Sepultura – Under A Pale Grey Sky
Like most of the albums on this list, Under A Pale Grey Sky was recorded during the height of the band’s career. Captured from a 1996 show in London (the same venue Gojira recorded their live album), I was fortunate to see Sepultura around this time, and I can tell you first hand, this album does an amazing job at chronicling the uncontrollable energy you felt as the four Brazilian kings took the stage. Playing all their songs faster than they ever recorded them, punching notes as if they’re angry at life, there’s really no lull or skip worthy track on this beast. If you didn’t already know, Under A Pale Grey Sky captures the very night Max Cavalera left the band, making it a turbulent release the band doesn’t even like to speak about. The album was officially unleashed to the world by the label in 2002, making it the very last time we hear all 4 original members together, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting way than the place they dominated, on a stage.
Death – Live in LA (Death & Raw)
Death’s Live in LA release is something special to me personally. Having watched them on this very tour, it’s a great way for me to relive the experience of seeing the band for my first and only time. Also, because I remember running to buy several copies of the album in 2001, since it acted as a source of raising money for Chuck Schuldiner’s cancer treatment, a battle he lost before enough funds were available to cover his surgery. Beyond the sad nature of the albums release, we’re left with a parting gift from one of heavy metal’s greatest minds. Unmastered, and unfixed, this is the most realistic and raw album you’ll find on this list, which is still better than most bands have to offer today.
Strapping Young Lad – No Sleep Til Bedtime
The first few Strapping Young Lad albums changed my perception of music, and watching them live in 1997 might have been one of the most terrifying things I’ve seen to this day. Never have I witnessed a band try to harness so much angst, and deep seething hate in their show as SYL, but I’m sure glad we have a live album that captured it. Recorded from the same tour in 1997, No Sleep Til Bedtime contains 7 live tracks, mostly from their seminal album, City, as well a few Japanese bonus tracks. Why so short you ask? Well, the tape ran out, of course. Claaaasic SYL.
AC/DC – Live
ACDC's album, Live, is the band’s second attempt at capturing a live performance for release, and the one that truly epitomizes one of the greatest rock bands to ever live. Following their landmark album, Back In Black, Live was recorded from several different shows in 90-91, arguably the height of the band’s music making career. What you’re left with is an album of pure magnetism, raw energy, and 14 mind blowing hits that essentially act as the best of rock n roll.
Iron Maiden – Live After Death
I honestly lose track of all the Iron Maiden live albums, but for a band that has as many live releases as they do, it’s telling of the quality they put into each and every show they perform. If you’ve ever seen these legendary lads in the flesh, you already know you’re paying for one of the best concert experiences in heavy metal, so what makes Live After Death so damn special? Well, for many it was the first time seeing the larger than life Maiden show, and catch a glimpse of their record shattering 331 day world tour at that! With a ton of selections from Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind, and Powerslave, it has all the hits you want! This is a must-watch for any Maiden fan, new or old.
Rammstein – Live aus Berlin
I was fortunate to see Rammstein perform a small venue in NYC back in 1998, and never missed a performance here since. Even then, in a room that held less than 500 people, they were destined to be an act meant for the world's largest arenas. Watching them go from venue to theater was something special for me at that time, but in 1999 they released what would foreshadow the future of their career, Live Aus Berlin. The live DVD/CD showed Rammstein performing their largest show to date, on an appropriate sized stage they would get to know comfortably for the rest of their days. I love this album not only as a reminder of catching this same amazing tour, but because it captures the band in the most pivotal night of their long success.
Dream Theater – Live Scenes From NY
Living in NY my whole life, I've been fortunate to watch Dream Theater go from small venue to the very top, and being front and center for one of the biggest pivots in their career. With the success of their 1999 concept album, Metropolis Pt 2, the band were set to take on the biggest challenge of their career, a DVD/CD live release where the band would perform the full 77 minute song in it's entirety, along with actors, guests, and a full choir. The night was magic to any DT fan at the time, and the release serves as a memory to the very occasion. Coincidentally released on September 11th 2001, the front cover of my Live Scenes from New York DVD shows NYC, including the twin towers, on fire. Naturally, it was recalled and fixed, making the original release a collectors item now.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Although I originally started this post thinking I’d write about Ozzy Osbourne’s Speak Of The Devil, the live album he was forced to record of Black Sabbath tunes due to publishing issues only months after the passing of Randy Rhoads, I remembered that back in the 70’s most albums were actually recorded live, and this being a shining example for metal. Black Sabbath, the album that started it all, was recorded completely live in studio in only one whole day, and as noted by guitarist Tonny Iommi “We never had a second run of most of the stuff.” Despite one day of live recording, and one day of mixing, the album would go on to change music forever. I’d say that deserves a damn spot on this list!
Well there you have it. The 16 amazing live albums that rocked my world. Of course, there are so many more worth checking out from bands like Meshuggah, Dokken, Opeth, At The Gates, Emperor, and even the upcoming Behemoth release to name a few. What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!