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The concept of the live album, in a metal context, has been the subject of little variation. The general formula, as earlier established by mainstays from Black Sabbath to Manowar, is to play up the audience participation and to not only modify studio songs for the sake of surprising and involving the audience, but also to shorten and combine them in order to get more material into a shorter duration. Though song selection naturally plays a pivotal role alongside this tendency to include the audience, production takes a critical role, and all but demands a sound conducive to a theatrical setting with plenty of crowd noise and applause. In all of these respects, In Flames’ well known live offering “The Tokyo Showdown” could be considered the opposite of a live album, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
While it is all well and good to hear the screaming of thousands upon thousands of faithful Brazilian metal heads on a Helloween live album, or hear Ronnie James Dio humbly featuring the audience for a sing along, sometimes you just want to hear the band. In this, the album is a very massive success, offering up something that sounds like a small venue gig, even though it most likely was not given the popularity of the band at this point. There’s a bit of an overemphasis on the drums and the bass is uncharacteristically loud compared to all of the studio versions of these songs, but this doesn’t wholly detract from the overall feel of things. The only thing that really kind of drags on the quality of these songs is that Friden’s emo tendencies (which exploded a year later on “Reroute To Remain”) have seeped into what were originally supposed to be quiet spoken lines, particularly on that of “Bullet Ride” and “Ordinary Story”.
One thing has to be handed to this band, regardless of whether or not the contents of “Whoralce” through “Clayman” were well received by your ears (as these albums dominate this offering), this is a very faithful and consistent presentation of the driving, somewhat power metal-like tendency of this era of the band. Absent perhaps the amplified presence given by studio tweaks and enhanced keyboard ambiences (the latter of which is heavily downplayed on here), this is what these songs likely would have sounded like had they been recorded in one take, save Anders attempting to involve the audience a little bit at the beginning of “Swim”. The renditions of such hard hitting speeders like “Clayman”, “Scorn” and “Pinball Map” feature exquisite guitar work and might encourage some involuntary horn throwing. The classics “Moonshield” and “Beyond Space” are also nicely realized, though the acoustic elements have been either omitted or electrified, and songs I’m not terribly keen on like “Jotun” and “Episode 666” sound energetic and lively, probably due to the superior kit abilities of Dan Svensson.
It is somewhat strange to be dissenting on this point, but this is actually among the better In Flames releases during their middle era, and it is definitely a somewhat surprising breath of fresh air in an endless stream of live albums where bands seek to overemphasize the audience reaction. This is not to say that the roar of applause in a massive arena is a bad thing, but it is refreshing to hear a band focus on what the audience is actually focused on during the concert, and that is the music. Those who want pure melodeath will have to try and hunt down the split live album with Darkseed and EverEve, but for the less fussy and conservative types, this is slightly inferior but still fun album by a band that was still in the game.
Ok so you form a band, you release some albums usually about 4 or so. You get a huge fan base (as well as a huge hater base). Then you tour and release a live album. That’s exactly what In Flames decided to do. Well, sort of.
This is a live album from In Flames, and it got released right in the middle of their career as a band (where they switched from Gothenburg to modern rock/metal). So the album consists of their old Gothenburg songs to some of their modern rock ones from Clayman. Now the album was released in 2001, so the majority of the tracks on here are from the previous 2 albums Colony and Clayman. So if you did not like those albums for whatever reasons, best to avoid this one.
Now the only 2 things to consider in this one are:
1) Song selection
I mean that’s really all there is to a live album, if they picked good songs that you and the fans like and if the whole live production a great, great as in you can hear the crowd screaming, band gets in the performance, extended guitar solos, and so forth.
The song selection is the main thing that will keep people away from this one. Tracks mostly come from Colony and Clayman, although there are also tracks from Whoracle, and 1 track each from Lunar Strain and The Jester Race. But that’s the problem with the whole thing. There’s not enough of their old material on this one. The majority of it is off Clayman so they were most likely touring for their Clayman album when this was produced. But still, you can’t just have 1 song from your early material. They got “Behind Space” at least, which is one of their best songs on here and in general. The only song they got from The Jester Race is “Moonshield”. And to tell you the truth, I don’t even like that song. They should at least have done “Artifacts of the Black Rain”. That’s one of their best on that album.
