aren't generally in a financial position where they can produce albums just for the hell of it, and then decide not to promote it.

 

Scott Ian from Anthrax was quite vocal in his opposition to the release of 'Live: The Island Years' (1991), telling anyone who would listen not to buy it, and quite rightly so. It was recorded on the band's groundbreaking tour with Rappers Public Enemy, which was interesting enough in it's own right, but Anthrax is and was first and foremost a Metal band. A large whack of this album is taken up with collaborations between the artists rather than Anthrax's own material. It is also shoddily recorded, reeking of a rush job. Unfortunately, it sold on the fact that Anthrax had little other live material available and as Island Records reckoned correctly, there was still a market for it.

 

San Francisco Thrashers Death Angel were best known for being five very young Filipino cousins discovered by Kirk Hammett. Now, what Hammett was doing with a group of Asian teens still remains a matter for speculation, but the boys proved they knew their stuff with three albums which earned them both critical acclaim and popular support. Unfortunately, the band ruptured right on the brink of breaking through to the big time. While a number of questions will always remain unanswered, the question of whether or not they could reproduce their sound on record in the live arena was answered- a resounding yes. Everything on 'Fall From Grace' (1990) from Mark Oseguda's higher-than-helium vocals, to the impressive twin guitar attack, and Andy Galeon's quick fire drumming is all laid out perfectly. It's just a shame the record label forgot to ask the band before releasing it.

 

Obituary hadn't exactly broken up when "Dead" (1998) was released, but they didn't exactly have a lot planned after the "Back From The Dead" tour either. It hinted at the "release something while we've still got 'em" syndrome. It wasn't a high priority for Roadrunner either. They were in the middle of a Death Metal purge, opting to chase the Nu youth market instead. The sound quality is sharp and heavy, and this is a complete recording of a single show, proving the band wasn't just a studio wonder. Really the only things missing are John Tardy's swirling hair and Trevor Peres' spooky eyes. However, it all seems a bit low budget. Hey, it might have had the biggest recording budget Roadrunner have ever spent, it just seems cheap, which is a shame.

 

We've Gotta Get It Right

 

Special occasions come along which should be recorded for posterity, or a few bucks, but because of the nature of the occasion, there's only one shot at recording it, and the results vary wildly.

 

One of the successes was recorded on August 6 1996, at The Palace, Los Angeles. The occasion was The Ramone's 2263rd, and last, gig. 'We're Outta Here' (1997) caught the atmosphere of the show flawlessly, and showed even after all those live performances, Joey Ramone still sang flat, Johnny Ramone still struggled with anything beyond a third chord, Marky could still count to four, and CJ, well, he was still on a high from being asked to play for the band. Only three tracks of 32 hit the three minute mark, and the show was The Ramones' usual blend of New York Punk classics and cheesy revved up covers. Guest musicians included half of Soundgarden, half of Rancid, Eddie Vedder, Lemmy and Dee Dee Ramone. Fittingly, the end of the line for The Ramones sounded like a party where everyone was invited, rather than a wake.

 

Anthrax side project S.O.D. was always meant to be a spontaneous, almost disposable burst of comic Crossover noise. When the band recorded the seminal 'Speak English Or Die' in 1985, S.O.D. played together live a grand total of seven times. Everyone thought that would be the end of it. For no good reason however, S.O.D. was resurrected in 1992 for a live show. 'Live At Budokan' is rough around the edges, but it's meant to be. Billy Milano is an awful singer, but not a bad shouter, and is the perfect brash Noo Yawk frontman for the band. Between songs he abuses members of the audience who need it, points out the risks to stage divers, and even farts into the microphone. Despite minimal rehearsal, the rest of the band, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante from Anthrax, and Dan Lilker, formerly of Anthrax and countless bands besides, are tight. Having only recorded the one album, and not a very long one at that, the band played a number of covers. Milano didn't even know the words to Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings", but struggled through. Oddly, some members of the audience didn't seem to understand where the band were coming from. Milano had to tell the pit how to behave several times, and there were boos from the crowd when "ballad time" was announced. Any fan worth his salt knows that an S.O.D. ballad is a short song which takes a riff, plays it twice and ends with "You're dead!" Overall, it sounds like a riot and probably was.

