Released: 1995, Massacre Records
Hidden Gem Review
If you observe the metal industry it is uncanny how some bands follow an extremely similar trajectory. In this case I am referring to Pretty Maids and Bonfire. Each European melodic metal act has been going since 1981 or so with very few line up changes, each has had 10 studio CD’s, a Live CD, a Best of CD and a few rare releases. Each had huge success in the 80’s, each lost ground in the early 90’s, but resigned with major labels in Europe and Japan. Both are virtually unknown in North America but continue to make kick-ass music to this very day! Coincidence? How I came to review this CD is virtually identical to that of my Bonfire reviews this month! I recommend you checkout those reviews as well.
Ahhh….sweet Pretty Maids…how I yearn for them!
Have you ever been looking through your collection and been hit by the realization that you have almost the entire catalogue of band but didn’t really know it? That happened to me with Pretty Maids. I actually have eleven Pretty Maids albums! Weird. Until last month there was only one review of this great band on Metal-Rules.com! Accordingly, I picked out two CD’s to review, a live and a compilation, to give an overview of their career because I am too lazy to review all ten, studio albums. Read my review of THE BEST OF…BACK TO BACK from this month.
SCREAMIN’ LIVE is…technically flawless and therein lies the one problem. This Live CD comes across as bland and lifeless. Everything about this Live CD is truly well done and just the way I like my Live CD’s to be. It was recorded in their homeland of Denmark in June 1995 and the 14 tracks clock in at 70 minutes. There is a little stage banter but it is in Danish! I can pretty much guess Ronnie is saying anyway.
The packaging is quite good, some live shots, credits, full lyrics and so on. Although there are no rare or unreleased tracks the songs are an excellent cross section of their career to that point, some hits, some old gems, fast songs, a ballad or two all great songs.
I also like how they do slightly alternate versions of the songs, some extended soloing but without getting too pretentious and some coaxing the crowd to sing along in parts. The production is good but not fantastic. The crowd is a little too far back and the songs that relied on studio keyboard trickery came across a little flat. The production is clear and the mix is nice, maybe a little too nice…overdubs? They don’t actually say there were overdubs in the liner notes, but there were “additional recordings” in another studio so I have no doubt they tweaked it a bit.
So , with all these great characteristics why am I hesitant on this CD? I love the songs and know them all and maybe that’s the problem. This CD comes across as too clean, too nice and a touch overproduced. I’m sure they are very competent, experienced musicians and the songs aren’t that hard to play live in terms of complexity, so why have such dull, lifeless renderings? It is as if they were trying to hard to emulate their studio sound. I would have preferred a more stripped down, aggressive sound, maybe an extra touring guitarist to fill out the sound. The songs and crowd come across as dull and going through the motions even at the high points of the CD’s the big ballad, the big intro and the big finale…nothing…no balls, no power, no feel. Well, that may be a tad harsh but I know this band can rock and for some reason in front of the home-crowd, instead of pulling out all the stops and giving us a sweaty, live rock ‘n’ roll show, we get 14 great songs done in an adequate fashion. Verdict? It’s not often you hear a studio version of a song rock harder than the live version! Fans get it, everyone else listen before buying.