November 29, 2007

Music DVD Review: The Unholy Alliance, Chapter II: Preaching to the Perverted

The summer of 2006 brought with it the Unholy Alliance tour. If there was one tour that I wanted to see last year, this was it. Did I see it? Nope. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to catch the show, which makes this DVD all the more enjoyable. This disk captures seventeen performances from their stop in Vancouver, BC on July 13, 2006. Who was on the tour? Making up what was quite possibly the strongest metal line-up of the year were Thine Eyes Bleed, Children of Bodom, Mastodon, Lamb of God, and thrash metal legends Slayer. That's right, Slayer took to the road with a number of younger acts in tow with pure metal domination as their goal. Now, this disk only provides a small taste of the metallic chaos, but it is more than enough to make me sad over what I missed. That is also a problem as it is a small taste, so small as to leave me far from satisfied and a little more than wanting for more.

While the vast majority of music committed to the shiny disk is enough to get your head rocking, it feels like a rush job. I cannot help but wonder how well the recording was planned? The most glaring issue, the one you will see before even ripping open the package, is the song selection. With seventeen songs split between five bands there is not much room for the band to really open up and show what they have, it is more a tiny taste, a teaser if you will for their full length albums. To make matters worse, ten of those seventeen cuts belong to Slayer, leaving a mere seven to be split between four bands! Don't get me wrong, Slayer are great ten tracks of live Slayer is more than a good thing, but when it comes at the expense of the other bands on the tour, the problem is glaring. This tour sampler should have been released as a two disk set with many more songs included, perhaps even the full sets. Seriously, you can fit a good four hours on a dual layer DVD, which is probably pretty close to the full show.

Now for the other issues I had with the disk. Aside from the song selection/balance issues, the technical aspects are not all that impressive either. First off, the widescreen concert is not presented anamorphically. This means that if you watch on a widescreen TV you will have a black box completely surrounding the image, unless you zoom in (which is not an ideal situation). Then there is the problem with the audio, where is the 5.1 track? Concert disks almost demand this to help provide that concert environment, crowd in the back, music up front. I am not as concerned with this as the included stereo PCM track sounds excellent.

Finally, to wrap up my complaints, the image is not all that impressive. The editing and camera angles are fine, not epileptic inducing like Iron Maiden releases tend to be. The problem is with the image quality itself; it is pretty grainy and dark. It lacks in definition and has an overall grainy appearance. I know that shooting concerts is no easy task, but this just does not look all that good.

All of these things add up to a lackluster presentation that has to make one wonder how much planning went into the shoot and how much effort was put into creating the disk. It strokes me that this was a bit of a rush job to get the DVD to market as soon as possible.

I have complained a lot about the disk, and I feel that it deserves it, but it is not completely worthless. The performances are all quite good and will make you interested in seeing these bands live. Let's take a look at what is included:

First up is Thine Eyes Bleed, a band that I had heard of, but not heard before. They have one song, "Dark White." They are a death metal act with rough vocals, incessant double-bass and crunchy guitars. It is a good performance, although I think they are the weakest band of the set.
Second is Children of Bodom with two cuts: "Angels Don't Kill" and "In Your Face." This is a band that I had been wanting to check out for some time. They are heavy with a dose of European melody, especially with the addition of some keyboards. Their two songs are nothing more than a tease for a full set. They are definitely a band that I am going to further investigate.
Mastodon was up next with a trio: "Capillarian Crest," "Crystal Skull," and "Blood and Thunder." I was first introduced to these guys a couple of years back when I saw them open for Rob Zombie. They have quickly risen through the ranks to stand among the heavyweights of the current American metal scene, and their performance here is proof positive of that status. They were on fire, so much so that when the final track came up, I was saddened to see them go so quickly, even considering they are the best represented of the opening acts. That final song is their signature "Blood and Thunder," which also happened to be the last song of their set.

The final opening act of the tour is Lamb of God, represented with a paltry single song: "Vigil." I find it very strange that they only have one song here. I wonder if there were issues with song rights or perhaps something happened to the footage? With no specific information I can only guess. I am left to be consoled by the fact that it is a very good performance. Lamb of God is another band that stands at the forefront of American metal.

Finally, Slayer takes the stage and proceeds to destroy everything. The ten song sequence is strong, heavy, and brutal, all things that Slayer has come to symbolize since they arrived on the scene more than two decades ago. Highlights of their set are the opener "South of Heaven," "Cult," Grammy winner "Eyes of the Insane," "Dead Skin Mask," and "Angel of Death." This is the classic lineup with Dave Lombardo on the kit, and sounding fantastic.

There are two bonus featurettes. The first is "Behind the Scenes: The Parking Lot." I found this be pretty worthless outside of seeing the long line of people waiting to get inside. Most of the dialogue is limited to "F**kin' Slayer!" The other is a collection of interviews conducted by band members with band members. The highlight is when Mastodon's drummer interviews Dave Lombardo in Chris Farley mode. You remember, when he would interview people, and be all stammering and nervous, that was awesome.

Mildly Recommended.


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