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Metal Blade Records must have had enormous confidence in their young act Slayer, releasing Live Undead after only a year after the band's debut Show No Mercy, before they had a wealth of material from which to draw. The Haunting the Chapel EP had also come out by this point, and it's represented here through "Captor of Sin", but hell, if this album were any longer it might have encompassed all of the band's official tracks to its day. Instead, Live Undead is short but sweet, with only seven songs at 22 minutes that flow intuitively like rivulets of red against razor-tracked veins, and despite its brevity, it stands alongside Maiden's Live After Death or Destruction's Live Without Sense as one of the finer 80s live recordings in metal.
To be honest, though, I'm not sure one could deem this a 'proper' live album. Instead of playing up on a stage in front of strangers, this was recorded in a New York studio to an audience of what I assume were largely friends and acquaintances. It's even been hinted that the band just added crowd noises in after the recording, something producer Bill Metoyer has been close-lipped about when asked. So, to an extent, the studio setting allows for a more controlled environment, and it's no surprise that it sounds quite this good, but judging by the drum sound and the little spoken intros and outros that flow seamlessly with the music, these are at least different versions than the previously released studio takes. For what it's worth, the band sounds great here, with a punishing clarity that allows Araya's vocals and bass to freely wander alongside the dense and meaty guitar tone, while Lombardo thunders away flawlessly.
The song selection is, of course, kick ass, being taken from only the band's early works. Show No Mercy favorites like "Die By the Sword", "Black Magic", "Evil Has No Boundaries", the title track, and especially "The Antichrist" all murder the small 'audience'. All are vibrant and brutal for the time, with perhaps "The Antichrist" and "Evil Has No Boundaries" shining through the most. These are joined by "Captor of Sin", which Tom Araya dedicates to 'all the little cunts who like to spread their legs in the night'; and "Aggressive Perfector", which wouldn't be heard again in studio form until the single for "Seasons in the Abyss" (1990). It's a mix that any Slayer fan should and would relish, long before they chocked up their discography with the mediocrity of the 90s, and reminds one of more exciting times for the speed/thrash genre.
In any case, Live Undead is quite pro, even if it's been manipulated somewhat to sound like something it wasn't. Those seeking out a far more substantial live offering from the Californians would be wise to go for Decade of Aggression, which still features a largely quality track listing and includes material from the impeccable South of Heaven and the amazing Reign in Blood, but the consistency within this 22 minute experience cannot be beat if you just want something to get the blood stirred en route to work or your sister's wedding or a court arraignment or whatnot.
This is good for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. The songs are basically played the same way they were on the studio versions, but it shouldnt take away from the power that is used on this EP. There is obviously more energy and speed to these numbers than was true of their studio counterparts.
Black Magic was the perfect opener (though I'm not sure exactly in what order these songs were played). It was one of the faster and heavier songs Slayer had done up until this point, which would be a perfect buildup for the rest of the show. The version of Die by The Sword is even better than the studio version, adding a bit more speed and improvised solos in the middle slower part. Show no Mercy has the best performance on the cd, with a chant of SLAYER! near the end.
Tom Araya's song introductions are cheesier than a cheese sandwich, and adds a lot of comic relief to the fast heavy onslaught in between these banters. I mean, honestly...."this is for all the little cunts who like to spread their legs in the night"???? Truly laughable material.
I read a Kerry King interview in 1986 that said that this album was released the same day as Hell Awaits. I'm still not sure if this rumor is correct, as the archives say November 1984, but if it was, I'm sure they would have included at least one or two songs from that album, so the myth is still up in the air. Nonetheless, this is a good EP. Its nothing definitive like Decade of Aggression, and adding Chemical Warfare (not the studio version that's included on some pressings) to the live set would have made it better than it is, but its a good addition to any Slayer catelogue for anyone who wanted to hear some Slayer official live recording before they hit the mainstream.
An interesting listen, despite being nothing worth getting excited over.
Owing to all the hubbub over the upcoming Slayer full-length, I recently got this one out, and gave it a spin for reassessment purposes.
This record is a brief , but totally enjoyable, slab of raucous FUN.
If you want massive thundering live hall / arena sound, and one of the 20th century's most visible bands at the peak of their powers, this is not the place to go...luckily for you, there is a certain 2-disc onslaught called Decade of Aggression to satisfy those needs. Now then, if you want to hear the sounds of people being driven into frenzies of mania by the kind of electrified black magic that only a young Slayer (complete with the castrato shrieks on 'The Antichrist'....my "soul will RRRRROOOOOTTTT!") could dish out, then this is well worth the half-hour or so that it will take out of your life.
It really isn't the 'music', per se, that makes this album; but the combination of music with the VERY audible fans. I was really disappointed when I finally found out that this was just a 'live studio' recording and not an actual club gig....when I first heard this record, all my friends and I were laughing our asses off at the prospect of an audience who could actually be LOUDER than Slayer. Whatever the case, there's something weirdly comforting about hearing a 50-strong crowd of dudes (and it's all 'dudes', no 'ladies and gentlemen' here, I'm afraid...) making a joyful noise unto the Slayer for the ENTIRE SET; whooping and hollering and shouting out song titles as if they hoped their focused, diabolical energy would cause the Pentagon to levitate or something. After a while it makes me wonder who is actually working harder here...the band, or their fans? Even if they have been drinking for about 6 hours before Slayer even plugged in, an hour of of matching the band's songs blow-for-blow with enthusiastic yelling must be hard work.