 

Nailbomb was the short lived Max Cavalera/Alex Newport collaboration which threw together mechanical Industrial rhythms with Hardcore bluster. 'Proud To Commit Commercial Suicide' (1995) is a recording of the band's second, and last, live performance, and it's a downright mess. The band was performing at the Dynamo Festival in 1995. Being a one-off outdoor performance meant recording would be difficult, and it seemed to be. The liner notes say "The Dynamo show is full of mistakes and technical problems, but that's how it was on the day. We think it captures the spirit of the band, unlike a lot of (live) albums today."  Most noticeably, samples seemed to drift off into the wind, and some of the tuneless vocals would have been better if they'd gone the same way. A lack of rehearsal showed, with cues missed, notes messed up, and a general feel of sloppiness and amateurism. It may be spontaneous, but it sure as hell isn't worth releasing as an album.

 

Unplugged albums are horrible, soulless abominations which hardly deserve the label "live", and Nirvana's 'MTV Unplugged In New York' (1994) is no exception. Nirvana rapidly outgrew the live environment which spawned them, and ended up as the ultimate fish out of water in this insipid non-threatening acoustic nightmare, surrounded by sycophants and music industry parasites. The point of these albums is to wring money out of braindead mass media consumers by offering up inoffensive "alternate" versions of songs they already know. (I suppose I better own up to having bought this album for myself the day it was released.) Nirvana needed amplifiers and electricity to help spark up their songs. Two of their biggest hits,  "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Heart Shaped Box" aren't even included on the album (perish the thought of acoustic versions of EITHER of those songs!), and half of the album is covers. This album rips off the band's integrity and the fan's money. The record company was probably quite happy though.

 

The Sex Pistols... Oh dear. In 1977 they were four skinny spotty teens who couldn't play, but still managed to give the music world a kick in the ass. The Sex Pistols' 1996 reunion saw them as four aging men of varying waistlines who still couldn't play, and admitted they were only in it for the money. All the fire was gone, replaced by cynicism and sloth, and 'Filthy Lucre Live' sounds like a karaoke covers band wallowing in self-pity. The only saving grace of this album is that at least it's not an MTV Unplugged album...

 

D- Could Do Better!

 

Generally, if a band has a great live reputation, and usually delivers good studio albums, you'd expect a decent live album. Unfortunately, they don't always deliver.

 

Perhaps Guns n Roses were doomed from the start, having combined such a mix of egos and abilities, but "Appetite For Destruction" (1987) was a storming album. True, the follow-ups were progressively worse, but even the lameness of "The Spaghetti Incident?" is no preparation for "Live Era '87-'93" (1999). It's cut up from the band's performances when they were supposedly at their peak (read: actually appearing on the same stage all at once), but from all the highlights you'd expect, it's pretty damn thin. Axl's whiny stage banter is damned annoying, and there's too much focus on the acoustic material. Everyone loved the Gunners because they fucking rocked, not because they could write insipid weepy ballads. Yes, there are 10 of the 12 tracks from "Appetite For Destruction" here, and the inclusion of "Used To Love Her" is great, but who the hell wants to hear "Dust n' Bones", "Yesterdays", "It's Alright", and another live version of "Move To The City" when we could have had "Coma" or "Anything Goes" or "Get In The Ring".

 

Nirvana's electric live album "From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah" (1996) is also cut up from all over the place, recorded from soundboards and for TV shows, mostly through Europe. The main conclusion to be drawn from the whole album is that Nirvana were fucking lazy live, like a laid back, sloppy Blues band. Everything threatens to fall apart at times. And Cobain ain't no fucking guitar genius. Sure, he had a good ear for a pop melody, but he was a shit guitarist, out of tune, out of time and off key. Loyal fans can bleat about his guitar style being all over the place deliberately, as part of the personality of the band, but it's down to being shit at it.

 

The big news in the melodic Death Metal world in 2001 was that a chick called Angela Gossow had replaced Arch Enemy vocalist Johan Liiva. Well, I'm not surprised he got the sack. On "Burning Japan Live 1999" (2000) he spent half of the album sucking. Um, and he blew for the other half... The music isn't too bad, although the melodic element of the band seemed to have robbed them of their bollocks at times. Liiva however is uniformly dreadful throughout. It's no wonder he got replaced by a girl. She had more testosterone.

