What can you say about Death? One of the most important bands in the history of death metal, Chuck Schuldiner and his various lineups continue to exercise a profound influence throughout not only every subgenre of death metal proper but beyond into other forms of metal. The legacy of the band hangs over everything contemporary that is written about Death or re-released from its catalog.
Live death metal records are hard to do; it’s not a genre whose sounds lend themselves to live recording. Particularly when the listener is familiar with the tunes from the studio versions: without the steamrolling power of multitracked guitars the musical message can be lost in translation from studio to stage, and the near necessity of reducing kick drums to clicks in a club or arena (to keep the notes audible as individual strikes at all) can induce sonic anaemia. But while “Vivus” suffers from these and other side effects of live recording, the hall of fame repertoire of Death yields set lists (this release compiles two live shows on 2 CDs) so full of classics that heads will be banged and hearts will be warmed just by reading the track listing.
Both sets are weighted toward the final 3 Death albums, “Individual Thought Patterns”, ‘Symbolic”, and “The Sound of Perseverance”. The band rips through the tunes energetically and everyone plays well, Chuck’s distinctive screeching growl (so different from his speaking voice!) and Richard Christy’s unique time feel on the drums standing out most. Given the ubiquity of Death’s influence in the metal community and the recently renewed availability of the band’s catalog of studio albums, it’s fair to ask: So who is “Vivus” for?
Although this release collects a fine batch of some of the bands best tunes, there is not a ton of variation between the 2 sets: 9 songs appear twice out of 24 total tracks. And the sound, while not a major drag, is not great. This makes for a long single-setting listen, likely to frustrate newcomers to or casual fans of this great band. Thus it’s not recommended as an introductory purchase.
“Vivus” is red meat for Death fanatics and completists, but it rates very cool but ultimately unessential listening for the rest.