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Metal/Prog Metal DVD/Video Reviews

Vital Remains

Evil-Death-Live DVD

Review by Julie Knispel

Vital Remains is an American death metal band hailing from Providence, Rhode Island. Active since 1989, the only remaining founder member is guitarist Tony Lazaro, who has surrounded himself with an intense group of musicians for Evil-Death-Live, the first video document of their brutal live show. Released on Polish label Metal Mind Productions, the main program’s footage was filmed live in concert at Spodek in Kartowice, Poland on 24 March 2007. Lazaro is joined on this release by long time member Dave Suzuki (live guitars; he also contributes drums in the studio), Damien Boynton (vocals), Antonio Donadeo (drums) and Brian Hobbie (bass).

Fans of the group know that death metal legend Glen Benton (Deicide) provides vocals for the band on their most recent studio album. Therefore, it may be with some trepidation that fans not familiar with the group’s live performance begin listening to this DVD. A few minutes in, and those fears should be gone; Boynton is a powerhouse singer, growling and screaming like a demon unchained. Behind him, the band snarls and rips and tears like a feral beast, blast beat drumming and whiplash changes in tempo throwing the audience about like bloodied prey in their clenched jaws. The material on Evil-Death-Live draws exclusively from the band’s two albums with Benton, Dechristianize and Icons of Evil, with an emphasis on the later.

The sound quality is excellent. When one considers the fact that death metal tends to over-emphasize mid-range audio frequencies, it is a pleasant surprise to find the audio mix well distributed, with thick bass and kick drum, snarling mids, and just enough top end to hold things down. Stereo separation is solid, and each instrument is able to find its own space in the mix without the whole becoming a muddled mess. A lot has changed in mixing death metal since the early days, and recent releases in the genre are becoming easier to listen to as a result. Evil-Death-Live is obviously no exception. From a video standpoint, the DVD offers a good view of the show. While occasionally a little dark, a variety of camera angles and shots are used, and individual shots are generally allowed ample time to develop, rather than cut quickly from one to the next. This allows the viewer to become immersed in the show far more easily.

Musically, highlights include the second intro, leading into a taped “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and then into “Let The Killing Begin/Dechristianize” from the album of the same name. “Where is Your God Now/Icons of Evil,” which open both the show and the band’s newest album, is also quite impressive, setting the stage for a powerhouse performance to follow where no quarter is asked, nor is any given. I can’t imagine the audience walking from the concert hall after this show; they must have had to have been dragged out after the onslaught that is Vital Remains live.

A pair of extras helps to fill out this DVD release. The first is a Dave Suzuki “clinic,” in which he explains some of the theories and techniques he uses in his soloing. For musicians out there who are interested in learning how he comes up with some of the insane, ripping solos found on Vital Remains’ studio discs (and this live set), this bonus feature will be en enlightening eye-opener. Non-musicians might find this extra a little less interesting, but for them, a lengthy multi-part interview with Dave Suzuki and Tony Lazaro may well make up for it. Thankfully, the interviewer pulls no punches with his questioning; this is not a generic, cookie cutter, softball interview. Lazaro and Suzuki answer the questions with every bit of seriousness and respect possible, and the end result will shine a light into some of the darkest corners of Vital Remains. Nothing is spared or left out, and it is possible even long time fans will learn something new about this group.

Evil-Death-Live is not made or broken as a result of bells and whistles. Compared to major label concert DVD releases, this release may seem pretty plain. But this is made up for where it counts, with great sound quality, solid filming, and well thought out extras. Evil-Death-Live may not be packed to the top with content, but what it offers is top flight across the board.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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