Released: 2007, Metal Mind Productions
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Let the blasphemy wash over your tortured soul as Vital Remains’ EVIL DEATH LIVE DVD takes a run at all that is holy…
It is impossible to deny the fact that Vital Remains was just another Christ-hating death metal band which was barely known outside of the underground before Deicide’s Glen Benton took over vocal duties for 2003’s impeccable DECHRISTIANIZE. That album not only put Vital Remains on the map but also proved Benton still had some life in him after a pair of tepid Deicide releases. Fast forward another four years and the band showed that DECHRISTIANIZE was no fluke, as last year’s ICONS OF EVIL was just as brutal, just as evil and just as magnificent as its predecessor.
In the studio, Vital Remains consists of Benton, Tony Lazaro (rhythm guitar and bass) and Dave Suzuki (lead guitar and drums) but the live conglomerate is further threshed out. Benton had to sit out this tour due to a messy divorce/child custody situation in the U.S., so Damien Boyton filled in on vocals while Brian Hobbie and Antonio Donadeo filled out the rhythm section on bass and drums, respectively. While Benton’s absence is most noteworthy, Boyton’s over-the-top facial expressions (only Into Eternity’s Stu Block and Devin Townsend do more mugging) and almost laughingly bad stage demeanor is the sole weak point of this near-flawless lineup. Despite an endless barrage of speed, agility and blastbeats, Donadeo appears tireless behind the kit, while Suzuki’s jaw-dropping technical leads make him one of the most underrated lead guitarists in the extreme metal scene (just watch “Scorned” and “Dechristianize” and prepare to be drooling).
The main component of EVIL DEATH LIVE is the 55-minute live show filmed at Poland’s Metal Mind Studio on March 24th, 2007. “Hammer Down The Nails,” “Dechristianize” and “Infidel” absolutely smoke. There are only nine songs—including two intros—but Vital Remains’ music is known to run six, seven, even eight minutes, so there is more here than initially meets the eye. A team of cameras captures everything perfectly and the sound is phenomenal. The crowd leaves a bit to be desired but this seems to be the norm for any show filmed at this venue. A second show running forty minutes and filmed at The Mega Club in Poland is short on video and audio quality but more than makes up for it with unbridled energy. An in-depth, half-hour interview with Lazaro and Suzuki is mixed with live clips and really does a great job of covering the history of the band right back to the beginning. Two standout moments include Lazaro, who looks like a plus-sized Tom Araya, detailing the band’s early use of corpse paint on stage as well as the surprising revelation that he tried unsuccessfully to get Glen Benton to sing on 1994’s INTO COLD DARKNESS. Also included is a short section featuring Suzuki practicing guitar solos backstage as well as a full biography, discography, photo gallery, weblinks and desktop images.
A limited-edition version of EVIL DEATH LIVE is available with a bonus CD of the Metal Mind Studio show that is definitely worth seeking out. While Vital Remains’ recording history dates back to 1989, it is really only the last two albums that are widely available and, as such, get treatment live. Fans seeking out the pre-Benton material will be disappointed here (and it is a bit of a letdown that Benton is absent for this DVD, too) but Vital Remains’ masterful combination of technicality, brutality and flawless musicianship of the DECHRISTIANIZE and ICONS OF EVIL albums is presented on EVIL DEATH LIVE with near-perfect rendition. Just be aware that it will take nights of sleepless tossing and turning to oust the image of Damien Boyton’s possessed eyes and unintentionally hilarious between-song banter from haunting your nightmares.