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The maiden (and, so far, only)  foray into visual media by California death metal trio Deeds Of Flesh embodies a lot, if not all, of what is wrong with mid-level label sanctioned extreme metal DVDs in general. Despite having a respectable setlist “Live in Montreal” shortsells the band, label, and genre in many ways. The DVD is low on worthwhile content and substantial features. The live portion, supposedly the product’s main selling point, of the DVD was recorded at Le Petit Campus, Montreal in 2004 – a student club that goes by the name Café Campus nowadays, has several notable defects. The package appears to be hastily thrown together in order to capitalize on the DVD craze. Sadly “Live in Montreal” screams amateur hackjob from each, and every party involved in the production of this package.

The main feature, and lion’s share, of the DVD is a live show from the Canadian leg of the “Reduced to Ashes” global touring campaign. The show in question was recorded at Le Petit Campus, Montreal in 2004 – a student club that now goes by the name Café Campus. It was shot on regular video since it was produced before the advent of High Definition, as a result the image quality tends to get grainy on larger screens. A single, mounted camera positioned in the middle of the venue was used to capture the show. Although there are a decent amount of wide, medium and close shots – all of it is just basic zooming. Since there are no actual close-up shots its impossible to see any of the rapid picking during the more intricate parts of the songs. Those expecting to see up-and-close drumming action are left wanting as there is no dedicated drum cam. This means that there are no shots whatsoever of Hamilton’s impressive stamina and endurance, and his nearly constant double bass footwork.

Truthfully, not all blame is to be placed at the director for “Live in Montréal” as Deeds Of Flesh themselves didn’t seem to have put any additional effort whatsoever in making this DVD special or different from similarly poorly put together packages in any conceivable way. There is no stage design (backdrop, banner, flags, or other props) to speak of – and there’s a complete lack of notable production values beyond the bare-bones capture of a live show. The setlist is a representative cross-section of the band’s catalog with only “Inbreeding the Anthropophagi” getting but a single track. The ominous introduction track, using a Christopher Young piece from the “Hellraiser II: Hellbound” soundtrack was a nice, but ultimately futile, effort on part of the band. While a live recording was indeed pined for the lack of extra features and worthwhile content is what make “Live in Montréal” as ill-conceived as it is. Even the sound options appear to be shortchanged. There are no sound options worthy of the name, and playing the DVD is only possible in basic stereo – forgoing the Dolby Surround 5.1 that was considered the widely accepted standard even by the time this DVD saw release. The main menu is beyond basic, as there’s no possibility to play just the show (discounting the “song selection” option, which isn’t the same thing).

Even though a second camera operator is briefly visible on-stage during ‘Human Trophies’, none of his shots ever appear on the DVD nor does he appear ever again after that. On top of that there are no edits, effects, transitions or ambient shots through out the entirety of the show, neither are there shots from the back, or side of the stage. It is unedited in the true sense of the word. Bobby Germain is credited as the reluctant director of the live show, and he, unsurprisingly, never directed anything again after partaking in this particular debacle. There was the possibility of a great production for “Live in Montréal” but nothing is made of the opportunity given, and the DVD delivers exactly what it says on the tin: a bare-bones capture of a live show. It is perhaps fitting that, like the music from Deeds Of Flesh, there’s nothing ornamental about “Live in Montréal”. Apparently no effort was made to make this an event. A wasted chance if there ever was one. Lindmark, Kingston and Hamilton are stellar musicians on their respective instruments, but “Live in Montréal” sadly, doesn’t reflect that in the slightest. It does anything but...

The DVD includes the official music video for ‘Crown Of Souls’ from the record of the same name. Curiously it omits any and all of the band’s prior music videos for the earlier albums. Specifically ‘Reduced to Ashes’ (from the album of the same name), and the unreleased ‘Indigenous To the Appaling (Mutinous Human’) from “Path Of the Weakening”. The ‘Crown Of Souls’ music video, directed by Benjamin Kantor, displays the sort of creativity that the rest of the DVD, in both content and presentation, sorely lacks. The “extra features” include the music video for ‘Crown Of Souls’ and the obligatory (and therefore instantly redundant) weblinks. That the latter was even touted as a feature was unforgiveable even by 2005 standards. The most damning aspect about “Live in Montréal” is that it has no additional bonus content besides the already very paltry so-called “extra features”.

No new artwork was allocated to make the DVD a recognizable stand-alone release. It remains puzzling as to why the Viking warrior artwork by Pär Olofsson from the “Crown Of Souls” album was reproduced in full as “Live In Montréal” has no connection to that release. The backsleeve, understandably, reproduced the cover artwork from the “Reduced to Ashes” album by Toshiro Egawa in full. This is only logical as it was that effort the band was promoting at the time of this DVD’s shooting. A lot of more care and effort should have invested on this DVD release.

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The “Live & Plugged” franchise was a shortlived home video series wherein German metal conglomerate Nuclear Blast Records sought to promote upcoming new signees through concert recordings and candid interviews. The series spawned a  total of two installments, and was discontinued upon the advent of DVDs as the popular storage format. The first installment included recordings of Darkseed, In Flames and Evereve on the German club circuit, whereas the second part coupled live recordings of Norwegian band Dimmu Borgir, and Swedish death/thrash metal titans Dissection as part of the shortlived “Gods Of Darkness” festival.

