Thursday, April 16, 2009

Slayer - Live Undead (1984)

After the release of Haunting the Chapel, Slayer made its live European debut at the Heavy Sounds Festival in Belgium. before returning to the US to begin the Haunting The West Coast tour. Following this, Kerry King temporarily left Slayer to join Dave Mustaine's new band Megadeth. Jeff Hanneman indicated that the band would find a new guitar player and continue on. While Mustaine wanted King to stay on a permanent basis, King rejoined Slayer after five shows, stating Megadeth was taking up too much of his time. Following his return, the band embarked on the 1984 Combat Tour, with Venom and Exodus, and released a live album titled Live Undead in mid-November.

I got my hands on this album within a few months of getting Haunting the Chapel. Of course, there were no new songs to be found on Live Undead, but I was obsessed with getting any Slayer album that I could. The horrific cover featured the band members depicted as rotting corpses thrashing out in a foggy graveyard, surrounded by an eerie mist, beneath the full moon. This was a very fitting image for the band. Initially, I believed this to be a recording of some club gig that they had done. As it turns out, the album was recorded live, in the studio, in front of about 50 of their closest friends. They ran through a few different sets, that night, playing nine different songs. Only the best versions were kept for this release. Though this was done in a studio, it may as well be considered the same as a club gig. There's an intimate setting with a small and energetic crowd. Live Undead pretty much captures the feeling of those early shows, even down to Tom's humorous intros to some of the songs.

The album begins with a very frenzied crowd going insane as "Black Magic" builds up. They never settle down, throughout the entire song. Musically, the song is executed flawlessly. The atmosphere isn't quite as evil, just for the fact that there are several (probably drunk) people, screaming like rabid animals.

This flows, seamlessly, into "Die By the Sword", as Tom says, "They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, I say fuck the pen, 'cause you can die by the sword!" Great stuff. This live album does well to display the raw energy of not only the band, but their audience. Slayer's following has always been very devoted and obsessed, even in these early days. The band's playing is very tight, yet not an exact replication of what is heard on Show No Mercy or Haunting the Chapel. Speaking of the latter, the next song is the only one from that E.P. to be featured on here.

"Captor of Sin" begins as Tom makes a pleasant dedication. Possessing much the same atmosphere as Venom, this song doesn't seem to be too affected by the live crowd. Their insane screams actually compliment the aura, to a degree. The band truly seems to be feeding from the energy of the crowd and vice versa.

While some albums are much better appreciated when alone, this is the type that is perfectly suited for hanging out with a friend or two, throwing it on after watching a few old horror movies, like The Evil Dead or Phantasm. "The Antichrist" is just as intense, here, as on the L.P. Even the high-pitched vocals are retained. The most interesting part is near the end, however, as the crowd all seem completely possessed, screaming as if they are being dragged into the flames of Hell.

The silence ends as "Evil Has No Boundaries" erupts from the abyss, complete with screaming and wicked leads. This version seems to be a little faster than the L.P. version and the crowd serves as the back-up for the chorus. By this point, Tom's throat sounds shredded. Kerry and Jeff trade off lethal solos as Dave keeps up a maniacal pace on the drums.

Not bothering to take a breather or to address the crowd, the band immediately follows this up with "Show No Mercy". Again, this sounds a little faster than the studio version. At some points, the crowd seems louder than the band, especially with regard to the vocals. The last thirty seconds features them chanting 'Slayer' as the song winds down.

The final song is "Aggressive Perfector", which is also faster and more intense, sounding less out of place than the version that appeared on Metal Massacre III. Tom's vocal performance on this one is awesome. This is actually the most interesting song on Live Undead, as they really bring it to life. I like the original version just fine, but this is a little more in tune with their established sound.

All in all, this live album is not as essential as their other Metal Blade releases, but it is still a worthy addition to anyone's collection, especially die-hard Slayer fans. Despite the circumstances around the recording, it offers a rare glimpse into the past.