Thursday, March 15, 2012

Death Vivus!

Death Vivus!

(Relapse Records)

By: Chris Davison

“Genius” is a term that gets banded around rather a lot these days, isn't it? It's an easy enough term to throw into a review – I know, because from time to time I have used it as an adjective to describe a minor flash of inspiration or innovation in a song or from an album. Yet those who are or who have accomplished that level of musical invention are really few and far between. Of course, it's not uncommon to see the term also used routinely, and understandably, applied to fallen musicians. Chuck Schuldiner was, in my occasionally humble opinion, a true genius of the extreme metal genres. He was only 34 when he died, having massively influenced not only his peers, but those who would follow in his footsteps.

Vivus! is a lavish two-CD box set by those intrepid folks at Relapse records. Each disc contains an entire live performance; both culled from Death’s 1998 touring commitments – the first the Whisky A Go-Go club in Los Angeles, and the second is from their brilliant showing at the Eindhoven Festival. As far as set lists go, everything that you would ideally want to hear is presented here for your delectation – in crystal clear sound that does not sacrifice power for fidelity. Here you will be treated to the little imperfections that make the live experience so much more fulfilling than album listens – the feedback of the guitars shrilly complaining during some of the expansive axe-workout of “Crystal Mountain,” or the increased tempo on the thrilling version of “Flesh and the Power It Holds” from the Whisky gig. The true genius of Death can be heard here, whether from the visceral power of old-school classic “Zombie Ritual,” or within the progressive stylings of “The Philosopher.”

All self-respecting extreme heavy metal fans will already of course own the entire Death back catalogue, but, in essence, this lovingly presented package will also provide a de-facto “Best Of” for neophytes to Mr. Schuldiner and his works. Vivus! is, quite simply, not only a more than impressive live collection, but is also a fitting testament to the works of a true genius.

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