Thursday, September 16, 2010

Metal Briefs: Live Albums

Normally, I don't really go for live albums. The benefit of a raw performance is outweighed by the detriments: The sound quality isn't nearly as good and the performances are usually weaker, especially the vocals after a long tour. But they can serve two purposes. For some people, it's a viable substitute for a greatest hits album, if you go for that kind of thing. For me and many others, it's a way to hear some of your favorites in a new way.

I won't actually rate these albums. If you love the band, you may love the live album. If you don't, you'll pass up the chance. It's that simple.

Metallica: Live Shit: Binge & Purge (1993)

Live Shit: Binge & Purge (CD & DVD) I bought this way back in high school, when it came in a really cool box. It had VHS tapes instead of DVDs, of course, and also came with a picture book, sticker, and stencil--for $70 or so. I unwisely used the sticker and stencil, so I no longer have a complete box set. In any case, this is the king of all live albums. On three discs (nearly three hours total), they play a couple dozen classics from Kill 'Em All through Metallica, putting a new spin on some of them and throwing in a couple covers and solos for good measure. The recording is one of the best live recordings I've ever heard, and James Hetfield is also one of the best vocalists live (both in terms of keeping his vocal integrity and in getting the crowd worked up). A must-have for any die-hard fan of the band's earlier work, but obviously a bit too expensive for anyone else.

Slipknot: 9.0: Live (2005)

9.0: Live (Dig) The divisive Slipknot recorded this double-disc live album during the tour for Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses. They play all the fan favorites, plus a few rarities and odds and ends. The recording isn't the best, the crowd isn't all that audible, and Corey Taylor's voice is significantly deteriorated from a long touring cycle. It's worthwhile for fans, but the quality has suffered too much for it to serve as a greatest hits.

Meshuggah: Alive (2010)

Alive Following Slipknot is another completely unique band: Meshuggah. At only one disc with 12 songs, this is the shortest one mentioned here (though it's also available with a DVD). The recording is very good for a live album, even though you can barely hear the fans, and Jens Kidman's voice holds up fairly well. They chose a lot of their top tracks, including "Bleed", "Rational Gaze", and "New Millenium Cyanide Christ", but inexplicably they didn't include anything (on CD or DVD) from their best album, Destroy Erase Improve. The performances are nearly flawless--a seemingly impossible feat given their complex material--so this is an excellent choice for any fan of the band.


  1. Having seen Metallica in concert twice, I definitely agree that he is one of the better live performers. His voice is strong and his stage presence is commanding.

    I rarely buy live albums. I don't mind getting a bonus CD with live material or bonus tracks, but I can't think of a single live album I have been excited about since Metallica's S&M.

  2. I've had just a handful of them over the years myself, with Metallica's box set being the second one. (The first was AC/DC live, which I sold eons ago.) I forgot about them for a long time, but then heard a cut from Nevermore's live album (to be discussed in Part 2 of the live albums) and got excited about it. My interest was piqued again when I heard some live Opeth. But I don't think I have more than 8 or 9 live albums total.