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Five great bands; one CD - 90%

MaDTransilvanian, November 27th, 2008

Nuclear Blast Festivals 2000 is a five-band split live album featuring five of Nuclear Blast's more well-known extreme metal bands: Destruction, Hypocrisy, Crematory, Kataklysm and Raise Hell. It's a live album (or DVD, depending on the version, but I have the CD version so that's what I'll be focusing on) and it features 3 or 4 songs for each of the five bands. The split's quality varies from band to band but it's generally a solid split album which explores each band's style quite well.

The first three tracks are by Raise Hell, a Swedish blackened thrash metal band and the least well-known band out of the five. All three tracks are from their third album, Not Dead Yet. Starting with Dance with the Devil, a solid modern thrash metal song with a rather catchy chorus and superb clear production values, Raise Hell prove their talent. The vocals aren't clean but rather growly and somewhat reminiscent of some of the darker Sodom moments. All three songs by Raise Hell are a nice mix of technical drumming and strong, truly memorable riffs, their music being similar in style and quality to German thrash metal. Their highlight is probably either Dance with the Devil or Soulcollector, both songs being equally solid and yet catchy (for thrash).

Next up are three songs by Montreal death metal band Kataklysm, the first two being from the The Prophecy (Stigmata of the Immaculate) album while the last song is from Temple of Knowledge (Kataklysm Part III) album. Playing their usual style of death metal, Kataklysm deliver a solid performance, definitely the heaviest out of the five bands although that's simply because of the type of metal they play. Opening with the oddly titled 1999:6661:2000 which thunders on with the usual over-the-top drumming present in many death metal live performances, the band play a nice little set which isn't necessarily the best I've heard in the world (Kataklysm isn't my favourite death metal band, they're good and have their moments but that's it) but is still worth hearing, especially for fans of the band. The songs of The Prophecy are decent but nothing special while The Awakener is definitely the best of the three, a killer of a death metal track with a slow intro building into a barrage of riffs and blastbeats for the rest of the song. The vocals in this live performance are pretty good, not really deserving all the criticism the band always gets for their vocalist's work.

The third band playing on this split is Hypocrisy, the Swedish atmospheric/melodic death metal band and the number one reason why I bought this live split to begin with. They play two tracks, the first and last, off their S/T comeback album while the other two tracks are from their then-new Into the Abyss album. Theirs is a breathtaking live performance as they have long accustomed their fans to (just listen to the Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken live album or its DVD version), songs like Fractured Millennium losing absolutely none of their atmosphere and charm when played live compared to the normal studio version. One thing about Hypocrisy is that they're much better playing slow to mid tempo songs instead of faster more thrash-oriented ones because the faster ones tend to become rather generic when compared to the rest of their work. Legions Descend is the offender here, not a bad song by any means but it pales in comparison with the three other masterpieces which are the previously mentioned Fractured Millennium (a benchmark for melodic death metal), the all-time classic Fire in the Sky with its amazing mid-song break or the slow-paced atmospheric Elastic Inverted Visions, a very melodic song in which Peter delivers one of his best clean vocal performances alongside his usual growls and his incredible guitar work, with a beautiful solo in the second half of the song.

Next up is Destruction, the classic German thrash metal band and I must admit that this was my first exposure to them. And I must say, I’m rather impressed, both by the excellent performance (especially on The Butcher Strikes Back) and by the overall quality of the music. Two of their songs are from their then-newest album All Hell Breaks Loose while the two other songs are from their 1984 debut EP, Sentence of Death. All the tracks are great thrash metal songs, all memorable with their great guitar work behind them. The classics that are Mad Butcher with its timeless riffs and the complete thrasher Total Desaster are the highlights here from a songwriting standpoint even if the aforementioned performance on The Butcher Strikes Back is awe-inspiring; it makes me wish to see them live soon. Destruction's live performance on this split has definitely left me impressed.

To close this five-band split come three songs by the German gothic death metal band Crematory. I got this live split because of Hypocrisy's presence but it turned me into a Crematory fan, their three songs being the ones I've listened to the most since I bought this. Their performance is the only one where the three songs come from three different albums, Endless, I Never Die and Away being respectively off the Believe, Act Seven and Awake albums. I was previously aware of Crematory's existence but their performance on this EP truly blew me away, it's just so amazing and varied that it's difficult not to like their music. They manage to mix death metal with gothic and clean vocal elements in such a successful way that it's truly great to listen to. The guitar work varies between death metal riffs to acoustic passages with keyboard sections supplementing them, while the vocals are either very deep growls or beautiful melodic clean singing, where each style compliments the other and gives it more depth. Their music is also very uplifting and, dare I say it, happy, making it great music by which to drive during the summer. It also adds a lot of variation to the whole of the split, probably more so than any of the other bands save perhaps Hypocrisy.

This 17-song live split album was released by Nuclear Blast to promote themselves (hence the title) and their numerous bands and it's definitely a great split album regardless of anyone’s opinion of the label and their policies. The five bands present are all talented and their different styles make this one of the most varied released I own and it's really worth hunting down and finding because there's nothing but good music and given the different styles almost everyone who's into extreme metal will find something they like.