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From Hell's Heart

"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the team. Every other month or so we pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.

Check out past editorials

Live Albums: Filler or a Necessity? (May 2001)

Live Albums: Filler or a Necessity?
By EvilG

There comes a point in every band's career when it makes sense that they do a live album. Fans want to hear how their favorite band sounds live and why put up with a crappy quality bootleg when you can get a professionally recorded concert? Some bands come off better live and that energy is sometimes not captured in a studio recording. For these reasons I would argue that yes, live albums are a necessity. The problem I have with some live albums is that they are sometimes put put as filler to tie over fans between albums. As well, if the band is relatively new a live CD is kind of pointless in my opinion!

Something I am more into then a live album is watching a live performance! Seeing the band is not something many of us get to do on a regular basis so having a live video (preferable DVD) can be the best of both worlds! One band who released one of my favorite live albums is Slayer with DECADE OF AGGRESSION. Back when it came out I remembered reading about how a video was to be released of the same performance. Well it didn't happen...too bad.  Other great live albums include Savatage's FINAL BELL / GHOST IN THE RUINS and LIVE IN JAPAN, Judas Priest's UNLEASHED IN THE EAST, Iron Maiden's LIVE AFTER DEATH... there are many!

On the negative side of live albums we need look no further than Iron Maiden. Of course LIVE AFTER DEATH is a godly live album and it's not the one I'm bringing up here. I'm talking about A REAL LIVE ONE, A READ DEAD ONE, A REALLLYYYYY BORING ONE! They went overboard there. It was unnecessary and sounded BAD. Earlier this year Kamelot put out THE EXPEDITION which reeked of filler to me. I love the band, but that live album was pretty much a waste of time. When you can just as easily put on the studio album, what is the point? 

So yeah, live albums are a necessity and every band should have them or preferably a live DVD (can't wait to check out the new LIVE Nightwish DVD - out May 21st in North America!!).


Perhaps my favorite live album...


Live Albums: Filler or a Necessity?
By Waspman

This is actually a timely topic, as I've seen a lot of backlash against live albums in many recent metal pubs. My question is why? While I don't love live albums like I used to, I still think that live albums are pretty cool. I mean, think of all the great live documents that are out there: PRIEST IN THE EAST, LIVE AFTER DEATH, TOKYO TALES, TOKYO WARHEARTS, ALIVE IN ATHENS and DOUBLE LIVE ASSASSINS all come to mind instantly. Oh yeah, and who could forget the sheer brilliance of LAST TOUR ON EARTH? O.K., so that last one was a joke, but the point is that live albums don't necessarily have to be "filler". On the other hand, there have been a lot of crappy live albums too, albums like THE STING (see! I CAN rip on W.A.S.P. if I really try!) that stink more like cash-grabs than anything else (um, Iron Maiden, I'm looking directly at you). So what's the difference between a killer live album and a crappy one?

I think it's mostly got to do with 2 things: sound quality, and performance. If the sound quality is not there, don't bother releasing the CD! I mean, nobody wants a canned "live" CD, but if it sounds to muddy then what's the point? By performance I'm talking about a number of things. First off, how does the band sound? Are they as tight as they should be? Are at least some of the songs different versions than on the studio discs? Is there crowd interaction? Basically, is there anything that's different from the other albums that justifies the live disc's existence? I would guess that more often than not the answer is "NO!" but lame live discs get released anyway. I'm not too sure where I'm going with this but so long as there's a good reason for a live album, then they're pretty cool by me. Or something like that.


Live Albums: Filler or a necessity?
Michael De Los Muertos

Generally I'm not a fan of live albums. While I think they serve a good purpose in some circumstances, the truth is that there are WAY too many of them out there, and most of them really aren't necessary.

I think live albums have a bad rap because, at least in the mainstream music world, they are often the ideas of record company execs who use them to "tide over" fans of a certain band until the release of their next studio album. Unfortunately this happens in metal far too often as well. Who hasn't been disappointed to read that a much-beloved band is coming out with a new album in a few months, only to discover that it's a live album, or even worse, an album of covers? What do you really get from a live album that you don't get from the studio albums? You won't really get the experience of seeing a band live -- you have to BE there for that. What you get is songs that sound like the studio versions (often with poorer production) except with the sound of cheering crowds audible at the beginning and ending of each track. That's basically it.

I can see the value of live albums if their intent (and result) is to capture a band at a particular moment in their career or at a particularly amazing show or tour. As a rule live albums become far more interesting with the number of years that pass since their recording. Also in some circumstances I've found live albums useful as a way to get into a band that I'm not that familiar with. I didn't listen to much Iced Earth before I bought "Alive in Athens," which I do enjoy, and which was an excellent introduction to Iced Earth's catalogue.

Of course there are exceptions. Manowar's "Hell on Stage Live" box set is a terrific album, and Vader's "Live in Japan" is an unusually strong, powerful and enjoyable live album. But most live albums just really don't do anything for me. Come on, are you really going to listen to Morbid Angel's "Entangled in Chaos" more, or even as much as, any of their studio albums? Unless I have a burning desire to collect a band's entire discography, I won't bother with live albums unless there's some independent reason to get them. I'd much rather have a studio album, or even a live video. Or maybe bands should just not wait 5 years between albums!


