These video overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their DVD reviews section back in 2006. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but to also showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. These posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here we go with the first group of DVD Reviews.
Alice Cooper: “The Nightmare Returns Tour” (1987) (Universal Music)
1986 – It was the year that Alice Cooper would reinvent and rise from the fallings he had found himself in the middle of. He was both unable to get attention for his latest music and also was recovering from the pains of alcohol addictions. Despite these turn of events Alice would rise like a phoenix and take hold of the power of Shock Rock that he helped create so many years ago once again. The DVD filmed in 1987 was shot on a very appropriate Halloween night in front of a sold-out crowd in Detroit. Alice’s return would also show a new and very Metal side to his brand of Rock for a change; this would be a welcome format for the classic numbers that suddenly seemed to have so much more attitude and life than they ever had before. The eerie opening of “Welcome To My Nightmare” would set the pace as Alice emerged from under the stage to a blast of Metal power from his new band. The legendary performer was smart to bring on a truly kick ass Metal band for this tour whose lineup consisted of the Rambo-esque Kane Roberts, Devlin 7, Kip Winger III, Ken Mary, and Paul Horrors. Most know that Winger and Roberts went on to solo careers with Kip being the one who found the most success of the two. The Alice Cooper set for the show would be chocked full of fear-filled hits and over the top stage dramatics for every one of them. “Billion Dollar Babies” finds Alice performing with a baby doll on a sword as he throws play money around while “Only Women Bleed” finds him singing to an apparently lifeless dummy, which is not as it seems for the whole song. “I Love The Dead” is among the truly terrifying moments in the show as Alice meets the Grand Executioner and let’s just say heads will roll with this one. It is not a scene for the timid, and Alice and company pull it off without a margin of error. The overall choices in the songs for the show would satisfy the most ardent of Alice supporters, but better still serves as a great new take on his classics for those who might not have enough knowledge of his work. My personal favorites are too numerous to list, but the best example to describe this is as a live Greatest Hits concert video. Everything you expect and more is there to enjoy and since this is the first time on DVD you should buy it to witness a master at work.
Amon Amarth: “Wrath Of The Norsmen” (Metal Blade Records)
Quite a few bands claim to be Vikings and there are also many who hold the spirit of their ancestors high but I have to admit that none pull this off as effectively as Amon Amarth. This DVD celebrates their longtime allegiance to the Metal Blade Records family and it the kind of DVD that is perfect for existing fans but also the manages to win over potential ones. I can attest to this since I was one of these potentials who after seeing them support Fate Of Norns on the Children Of Bodom tour can admit to being blown away. The group was only able to do a little more than a handful of songs but you could tell by their presence and the crowd approval that there was much more to this group than most openers had to them. This DVD gives you 7.5 hours of concert footage to absorb and it should be more than enough to help you feel the same way as we did that night. This lengthy piece offers five full concert appearances with a performance in Cologne from 2005 being the longest. It runs a full 22 numbers and even includes a full Viking battle. The dramatic lighting added to the impact of this segment very well. The other performances come from Summer Breeze Festival, Live at the Metal Blade RRROOOAAARRR, Wacken Open Air, and Live in Ludwigsburg. There is no real bonus stuff to speak of but you do get the Metal which is a factor that works best for me. A DVD done properly with no pointless banter and endless crowd shots and screaming drunken idiots. No one buys DVD’s for that as opposed to the music and bonus content should never overshadow the main part of the program. There are instances of song duplication but that is to be expected when one has five whole shows to sit through. On the whole you get practically all of the music the band had recorded over the years. More bands need to follow in this example and give the audience a better value for the money the are spending on them. Many groups possess a lot more footage than we ever see so this release was a pleasant surprise for me to watch. I found no disappointment at all – Now, if you’ll please excuse me – I have a sword to sharpen.
Apocalyptica: “Life Burns Tour” (Jive Music)
Every Metal fan has those friends that consistently tell them that Metal is either boring or never changes and now to defend us against those inane mutterings we have this DVD to shut them up and wave in their faces. When it comes to Apocalyptica, there is no other band that comes to mind as fast as they do in terms of continually proving those kinds of statements false. The reason is based on how they approach things and if you are one of those people who are hearing their name for the first time, well they originally became popular because of their rather unique take on Metallica covers. You see, the band is fronted by three cellists – and they deliver amazing originals as well as do the unique covers of the Bay Area Thrashers that you will ever hear. The group hails from Finland (surprise, surprise) and studied at the Siblius Academy in Helsinki. Their talents as a Metallica on Cellos act took the world by storm and soon what began as a fun project became their lives. We should all be thankful for this occurrence. This concert film from Dusseldorf, Germany is a fantastic way to catch on to the way this group brings Metal to life, as there is not a boring moment anywhere on the film. The guys wisely mixed up their originals with their noted covers and there are about five Metallica numbers presented. “Creeping Death” and “Master Of Puppets” sound like new compositions when Apocalyptica does them, and their version of “Nothing Else Matters” will bring a tear to your eye. During the performance of this song, you could have heard a pin drop. There is a very full sound to them despite their being four cellists and a drummer with no vocals on any number. One has to give credit in the ability to keep a Metal audiences attention with purely instrumental numbers in this kind of concert setting. Viewers will see that this is also a very exciting show as the band does not merely sit and perform and instead runs about as if the cellos were guitars. Classical styling with rock star showmanship that works on all counts. The DVD is loaded with bonus features and includes all their videos. Some of these films include well-known Finnish music icons Ville Valle (HIM), and Lauri Ylonen (The Rasmus) as well as Max Cavalera (Sepultura) and Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine).
