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I've been ruminating a lot lately over the relevance of the live album in the 21st century, or how it pertains to my own life in particular. With the advent of high definition live content (DVDs, Blu-Rays, Netflix, etc) so readily available, and such a massive collection of studio music to listen through, with hundreds of new bands/albums each year, I find that I'm just not as capable of making the time for the audio-only experience. Back in the day, I loved me some Live After Death, Unleashed in the East, Live Without Sense, or KISS' Alive when cruising around in my teenage cars, or delivering newspapers while I would dream of being somewhere else; but having that visual stimulation is such a component of going to a gig that I'm not sure I want to do without it any more. Yeah, that's right, I no longer buy the things (unless they come as a package with the DVDs), but for the purpose of writing up discographies I'll still sit through and include them where applicable.
Live Death Doom was Asphyx' first foray into the medium, and they did not fuck around, with two discs and two hours of material recorded in Germany just after Death...the Brutal Way had been released. So we're talking Marvin van Drunen and Bob Bagchus back in the lineup together, the band finding its 'second wind', more accurately their fourth or fifth wind after all the brief breakups and reunions of the nineties and 'oughts. The time was really right, a period of celebration for the band's renewed productivity and dedication and just having issued the first studio album in nearly a decade (and a good one to boot), so why not? This wasn't some hack investment early on into their career, they had existed on the consciences of death metal maniacs for two decades, and I'm sure some fraction of them were pining over a package like this. Granted, we're once again faced with the realization that the audio-only release has nothing on the DVDs, where you are getting not only the live footage but some documentary/interview content that ultimately appreciates the value (if DVDs ultimately have any), a more fulfilling interface for the diehard audience. So if you're gonna spend the money, do it on that version, the Hordes of Disgust documentary being the most fascinating since they go into a little detail about the earlier years of the band in the late 80s.
In terms of production, the sound here fell a little flat for me...once the band is firing on all cylinders, it seemed to me like some of the dynamics get lost in the performance...I guess for 2009-2010 I was just expecting something a little more high-tech. You can certainly feel the fuzz and power in the music when there are some punctuated starts/stops, intros of particular songs, etc, but very often the instrumentation all kind of runs together, and considering that I was never the biggest fan of the group in the first place, so too do the tunes. But that's not to say it's an uninspired performance: the crowd seems to really get into it, chanting and/or howling along in response to cuts like "Asphyx II". The drums are really raw, but you can make out all the higher and lower end signals of the kit evenly, while the guitars seem to dominate, reducing the bass-lines to a mere puddle of groove or depth that hangs on the edge of perception. Lots of feedback and fiber to the riffs does give one the impression of being at a gig, which is fine, but I've just heard far better mixes on live recordings that feel more stereophonic, panned or coming at me from all angles, where this doesn't. Van Drunen sounds gruesome, and the band plays tightly through both the older and newer content, but I don't know...maybe an additional guitar would have made it more powerful, this seems a little dry despite all the saturation in tone.
Track-wise, this isn't a selection the fans are like to scoff at; Asphyx reaches back to oldies like "The Krusher", "M.S. Bismarck", "Vermin", "Rite of Shades", and even a full version of "The Rack" itself. No "Crush the Cenotaph", somewhat surprising, but it's available (another German performance) on the DVD version. The "Abomination Echoes" instrumental is present in the set, from the eponymous 1994 album, also surprising since I don't think any of these guys were in that lineup. Thankfully they omit material from the God Cries disc, which they apparently liked about as much as I did, but I was not so thrilled by the lack of On the Wings of Inferno material. One of their better albums, why ignore it when picking the set list? So then there's a whopping seven tracks from their new release (for the time) Death...the Brutal Way. Yes, 40 fucking minutes of material from an album that had dropped about a month before this was recorded/filmed, they might as well have played it from front to back! Honestly, wouldn't have minded dropping 2-3 of these out and including "For They Ascend..." or "The Scent of Obscurity" or something. Hell, Wayne and Bob are still in the lineup. At any rate, those 1994-2000 albums weren't popular whatsoever, so if they're playing to an audience stoked on hearing the 'classic Asphyx' it would make sense to leave those off (if any), since Death...the Brutal Way was more or less Last One on Earth II: Still on Earth.