The songs are, again, not as majestic as the studio LP versions or the 'Decade of Aggression' versions (although 'Evil Has No Boundaries' isn't available on D.O.A.). In fact, they're not really that different in their execution, other than the fact that Tom Araya might occasionally growl where he would have shrieked otherwise, or vice versa. There's few surprises to be had in terms of drastically re-arranged solos or improvisations. No chances for Dave Lombardo to really cut loose on the drums, either. But none of that really matters. The 'fifth column' of crazy Slayer fans is a potent instrument that makes this record way more entertaining than your typical live record: cookie-cutter affairs which are normally tossed to the hungry masses as a 'stop-gap' between the production of studio albums.
I'd recommend this not only to metal fans, but also to people who are "on the outside looking in" on metal culture: people writing their sociology reports on 'metal' (and there are just about a ton of 'em..believe me); or to those people who think it's somehow *cough* FUNNY and IRONIC to wear a 2nd-hand Slayer t-shirt to the nearest hipster bar. And while the latter people might enjoy this album for totally different reasons than a real metal fan would, it just goes to show what an effective formula Slayer have brewed up.
This 7 track Live E.P. from Slayer should probably be a part of your collection if it isn't already. While if you were forced to choose, the full live presentation of Decade Of Aggression would be the one you should go for, though for any enthusiastic Metal fan this should be owned. It's a short selection of some of the more memorable songs from the Show No Mercy (along with a song from the infamous Haunting The Chapel E.P.) debut played with youthful energy and aggression. It's nothing to blow your mind, but something that's nice to listen to and get something out of. Most of the songs are played at an equivalent level to the studio album, but songs such as The Antichrist benefit from some speeding up. Tom Araya's introductions in between songs can raise some chuckles: "They say the pen is mightier than the sword, well fuck the pen, 'cuz you're gonna die by the sword!" before Die By The Sword and "This is for all the cunts that like to spread their legs in the night" before Captor Of Sin (or something). It's part of what makes the novelty value of the recording and a certain "cool" factor that seeps in there. Add to that the sometimes silly and inhuman chanting and screaming from the crowd, it sort of enhances the experience, 50 of their closest friends can't expected to act as civilised as a crowd in a big arena. It's nothing groundbreaking or essential, but it maybe garners this position since this has some of the greatest artwork done for a Slayer album. The grisly nocturnal graveyard scene complements the band's image at the time and really looks rather fitting to the early Thrash that accompanies it. My version includes the "Haunting The Chapel" E.P. which will have its own review but is also a reason to pick up this 1993 remastered version.
It does after several listens come across as pretty plain with minimal packaging and just a small selection of songs, but the version with the other E.P. included though should gain entrance into any Slayer collection.
Well...it has been said that this one isn't exactly a live recording...And after hearing that, I really found it a little weird to hear the crowd's roaring at the same sound level of the rest of the instruments, tell me...don't you find it a little bit weird????
I would not be so surprised if this one would really be a demo as the critics and some people I know have said...But taking that to the second plan, this is a hell of an E.P. Those songs sound really good, and are some of the best "Show No Mercy" numbers, with the exception of "Captor of Sin" from the "Haunting the Chapel" E.P. This one really sounds very precise...too precise for a live acting, and it cannot be denied that it has a good production.
If you've heard their first full-length this is no new stuff for you. You are only going to listen to the same songs being played in a more complete and good sounding way than the one in "Show No Mercy".
The highest points are "Black Magic", "Captor of Sin" "Evil Has No Boundaries" and "Aggressive Perfector". "Show No Mercy" is also very good, but that drum intro isn't as intense as the one in the original studio recording...
This, even if it is a demo, perfectly captures the spirit of an early Slayer hungry for blood in their truest beginnings, and it's a good album to get, but if you want some Slayer "real live" albums, then you should get "Decade of Aggression".
The other guy reviewing this will mention how there could have been a lot more songs on this, which strikes a small wave of disappointment in me as a casual listener, because the seven tracks as they are are a great collection of live, raw, fucking heavy thrash metal! The recording quality is that of a good bootleg and the crowd is small (reason given below), but hey - this was 1984! And it sure feels like it too...
The songs are, of course, severe thrash metal and are still fast and raw here. Sometimes the solos seem like they're being drowned out a bit by the other guitar but that ain't much of a problem. There's some nice little touches on here - Tom's intro to Die By The sword, his falsetto on The Antichrist and the abbreviated intro to Aggressive Perfector, overall it's all good heavy shit.
But, it ended up being an EP. The story is, Slayer played a short set in a studio in front of 50 of their closest friends. Well, not quite. They actually played 19 songs that day. Three sets. The seven songs played here are a mix-and-match, and pretty decently reflect their late 1983 setlist for the most part, except totally out of order (they start with Evil has No Boundaries... they hadn't started with Black Magic since April '83!)
The thing is, though, they played a total of 9 different songs. Which is what their setlist for the most part comprised of (unless they were an opener, in which case they played 6, but I digress...). They could have definitely put two others ("Haunting the Chapel" and "Tormentor", if I recall correctly) on here as well. And also, did you know that Show No Mercy has a long drum intro that they cut out?
As I said, this could've been a masterpiece. The performance is second to none, and the recording is impeccable. But the production completely leaves out a lot of essentials - one must find some bootlegs before that day in the studio can be fully appreciated.