Arch Enemy: “Live Apocalypse” (Century Media Records)
After listening to Arch Enemy for a little over a year now, I was very excited to see this DVD announced and subsequently arrive on the shelves for the hungry Metal masses. As I began to watch it I was honestly convinced that this film would do nothing more except firm up the belief that you are witnessing one of the best bands the Metal industry has going today. Fronted by Angela Gossow on vocals, the twin blistering guitars of Michael and Christopher Amott along with the thunderous rhythm section of Sharlee D’Angelo (bass) and Daniel Erlandsson (drums); Arch Enemy is not a band you would soon forget after catching their live performance. Consistency in delivering their brand of Death Metal with a healthy dose of Power is what Arch Enemy is all about. If you have not yet been able to see a show then the video release will surely make you want to correct the error of your ways. Filmed on tour at the London Forum (2004) the show finds the band in prime and their element. This was before the release of Gossow’s third outing with the group (the 2005 released “The Doomsday Machine”). I have to say that the best way to describe Arch Enemy is that it is a full-frontal assault on your Metal understandings. Gossow, while a beautiful woman, is far from the demure and angelic singer one finds in bands like Nightwish or Within Temptation. Instead she is a rage spewing, intense and focused performer who holds the audience in her hand as she sings, part of it in awe and the other perhaps just a little bit of fear. The Amott Brothers truly rock with their twin axe work and with this DVD fans will be able to see the pair performing on video together for the last time (at least for a while). Shortly after recording “The Doomsday Machine”, Christopher decided to leave the group to pursue other interests. The primary concert features many of the bands staple numbers, and some favorites of mine as well including “We Will Rise”, “Dead Eyes See No Future” and “Ravenous”. Theres also a crushing drum solo by Erlandsson, who will impress many of the skin pounders out there with his technique. A three-song segment filmed almost a year later in 2005 features their new track “Nemesis” which is sure to become a fan favorite since it brings more of a traditional sound to the established Arch Enemy style. A second DVD gives the viewer a load of bonus features. They include videos and a tour documentary, and very honestly this is one release you should not miss.
Black Label Society: ”European Invasion: Doom Troopin’” (Eagle Vision)
“Doom Troopin’ Live: The European Invasion” finds Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society in Rock solid form once again. The second DVD from the guitarist is a lot better than the “Boozed, Bruised and Broken Boned” release from a couple of years ago in terms of both camera work and overall production. That first film seemed to be a little too thrown together and lost my interest at a number of turns while this new release had me from start to finish. More attention to details and quality was to be delivered this time around. This video finds BLS in support of their Artemis Records album “Mafia” and shortly after the album tour completed the band would leave the label to join Roadrunner Records. Fortunately for all “Chapter members”, the folks at Eagle Vision captured a killer set of tunes on film when the group hit Europe and give it to them in vibrant color. The first DVD of the two disk set features a long performance from Paris, along with just under a handful of songs from the London Astoria. As the casual BLS fan I was happy to find the songs I enjoyed most present here such as “Stillborn” along with newer, quality numbers like “Suicide Messiah” and “In This River”. Wylde dedicates this particular song to his fallen Brother Dimebag Darrell Abbott and truly rips the strings like never before with this number. Clearly, Dime is not someone who will easily be forgotten especially when it comes to Zakk Wylde. The set list is also a great mix and the band is very energetic throughout. This is a great DVD who want to see a great set of crunching guitar and solid Sabbath-infused Hard Rock and its appeal can reach from ardent fan to basic one. It’s perhaps the tightest I have seen BLS in some time. This is the DVD that all of Zakk’s Chapter Members have been waiting for as its loaded with music and interesting features that will all serve as a nice herald for the new album from the band. Be sure to check this one out if you are one of the people who “Bleeds Black Label”.
Children Of Bodom: ”Chaos Ridden Years: Stockholm Knockout Live” (Spinefarm Records)
Children Of Bodom are another one of those exciting Metal bands to come out of the Finnish music scene with a full-frontal attack on the senses. They throttle the listener with an interesting brand of Metal that uses a lot of traditional elements, mixed with levels of Thrash and Progressive feels. It is an intense and energetic experience that makes one turn the speakers up to maximum volume and it will often leave you screaming for more. They are cited as being one of the most exciting live acts to emerge on the scene today and in addition to performing as headliners were able to make shows with Slayer, Iced Earth and Lamb Of God truly unforgettable experiences for the hungry Metal maniac. Given their concerts are nothing less than impressive it was a smart move to release “Chaos Ridden Years: Stockholm Knockout Live”, a DVD films that unleashes the insanity of a CoB performance right in your living room. Led by Alexi Laiho this incredible DVD puts you in front of the band and into the circle pit as he both screams and shreds the senses for a little over 90 minutes. Laiho is a captivating front man who seems to be able to generate high levels of adrenaline from the fans and judging by the responses heard during the concert you can tell they don’t mind. The concert was filmed as the band supported their latest release “Are You Dead Yet?” and features a great dose of the new stuff but does not leave out their older stuff on “Hate Crew Deathroll” and “Follow The Reaper” – two albums that showed why this group was a force to be reckoned with and made them tons of fans. Having seen the band on a few tours of late I was happy to review this DVD that really did do the group justice and should assist further in the bands quest for Metal domination. The camera work is excellent and makes you feel like you are there and the audio production level is exemplary. Overall it brought back concert memories for me and should do the same for you. The DVD also includes all of the bands videos to date, a band documentary and other footage. A double live CD of the concert portion will be released as well.
Additional chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” will be over the coming weeks. Please stay tuned and let us know what you thought of these items down in the comments section below.
Alice Cooper: http://www.alicecooper.com
Amon Amarth: http://www.amonamarth.com
Arch Enemy: http://www.archenemy.net
Black Label Society: http://www.blacklabelsociety.com
Children Of Bodom: http://www.cobhc.com