|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Paul Lofthus|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Messenger|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 44:44|
I must admit to not being the biggest fan of live albums. Granted, part of the problem is that I grew up musically in the eighties, an era in which live albums were beginning to diminish in popularity- at least in comparison to the live album fueled seventies. The seventies, for instance, produced a slew of well known live albums, including Alive! & Alive II (Kiss), Two For The Show (Kansas), Live Killers (Queen) and Frampton Comes Alive (Peter Frampton) to name a few, while the eighties, in contrast, have nowhere near as much to show from a live album standpoint.
The CD, which is limited to 80 minutes of music, might have played a potential role in the live albums demise. When factoring in that the typical concert is in the 90 minute to 2 hour range, that means key material will need to be cut in order for a live album to “fit” onto one CD- unless the label is willing to go the (albeit highly unlikely) 2 CD route. Perhaps this helps account for the reason we never saw live albums from well known eighties bands such as Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Stryper during their prime years.
The Christian rock scene has not been the most consistent when it comes to live albums. There have only been a select few to get it right, with DeGarmo & Key’s excellent double live album No Turning Back-Live and Rez’s equally laudable 2 CD set Twenty Years Live ranking at or near the top. But for every hit there are several misses to be accounted for. The previously referenced Rez fell short of the mark with Live Bootleg (does nearly one-third of a 40 minute live album need to be made up of preaching?) while the same can be said for Bloodgood and its duo of Alive In America and Shakin’ The World (a live album does not come across “live” when a band is performing each song in the exact same manner as it did in the studio).
Falling somewhat in between is Barren Cross’ Hotter Than Hell! Live, an often maligned effort due to its unpolished and raw feel (the album, as far as I can tell, was never doctored in the studio). But this is something I regard in a positive sense in that what we wind up with is a natural representation of the groups live performance (warts and all).
And this brings us to the latest live album at hand: Messenger and its 2010 release On Delivery (Live). Where to start? We’ll just say that the album brings everything good and bad when it comes to live recordings.
The good is that the band offers a choice selection of its better material from its underrated 2008 full length debut I’m Talking To You. Those looking for a well constructed joining of old school hard rock and heavy metal would be well served to check the album out (the Angelic Warlord review gave it a very deserving 80% grade).
Hook driven pieces such as “Chained” (this one still showcases a monstrous bass line), “Wallowing In The Mire” (a hulking plodder if there ever was one) and “Bright Morning Star” (semi-ballad with a strong melody) come across with that much more energy and emotion in a live setting. One must also appreciate how Messenger delivers extended versions (as a result of delving into some lengthy jam based instrumental moments) of other choice tracks such as “The Rapture”, “So Good” and “King Of Kings”. These three, as one might expect, find guitarist Vladimir Gurin cutting loose with his deft soloing abilities.
Another advantage is the four choice new tracks the group unveils, “Let My People Go”, “Fear No Evil”, “Risen Christ” and “Rulemaker”. The four showcase in no uncertain terms that Messenger has not lost its touch from a songwriting standpoint. Let’s hope that the group decides to include them on any studio project it might record in the future.
The strength to production resides in its clarity (bass and lead guitar standout cleanly as they should), although rhythm guitar can come across somewhat thin at times. Comparison listening reveals the studio verses to be much heavier (usually it is the other way around with live albums).
The main problem presented by On Delivery (Live) - and keep in mind that Messenger is by no means the only band guilty of this - are the canned audience tracks. The audience ends up mixed so loud it almost sounds as if the group is playing in a stadium in front of 50,000 people- when in fact the album was recorded during a benefit concert for Corinne's Kitchen at Arlington Assembly Auditorium. The outcome is that perhaps the recording is not quite as believable as it could have been. Consider Saint’s Live 05 in which little if any sound from the audience was picked up as part of the live recording, but the group made the wise decision not add aftermarket audience tracks on the back end. Similar to Hotter Than Hell! Live, you get some warts in the process but you also wind up with a recording that is that much more believable as a result.
Finally, and I hate to be accused of nitpicking, but there is little in the way of banter between the band and audience. No, I do not expect any long speeches or preaching, but it would have been nice if the band had made more of an effort to introduce its songs to the audience. And while we are at it, why not take the time to introduced each member of the band in addition to at least provide a customary lengthy guitar or drum solo (two staples of most concert going experiences).
I hope I am not coming across unnecessarily harsh because one must credit Messenger with the ambition to put out a live album as its second overall release. Most bands usually wait until at least album three or four (at a minimum) into their career before considering a live recording. No matter, if you enjoy Messenger’s debut or live albums in general then On Deliver (Live) comes with a solid recommendation in that the quality of the groups material (both old and new) cannot be denied.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Chained” (3:59), “Fear No Evil” (3:12), “Wallowing In The Mire” (3:51), “Let My People Go” (3:41), “Bright And Morning Star” (3:38), “The Risen Christ” (4:03), “Rulemaker” (3:32), “The Rapture” (4:21), “So Good” (4:03), “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” (4:44), “King Of Kings” (5:36)
Frank Clkfton Herring - Lead Vocals, Keyboards & Guitars
Vladimir Gurin - Guitars
Roy Richardson - Bass
Tim Tieff - Drums