Recorded during the Gods Of Darkness Festival at Live Music Hall in Köln, Germany as part of “The Rape and Ruin of Europe” tour in 1997 supporting Cradle Of Filth, and co-headliners Dissection. Dimmu Borgir was the opening band for the tour, as In Flames at that point had a more established reputation as a melodic death metal band. Promising an “in-depth” look at each of the bands the video includes a professionally filmed live set, interviews, and each of the band’s official music videos. While the package at least delivers what it says on the tin, it is riddled with errors, major and minor, from front to back. The live portion of the package is the least problematic – the interview segments don’t offer up any new information that couldn’t be found through alternative means even back when this was released. The “Live & Plugged” video opens with Norwegian band Dimmu Borgir, and is followed by Swedish death/thrash metal outfit Dissection.

Even though Dimmu Borgir was lower on the bill than its Swedish peers Dissection, the Norwegians get to open the video on the strength of its divisive third album “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, its first for the label. The first notable error is that the highlight opening reel plays to “The Darkest Day” by composer David Arnold from the “Independence Day” movie soundtrack instead of a studio outtake of the band’s own songs. The opening segment sets the tone for the remainder of the home video. Being that Dimmu Borgir was at this point still a support act there are barely any lights during the show, and for the majority of its set the stage is underlit to say the least. Shagrath was still uncomfortable in the frontman position, and this leads to amateurish in-between song banter. The set itself is a representative cross-section of the band’s material up to that point, even though it curiously omits its earliest releases, specifically the meandering “For All Tid” and its lukewarm companion EP “Inn I Evighetens Morke”.

In the setlist only ‘Dodsferd’ and ‘Alt Lys Er Svunnet Hen’ represent the band’s pre-Nuclear Blast catalog. Understandably the set focuses heavily on the lamentable “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”. “For All Tid” is ignored altogether. Only ‘Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimers Skodde’ appears in its re-recorded form during the end credits. Each of the members is enthusiastic and energetic, although drummer Tjodalv sometimes struggles to keep up during the transitions in new songs. During the many keyboard solos, the top-hatted Stian Aarstad can be regularly seen staring blankly into space. The interview hardly justifies its inclusion as it offers up nothing novel (even this early in the band’s career), and its needlessly breaks up the flow of the live set. Stian Aarstad and Tjodalv don’t appear in the interview segments at all, and Shagrath only appears sparsely. Not a lot of care was put into this part of the video, as at one point Nagash is missspelled as ‘Naqash’ during the interview segments. Dimmu Borgir’s part of the video is concluded by the promo video for ‘Mourning Palace’ which mixes live footage of the concert the viewer just saw with stock war footage.

During the Dissection part ‘At the Fathomless Depths’ is played over the opening credits, why another David Arnold composition from the “Independence Day” soundtrack wasn’t used here is anybody’s guess. Tobias Kjellgren substituted for Ole Öhman on drums for the “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” touring campaign. The band plays a representative selection of its two albums, but also includes ‘Elisabeth Bathory’, a cover of Hungarian black/thrashers Tormentor – and ‘Son Of the Mourning’, an old demo song that never appeared on any of its official albums, as part of its set. The band deliver an energetic set with enlived performances from each of the members. bass guitarist Peter Palmdahl, and substitute drummer Tobias Kjellgren are subjects for the interview instead of Jon Nödtveidt, the actual frontman, lyricist and creative force behind Dissection. In fact Jon Nödtveidt, and Johan Norman don’t appear in the interview segments at all. The Dissection part of the home video is concluded by the promo video for ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’, which on the backsleeve of the video is misspells as ‘Where Dead Angles Lie’.

On all fronts the Dissection segment of the live recording is the superior shot of the two productions. Given the band’s bigger profile at the time (the band co-headlined with British dark metallers Cradle Of Filth, with support coming from Swedish then-melodic death metal band In Flames and Dimmu Borgir) it is not entirely unexpected that they were given a better stage sound and lightshow. Likewise does Dissection receive better filming and editing. Most members share equal screentime, only rhythm guitarist Johan Norman is often ignored in favor for lead guitarist Jon Nödtveidt. It’s apparent that Dissection on all fronts was a better-oiled machine and a tightly-knit unit compared to Dimmu Borgir’s semi-amateuristic showing on the same festival.

In all it was understandable that Nuclear Blast decided to scrap the “Live & Plugged” series at the dawn of the DVD format. Its contents and the dubious quality of the interviews did not justify the existence of the franchise. For what it attempted to accomplish “Live & Plugged” was functional at the very least. It was a budget line alternative to dedicated, single-band live recordings that offered a bit of everything for the casual fan. In light of the advent of widely-spread live recordings it was virtually inevitable that “Live & Plugged” was bound to become redundant, which it did. With the live aspect as its primary selling point the video has nothing resembling worthwhile additional footage. “Live & Plugged” was good for what it intended, but ultimately the brand didn’t proof resilient and strong enough to warrant further revisits.