Live Death Doom doesn't leave much of an impression on me in this audio format, primarily due to the production/mix. I didn't get as much value as the studio albums (On the Wings of Inferno, Death...the Brutal Way, etc). If someone had given me the choice to 'be there' or own these CDs for the rest of my life, I'd prefer the former. But for German/European fans in the crowd, it was an opportunity to catch up on a band many might not have seen in a very long time, and have most of the sacred slaughter-songs performed with 2/3rds of the classic roster that many hold above any other in the group's history. Don't pay money for this if you can also get the DVD, it's worth the difference (and consider my score for that package either a full point or 10% higher), but certainly this wasn't a 'cheap and easy' live recording. They took their time getting one out when they might have padded their earlier contract with one in the 90s, and thus it seemed inevitably better worth the cash when it did arrive.
First a note: This review is of the DVD+CD version.
Asphyx are for me local superheroes. Arguably Asphyx are one of the very essential death metal bands that changed and defined death metal. Finally after being around in various states for the last 23 years they finally released their first live offering. Asphyx as a band is known for their great live performances and just sounding like a steamroller so the question is how well did it transfer to live DVD and the 2 CD's?
In short the answer to this question is very well, extremely well even nay even they made a benchmark of how a death metal band should make an live CD + DVD release.
This release is split in several parts.
First there is the center piece of the DVD. The “Live” subsection of the DVD, their gig in Essen Germany.
Then there is the “Death” subsection on the DVD. This part is the interview of the band in which the most important band members through the history of Asphyx talk about their role in the history of Asphyx.
Finally there is the “Doom” subsection on the DVD. This part has various of extra footage.
Lastly there are the live CD's. The material found here is just the audio part of the Live subsection of the DVD.
To start with the beginning. The box you get looks quite good. It has neat art in the traditional Asphyx style. The booklet gives you the standard information as well as the short story behind this release and a few pictures of Asphyx throughout the years. Nothing really exceptional but you don't really need more considering the entire history of the band will be dealt with later but now on to the DVD.
The awesome aka Live.
This is the part around which this release revolves. The actual performance in Germany from 2009. This performance still includes the former bass guitar player Wannes Gubbels who has been replaced by Alwin Zuur from Escutcheon in 2010.
This part is all you could ever want from a Asphyx live CD/DVD. The sound is great, Raw and powerful. The camera is what you want, no constant changing of the camera angle and you can see everyone doing their part. The performance itself is great. Asphyx as usual put their usual energy in this gig thus giving you a real good indication of what they are like if you see them yourself, the best term for this is neckwreckingly awesome.
The total length of the performance is just under 2 hours at 1 hour and 48 minutes. Various tracks from The Rack, Last One on Earth and Death the Brutal Way are played here with maybe a slight focus on the last one. The song's are all performed excellently and there is nothing else really to say about it.
All this material can also be found on the live CD's. Which are handy for when you don't have a DVD player nearby and feel like some live Asphyx or if you want to listen to this on the computer.
The neat aka Death
This is the Hordes of Disgust interview with the band. It basically just consists of most of the important members of Asphyx saying what they did. This interview is fairly low budget and the most special thing you can see is where they briefly walk past the building where they used to rehearse which was in the process of getting demolished. I almost daily saw this building and this gave it something extra for me but sadly other than this you can just watch the the band members talk. It would have been neater if more stuff from the local area was showed or just anything other than their fairly boring faces. Still it gives a good view of the history of the band in a nice amount of detail.
The Cool aka Doom
This part is one of the coolest extras of any DVD I’ve ever seen. You can see footage of Asphyx performing live at various places throughout their history. The most interesting is watching them perform material from the “Embrace the Death” era when they were all young kids. The material here almost could be its own DVD. The various performances of the band here are mostly really good. The Death the Brutal Way video promo is nice to have as well.
In the end this release is nearly perfect. The only complaint I have is for an fairly extensive extra. If you are an Asphyx fan or even a death metal fan in general I can only say that I really recommend getting this as this is the best live release I’ve ever seen. In the end I'm giving this a 92/100.