Live at Eindhoven 1998

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The band named Death contained so many different musicians (almost 20) under the volatile stewardship of obstinate frontman Chuck Schuldiner, that it's remarkable any lineup ever held together long enough to go out on tour. But, in fact, Death was one of the hardest touring metal bands of their ilk, even though testimonials of the band's live prowess were anything but legion, and Schuldiner himself decided to go AWOL on one infamous occasion (nearly scuttling a high-profile European tour with Kreator, completed by his soon-to-be henchmen and a few hired guns). Perhaps it was the sour taste left by that experience, perhaps not, but this may explain why Death's entire career through to final studio album, The Sound of Perseverance, in 1998, was never interrupted by an official in-concert release. All that would change in the ensuing years, however, when Schuldiner was stricken with a deadly brain tumor whose treatment demanded funds well beyond the means of a typical American musician without life insurance. So along with a smattering of concerts and other charity events, 2001's Live in Eindhoven 1998 was essentially made available to help cover Schuldiner's mounting hospital bills, and this goes a long way toward justifying its largely unimpressive traits. Simply put, this 11-track, hour-long set possesses the sound quality of an average-to-decent bootleg, and this is obviously a disservice to Death's intricate compositions and dazzling musical chops. The final mix (if you want to call it that) isn't quite muddy enough to thwart relatively brutal early album favorites like Leprosy's "Pull the Plug" or even Human's "Flattening of Emotions," but the more prevalent, blistering displays of dexterity like "Together as One" or "Flattening of Emotions" definitely suffer. And when it comes to ever more sophisticated fare like Spiritual Healing's "The Philosopher," Symbolic's "Zero Tolerance," or Sound of Perseverance's epic "Flesh and the Power It Holds," listeners may sadly find themselves straining to pick all of the alluring, serpentine guitar leads out of the murk. In the end, all this obviously made for a rather disappointing package, despite the varied set and worthy band performances; justifiable only by the life-or-death (no pun intended) circumstances that motivated its release, yet still leaving Death fans everywhere in need of a definitive live album from their heroes.

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