I am a fan of live albums from any genre. However, my collection comprises mostly rock and metal albums and there are certain live albums that have been spinning over and over again for the past quarter of a century or even longer – basically since I was able to somehow earn my own money as a kid and spend it all on music. Here is my subjective selection of 10 of the best heavy metal live albums of all time in no specific order. By the way, which is your favourite live album?
Ozzy’s tribute to the great late Randy Rhodes is a notable milestone in heavy metal music history. The album includes the arguably most popular Ozzy songs and a couple of Black Sabbath classics and the music is performed close to perfection by a great line-up. Songs such as Mr. Crowley and Crazy Train crawl under my skin like a Wes Craven movie, and the guitar solo by Randy Rhodes after Suicide Solution is just epic. I have not had the honour to see Randy Rhodes perform with Ozzy and this band, but I feel as if I know him thanks to this album. It captures the essence of what all music is about in a brilliant tone, feel, and with all its raw sincerity. Maybe it is because my ears became accustomed to the way live albums from rock bands were produced in the 1980s and that is just the way I like it, but Tribute is truly the epitome of that genre. This record has accompanied me since the late 1980’s, when I was a young metal-kid, and it still radiates the same mystique after what feels like thousands of listening sessions. One of the most iconic live albums of all-time, if not the most iconic live album – at least in my collection it is.
Line-up: Ozzy Osbourne – vocals, Randy Rhoads – guitar, Rudy Sarzo – bass, Tommy Aldridge – drums, Lindsay Bridgwater – keyboards
If You Want Blood You’ve Got It by AC/DC (1978)
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) was the first official live album by Australian rock legends AC/DC. It was recorded on 30 April 1978 at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, produced by Harry Vanda & George Young, and released on 13 October 1978 (UK & Europe) under Atlantic Records. The album includes ten classic songs from AC/DC’s first four international album releases, High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, and Powerage, and provides a live performance of 52 minutes and 42 seconds. What can I say? I love this live album. I have an emotional connection to it, because If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) was actually the first ever original album I owned from AC/DC. My dad bought it for me on cassette when I was a little boy – not even 10 years old – in a small music shop that was specialised on classical music, but also had a small pop music section. I loved the fact that it was a live concert, because I knew I was too young to go to a rock show, but the tape brought the rock show to me. I listened to it on my walkman and shut out the world. Those were the moments when I was in my personal AC/DC concert. Wonderful.
Line-up: Bon Scott – lead vocals, Angus Young – lead guitar, Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Cliff Williams – bass guitar, backing vocals, Phil Rudd – drums
The Wörld Is Ours – Vol. 2: Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else by Motörhead (2012)
Metal road warriors Motörhead, fronted by Lemmy ‘The man who’s blood is toxic to other human-beings’ Kilmister, are known for their powerful live performances. Even though I have never seen the band live, I’ve been a sucker for their live albums, and this one, is a friggin’ awesome live-album any metal fan should have! The atmosphere is captured perfectly, the band – with Lemmy (vocals, bass), Phil Campbell (guitar), and Mikkey Dee drums) – kicks butt, the mix leaves no wish open, and there’s nothing I can object with the set list. Songs from any Motörhead era I could care about are on this record: Iron Fist, Metropolis, The chase is better than the catch, Going to Brazil, Killed by Death, the iconic Ace of Spades, Overkill, Bomber, and even the newer releases.
Line-up: Lemmy Kilmister – lead vocals, bass, Phil Campbell – lead guitar, backing vocals, Mikkey Dee – drums
Anthrax is known for their infuriating live shows. Hardly ever do I experience such energy at a live show as when I go see Anthrax. Although the band has released a handful of very good live albums over the years, with their 2004-release Music of Mass Destruction being a very hot live album, I must admit that Chile on Hell reflects what I consider the best era for the band since the late 1980’s. As much as I love certain records with John Bush, the current line-up and state of the band catapulted Anthrax into new heights, and their latest record For All Kings is prove of that. Chile on Hell includes only songs from both Joey Belladonna eras, a feature that might have added more authenticity and honesty to the release. Given that the band has been touring for decades and knows exactly which songs work well live and which ones their fans want to hear, the set list is perfect for this fan. Chile on Hell became an instant classic for me as soon as I placed the DVD for the first time in my player.
Line-up: Joey Belladonna – vocals, Scott Ian – guitar, Jon Donais – guitar, Frank Bello – bass, Charlie Benante – drums
The Bay Calls For Blood: Live in San Francisco by Death Angel (2015)
I found out much too late about one the the most underrated thrash metal bands from the Bay Area: Death Angel. I find their music to be more creative and fresher – for lack of better words – than many of their Bay Area peers, without taking anything away from those other great bands. Their first live album Fall from Grace was released in 1990, but the band was not consulted on that release. Nineteen years later, Sonic German Beatdown – Live in Germany, the band’s second live album was released. A very good live album, but nowhere near as strong as the release at hand. The Bay Calls For Blood, was recorded live in San Francisco on December 27, 2014 and released as a B-Side to Death Angel’s 2015 documentary movie A Thrashumentary. As I have mentioned in an interview with Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda, I love this live album because of its authenticity and fantastic live sound. Many recent live albums sound closer to an 80s bootleg than a professionally produced live album, but not The Bay Calls For Blood. The dynamics are perfect, the set list encompasses basically all Death Angel eras, and it makes me feel as if I’m standing in the middle of the venue with Death Angel playing right in front of me. Such a phenomenal production and performance. Makes me want to see the band live again as soon as possible.
