Death Is Just The Beginning
Vol. 7 (Nuclear Blast)
by Scott Hefflon
Metal is alive and well and living in Europe. While we Americans futz about with our knuckledragging nü metal and ’til-you-grow-outta-that-shit hardcore, European metal continues to push the envelope, dropping jaws and moistening panties along the way. If you thought metal was scruffy, troll-like vermin stepping away from their D&D boards (or video games) only long enough to blink at the sunlight and scurry back to their caves, you haven’t been paying attention these last few years. Metallica may’ve become the best metal cover band on the circuit, but that doesn’t mean the underground gives a flying fuck. An Opeth review I got but am not printing (cuz I wanna slag that flowery piece of hippie shit) called metal the jazz of the new millennium, and that’s right as rain (or Reign in Blood). Metal pushes and challenges, and, quite honestly, shitty American sales or not, it’s the genre that – by a long fuckin’ shot – is the most innovative and redefining.
This may come as a surprise to those who smirk at the mere mention of metal, but y’all can fuck off and judge things based on false assumptions, I’m here to merely state what the underground already knows: Today’s metal is truly impressive stuff.
Death Is Just the Beginning is neatly divided into two DVDs, the videos and the live chapters. The first is over an hour long, the second just under. There are 18 videos, and 11 live tracks. The color booklet contains a half or a full-page photo and bio for each band, as well as discography and url.
Ya know, I often forget what a killer sound system I have hooked up to my TV (I stuff a lot of mp3 CDs and envelopes while watching shitty late-night movies, lemme tell ya). Death Is Just the Beginning sounds so good, you owe yourself a good system to do it justice. And unlike nü metal (tastes great, less filling), the bands here can actually play. As is often the case, each disc starts off strong, then flounders in “also rans,” then closes out strong again.
On the video disc, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir, and Soilwork rule, as should be pretty obvious to anyone with half a clue. Next up is Darkane, who’ve now nudged themselves up to leader in my book. When did they get so good? Of the rest, Hammerfall makes Judas Priest videos but plays better, Primal Fear is what Judas Priest shoulda become, Manowar, Sinergy, Thunderstone, Helloween, and Stratovarious are power metal is as power metal does, Theatre of Tragedy is insipid Goth rock/metal as ever, Susperia and Crematory remind me why I always found them dull, and Amorphis is arty, like Cradle of Filth on a bad day, with only half the members present. The best video by a long shot is Therion (opera meets melodic metal, with a background in black/death metal, in case you haven’t yet discovered them, bought their whole catalogue, and realized it’s the cross between Dead Can Dance and Strapping Young Lad you never knew existed until you heard it and cracked your jaw on the floor). Filmed in classic b&w (or sepia tones, I think they’re called), it’s trains and cars and ballroom opulence from the early 1900s with a room of mutton-chopped gentlemen and high-society ladies singing the lush choruses, and man, it’s probably the coolest video I’ve seen in years.
The live disc, well, it’s live footage, whaddaya want? Metal is best seen in dark, smoky clubs with a great sound system, thus Hypocrisy, Dimmu Borgir, and even Hammerfall do well. Primal Fear on a sunny stage is just wrong, and I expected Goth buffoons Lacrimosa to shrink from the sunlight any second. Destruction, Sinner, Crematory, and Raise Hell are mediocre as always, Kataklysm provides a live video well over five years old, and Death – masters that they were – have sounded far better.
This double-DVD comp is a must-have for any metal fan. Real metal videos rarely air in the States, and so many of these bands look and sound so good, it’s a real tragedy more of them aren’t household names like, ya know, Mudvayne, Saliva, Dope, and the better of the bunch, System of a Down, Cradle of Filth, Opeth, Meshuggah, etc.
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