 

In Flames started as a perfectly fine Death Metal band in the early 90s, but they caught the infectious melody virus around 1996, and it was all downhill from there. The Asian version of "The Tokyo Showdown" (2001) came with a little jigsaw puzzle of the cover art. It's the best bit really.

 

Exodus' "Good Friendly Violent Fun" (1991) isn't the worst live album you'll ever hear but the band is capable of so much more. Recorded in 1988, it took three years to release. It has no tracks from the band's incendiary debut "Bonded By Blood", and by the time it was released, "Impact Is Imminent" had been out for more than a year. On the plus side, "Fabulous Disaster", "Toxic Waltz" and "Corruption" are all as stunning as you'd expect. "Brain Dead" from "Pleasures Of The Flesh" also goes down quite well, but the other half of the album is crap. "Chemi-Kill", "Til Death Us Do Part" and "Cajun Hell" just aren't very strong songs, and the cover of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is just done dead wrong. Exodus' guitar sound renders the famous main riff a monotonous drone. It was a contractual obligation album, but the live versions of "A Lesson In Violence" and "Then There Were None" on the re-release of "Bonded By Blood" defecate on this album from a great height.

 

The Devil Made Me Do It

 

While live bootlegs can be fun for collectors, bands can get kind of upset by them at times. There's no harm in a live bootleg if it's being traded between fans, but when money starts changing hands, it can become a bit of a rip off. People think the band has somehow authorised the release, and then get pissed off when it's shit quality. The band likewise gets pissed off, because someone is trading on their name without them earning a cent, and it can also be ruining their reputation.

 

NOFX weren't fussed on the idea of doing a live album because of the corporate rock connotations of it, but felt forced into it because of a number of poor quality bootleg live albums. "I Heard They Suck Live" (1995) doesn't live up to it's name, in that the band didn't suck. Having seen them live, this is a fairly accurate representation of their live show. OK, they ain't fucking Dream Theater, but it's all good stupid fun. As a unit, NOFX are tight, instrumentally, vocally and comically. Much of the stage banter involves taking the piss out of each other, and dick jokes. The band messes up a couple of songs, but the mistakes remain. "El Lay" has been rebranded "East Bay", but the satire remains intact. And the older songs are a pleasure to hear, often better quality than the studio originals.

 

Unleashed unleashed their live album "Live In Vienna '93" in 1993, causing this sentence to contain a number of redundant words. (<<This sentence is just embarrassingly silly now! - Vim) Johnny apologised in the liner notes for releasing a live album after only two studio albums, but the tape of the show had been bootlegged very badly, so instead of saving it for part of a wider reaching live album later in the band's career, they released it immediately. Unleashed were at the time one of the front runners of the Swedish Death Metal sound, and while they weren't as vital as Entombed and Dismember, they could pen a tune or two. Some songs worked better live than others, mostly the mid-pace material the band did so well. While nothing sucks too badly, "Shadows In The Deep", "Open Wide", "Where No Life Dwells" and of course the almighty "Into Glory Ride" go down a treat. Interestingly, the covers of Venom's "Countess Bathory" and Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law" are very different songs, but both work well. Johnny's stage banter is unintentionally hilarious, as he forgets to talk normally, growling in both English and German.

 

Bootlegged

 

Bootlegs are a tricky subject. What they are is unauthorised recordings of bands, more often than not live. The quality on them varies wildly, depending on how they were recorded. A bootleg taken from a soundboard recording can have near the same quality as a commercially released live album, while something recorded on a smuggled tape recorder from the mosh pit can sound muffled, distorted, and generally quite crap. Some bands have thrived on bootlegs. Metallica encouraged them, as they helped the band get their message out in the early days. They introduced the snakepit, a section of the stage where fans could film and record the show from. They also collected bootleg videos for the “Cliff ‘Em All” (1988) video tribute. And then, the same band got all pissy when someone bootlegged the sub-standard film soundtrack song “I Disappear” in 1999. Hypocrites.