This album has the weirdest “live” production I have ever heard. It has the live feel from the band themselves, but that’s about it. You hear next to no audience throughout almost the whole thing. You hear some screams and applause in some songs like in “Only for the Weak” but that is about it. I mean in a live album I just expect lots more, I expected lots of screams/cheering from the crowd, extending guitar/drum solos, and some conversation between the band and the fans. Well, Anders does talk to the audience after most of the song, but it takes 4-5 songs in it before he does anything like that. And to make things worse, it sounds like it’s edited/cut off. He’ll talk and it just switches to the next song, like they were trying to save time or something. If it’s a live album why would you edit it? That kind of takes out the live part of it, the part where you feel like your there even though your not. That is what The Tokyo Showdown cannot accomplish.
So what we are looking at is a live album in the middle of In Flames career, with some fucked up production that makes it feel like it’s not live. Its like hearing Colony and Clayman live in an oversized studio with In Flames and with about 15 Japanese people in the background. The over edited transition between songs is the worst part of this one, it’s even worse than the song selection. I personally didn’t mind the song selection because I kind of liked those 2 albums. But for those of you who didn’t like them. Stay the hell away from this live album.
As soon as I saw that In Flames released a live album, I decided it’d be worth it since mostly all of their material is good to me. For the most part, I was right and wrong at the same time. The only problem I have on this album is the horrible production. The vocals sound horrible (for most of the time) and it has like a stereo sound being constantly played. Anders did a good job on some of the songs, but most of them he screwed up big time. I’ll review some of the songs that I found quite good… and bad on the album below
2) Embody the Invisible – This would probably be my third favourite song on the album. The guitar work sounds awesome just like the studio version, but Anders’ vocals are not that good on this one. At first the song sounded like “Bullet Ride” to me at first, but then I realised that it was a pretty good song. 8/10
3) Jotun – They totally screwed this one up. Jesper and Bjorn ended up repeating the pre-chorus part after the chorus. At one point it seemed that Anders had completely forgotten the lyrics for the song. Sounded more like mumbling to me during this one. Horrible quality 4/10
5) Moonshield – Pretty good for a live track, Anders’ vocals were fine on this song. The only problem I had was that he could have had more of the death metal tone from the studio version of the song. Another thing I noticed that there was no acoustic part at the beginning, which was a shame. But most of all, the crowd sounded completely dead right after the song. 9/10
9) Only for the Weak – What the hell? The guitar work on this song sounds nothing like the album version. Horrible quality for the most part, Anders sounds like he wasn’t even trying his best on this song. The screaming was horrible, as well as the drums. You can barely even hear them (same goes for the whole album as well). Seems like Jesper and Bjorn decided to use effects for the intro and chorus, which totally screwed up the song. 3/10
11) Scorn – For some reason I cannot stand this song, so I just skipped it every time I would listen to the CD.
15) Episode 666 – Good way to finish off the CD. This would probably be the best song on the album, to me that is. Nobody in the band did anything to screw up this classic, thank god for that. Once again, the production quality wasn’t that bad and it had a sort of stereo sound to it.
Overall, the album is good. Don’t try to compare it to Lunar Strain or Whoracle, it’d get crushed easily. The Tokyo Showdown doesn’t match up that good against other live albums, which is a damn shame. Production quality could have been better and as well as the set list. 75%
The album kicks off with Bullet Ride, which opens with a nice riff that gets pulled out and replaced with Anders singing over... from the production my best guess is just bass and drums. And the song is ruined. Is it just me, or does every singer suck live? Not that Anders was all that good in the studio...
Embody the Invisible is just about the same song as in the Colony album. Nothing special, bad production and vocals.
Jotun kicks just about enough ass to make up for the problems on this album. Anders' singing hits just about an all-time low here, but the rest of the band does quite well.
