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An Under-Appreciated Gem - 91%

IceSage, August 13th, 2013

Shortly after Tourniquet recorded their iconic opus Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance, founding vocalist Guy Ritter jumped ship. This was a hard blow to many (including myself) who rank Ritter among the most unique vocal talents to have graced the world of metal. But while the wound of his departure was still fresh, Intense Records invited the band to record this 2nd entry in their 'live in the studio' series. Not even missing a beat, the band stepped up and called on Les Carlsen of Bloodgood to fill in for Ritter's parts on this recording. Now, Carlsen is a competent singer for sure, but his distinct voice sounds nothing at all like Ritter's. To say the least he would seem an odd fit for Tourniquet's style of thrash. For those not familiar with Bloodgood, this might be compared to inviting Ronnie James Dio into the studio to sing some Mercyful Fate songs - So, not a logical collaboration by any means. With that in mind you know right from the start that this could either be an amazingly unique listening experience, or painfully awful to endure. Thankfully, this one lands solidly in the former category.

Like the late Dio, Les Carlsen is an amazingly talented and theatrical vocalist. Carlsen's timing on some of the vocal lines suggests that he wasn't familiar with Tourniquet's music before this session, but he nevertheless pulls them off with style. Even more than that; He absolutely OWNS these songs! Not only does this recording show Carlsen's versatility as a vocalist, but the strength of the songwriting overall. Tourniquet's so-called "Beethoven meets Frankenstein" thrash blends surprisingly well with Carlsen's rock opera antics, and this material takes full advantage of his broad vocal range. The high note he belts out (and holds) in the middle of the Ark of Suffering/Stereotaxic Atrocities medley is just awe inspiring, and his emotional performance on 'The Skeezix Dilemma' sends a chill up my spine.

OK... so I guess that's enough about the guest vocalist. The other musicians deserve just as much recognition for this gem. Without exception, they all perform with a precision and skill that sounds anything but live. Ted Kirkpatrick's drumming is as textured and diverse as ever. The dual-guitar attack of Gary Lenaire and Eric Mendez is a seamless marriage of riffs, lending itself to some noticeable and welcome improvisation ('Whitewashed Tomb'). Lenaire's Araya-esque shouts sound great too. It is apparent that some of the compositions have been abridged (most notably on the epic ''The Skeezix Dilemma', which lost about 2 1/2 minutes of it's original length), but the fact that the songs readily bend to these adjustments and retain their potency is testimony not only to the talent of the musicians, but also the strength of the song-writing. All of the songs were apparently down-tuned to 'C' in an effort to make things a little more interesting as well, but to be honest the difference is barely perceptible.

Really, the only thing keeping this EP from a perfect score is the final track. Apparently the band thought it would be a great idea to cover 'The Messiah', one of Bloodgood's most well known songs. Maybe it was a way of saying 'thank you' to Les Carlsen for his time and effort on this recording; Who knows. Either way it seems altogether pointless to 'cover' a song so faithfully with the original vocalist in studio. OK, so they down-tuned the guitars; It still sounds pretty darn close to the original version. And I know, It's a ballad, so I don't suppose they could thrash it up Slayer-style like they did on the previous track for their cover of Trouble's 'The Tempter' (That one sounds better than the original, btw). The point is this: Bloodgood performs this song at EVERY show and the band already has multiple official live (audio and video) recordings of the song. I mean, while they were at it maybe they should have called in Bruce Dickinson to record another live version of 'Run to the Hills'.

All joking aside, this truly is a top notch performance from one of thrash metal's A-list bands. It's also my favorite entry in the Intense Live series, though Mortal's contribution (Volume 5) is more than worthy of second place. It really is a shame that it slipped so far under the radar, though Metal Blade did manage to snatch up 'The Tempter' cover as a bonus track for their re-pressings of Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance. This one deserves to be enjoyed from start to finish, and as much as I rag on the redundancy of recording 'The Messiah' live with Les Carlsen, it is a good song, so it's similarity to the original only ensures that it's every bit as enjoyable as it was on Detonation, or Bloodgood Rock Theater: Shakin' the World... or Bloodgood Live in Norway... :P

This one's long out of print but you can download the whole thing for under five bucks directly from the band. Give it a chance and you'll enjoy a truly unique musical collaboration that is not likely to be repeated.

Intense my ass! - 5%

Kalelfromkrypton, July 20th, 2010

Well well well, by now you might think that I am being really harsh against this album. This is not an album if I start from that. This is an utter shit, plain and simple.

Let me elaborate: Intense Records had the great idea (whose idea was I’d like to know to send him/her to the corner with a dumb hat) of putting out some supposedly live albums from some of their catalogue bands. What was the idea behind it? It is beyond me. Let me tell you why: these albums are NOT concert live recordings. They are more like rehearsals to proof…I have no idea to proof what! But they do sound like rehearsals.

Here is the other great idea, and I am guessing that Terry Taylor must have thought: ’’hey, let’s put Les Carlsen from Bloodgood to sing with them!’’ Les Carlsen my friends, the awesome singer from Bloodgood, which style completely differs from Tourniquet’s was blend together to try to sing speed metal or even thrash. At this point I’d like to have Terry Taylor in front just to spit on his face for such stupid idea. If you do not know by now who Les Carlsen is, let me compare him: put Michael Sweet from Stryper to sing with Kreator, or even better, put Britney Spears to sing with Epica and you get the idea. How in this world was that even thought by Terry goes beyond my deepest imagination.

Of course Les Carlsen does his job with his band, more than ok I have to say but in this case he falls short due to the heaviness of the music. For instance, the Trouble cover, sung by Gary Lenaire is well done. They maximized the potential of the already powerful song and in here, the driving riff takes the song to the next level. ‘The Messiah’ by Bloodgood themselves is beautifully performed as well. It is now a doom metal song reaching some heaviness that was impossible to Bloodgood. In here, Les’ vocals match perfectly; despise the new levels of depth throughout the song.

Phantom Limb (putting aside the vocals which we already know don’t work here) is really good, although not outstanding, but IT IS a kick ass song to listen to anyway. ‘Ark of suffering’ and ‘Stereotaxic’ do not match. They obviously put them together because of the lyrical topics (for further details go to the original albums’ reviews) but the problem here is that the first song kicks ass but the second one simply pales in comparison.

‘Whitewashed tomb’ is an awesome instrumental (the original I mean) but here I detect some production and mixing problems which take away the punch and crunch the original song had. Maybe it is just me but I can’t help feeling that. Finally, so to say, we have ‘The skeezix dilemma’ which again, suffers a lot from this production problem and specially here due to the vocals. Les Carlsen simply does not have the power or even a single growl that can reach the creepy and dark atmosphere from the original.

Do I need to continue? If you see the set list you can simply say: ‘’hey, they are stealing money from me by trying to sell me an album with only 6 songs with a singer that DOES NOT fit the music’’. If you think this you are right! Don’t ever buy even if you find it on an auction, or a foreclosure or garage sale. The only reason I can think of is charity, and that is saying a lot because this aberration can be thrashed all away. It is more intense a fart by any metal head than this nonsense.