 

There are a lot of Metallica bootlegs out there. The quality is generally pretty good too. “Re-Loading The Rim ‘98/Tour In Seoul” (1998) was recorded at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in South Korea. The sound quality varies through the album, from ear strainingly quiet at the start, but oddly it picks up during the show. Perhaps the person recording it moved during the performance, or it may be a compilation of more than one tape. Whatever the origin, it shows Metallica in full flurry, sticking songs together as medleys and throwing in solo spots. It’s not great, but there are far worse out there.

 

“Bay Area Thrashers: The Early Days” (1997) is a bit of a rip off. A spoken introduction claims the songs are demos from an early recording session in 1981. Metallica never laid anything to tape until 1982, and some of the songs never featured on a demo. They are quite obviously live too. This is actually the songs from “Kill ‘Em All” which were compiled on “Cliff ‘Em All” stuck on a CD. The stage banter is exactly the same, the crowd noise is the same, and the mistakes are the same. “Cliff ‘Em All” is better.

 

“This Is An Unlicensed Recording Of Metallica Live Vol. 2” is exactly that. It seems it is probably a snakepit recording, except for the last few songs, which are taken from the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, broadcast the world over in 1992. There’s a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” which I’ve never seen anywhere else, but it doesn’t offer anything else startling. The overall quality is not particularly clear, but still, Metallica is Metallica.

 

Before they disappeared into Tribal Nu-Metal Land, Sepultura were a ripping live band. Sneaky Italian outfit KTS managed to get a recording of them in 1994 and called it “Nailbomb”. There is none of the “Roots” era material (too early, see) which alienated so many of the band’s original core of fans. What you’ve got is a true live representation of one of the most vital bands of the early 1990s. Sure, it’s got mistakes, but no live show is ever perfect, and the material here near on rips your bollocks off. It is almost as clear as a commercial release, although Igor’s impressive drumming seems to dominate a bit. It makes you wonder why the hell they changed their sound.

 

If you (like me) thought Megadeth’s “Rude Awakening” was a bit of a limp dick, try “Punishment Is Due” (1993), also released by KTS. It as the classic Mustaine/Ellefson/Friedman/Menza lineup, and being recorded in 1993 means there’s none of the later career dreary rock shit. Yes, Dave sings flat, but everything else is pretty good. It’s clearer than the Sepultura recording, but then it's not as heavy. There’s plenty of crowd noise, but it doesn’t drown the band out. Dave announces that all the shit going on between himself and Metallica has finally been buried too, so it’s quite a nice piece of Metal history.

 

KTS also released the stunning “Devil’s Desciples” (1992) by Slayer, complete with spelling mistake in the title and dodgy liner notes. Of course, it’s vintage fucking Slayer, but it’s rare when Slayer aren’t vintage. The album kicks off with the ubiquitous “Hell Awaits”, and doesn’t look back from there. Recorded at an outdoor festival, it’s not particularly clear in places, but a bootlegger is always going to struggle to do Slayer justice. Unfortunately, there is some sort of pressing error with my copy, so the last couple of tracks don’t work. Still, it’s the risk you take with a bootleg.

Guns n Roses live at the Hammersmith Odeon from 1987 is a true bootleg in the classic sense. Not released on CD, it was never sold commercially, and so has only made the rounds by being passed from fan to fan. And the quality? Complete shit. It was obviously recorded with a hand held tape deck. The sound is muffled at times, as the crowd moved around the microphone. Sometimes it’s near on impossible to hear what’s going on, just picking up a wall of noise from the PA. So what’s the use in having it? Well, it’s Guns n Roses. At the Hammersmith Odeon. In 1987! Rarely has a band ever been quite so hyped as the Gunners were. And rarely did bands ever deliver. This band stopped delivering live around 1990. On this tape though, there’s a feeling of danger and electricity, like something is about to blow. This was before the energy was sucked from the band. Its rock at it’s most raw.

 

Alchemist have always been underrated and forgotten. Metal fans cream their pants over the Egyptian influences Nile use. Alchemist were doing the same thing with Middle Eastern stuff a decade before. The massive soundscapes and harsh realism of Neurosis and Isis are considered innovative and exciting. Alchemist was doing it in the early 1990s. If you can find it, check ‘em out on the live bootleg of a performance in Canberra from 1990.

 

Live, In The...Studio?

