The Live Release Thread - The Guardians Edition

First Post February 27, 2023 09:53 PM

Heaven & Hell - "Live From Radio City Music Hall" (2007)

The Dio-era Black Sabbath lineup reunites for some live shows following the recording of three new songs for the release of Sabbath's 2007 "The Dio Years" compilation & the results are excellent as you'd expect. Tony Iommi is the highlight for mine with his solos miraculously equaling his godly riff work. The whole band is on fire though & Dio does a reasonable job even if he wasn't quite at his best. The one-two punch of "The Sign Of The Southern Cross" (my album highlight) into "Voodoo" is where this double album really hits its sweet spot for me personally but there's not a weak moment across the 115 minute tracklisting. A release like this one is certainly made for fans of Black Sabbath & Dio but the inclusion of two of the new tracks & darker & more atmospheric songs like "The Sign of the Southern Cross" & "After All (The Dead)" give this record an underlying epic doom metal influence that should prick up the ears of the Candlemass audience in particular. How can you go wrong really!?

4/5

March 19, 2023 03:26 AM

Accept - "Staying A Life" (1990)

German heavy metal stalwarts Accept & I have had a funny relationship over the years. I’m not a fan of their first two albums but have invariably found appeal in the subsequent string of four records that took them from 1981’s “Breaker” through to 1985’s “Metal Heart”. That isn’t really an unusual comment given that this is generally regarded as Accept’s classic era however the thing that sets me apart from other metalheads is that I can’t quite seem to push my appreciation dial up from the “quite like” setting to the “really enjoy” one with each of the four records achieving a respectable 3.5 star rating from me. It’s likely for this reason that I’ve never explored Accept’s discography any further, even after the band’s apparent return to form in the 2010’s. I recently found myself browsing the tracklisting from 1990’s “Staying A Life” double live album though & it struck me that I knew literally every track which surprised me as I’d always assumed that it would include material from Accept’s late 80’s albums. Upon further investigation I discovered that it was actually recorded at a show in Osaka, Japan on the tour for “Metal Heart” in 1986 & includes only tracks from the four albums that I enjoy which left me feeling hope that my chances of finding an Accept release that I genuinely love were still alive. I quickly added it to my March playlist & looked forward to seeing what “Staying A Life” had to offer.

“Staying A Life” includes fifteen tracks & spans 73 minutes, presumably so that it’d fit onto a single CD. The production is pretty good as it presents Accept in warts & all fashion & manages to capture the guitar crunch they’ve built their careers on pretty well with Peter Baltes’ bass lines providing plenty of weight. Udo Dirkschneider’s signature growl is in full effect &, while he’s not always on the money as far as pitch goes, you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you’re a fan of his powerful, gravel-throated shrieks which are always the centre of attention. Lead guitarist Wolf Hoffmann has the opportunity to contribute a four minute guitar solo section which starts off in exciting fashion before descending into mere crowd-interaction during the second half which seems like a missed opportunity.

As with most live albums, you’ll find that some tracks manage to surpass their studio counterparts while others struggle to keep up with them. I’ve always found “Son Of A Bitch” & AC/DC-worshipping “Dogs On Leads” to be nothing more than filler on their respective albums but here they seem to offer me more appeal. Light-weight Van Halen clone “Screaming For A Love Bite”, hard rocker “Up To The Limit” & an over-extended version of Accept’s calling card “Balls To The Wall” fall on the other side of the equation by not quite doing their studio versions justice, even though “Balls To The Wall” still represents one of the highlight tracks thanks to that energizing pre-chorus. The real highlight of “Staying A Life” wasn’t a surprise to me though as “Princess Of The Dawn” has always been one of my favourite heavy rock tracks with it’s tension & dynamics never failing to capture me. Strong renditions of “Restless & Wild”, “Love Child” & “Flash Rockin’ Man” are also high on my list.

Accept’s sound has always kept one foot in the world of heavy metal with the other ensuring that they never quite let go of their hard rock roots & “Staying A Life” is a perfect showcase of that approach with the tracklisting being very much a hybrid of the two apart from a couple of pumping speed metal pumpers in “Breaker” & “Fast As A Shark”. That’s not an issue as the band are good exponents of all of those three sounds, even if they’re often guilty of tip-toing along the plagiarism line at times. As with NWOBHM icons Saxon, Accept have built up their back catalogue by harnessing the qualities of Judas Priest, AC/DC & (to a lesser extent) Van Halen & they generally do it pretty well even though they rarely surpass their idols. Their albums are inevitably a little inconsistent in my opinion & some of that can be put down to their tendency to jump between those sounds which happens again here. “Screaming For A Love Bite” & “Living For Tonite” don’t do much for me at all & tarnish an other pretty decent tracklisting while other songs do some great build-up work only to drop the ball a bit with a disappointing chorus & that pretty much sums up why I’ve never managed to worship Accept like so many others do.

