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Vital Remains - Evil Death Live DVD Review

by Matt Hensch

Since 1989, Vital Remains have been feeding the masses their signature death metal recipe of raping brutality over epic textures. These icons of evil remained the most popular underground death metal squad for years, and continue to produce an unmatched gallery of hammering audio unlike any other group. Vital Remains’ live show has also been a prime quality of this band’s immortal crusade, and since my chances of seeing them perform are slim, I figured picking up the Evil Death Live DVD would do the trick.

The biggest difference between a live CD and a taped DVD is the expectations between the two: a nice set-list and production is essential for both, yet DVDs require noteworthy visual quality, active settings, and stellar bonus features if added along with the previously listed attributes; DVDs are clearly a lot riskier in that sense. So after considering all the following categories, Evil Death Live passes all the necessary qualifications to warrant a golden grab for all metalheads. Filmed live at the Metalmania Festival in Poland, Evil Death Live captures the pure essence and spirit represented in Vital Remains’ full-hearted aura of sand-blasting death metal.

For this show, Vital Remains was Dave Suzuki and Tony Lazaro on guitars with Brain Hobbie on bass, Antonio Donadeo handling percussion, and Damien Boynton of Desolation filling in for Glen Benton's vocals. Any kind of skepticism was erased from my mind upon the first few minutes of this release for one solid reason: this lineup flows better than a stream. Suzuki and Lazaro are on spot as always, but the replacement guys go beyond what's expected of them; Hobbie, Donadeo, and Boynton all play flawlessly, and lift up the band's performance in a very professional matter. The show’s set list is nine songs from Icons of Evil and Dechristianize, featuring the title tracks from each record and a few other classics. I'll be the first to admit a little dose of "Let us Pray" or "Forever Underground" would be nice, but you really can't complain with the tunes after viewing this monster.

The work placed in this DVD is ultimately realized when the viewer dissects the impeccable audio and visual traits hovering over Vital Remains’ absolute performance. Multiple cameras float about as the band plays, and it’s quite common to see several angles of each member playing at different geometrical positions with top-notch visual clarity. Also, the audio settings are superbly diversified amongst all the instrumental emissions with clean sonic vibes that come off like a misting hose during a summer scorcher. Alas, everything looks and sounds just the way it should; Evil Death Live is certainly a lot more professional compared to other DVDs of the same structure.

Now there needs to be one thing said here: Boynton is a goofy motherf***er. Vocally, he’s the perfect replacement for Glen Benton, but actually watching this clown strut around stage making these strange faces and yelling bizarre remarks at the crowd certainly causes some raised eyebrows. Oddly enough, this observation actually adds a bit of fun to the group’s overall show, mainly because his actions seem so flamboyant. Boynton doesn’t match the evil personality that Vital Remains represents, but he adds some unintentional humor points to a situation that seemed damned at hindsight.

A large portion of metal DVDs also tend to fall when bonus features are added, because of poor footage that usually derails the expectations of one’s previous experience with the video’s main show; however, Evil Death Live is greatly improved because of its amazing extra material. For one, a massive bootlegged show of Vital Remains dishing out classic tunes is shown to start the bonus menu off, and it isn’t anything short of incredible. Vital Remains is caught playing some different songs they haven’t recently performed, like “Unleash Hell” for instance. The extra set was filmed on one camera shot at the center of the stage, but it still has surprisingly-good visual and audio qualities, especially compared to other taped-in-the-raw shows. The band’s performance is flawless with the energy they display during the set and such, which is always a plus. Quite an unexpected gem, if you ask me.

After that rush of ecstasy is a deep, intelligent interview with Tony Lazaro and Dave Suzuki about Vital Remains’ history, struggles, and ideology. It is important to point out how the interview’s questions are meaningful and blunt; no generic questions are asked, but rather a series of flashy topics that force Lazaro and Suzuki to give honest answers. Also, you learn a lot about the band’s previous material and some neat facts with Glen Benton’s original involvement with Vital Remains, and Lazaro’s love for corpse paint. It’s very interesting, and probably the best interview I’ve ever witnessed.

Finally, a cool guitar tutorial with Dave Suzuki is given, the explaining and shredding of his instrument filling the final slot on the bonus menu. This brief section of Suzuki ripping his guitar is basically done to better explain many Vital Remains solos, and how the sequence of chord progressions was originally established for each lead. I found this section to be very appealing because it adamantly dissects each solo into a simpler form that allows newer axemen to easily learn and follow these specific leads without any difficulty. Yet another fantastic slice of bonus substance that’s both absorbing and delightful.

Evil Death Live is a great DVD in several categories, but it is the overall consistency that makes this recording such an awesome experience; it is definitely one of the most professional things in my collection of musical items. I tip my hat toward the folks at Metal Mind Productions for making such a high-quality slab of footage and material. Vital Remains fans need to pick this baby up, and so should fans of metal DVDs in general.

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Vital Remains - Evil Death Live DVD


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