 

Sometimes live albums aren't as live as you might think. Some albums are recorded live in the studio, where the band plays to a small audience in a recording studio, like an MTV unplugged recording with amplifiers. Other albums have overdubs. Overdubs are evil, OK? That's where someone makes a mistake, say one note, so a sound engineer fixes it by replacing it with the correct note. It might clear up the mistake, but it's then a dishonest representation of the band. There are other sneaky studio tricks to fix less than perfect live albums, like pitch shifting vocals to put them in tune, replacing one crap instrumental performance with another from a different live show, or even pasting crowd noise into a studio track to make it seem live.

 

Slayer’s “Live Undead” (1984) was recorded live in the studio, to a crowd of about 70. It’s all done in one shot, so it retains a live feel. It’s pretty damn chaotic too, but has a nice sharp sound, if not particularly heavy. The band had only released a single album and a three track EP before this, so they didn’t have a huge amount of material to chose from, but still, it seems like a fair indication of Slayer live early in their career.

 

Type O Negative’s “The Origin Of The Feces” (1992) is a real oddity. The liner notes claim it was recorded live, while rumour has it the band played live in the studio, recreating some of the live incidents which had befallen them in the previous two or three years, like a bomb threat during a show, and the crowd heckling mercilessly. Whatever the real story is behind it, it’s unusual for a band to make a live album their second release. While it’s still fairly gloomy, it’s a bit more upbeat than the debut “Slow, Deep And Hard” (1991).

 

W.A.S.P.’s “Live...In The Raw” (1987) was recorded live, but was seriously fucked with in the studio. It’s full of overdubs and re-recordings, which become quite obvious on the quieter songs, like “Sleeping (In The Fire)”. Where’s the crowd noise? Blackie Lawless’ stage banter is predictably silly, but it’s a fun album if ya don’t take it too seriously.

 

“Rude Awakening” (2002) was going to be Megadeth’s swansong, after MegaDave hurt his arm and reckoned he’d never be able to play again, so it’s a big two disc live album. The problem is, it’s too damn slick and clean. Dave hasn’t ever been a great singer, yet mysteriously he nails just about every note on the album. There are few slip-ups, despite the highly complex material the band are tackling. Hey, they may not have slipped up, since they played these songs pretty much every day, but the cynic in me isn’t buying it.

 

Unheralded

 

There are a lot of good live albums out there which get bypassed, because the band has recorded better albums both live and studio, or just because they aren’t that well known.

 

“Tested” (1996) by Bad Religion is one of the best sounding live albums you’ll ever hear. The extensive liner notes explain how the band did it. By using 20 different microphones coming straight off the drums and amps, and recording 60 shows on a tour of Europe and the US, Bad Religion selected an album’s worth of the best performances. By best, the band meant those which felt best, because there are still mistakes and odd little foibles on most of these songs. Hitting everything note perfect doesn’t necessarily deliver the best performance. And there’s no fucking about recording audience noise to make the album seem live. The only audience noise comes through the band’s microphones. The result? A very accurate representation of Bad Religion at their best, with a warm, rich, well rounded sound, and everybody goes home happy.

 

The demise of Dark Angel was tempered by the fact drummer Gene Hoglan went on to be a big fat musical whore and record some amazing stuff with Death, Strapping Young Lad, Testament and others. “Live Scars” (1989) shows the unrealised potential of the band. Only a five song live EP, it’s too short, but you’ll rarely hear a more blistering performance in any genre of Metal. It’s vicious and heavy, suffering only a little from a shitty, almost bootleg quality sound. However, the gems shine through the shit.

 

You would expect a live album by a Black Metal band to be a bloody great shambles. The lo-fi Necro aesthetic is all well and good in the studio, but live it would mean a muddy brown mess. Or would it? Marduk’s “Live In Germania” (1997) is suitably breakneck in pace, and necessarily evil, but has surprising clarity. It’s not crystal clear, but it is quite possible to make out the different instruments, the riffs are identifiable, sort of, and Legion’s vocals are quite audible. It is all predictably dominated by Frederik Andersson’s percussion, but he’s a good drummer, so it’s OK.

 

Those purveyors of superior Black Metal art Emperor do just that on “Emperial Live Ceremony” (2000), producing a live Black Metal album superior to Marduk’s, but probably not by the distance they’d like. The sound quality is crystal clear and razor sharp, and a lot fuller and heavier than Marduk’s. The unholy duo of Ihsan and Samoth are perfectly in step with one another, as if two parts of the same being. The wrist snapping riffing does not stop throughout the whole album, particularly on live favourites like “With Strength I Burn” and “Ye Entrancemperium”. Yep, Emperor can do everything live they do in the studio.

