Thursday, October 21, 2010

Metal Briefs: Live Albums, Part 2

As I mentioned with the first part of my Metal Briefs: Live Albums, I don't normally care for live recordings. They're usually just imperfect versions of what you get in the studio, and they don't feel like true albums. Still, I will get a live album if it's a band I really love. Just like last time, I'm not going to give them a rating, but just discuss them.

Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (2007)

Roundhouse Tapes The Roundhouse Tapes was recorded near the end of Opeth's tour in support of their masterpiece Ghost Reveries. (I suppose it doesn't mean a whole lot to call an Opeth album a masterpiece, when that's what they're in the business of creating, but GR is nonetheless one of their three most perfect albums.) Since it's at the end of the tour, you might expect them to seem worn out, especially on vocals. But that's not what you'll find. Mikael Åkerfeldt's vocals are inexplicably as good as they ever are, despite the difficulty of switching back and forth between his ferocious death growl and his vulnerable clean vocals. It clocks in about 96 minutes on two discs, with 9 tracks total, almost all of which are between 8 and 11 minutes long. The track list is good, spanning their entire career, though as with any fan I wish they would have played my personal favorite. Their music is not exactly the live-friendly material you'd get from, say, a thrash metal band--it's much more introspective--but they get the audience fully involved and emotionally invested. The recording is excellent, with the band and crowd balanced well in the mix. This is, surprisingly, one of the best live albums I've ever heard.

At the Gates: Purgatory Unleashed - Live at Wacken (2010)

Purgatory Unleashed - Live At Wacken Recorded during a brief reunion tour in 2008, the incredibly influential melodic death metal band At the Gates proves they still have it with Purgatory Unleashed. Fully half the tracks are from Slaughter of the Soul, so even casual fans will recognize the songs, but the rest of their catalog is represented as well. The performance is high quality: the vocals suffer slightly live, but the extra-tortured sound actually works quite well. The recording is also top-notch (bass fully audible!), but you can't always hear the crowd when it seems like you should. This album could serve either purpose of a live album, i.e., it's gravy for hardcore fans, but it could also serve as a greatest hits album.

Nevermore: The Year of the Voyager (2008)

Year of the Voyager Finally, we have Nevermore's The Year of the Voyager (also on DVD and combo pack). This one is an absolute monster on two discs packed full (19 tracks total), but Nevermore is one of few bands with a catalog to support a great live set that long. The performance is fantastic and the song choices are, too. Dane's vocals are suprisingly only slightly less amazing compared to the studio. The production lets you hear the crowd very well, but it is a bit quieter than I'd like. This is a must-have for any Nevermore fan, and could serve as a greatest hits album if you didn't want to get their whole collection.

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