Live albums in metal can be a funny thing; they can catapult a bands fame to heights never seen before if they get it right. No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith by Motorhead is classic example of this. Heavy metal bands live & die on their performances in the live environment & capturing the energy & crowd excitement is a huge challenge. These next 10 albums are not necessarily the best (note – no Motorhead, Maiden & Priest even though they are wildly regarded as having released some of the best live stuff) but rather the 10 that I love the most.
10 – Children of Bodom – Tokyo Warhearts
Bodom’s first live album was recorded in Tokyo in 1999. It only featured 9 songs (11 including an intro & guitar/keyboard duel) but showcased exactly what Bodom had to offer. The sound quality is excellent & is none more evident on the excellent Touch Like Angel Of Death that included an amazing piece of intro music taken from the movie ‘The Rock’.
9 – Cradle of Filth – Live Bait for the Dead
Recorded on 2001 in Nottingham, England Live Bait… managed to do what many considered impossible which was to capture how raw & aggressive Cradle of Filth sound live. 13 songs long including an introduction, the set chosen reflects the heavier side of Cradle. Dani Filth is top form as usual & it is amazing to hear just how strong his voice is with all his trademark howls & screams evident.
8 – Kiss – Alive
Kiss’s first live album is considered a landmark for live albums & paved the way for more bands to seek success via live albums as well as studio offerings. Recorded across a number of live shows in America & released in 1975 in response to fans criticism that their albums failed to capture the high-octane shows. Taking select songs from their first 3 albums that included Deuce, Hotter Then Hell & Rock and Roll All Nite the set was an instant hit. By today’s standards the sound quality is poor but the importance of this release can’t be understated & it is still the definitive Kiss live album.
7 – Megadeth – That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires
Anyone doubting just how tight Megadeth were on stage quickly changed their minds upon hearing this 22 track double release (including intro & outro). Recorded in 2005 in (unsurprisingly) Buenos Aires at a red-hot stadium Megadeth has never sounded better. The set-list is full to the brim with classic songs & Dave Mustaine’s trademark rasp is as strong as it ever was. This was the first time I had ever heard a crowd so into Megadeth & the recording shows that, they are just so loud, singing all with everything. A Tout Le Monde alone will send shivers down your spine.
6 – Metallica – S&M
S&M came at a time when my musical tastes were changing rapidly & I was on the lookout for more diverse & interesting music. Metallica had been a staple part of my life for a while up to this point but they had never sounded so accessible. A live album with a twist, S&M was recorded in 1999 & mixed classic Metallica songs with a symphony. Not so much a crowd interactive show in that the music dominates but the added elements to songs known so well makes this a unique listen. Not all of it necessarily turns out for the better but some songs such as For Whom The Bell Tolls sound absolutely epic. It also has to be noted that Metallica created 2 new songs specifically for this show, Minus Human & an excellent No Leaf Clover.
5 – Machine Head – Hellalive
Recorded mostly at London’s Brixton Academy (None But My Own & The Burning Red recorded at the With Full Force festival) this live album only came about so as to fulfil Machine Heads obligation with their record label. It is a 14 track best of that showcases Machine Heads pure aggressive power. It’s almost like the bands amp has been turned up to 11 (wink wink) as they sound so loud. Robb Flynn is a great frontman & that shows with his interaction with the crowd, none more so then his thought-provoking speech at the beginning of Crashing Around You. When he tells the crowd to get the fuck up & lose their shit you can’t help but wish you were there.
4 – Rammstein – Volkerball
Have you seen Rammstein live? No album can properly showcase just how impressive they are. Volkerball does the best job of capturing the amazing songs that Rammstein have in their catalogue. The sound quality is so good that you can clearly hear the moments where the band breaks out the pyrotechnics without it damaging the music you are listening too. Rammstein are on top form & barely miss a note with the lead singer, Til putting a lot of vocalists to shame. Recorded in 2005 at several different venues around the world but mostly in France the crowds do a wonderful job of immersing you in the show gamely trying to sing along with the all German lyrics.
3 – Down – Diary of a Mad Band
Recorded in London in 2006 Down’s only live album has 16 tracks of pure southern sludge played out to a crowd that are in love with what they are seeing. As always Phil Anselmo is as talkative as ever but the man has mellowed over the years & his banter is much more jovial & fun…his & the bands gratitude towards fans extremely hard-warming. None of this would matter if the bands trademark dirty sound was muddled but thankfully it has as clear as you could get with New Orleans Is A Dying Whore sounding particularly deep & heavy. An accomplished piece of work & a great example of how to do get the most out of a crowd.
2 – Pantera – Official Live 101 Proof
Possible the most intense live listen I have ever heard, this is Pantera at their heights of their talents as well as their angriest. Released in the late 90’s it has a wonderfully personal touch to it with even Pantera calling it their 5th official release. The set-list couldn’t be better & all the popular/favourites are present. The idea to combine several songs into one was genius with the Domination & Hollow (Dom/Hollow on the track-listing) being the highlight. Phil Anselm sounds like he wants to fight everybody in the crowd & they hang on his every word. It’s impossible not to have the biggest grin on your face when the band kicks into Walk & Phil stops it to tell the crowd to go ‘apeshit’ before demanding the band kick back in. Fucking hostile doesn’t sum it up…
1 – Sepultura – Under a Pale Grey Sky
Forget the songs for a moment…Under a Pale Grey Sky sticks in the memory of Sepultura fans because it was recorded the night frontman Max Cavalera left the band after a huge bust-up with the rest of the band after the show (they wanted to sack their manager who happened to be Max’s wife). Any tensions within the band are not present during the show as Max was unaware of what was to come but knowing what we know now listening to it is a tense affair.
Recorded in London in 1996 it mostly focuses on the new Roots album as well as the big hits from previous albums. That they open with Roots shows the strength of the tracks available & Max sounds suitably pissed off. It also has to be noted that Igor Cavalera’s drumming is out of this world. It is the most aggressive live album I have ever heard to date & I find my mouth dropping pen in wonder the more I listen to it. Brutally heavy tinged with sadness for what was to follow afterwards.