 

Strapping Young Lad is a good band. How good? Well, good enough to rip off the title of Motorhead’s classic live album and get away with it. “Live In Australia: No Sleep ‘Til Bedtime” (1998) shows off all the vital aspects of the band- Gene Hoglan’s precise powerhouse drumming, the tight-as-a-fishes-arse guitar playing, and Devin Townsend’s ear for a great tune and appreciation of the absurd. It’s heavy, fast, and if your head isn’t banging, you’re dead. Or a Westlife fan. Or both.

 

Brutal Truth’s career took a few funny twists. They abandoned almost all traces of Metal after their debut, which alienated a lot of Metal converts. Instead, they explored the full gamut of possibilities in the Grind sphere. “goodbye cruel world” (1999) pulled the whole ugly mess together in one package, combining a complete live show recorded in Australia with a comprehensive round up of oddities and bits and pieces. It’s too hard to describe what it sounds like, so the best word to describe it all is intense.

 

Cannibal Corpse have copped much criticism over the years, due to the larger-than-life personality of former vocalist Chris Barnes, and then from self-appointed moderators of the Death Metal scene for a supposed sell out somewhere along the line. “Live Cannibalism” (2000) exorcises any lingering demons of Barnes, with Corpsegrinder proving himself far more versatile. And while everyone was distracted, the band developed into an incredibly tight live unit. There is some unbelievably technical music under the huge wall of Death. The old Barnes era songs go down well with the live audience, but the newer material is more interesting for the CD listener.

 

Also Starring...

 

These are more live albums to look at, many of which are excellent, but I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about them.

S&M - Metallica 1999

A big, fat bloated turd. They need to release a proper live album.

Official Live: 101 Proof - Pantera 1997

Dimebag and Vinnie are fucking great, but Phil is a fucking idiot and ruined this album.

Rock In Rio - Iron Maiden 2002

It’s Maiden. It’s live. It’s got three guitarists. You can’t go wrong!

When Satan Lives - Deicide 1998

Surprisingly good, but nothing stunning.

It's Alive - The Ramones 1979

A bit dated, but it’s The Ramones, so you should check it out.

 

The Mark, Tom And Travis Show - Blink 182 2000

Comedy and pop music. Throwaway and silly, but fun.

Live @ The Key Club - Pennywise 1999

Not as good as you’d expect. Many of the songs start to sound the same.

Live Shit: Binge And Purge - Metallica 1993

Too cumbersome to recommend as a proper live album, but the DVD re-release was a good idea.

Out For The Night Live! - Knightshade 1987

New Zealand’s best Metal band through the 80s, but this shows why they never went much further. “Blood And Money” is worth a listen though.

A Real Live One - Iron Maiden 1993

Post-“Live After Death” material. Inexplicably dead sounding.

Decade Of Aggression - Slayer 1991

Covers all the bases, has all the right songs, sounds good, but somehow doesn’t generate the interest it should

 

Live In The UK - Helloween 1989

Surprisingly poppy, but a lot of fun and easy to listen to.

Live - Candlemass 1990

Just doesn’t work.

No Sleep At All - Motorhead 1988

Not up to the standard of the 1981 predecessor, but still worth a listen to see how the band had evolved.

Can't Live Without It - Gang Green 1990

Sound quality is shit. More Punk than Metal this time round.

 

Rankings:

 

