Flotsam And Jetsam
Live In Japan (DVD)
posted on 3/2006 By:
It brings me no joy to report that there’s a laundry list of reasons why you should pass on Flotsam and Jetsam’s latest DVD, and only one reason why you shouldn’t. Granted, it’s a big reason; no doubt, the best there is. Namely, the band’s smoking performance itself is the one thing that Live in Japan has going for it. Whether it’s enough of a reason is where the debate comes in. Opening for Overkill and Death Angel on Flotsam and Jetsam’s first trip to Japan (after all these years), the vets made good use of their opening slot, delivering a potent forty-five minutes of thrash/power metal that leaned heavily on their earlier material. Flotz doesn’t tour much these days, but they sure haven’t lost their enthusiasm for it, and one has to appreciate the energy and intensity the band exudes even after all these years. Their set was short, not by opening band standards, but by DVD ones, but still crams in plenty of fan favorites. Five of the eight songs performed were spawned from the band’s classic first two albums. Doomsday for the Deceiver contributed the title track and album opener “Hammerhead”, while No Place for Disgrace was represented by “Escape From Within”, “Hard on You”, and the title track. No one will complain about such heavy representation, but it doesn’t leave much room for the rest of the catalog, forcing F&J to prune their set, leaving only “The Master Sleeps” from When the Storm Comes Down, show opener “Me” from 1995’s Drift, and the lesser of the bunch, “Nothing to Say” from My God. This tour took place prior to the release of Dreams of Death, the band’s latest effort, which accounts for its absence from the show. Live in Japan does however feature a video for the first single from that album, “Straight to Hell”.
Although there are no complaints about the performance itself, unfortunately there are more than enough about every other aspect of the DVD. Some of these are substantial, some less so, but cumulatively they’re hard to ignore. First, there were obviously some budget constraints for this project, and they show. It’s no surprise that Live in Japan doesn’t look and sound as good as the Motorhead DVD I just finished reviewing—despite their good efforts F&J aren’t exactly a high profile band these days, and Crash is a small label. The quality of the audio and video reflect that. I don’t mind some reduced quality--after all, I’m looking for a concert experience, not Schindler’s List, but more annoying is the sub par camera work. There are far too many wide shots from a distance, and many of the tight shots are poorly framed. Unfortunately, some of the discs suffer from a manufacturing error that causes the audio to play through one speaker. Crash has apologized and offered to replace any of these defective discs.
If it were just a question of accepting lesser production with a good performance, Live in Japan would be easier to swallow. When value and relevance are factored in, the scales begin to tip. A forty-five minute concert and one music video is pretty lean, content wise, and it doesn’t look as though the “EP” status of the fifty-two minute video is reflected in the price. For a full price video, we should get full length content. Dragging the archives for random live footage would have gone a long way, but the obvious question is why the band didn’t add any Dreams of Death oriented content-- interviews about the making of the album, behind the scenes footage, anything. Anything, that is, to distinguish it from Live in Phoenix, the DVD that the band released just two years ago. The DVD that contains every song on Live in Japan, save “Doomsday for the Deceiver”, plus five more and a second disc of bonus features. I’ve not seen Live in Phoenix, and have no idea about its production quality. But obviously, if you’re only gonna buy one, that’s the one to investigate first. Although it took some harsh criticism, I liked Dreams of Death (check my review), and I’m glad to see Flotsam and Jetsam persevering. I’ve never seen the band live, and despite its numerous flaws, I enjoyed Live in Japan, and I’ll definitely watch it again. But I didn’t have to shell out for it, and I can’t give more than the most qualified of recommendations that you should either.
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