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For the cause, but not for the content - 50%

autothrall, May 24th, 2011

Remaining objective about an album like Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) can be a difficult thing for me While I don't care for the album itself due to the rather miserable track listing, it was released for a decent cause (to help Chuck Schuldiner raise proceeds for his fight with brain cancer) and has at least an audible production which is accurate to the band's performances during this period. It's one of those rare cash grabs which is actually for a GOOD reason, but at the same time it offers fans a long awaited, official live offering. Kudos to Schuldiner for not taking advantage of his rabid fan base many years earlier. He could have released a live album every six months since 19991 and devotees would have gobbled each up like starving robins on a trail of bread crumbs.

As its title implicates, Death & Raw was recorded on the West Coast in December of 1998, when Death was a few months out from The Sound of Perseverance, touring with that lineup (Hamm, Christy, and Clendenin). Unfortunately, this means its heavy on newer material, as we had yet to reach the point where classic metal bands focused on their classics (though for a handful of the faithful, you'd think Perseverance was the Second Coming). It's not all that bad, there are but three new tracks in the set: "Scavenger of Human Sorrow", "Spirit Crusher" and "Flesh and the Power It Holds", but I must say I got nothing more from them than I had on the studio album. Symbolic is more thoroughly represented, with "Crystal Mountain", "Zero Tolerance", "Empty Words" and the title track; while Individual Thought Patterns and Human each get a pair ("The Philosopher", "Trapped in a Corner", "Suicide Machine", "Together As One"). Sadly this leaves only two slots in the 13-track list to cover the first three fucking albums! Yes, the classic DEATH metal albums are represented only by "Pull the Plug" (Leprosy) and "Zombie Ritual" (Scream Bloody Gore). A damned travesty, and I don't care how 'forward thinking' Chuck was, Spiritual Healing is completely absent!

That's a pretty big gripe when wants to experience excitement through a live recording, but recognizing the fact that Schuldiner probably wasn't interested in the least in his older material, I guess I should be happy that even those two made the cut. Or, I would be, if they sounded the least bit entertaining. Chuck was using his more torn throat vocals by this point, sounding almost like a black metal rasp, and it simply does not sound fluid with the formative songs, or even "Suicide Machine". The least affected tracks are those from Symbolic, which are more melodic and sparse enough to bear the shift in his tone; or The Sound of Perseverance, since the vocals sounded similar in the studio. As for the rest of the mix, its raw and functional, but nothing special at all. The drums are rather loud and poppy, and the guitars felt too compressed and distant, though the leads carry through decently. I've already mentioned the vocals, and they sound a bit hacked, and Clendenin's clunky bass lines rarely stand out against the guitars.

Live albums are supposed to be the next best thing to being there, and I can't accurately claim that Death & Raw provides this experience. It's by no means an awful recording, but it leaves much to be desired, more like a glorified bootleg than a legendary live. The 'raw' in the title is no joke, but neither does it benefit Death's sound. As a token of appreciation for one of your icons, to help him battle his life threatening illness, it was worth the coin. You were getting something in return for your labors, a positive idea all around. But as a standalone live release, it just does not cut it, and I found little to no satisfaction in the content itself.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Los Angeles, Can You Feel It? - 84%

lonerider, June 25th, 2009

Death – one of the founding fathers and most influential representatives of the extreme subgenre of heavy metal commonly referred to as death metal. Whenever I think of this magnificent band I cannot help but wonder to what new heights mastermind Chuck Schuldiner would have taken his ever-evolving outfit had he not passed away so soon.

Alas, since he sadly is no longer with us, we are left with Live in L.A. and Live in Eindhoven as the band’s last official releases on CD, save some rather forgettable best-of compilations that were published posthumously. I haven’t listened to Live in Eindhoven (which contains almost the exact same track list as the record reviewed here), so I couldn’t tell which is the better of the two. What I do know is that Live in L.A., being Death’s only official live album (aside from its aforementioned twin brother, of course), should be a mandatory purchase for every fan of Death or death metal in general.

The three factors that generally make or break a good live album are recording quality, musicianship and song selection. With regard to the first, the subtitle of this release (Live & Raw) actually fits perfectly, as it is indeed a pretty raw affair that hardly surpasses the sound quality of a competent live bootleg. At the same time, it’s hard to find too much fault with this as all the instruments are adequately audible and the recording is at least honest – this isn’t one of those “Alive in the Studio” deals where all the minor glitches and screw-ups that are bound to occur during a live concert were subsequently erased to make for a more streamlined, polished sound. Let’s just say that when the volume is turned up loud enough, Live in L.A. definitely allows for a rather pleasurable listening experience.