In saying that though, I find Accept to be a pretty good mixtape band in that they have some really high-quality songs but rarely stretch that out to consistently high quality albums. “Staying A Life” benefits from this by grouping many of the band’s best tracks together & for this reason I find it to be the strongest Accept release I’ve heard, just slipping past 1982’s “Restless & Wild” to take the title. I still can’t say that I see Accept as being an elite heavy metal band & I may never get there but it's nice to see them getting closer to the bar so this exercise has been worthwhile.

3.5/5

March 27, 2023 10:58 PM

Iron Maiden - "Maiden England" (1994)

English heavy metal heavy-weights Iron Maiden & I have travelled a life-long journey together that’s been full of mind-blowing peaks as well as a few devastatingly low troughs but I’ve found their huge quantity of live releases to generally be pretty reliable over the years. Whether it’s their all-time classic 1985 double album “Live After Death”, 2002’s very solid “Rock In Rio”, their highly regarded underground bootleg “Beast Over Hammersmith” or their early Paul Dianno-fronted EP’s like “Maiden Japan” or “Live!! +One”, Maiden have invariably managed to reproduce the rollicking good time their obsessive fan base experiences at every show & is no doubt helped by the ridiculously large quantity of metal anthems they have access to in their back catalogue. I’d not heard 1994’s “Maiden England” double album before though & was feeling like some familiar tunes to rock out to while running some errands over the last few days so it fit the bill perfectly.

“Maiden England” is yet another double album/video package that has been remastered & re-released with the inclusion of a hefty amount of bonus material in recent years but I’ve opted to review the original version only for this exercise. On paper it really should be something utterly amazing too, at least for someone like myself whose favourite heavy metal releases of all time are Maiden’s more progressive late 80’s albums because “Maiden England” was recorded at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England on 27th & 28th November 1988 on the tour for the “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” record. The tracklisting is everything you could want from such a show too in that it includes a bunch of the big tracks from “Somewhere In Time” & “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” along with a selection of old classics, a couple of which seem to have been intentionally selected as tracks that weren’t included on “Live After Death” in “Still Life” & “The Prisoner”. So the scene was certainly set for a truly transcendent live release from one of the best in the business & there’s no doubt that it’s delivered a worthwhile outcome but there are a couple of obstacles here that prevent “Maiden England” from being held up on the same sort of pedestals as some of the other releases I mentioned above.

The first issue is the production which, despite not being inherently bad in any way, is a bit lacking. The guitars are sitting a little too far back in the mix with the rhythm section being more prominent & Steve Harris’ bass guitar sounding very jangly indeed which sees some of these songs lacking the punch of their cleaner studio counterparts. But the main issue here is front man Bruce Dickinson’s vocal performance which is patchy to say that least. He gets the job done just fine on more than half of the tracklisting but there are a few tracks where he’s noticeably pitchy, particularly struggling to reach the higher notes. This sees undeniable classics like “Wasted Years” being reduced to just solid inclusions which is a real shame as there was so much potential in this tracklisting, even though those deeper cuts I mentioned earlier were never classics to begin with. It also needs to be mentioned that I’ve never liked Iron Maiden’s title track which closes out this release. It’s always lacked sophistication to my ears so it wasn’t the best way to finish things up in my opinion.

While “Maiden England” may not be Maiden’s best live release, fans of the band are unlikely to be left disappointed as it still ticks so many of the required boxes, especially in the tracklisting. The execution isn’t perfect but it’s very hard to be too critical of a band that stands out there on their own in the world of classic heavy metal. Put this release on at a party & you’ll inevitably have a bunch of drunken dickheads poorly singing along to every word after a couple of tracks & I’d no doubt be one of them.

4/5

April 12, 2023 11:25 AM

Motörhead - "Everything Louder Than Everyone Else" (1999)

Another very high quality live release from the London legends, this time documenting an entire 110 minute Hamburg show from 1998. It may not top 1981's classic "No Sleep Till Hammersmith" live album but it's still a top five Motörhead release as far as I'm concerned with the tracklisting & performances being everything you could hope for.

4/5

February 10, 2024 09:10 PM