Food For the Gods has about the best vocals on this album. All in all, it's an average song.
Moonshield is an excellent song, but the performance here does not do it justice. The acoustic intro that makes it so powerful is skipped entirely, the aforementioned production screws up the rest of the music, and Anders truly rapes a classic.
Clayman is just a shitty song. At one point Anders sounds like he's whining.
Swim is just another song from Clayman. Not nearly as horrible as the crap they've been doing lately, but I always skip it.
"We're going to take you, all of you, Behind Space! So long!" CHEESE. The band performs well here, but Anders rapes another classic. At one point Anders sounds like he's got a rabid gerbil in his ass.
Only For the Weak was about the best song on Clayman, and is performed fairly well here, but asking the audience to "jump! jump! jump! jump!" was another unnecessary dose of cheese. Also, the catchy background vocals are skipped entirely.
"Gee-eye-ro-scope" is pretty good, but the album version ruins its shit. Get "Black-Ash Inheritance" if you want to hear this song done correctly.
Just say no to Scorn. Apparently it can get worse than the album version.
Ordinary Story was much like the album version, just like every other song here from Colony. The usual production and vocal complaints apply.
I skip Pinball Map every time. The only interesting thing about it is that in the negative time before the track it sounds like he calls it "Pimple Map."
For comments on Colony, see Embody the Invisible and Ordinary Story.
Episode 666 was actually pretty good. Call me lame, but I got a kick out of the sing-along bits. Not spectacular, and not as good as Jotun, but pretty good.
I heard about this live album after I finally got a chance to see In Flames live back when they toured with Iced Earth and Jag Panzer. I thought they put on a pretty good show when I saw them so I didn't hesitate to pick this album up. Big mistake. The producton is absolutely atrocious. The guitars drown out everything. To make things worse nearly every song has this fuzzy muffled sound to it. In short, some of the bootlegs that float around online sound much better than this official live album.
I'm not going to go through track by track because I'll just end up repeating the same comments over and over like overpowering fuzzy guitars and such. However I make a few notes about certain tracks on the album.
01 Bullet Ride- I don't know what Anders was doing with the opening vocals but he certainly managed to fuck them up pretty bad. The screaming was fairly decent though
06 Clayman -What the hell was with the mallcore screaming around 2:30 that was not in the original song?
08- Behind Space rocks as usual. I just can't mention negative stuff now can I?
12 Ordinary Story- Talk about a train wreck. The opening clean vocals are absolutely awful and borderline in comprehensible. "here success is written in blood-red colours" sounds more like "abrab writ crawlaers" Around 3:15 or so Anders briefly turns to his new found mallcore screaming.
13 Pinball Map- This song just doesn't sound very good live at all.
The production just kills this one. Anders also just isn't much a frontman on this album. He lacks energy as he poorly attempts to stir up the crowd. The concert feels like it was a half assed performance from In Flames and the production certainly feels half assed therefore it shall get a half assed score.
Of course, what metal band does not have a live album from Japan? Honestly, whats so great about Japan. Anyways, this album has its good moments and it has its bad moments. If your not really into In Flames, such as myself, this album is good to get, because they have most of their classic hits from the albums Clayman, Whoracle, Colony, and The Jester Race. Most metal bands, or any bands for that matter, decide to come out with a live album. I have one question for these guys: Did they have a producer for this album or did they produce it on their own mics and stuff? The guitars are really good. Nice riffs and definetly nice harmonizing (check out Moonshield). The vocals are pretty good too, but sometimes it is hard to hear them. Did they mic the drums? It is hard to hear all the other instruments. The guitars basical drain out all the other instruments. The only song I think they don't drain out is on Only For The Weak, which is a pretty kick ass song. On this song you can even hear the keyboards. The guitars drain out the vocals for most of the time! Man, this is a worse nightmare for bands with live albums. But besides the crappy production this album isn't all that bad! Great songs if you have the patience to listen deep past the guitars and to all the other stuff!