Live Albums: Necessity or Filler?
By Rick

 I will start this editorial with the preface that I am not a huge fan of live albums. I have found some that I like and others that I could leave. I remember some of the first live albums that I owned. AC/DC's "If You Want Blood, You Got It", Iron Maiden's "Maiden Japan" and "Live After Death" and Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads "Tribute. These are some of my favourite live albums still to this day. To me they were an opportunity to hear live, bands that I would never get to see LIVE. But there lies my problem with LIVE albums. The whole point of seeing a band live is to actually see them perform. When I was young and I knew next to nothing about metal it was always cool to put on the LIVE AC/DC Cd and imagine what it was like to see these songs done live. When I found out that many live albums could only use the tern LIVE loosely because of the amount of ovedubs and studio manipulation used to make them sound better, my interest in LIVE releases began to wane.

As of right now. I rarely if ever anticipate a live CD. It has become a favourite way for bands to fufill contractual obligations to their record companies. I'm not saying that the releases aren't good but I already have the CDs and I don't really need to hear a live version of the song. Other bands release a live Cd for almost every studio album that they create. Iron Maiden comes to mind right away. They must have at least 5 LIVE releases. Why? "A Real Live On" and "A Real Dead One" was this just a way to make a few dollars? One of the newer ones that comes to mind as being a filler was "Expedition" by Kamelot. It was ok but again, Why? It seems to me that VIDEO and DVD would be the best way to catch your favourite band live. At least you can see the them as well as hear their live renditions. Live albums.. Far from a necessity.





Live Albums: Filler or a necessity?
By Pete

Well it can be both actually. As a necessity, live albums can be a great introduction to someone who is just getting into an artist. For example, the latest Halford CD is great for someone whose not familiar with his music. Not only does it offer tracks from his solo career, but it also offers material from his Priest days as well. Someone who purchases this disc may in turn purchase the entire Priest collection, which in turn is a bonus not only for the fan and artist, but for the record company as well.

As for it being filler, well we all know that it buys time for the artist between studio albums, as well as fulfilling contracts, like a greatest hits package. The only problem with live albums is that how "live" are they actually. After all, every performance is not flawless and some bands go in the studio and "fix" various vocal and guitar parts. Hell, they say that Kiss Alive, one of the greatest live albums ever, is mostly studio, so many parts were re-done and fixed up. Live albums should be "live", NOT studio. Filler or necessity, you be the judge.


Live Albums: Filler or a necessity?
By Keith

Live albums are great if they're done right. You need the big hits and energy that you can only get from a live show. One of the best Live albums I ever heard was Ozzy's Live & Loud...great songs, great energy and you could hear the crowd and feel the excitement. There have also been some real lame Live records like Dio's Inferno: Last In Live. Sure, there were great songs on the disc but the energy wasn't there. It sounded like a rehearsal session.

Now, for the question of whether a Live album is a necessity or a filler, I think that can answered quite simply. A few years back I worked for the management company of Kix who were on Atlantic Records at the time. They had some success with the albums Blow My Fuse and Hot Wire but never had the success that bands like Ratt and Motley Crue had. The band decided to release a Live album in Japan only. Kix was one of the great live bands to come from the 80's and they were able to capture that sound and energy on the Live release. It sold relatively well in Japan and the fans dug it. Atlantic, at this time, was quickly dumping bands from Kix's genre (White Lion, TNT, etc.). Kix had one album left on their deal and the label elected to release the album worldwide, fulfilling the band's commitment to them.

With the release it allowed die-hard fans the opportunity to capture a great live Kix show on disc. But it also allowed the band to shop themselves elsewhere where they could get much more attention from a new label. Within a few months the band found themselves on an up and coming independent label called CMC International. The band became a priority for the new company and quickly began recording a new studio album...something Atlantic Records would not have afforded them.

So, in the end, a Live album can be a necessity for fans and the band themselves. I also don't think a band would want to release a Live album unless they felt it was it was something great. Sure, not every record a band releases will be the greatest thing on the Earth, but it's something they want to do...not a filler.


Live Albums: Filler or a necessity?

Are live albums really necessary thing for music fans? I’d have to say that they are since I (and numerous other people) aren’t fortunate to live in areas where our favorite bands tour. Hell, if Newfoundland had a Metal scene on par with that of somewhere like Germany, Sweden, etc..., I wouldn’t despise this place so damn much. For me and all the others like me, live albums are the only way to hear our favorite bands perform live. Of course, it’s not the same as a real concert experience since you’re not able to actually see the bands (no drunks puking on your shoes, either...), but I guess that why bands release live videos (*Note to self: Buy DVD player soon...).

Another great thing about live albums/videos is that they allow fans to listen to/watch live performances of their favorite artists at their own convenience. As much as I’d love to be able to go to a Priest show once or twice a week, it’s just not possible. Even if I lived in a city that happened to be one of the world’s Metal ‘hot-spots’, it’s still not possible. Plus, there’s usually a certain "energy" in a live performance that most studio albums don’t quite capture. The majority of bands often feed off the audience’s reaction for an additional adrenalin rush which takes the music to a whole new level of intensity.

Sometimes, live albums serve as a good introduction to unfamiliar bands as well. For example, I bought Stratovarius’ Visions of Europe: Live because I wasn’t familiar with their pre-Destiny material. Needless to say, the music kicked my ass and I bought more of Strato’s CD’s. Plus, I still had the live album which in the long run is a much better CD to have than something like their Chosen Ones ‘best of’ package, which is just the studio versions of songs taken from the full-length albums I ended up buying anyway. So in my humble opinion, live albums are definitely a necessary part of a band’s catalogue.

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