1.  Live After Death - Iron Maiden 1985

2.  Tested - Bad Religion 1996

3.  Live Scars - Dark Angel 1989

4.  Live Shit: Binge And Purge - Metallica 1993

5.  Nailbomb - Sepultura 1994

6.  I Heard They Suck Live - NOFX 1995

7.  Punishment is Due - Megadeth 1993

8.  Rock In Rio - Iron Maiden 2002

9.  No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith - Motorhead 1981

10.Devil's Desciples - Slayer 1992

11.The Origin Of The Feces - Type O Negative 1992

12.Live In The UK - Helloween 1989

13.We're Outta Here - The Ramones 1997

14.Emperial Live Ceremony - Emperor 2000

15.Live At Budokan - S.O.D. 1992

16.Live Cannibalism - Cannibal Corpse 2000

17.No Sleep 'Til Bedtime Live In Australia - Strapping Young Lad 1998

18.Goodbye Cruel World - Brutal Truth 1999

19.Live Undead - Slayer 1984

20.Dead - Obituary 1998

21.Live In Vienna '93 - Unleashed 1993

22.The Mark, Tom And Travis Show - Blink 182 2000

23.Official Live: 101 Proof - Pantera 1997

24.Live In Canberra - Alchemist 1990

25.When Satan Lives - Deicide 1998

26.Live @ The Key Club - Pennywise 1999

27.Live In Germania - Marduk 1997

28.Decade Of Aggression - Slayer 1991

29.Live At Hammersmith - Guns n Roses 1987

30.It's Alive - The Ramones 1979

31.Good Friendly Violent Fun - Exodus 1991

32.No Sleep At All - Motorhead 1988

33.Live Era '87-'93 - Guns N Roses 1999

34.Live In The Raw - WASP 1987

35.A Real Live One - Iron Maiden 1993

36.Fall From Grace - Death Angel 1991

37.ReLoading The Rim 98/Tour In Seoul - Metallica 1998

38.Can't Live Without It - Gang Green 1990

39.Bay Area Thrashers: The Early Days - Metallica 1997

40.Burning Japan Live 1999 - Arch Enemy 2000

41.This Is An Unlicensed Recording Of Metallica Live Vol. 2 - Metallica

42.Rude Awakening - Megadeth 2002

43.The Tokyo Showdown - In Flames 2001

44.From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah - Nirvana 1996

45.Out For The Night Live! - Knightshade 1987

46.Live - Candlemass 1990

47.Live: The Island Years - Anthrax 1991

48.Filthy Lucre - Sex Pistols 1996

49.Proud To Commit Commercial Suicide - Nailbomb 1995

50.Unplugged In New York - Nirvana 1994

51.S&M - Metallica 1999

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UMUR View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Nov 2015 at 3:43am
I generally prefer live shows, and often find that live recordings are a watered Down and bad sounding version of that (with some exceptions of course). I much prefer going to shows and enjoying studio albums.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jbird Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Nov 2015 at 7:27am
Some bands sound fantastic on live recordings.

I wouldn't be surprised if Blind Guardian - Live didn't have any 'fixes' on it. I've seen BG live three times now, and they are a very tight, great-sounding live band.



Kansas - Two For The Show

Ok, not metal, but a great live album none the less, and in the 30th anniversary album liner notes Kerry Livgren states "…is that it was pure and untouched with no re-recorded parts. What you hear is what happened at that show."

drummer Phil Ehart says "I can guarantee you that this new batch of remixed live stuff has no overdubs, pitch correction, or anything to enhance the performance. It's truly as it went down that night, warts and all."


Also I'm pretty sure that Rush's All The World's A Stage live album only had one overdub. Alex Lifeson broke his e-string during the Working Man guitar solo, so they re-recorded just the solo. The rest of the album is untouched, from what I've heard/read.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Nov 2015 at 8:02am
Raw Evil by Forbidden is missing. I love Live Scars by Dark Angel but I think Raw Evil is even more awe-inspiring. Top ten live in metal for me. Absolutely amazing:


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vim Fuego Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Nov 2015 at 12:13am
Originally posted by Vic Vic wrote:

Raw Evil by Forbidden is missing. I love Live Scars by Dark Angel but I think Raw Evil is even more awe-inspiring. Top ten live in metal for me. Absolutely amazing:



It's missing because I don't have it! It's hard enough to find Forbidden's studio albums here. Never seen 'em on CD.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Unitron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Nov 2015 at 1:10am
I've heard some of these, but I actually haven't heard a whole lot of live albums. Not metal at all, but my favorite album from electronic band Kraftwerk is actually their live album 'Minimum Maximum'. They just play so well and also change the songs up a bit so there are versions unique to the live album. I should probably give listens to some of these that I haven't heard.

Edited by Unitron - 27 Nov 2015 at 1:15am
Oh, so it's bring my own? Bring my own what? FUN?! - Ludichrist
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