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Music Video Distributors presents
"Their razor-sharp tongues invite to relax / As they slip the skin on your / Eyelids back"
DVD ReviewChristian Death is a band that will likely be remembered more for the controversy surrounding them then their actual music. Indeed, the personal problems and shock-value of certain groups guarantee that, and in the case of Christian Death, it's understandable, but also a shame. Their name alone ensured automatic inflammation of anger on the part of many people and, to a certain extent, I would guess this was the goal of the band's creator and lead-singer, Rozz Williams (a.k.a. Roger Alan Painter). While modern bands routinely attempt to gain attention through offending people (but being careful not to go too far, lest they lose their commercial viability), one can often look to the past to find those who were brilliant at it. At the core of their polemic nature was a long-running "war" between Williams and former bandmate Valor Kand who, in the mid-1980s (some time after the official collapse of the group) started his own band with the same name, despite the fact Rozz Williams very publicly disbanded Christian Death.William's numerous side projects (including the influential underground groups Shadow Project with his wife, Eva O., and the uncomfortably named Premature Ejaculation) kept him at the edge of various music scenes, but Christian Death still retained a fierce cult-following as one of the true originators of the late-1970s/early-1980s, American "Gothic" rock scene, putting them with British 'Batcave' contemporaries like Bauhaus, The Damned, and Alien Sex Fiend. In 1993, Rozz Williams reunited Christian Death members Rikk Agnew and George Belanger (along with new bassist 'Casey') to perform a concert at Los Angeles' Patriotic Hall, and this DVD documents the event. Although billed as a reunion of the original band, that isn't entirely true since the original bassist is missing and, like The Beatles with Pete Best, Rikk Agnew was not the original guitarist. I guess that's a minor issue for hardcore fans to debate over, in fairness to the reunion claim. The set is about 45-minutes long and features the following playlist:ExcommunicamusCavity/1st CommunionFigurative TheaterCry BabyDream For MotherDeathwishSome Men/The OtherMysterium IniquitatisStairsSpiritual CrampResurrection/6th CommunionSleepwalkRomeo's DistressDogsAs I watched this concert take place in a cramped, smoky, undignified nightclub, the thought that occurred to me was that a band like Christian Death really hasn't aged well. There was a certain power and undeniable energy to their songs, but like some bands, evolution into something else is usually for the best. For many years, most of Rozz Williams' work has been largely experimental, much of it dealing with performance art and art installations. Honestly, this seemed to suit him better than CD does now. The performance, while good, felt terribly like people trying to make themselves not only look much younger than they actually were, but that they WERE still of the same personality that comprised the original group in the 1980s. It felt forced, and uncomfortable. About halfway through the set, Williams starts guzzling booze and becomes visibly effected; slurring words, taking his clothes off, and doing his best Jim Morrison impression for the crowd. Quite simply, I was disappointed. I hate to see stage antics that celebrate self-destruction (unless that's solely the point), and in this case, it's not very entertaining, just sad.In 1998, Williams commited suicide and, afterwards, information arose of his serious drinking and drug problems. That puts this show in something of a new light, really. We actually see Rozz killing himself on stage in a very undignified way; yet, as I said, this seems O.K. with the audience. There are some artists who seem destined to live on a path of pure destruction—people like Sid Vicious or G.G. Allin for example—but in the case ofChristian Death, there's really talent behind all the controversy and antics, and that makes me a bit sad. I suppose the quality of this final CD concert depends on the viewer. For me, it was depressing to see icons of this sort reduced to a small stage act, but for some, this might be an amazing experience in many ways.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: The footage is decent quality. The transfer itself is free of any issues (no compression problems), but the source was your basic, handheld video camera sort. So, there is some lack of detail, especially in the dark environment with moody lighting. Still, the cameraman does an excellent job of following the action on stage, without adding in any unecessary movements or jarring cuts. There seems to be a few moments where analog souce flaws pop up; a few scanline issues, some color blurring. Overall, though, this is a reasonable image which is about what you'd expect from something taped in such a poor, crowded environent. It overcomes a lot to be this good.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is not bad, considering what seems like poor acoustics. It's stereo and has a nice, stage-like quality. It seems that some effort was made in making the audio better than simply taped-off-the-camera-microphone stuff. The atmosphere of the music is retained very well, and although the vocals are not always clear, that's more the result of the echo filters used on Rozz Williams' voice rather than major issues with the track. The audio sounds best when played back as stereo, rather than decoded like Pro-Logic.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsChristian Death Live is aimed pretty much at fans. Newcomers to the band who are interested in them as a whole won't get any neat documentaries or historical context to the concert; it's just plain old stage footage with little in the way of professional presentation. It's not by any means a bad disc, but it is a bit simplistic for a group with such a storied past.
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