Louder Than Live (1990)
Genres: Heavy Metal, Grunge, Doom Metal, Stoner Metal
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a fantastic live album. Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East? Metallica's Live Shit? AC/DC's If You Want Blood? Gentle Giant's Playing the Fool? Daft Punk's Alive 2007? Whatever it is, there's plenty to choose from. While live albums can sometimes suffer from bootleg quality productions, there is a good handful of fantastic live albums that perfectly capture a band at their peak and in a sense brings you to the concert displayed on said album. An unfortunately forgotten live album that ranks as one of the best is Soundgarden's Louder Than Live. This was probably due to only being released on VHS and as a promotional CD/cassette/vinyl in 1990 and never being officially re-released since.
Now, this is a live performance. Like all the best live albums, it shows the band at their very best. Soundgarden is in their prime here, and deliver a crushing balls-to-the-wall concert that would scare off anyone who's too used to modern over-polished "extreme" metal. This is about as much energy as you can get without being at the concert yourself. Plus this is the only Soundgarden release where you can hear Jason Everman on bass.
With a setlist consisting mostly songs from the masterpiece that is Louder Than Love, the most doom metal song Soundgarden's ever done, one of the band's earliest songs, and a couple comedic covers, you know you're in a for a treat. It opens up with said doom metal song, the gargantuan behemoth that is "Beyond the Wheel". Like the original studio version, it's haunting and blisteringly heavy. Here though, it's extended to a much more fitting 7 minutes and you can hear it in all of it's glory. Unlike the garage quality of the debut, this has some extra grit in the riffs and Cornell has a bit more of a snarl.
As if "Gun" wasn't a massive beast of a song before, Louder Than Live has the song sounding like it's just going to grab you by the throat and throw you around in the pit until you're on your way to the hospital. You can hear the feedback, the amps sound like they're going to blow any minute, and it shows that Cornell was just as much of a screaming maniac on the stage as in the studio. The discordant "I Awake" sounds even more out of a horror film, and "Big Dumb Sex" opens with some hilarious stage banter. It all closes with covers of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye". "Big Bottom" works in more ways than one, with Soundgarden having such a heavy bottom end. "Earache My Eye" turns into a heavy grungy biter of a track with total manic screaming and it's a real awesome rendition.
To me these are the best kinds of live albums, the ones that display a band in all of their raw and unbridled rage and musical intensity. It serves as a huge influence for budding musicians like myself, and pushes the drive to get out on a stage and give it your all even more. Watching the VHS brings the whole experience home even more, watching everyone swirl around in the mosh pits and bang their heads like madmen just as the band does themselves. If you can find it, treat yourself to one of the best live albums/videos the metal world has to offer.