Death: Vivus!

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Death: Vivus!
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Death: Vivus
Death Metal
Relapse Records
February 28th, 2012
Release length: 2:11:50
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Chuck Schuldiner has left behind a very dynamic legacy for the Metal world, and Death is easily the most important message he has given us. Any fans willing to embrace it are still finding more new material to this day, even after this legendary musician has been passed for so long. Recently, Relapse Records started reissuing Death‘s full-length albums and including plenty of unreleased material, as well as remastering the final products, a move that wound up not always being for the best sadly. But, even though The Sound of Perseverance marked the last Death full-length, it hasn’t stopped other releases from coming out. Aside the obvious label unlicensed compilation cash-ins Chuck Schuldiner: Zero Tolerence I and II, it’s hard to believe fans were treated to a 1998 concert on an official factory-pressed DVD back in 2005, and the countless bootleg live shows circulating the VHS trade and internet. Even now there’s a new compilation of live material for a 2012 release titled Vivus!. But, don’t go and wet your panties just yet…

Sadly, Vivus! is an effort die-hard fans will want buy. If you don’t know what you’re getting, you’ll be suckered in by the new title. This is actually a collection of previously avaiulable live material being released again. It really shouldn’t come as a shock considering Relapse Records is behind it, the label that has been hammering out Death reissues lately. This compilation puts the audio disc versions of Live in Eindhoven ’98 and Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) together in a two-disc set with “extensive liner notes” and “never-before-seen photos of the band.” If you have those two live albums, or just the DVDs and are content with that much, then this reissue set really doesn’t offer much for the dedicated fan base other than a little more insight into Death and Mr. Schuldiner himself through the words and camera lens of others who knew him. And no, there isn’t a three disc limited edition pressing, and no bonus tracks. It’s literally just the two live albums reissued bare bones.

There really isn’t much to get into with this effort knowing that much about it. Both concerts here are excellent performances as usual, though the audio quality greatly differs between the two. Tthe first disc is Live in Eindhoven ’98, which is actually the more overlooked of the two. If you’re a fan of Death, then chances are you might not have this release. it’s believed the original pressing was made available to help raise funds to help Chuck’s medical costs due to his fight against cancer, which is what Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) was issued for. The audio here is pretty raw, clearly coming more from the speakers than the sound board, but this works out better for the band considering their far more energetic stage presence. The guitars sometimes end up a little muffled, such as during solos in more technical songs like “Zero Tolerance,” and at times the vocals can sound a bit too far for the microphone to be picked up, but other than that all the levels work out well, and plenty of the band’s hit tracks, as well as then not-yet-released songs from The Sound of Perseverance appear, and are performed at their best. “The Philosopher,” “Crystal Mountain,” “Suicide Machine,” “Zero Tolerance,” “Flesh and the Power it Holds,” all of these are fantastic songs to begin with, and are captured here perfectly, all even coming off more energetic and intense than their professional studio recordings, making this a live recording that really is a must own for any fan in any format.

The next disc contains the 2001 release Live in L.A. (Death & Raw), which actually came first yet oddly is placed second here. The release window actually caused fans to not be too accepting towards Live in Eindhoven ’98, as it had been released weeks after this one, as well as features the same line-up, and most of the same songs. The quality to this one sounds a little restrained, but more direct from the sound board. The levels are a lot better too, and because of that, the songs sound tighter. The audio is much cleaner as well, not having to muddle through the noise that the aforementioned live set had from the clearly rawer method of capturing it. Unlike the previous set, this one doesn’t find a fade out at the end of every song, having more of a consistent flow from start to finish. But, the problem here ends up that the material captured just comes off boring much of the time. This is thanks to that cleaner sound sterilizing the bite. The guitars are there but have very little bite or impact sometimes, the drums are good for the most part, the performance itself is tight, but so many songs here, such as “Spirit Crusher,” are sorely lacking any kick, as well as a strong bass presence. On top of that, you also get a horrible echo problem with the recording that clearly wasn’t intended by the band, and the banter between songs actually becomes more annoying than anything else due to it. In the end, many of the songs just feel too open, and you would expect any fans of Death will immediately feel a hole in their heart the second “The Philosopher” comes to a close, yet this is the one that gets the better ratings, and suggested the most for some reason.

The set list has been rearranged a bit as well for this show. A couple of songs have been moved, such as “Spirit Crusher” towards the end of the set, and “Suicide Machine” being bumped down a few spots as well. “Scavenger of Human Sorrow,” “Zombie Ritual,” “Empty Words,” and “Symbolic” were added to the list as well. However, this does lead to “Lack of Comprehension” and “Flattening of Emotions” to be cut from the set entirely. All that has its pros and cons. The four added are still great songs, as well as include some fan favorites since the day they hit store shelves such as “Symbolic” and “Empty Words.” But, the two songs omitted really didn’t need to be, and in the case of “Lack of Comprehension,” were even some of the most notable Death cuts of the time, and even to this day.

What it all boils down to is how much you want to round out the “official” Death discography. Considering this was licensed as a release through Perseverance Holdings (Chuck Schuldiner’s estate), it becomes a new entry into the band’s discography despite being their two main live albums in one set with a new title. Hopefully Relapse Records will at least note on the packaging that this is what this set is, otherwise there may be a backlash from the fans who have been watching this label tread lightly due to all of these reissues and knowing damn well not to tick off the fans by disrespecting Chuck’s lineage. While it’s great to see these efforts back on the shelves, it really isn’t like they’re that hard to fin. But, aside the moral and financial complications, it largely happens to be about the show quality itself. Honestly the Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) disc is rather boring due to a sterile, cleaner quality, while the raw audio of the Live in Eindhover ’98 disc puts a far better light on what a live Death show was like. There’s nothing new for fans who have the originals other than additional expanded notes and pictures in the packaging, so the die-hard fans, and even casual or newcomers to the group are better off buying the originals instead of this set unless you want to own all the official releases, and there’s plenty of us out there like that.

Disc One:
01. The Philosopher – 4:29
02. Trapped in a Corner – 4:48
03. Crystal Mountain – 5:10
04. Suicide Machine – 4:26
05. Together as One – 4:11
06. Zero Tolerance – 4:58
07. Lack of Comprehension – 3:52
08. Flesh and the Power it Holds – 8:55
09. Flattening of Emotions – 4:34
10. Spirit Crusher – 7:07
11. Pull the Plug – 5:30

Disc Two:
01. The Philosopher – 3:46
02. Spirit Crusher – 6:38
03. Trapped in a Corner – 4:32
04. Scavenger of Human Sorrow – 6:50
05. Crystal Mountain – 4:55
06. Flesh and the Power it Holds – 8:15
07. Zero Tolerance – 5:09
08. Zombie Ritual – 4:50
09. Suicide Machine – 4:22
10. Together as One – 4:18
11. Empty Words – 7:15
12. Symbolic – 6:27
13. Pull the Plug – 6:33

Overall Score: 6/10
Death (band)
Death (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Relapse Records.