When it comes to the musical performance of the band itself, not much needs to be said other than it’s virtually impeccable; after all, we’re talking about Death here, arguably one of the most technically proficient outfits in extreme metal history. Say what you will about Chuck’s constant line-up overhauls, but he always surrounded himself with absolute top-notch performers who never failed to deliver. This time around, special mention goes to drummer Richard Christy, who puts on a jaw-dropping clinic on his kit, and of course Mr. Schuldiner himself. Considering how technically demanding Death’s music had become in the latter stages of their career, Chuck appears almost superhuman as he not only nails his guitar parts with awe-inspiring virtuosity – he even pulls off the beautiful solo in “Trapped in a Corner” (possibly one of the greatest solo passages in all of heavy metal) to near perfection –, but at the same time delivers an impressive vocal performance. He always had one of the most instantly recognizable voices in all of death metal, and this fact coupled with the incredible amount of venom he manages to put into his lines can literally send shivers down one’s spine. For instance, the way he snarls the words “spirit crusheeeerrrr” in the eponymous song is in itself almost enough to justify buying the album.

Finally, as with all live recordings, the song selection on Live in L.A. is an aspect that cannot be judged by objective means. It’s impossible to please everybody, particularly since this isn’t a double disc set and a single CD provides only so much space. The only complaint I personally have is that the album features only two songs from the band’s discography before Human (“Pull the Plug,” with a nice tongue-in-cheek intro inspired by the TV series Charlie’s Angels, and, of course, the inevitable “Zombie Ritual”), clearly putting the main focus on Death’s final two studio albums Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance. The most glaring omission may be the complete lack of songs from Spiritual Healing, but again, that’s a moot point because in the end it all comes down to different people’s individual preferences.

While Live in L.A. isn’t exactly perfect due to the rather pedestrian recording quality, the meager packaging (no liner notes and only a few photos) and the fact that one CD simply isn’t enough to commemorate Death’s stellar career, it is nevertheless a very nice live document of one of the most important metal bands to ever grace this planet. Even though Chuck is no longer around, this album is further evidence that he has left a lasting impression and will forever live on through his music.

Live and the power it holds. - 95%

TheBigDizzle, July 17th, 2004

This was one of the last thing Death did before Chucks passing. And it was a fantastic way for the band to go out. Death delivers in every respect with this live album, playing like their lives depended on it.

The Philosopher gets the cd going, and it is played extremely well, the band never misses a beat, from there they continue to play a few of their older songs like Crystal Mountain and Zombie Ritual, and some of their newer stuff like Scavenger of Human Sorrow and Spirit Crusher. It's great that the band covers a lot of their discography and they put the same amount of effort in to all of their songs.

Chuck the guitar god still manages to play amazingly and sing at the same time even after all of his years of performing, his singing is a little different than what it is in the studio, even though Death do play Death Metal, Chucks voice almost sounds like it could be used for Black Metal, but, none the less, his voice is still great, and is perfect for the music.

The Drumming on this album is absolutely mind blowing, you can hear them really well, and Richard has a lot of confidence behind the kit, so you know with him you will always get the best drumming you're likely to here, and this cd is no exception

The bass is what you would come to expect of death, it gets the job done, and is great in it's own right, there are certain parts where the bass does stand out in the middle of certain songs, so it definetly something to listen for.

Shannon Hamm is a great compliment to Chuck's guitar work, the 2 work together to bring some great riffs and solos, and none of it is bad at all.

You get 72 minutes of great Death with this cd, so it is highly reccomended that you go buy it if you are a Death fan, or you at least try it out if you like Death Metal in general, you cannot go wrong with this band ever.

Listen and be slain - 80%

stickyshooZ, June 10th, 2004

I don’t know what it is about the Halloween theme playing in the background before the real music starts, but to me, it sets the energy and anticipation perfectly for the haughty musicians before the concert comes crashing in with the ever-classic song “The Philosopher”. Ahh, what a perfect start for a live show. Chuck is on the ball with his new aged raspy screams and screeches goes above and beyond with an obvious vocally stressful performance (after all, it was singing all those years that transformed his deeper growls into his new demoniac wraith induced screams). A little look at the material: three songs from The Sound of Perseverance, four from Symbolic, one from Scream Bloody Gore, two from Individual Thought Patterns, two from Human, and one from Leprosy. Not a bad choice of material since it can be applied to any fans that find a particular interest in any era of Death.

Once again Chuck shows that if the line up isn’t the best, it doesn’t fly. Scott Clendenin (although no Steve DiGiorgio) does an excellent job at filling in the bass slots. I’m not sure what kind of equipment Scott was using, but his sound fits perfectly in this live performance. You can hear the click of his bass in the back, filling in the gaps and meshing the guitars with the heavy hitting drums. I’m sure a good amount of people are aware that it can be arduous to hear the bass during a live performance; well, those who are always searching for clear bass, look no further.