Line-up: Rob Cavestany – lead guitar, Mark Osegueda – vocals, Ted Aguilar – guitars, Will Carroll – drums, Damien Sisson – bass
Rude Awakening by Megadeth (2002)
Megadeth recorded the songs for the Rude Awakening compact disc release on two nights in November 2001 in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, USA. The tracks on the DVD are all from the second show at the Web Theater in Phoenix, Arizona on November 17, 2001. Although my favourite Megadeth line-up includes Dave Mustaine, Dave Ellefson, Marty Friedman, and Nick Menza (RIP) – who together recorded classic albums such as Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction, and Youthanasia – I consider Rude Awakening Megadeth’s most honest live album. Al Pitrelli’s and Jimmy DeGrasso’s phenomenal musicianship is underlined by the great production. Combined with Dave Mustaine’s and Dave Ellefson’s captivating stage presence this quartet creates legendary live versions of classics like “She-Wolf”, “Hangar 18”, and “Peace Sells“.
Metallica has always been one of my favourite live acts. Great songs, great energy, and great performances (from what I can tell). No matter what some reviewers said, Lars was always on top of his game when I saw them live, which has been 10 times by now. The Live Shit package is my favourite live release of the band, because of the unique energy and the great set list. I am not fond of Metallica’s newer material, although Loud and Reload include a handful of great tracks. However, their newer live albums released through Blackened just don’t click with me. Live Shit on the other hand gives me that old-school 90s thrash metal(lica) feeling that I adore. Most of the music on this album was recorded during the Nowhere Else to Roam tour, which promoted the black album. Hence, the songs that can be found on the black album radiate additional freshness. But classics like “Creeping Death”, “Master Of Puppets”, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” sound as epic on this live release as they sound on their respective studio albums.
Line-up: James Hetfield – vocals and guitar, Kirk Hammett – lead guitar, Jason Newsted – bass, Lars Ulrich – drums
To quote mikeladano.com, “Even though there was a double live CD (Radio City Music Hall) shortly before this, I don’t think anybody was complaining.” I surely didn’t. Although Heaven & Hell’s Radio City Music Hall live release is a fantastic album, this release was recorded live on 30 July 2009 at the legendary Wacken Festival and tops its predecessor. The open-air atmosphere captured on a summer night, the energy that radiates from the enormous crowd, and the stellar performance of the band make this Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell release a heavy metal masterpiece and portrays the band at their best.
Line-up: Ronnie James Dio – vocals, Tony Iommi – lead guitar, Geezer Butler – bass, Vinny Appice – drums, Scott Warren – keyboards, rhythm guitar
Live at the Inferno by Raven (1984)
The trio playing on here consists of John Gallagher (bass, vocals), Mark Gallagher (guitar), and Rob Hunter (drums), and the 81-minute long album is produced by Norman Dunn & the band. Raven and Mr. Dunn did a phenomenal job back in 1984. John & co. have been credited to be the inventors of ‘perpetual energy’ and ‘athletic rock’, and that’s exactly what this album was able to capture, in great vintage sound quality. Songs such as ‘Rock Until You Drop’, ‘Tyrant Of the Airways’, or the title-track ‘Live at the Inferno’ portray the immense energy these gentlemen from Newcastle, England, were able to unleash onstage. No matter if it’s a simple straight mid-tempo metal riff and groove or a double-time unisono instrumental blast, Raven rocks every second on this album. And the best part of it all is, I got to see Raven play live and they were able to convey the same energy I find on Live at the Inferno. Incredible and awesome.
Line-up: John Gallagher – bass and vocals, Mark Gallagher – guitar, Rob Hunter – drums
ABachalypse Now by Sebastian Bach (2013)
“ABachalypse Now” was released on March 22, 2013, through Frontiers Records and is a live-album (CD+DVD) that includes not one, not two, but THREE gigs played by Sebastian Bach and his band in 2012. The gigs were taped at Hellfest France, Nokia Los Angeles, and Graspop Belgium. Gig 1: The band becomes better and better with every song they play, and by the last song they get every listener on their feet. Must have been great to witness that performance at Hellfest. The band is phenomenal – and there is no doubt about how awesome Sebastian is on stage. Gig 2: The gig at the Nokia in L.A. was indoors. A completely different atmosphere and production from Hellfest. Sound-wise, the band sounds better than at Hellfest, and having special guests joining the band adds diversity. The set list doesn’t differ much from the one in France. Again, mostly Skid Row classics and three post-Skid Row song. All in all a great gig as well, but I still prefer the atmosphere at Hellfest. Gig 3: WOW! So, the band played at 1PM. Also, there was a torrential thunderstorm during the performance, and because of that there are glitches in the audio and video. But, seriously, an amazing ass-kicking live performance. You can see the band and the audience getting completely soacked, bitchin’ about the whole situation, nonetheless, they stay put and keep rockin’ out! At one point – before the song ‘Here I Am’ – Sebastian asks a stage hand, “Can you get me a coffee, please? I’m serious, dude.” That is hilarious, and some might claim ‘unrock’n’roll’. But hey, this is one of the most honest performances a metalhead can find on a record out there. The sound is raw in all its essences, exactly what I expect from a rock band. From the three productions on this album, definitely my favourite one. I don’t care about the glitches whatsoever. This is the Sebastian Bach live gig that should get talked about because of its authenticity. Simply fantastic.
Line-up: Sebastian Bach – vocals, Johnny Chromatic – guitar & backing vocals, Nick Sterling – guitar & backing vocals, Jason Christopher – bass, Bobby Jarzombek – drums