For you have found a live performance with stand out bass that actually kicks and amplifies the brinks of the overall tone. Chuck’s wailing Stealth takes the stand to deliver the goods and does a fine job. The teeth gritting, screeching solos go overboard and make you feel as if your brain has just been pummeled by a wave of technical Hell. Shannon Hamm proves to be a good replacement for Andy LaRocque as he performs the hypnotic solo in Trapped In A Corner; immediately, all doubt is erased. Richard Christy also proves to be a meritorious selection to fill in for Gene Hoglan, as he performs Scavenger of Human Sorrow and everything else with ease.

Richard’s drums have a heavy and meaty sound to them, especially the snare. You could go as far as to call this a best of compilation album, because almost all of the best Death songs are on here. The only problem is that some of the palm muting parts in Zombie Ritual can be a little scanty in volume, but if you’re blasting this in your stereo you’ll hear it just fine. I am a little confused as to what exactly the band was playing before they got to the actual song “Pull The Plug”. The track starts, but what they are playing isn’t Pull The Plug.

I have no idea what it is, but it sounds awesome, swift, and mesmerizing. A few times during the album Chuck states that they are running low on time and have to cut out a couple of songs. It peaks my interest to wonder what songs would have been added, given if they’d had the time to perform them. Personally, I would have liked to see at least one song performed off of Spiritual Healing, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. Either way, all the songs are performed perfectly - no mess-ups, no weird tempo changes...just pure raw Death.

Definitely not a live album to end all others, but it ranks fairly high. If you’re interested in the CD you should also try to pick up the VHS or DVD of this; it’s well worth the money.

This is pure "Death"...Live!!!!!!!!!!! - 90%

skolnick, February 12th, 2003

Well, this one is a great live album...and first of all i have to say (being this my first Death review) that Chuck Schuldiner was and always will be the father of Death Metal. I mean, you have to admire a man who had that kind of persistence to make the world know about his music and to break the boundaries of his musical style. The man never gave up fighting during his "Mantas" years to bring us the most aggressive and superb death metal ever heard. So, after all, Chuck went to a better place so rightfully deserved for him, a place where this fantastic innovative soul can finally rest, apart from the hypocrisy, the lies and the betrayal that this world had only to offer him (as we see in some of his lyrical efforts). R.I.P brother...

This is a hell of a live album, Chuck and his mates really managed to destroy everything at their arrival every single night on that tour (sadly the last Death tour). We all know that Death’s leader abilities to surround himself with the finest musicians for his recordings were always very effective. The same members that played “Sound of Perseverance” with Chuck are present in this album…and I sometimes think…this could be the most solid Death formation in their whole entire history.
Shannon Hamm always played his parts decently, showing us that he also know how to make some technical fast shreds, especially when being able to replace Andy LaRocque’s parts; Scott Clendenin has his presence over here, this is a really great bass tone, I don’t know what the fuck he used on that concert, but that bass just sounds really good, especially at the intro for “Spirit Crusher” and then Richard Christy proves to be a worthy replacement over Gene Hoglan. Ferocious drum beats and a pure appetite for destruction are his personal marks on this record. Very competent line-up gathered by Chuck…of course, almost forgetting, the man himself make his impressive role as he always did, but this time singing with those anger high vocals like the ones in their last studio album. If you wanted me to describe the performance of these guys in one word, I would have to say: Devastating!!!

The highest points one this record are…”The Philosopher”( great riffs at that intro, classical Death stuff), “Spirit Crusher”( Great Bass, and also some great thrashing), “Trapped in a Corner”( Great solos, and also fantastic intro riffs), “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” (Great drumming and an excellent song), “Crystal Mountain” ( Symbolic’s best song, superbly executed), “Flesh and the Power it Holds” (long one, but a journey, not a bore), “Zero Tolerance, “Zombie Ritual” (SCREAM BLOODY GORE, SCREAM BLOODY GORE!!!!!!!!!!!), “Suicide Machine” (Great ass kicker), “Together as One” (Proving that “Human” was their finest album), “Empty Words” (Beautifully…Destructive), “Symbolic” (need to say something else?) and “Pull the Plug” (From the undeservedly despised “Leprosy” album, great finisher, brutal screaming by Chuck at the end)…Well the highest points are…ALL OF THEM!!!!

The production could be a lot better, because the title of the record really fits on the sound of it, “Death & RAW”. Sometimes the drumming by Christy is almost eating the other instruments alive, but they still managed to create in those conditions a hell of a fucking sound. My only advice: Get it…unfortunately it’s a little late for help (due to this being a beneficial record with the former purpose of providing money to pay for his health treatments, since he didn’t had a heath insurance), but it’s a worthy item to get…and a tribute to Death Metal, in it’s purest soul: Live!!!