KMFDM - Live in the USSA - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

KMFDM - Live in the USSA

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-26
KMFDM - Live in the USSA
KMFDM - Live in the USSA

You can often get a sense of how highly a band regards its latest album by how many of its songs they play during the supporting tour. In 1995, for example, KMFDM played the entirety of career highpoint Nihil from start to finish. Twenty years later, by contrast, they only played three tracks from 2015's Our Time Will Come live. So it comes as a strong (and well deserved) vote of confidence from the band that they played most of their best album in years, 2017's Hell Yeah, on their latest tour. While their live show was apparently eighteen songs at most stops, this set contains only twelve, but it's still solid and lengthy enough to satisfy.

One major issue that affected the tour was that opening act Lord of the Lost was intended to double as the live band for KMFDM, but were unable to enter the United States due to paperwork problems (thanks, Trump!). So the band was forced to tap Andee Blacksugar, who did a crash course on the live set and managed to learn the guitar parts of all the songs in a matter of weeks. The main question then becomes: how do these live tracks compare to the studio cuts? One good sign is that Blacksugar so impressed Konietzko that he's since become a member of the studio band.

The set opens with 'Freak Flag', an amazing anthem to individuality, off the newest album, which is a bit of a shame, as it seems as though the live shows opened with 'D.I.Y.' (1999), one of the band's all-time greatest songs. Still, this performance stays pretty true to the studio cut, with just a little bit of extra punch for the live version. Title track 'Hell Yeah' is a bit more muscular thanks to the live guitar, and, as is often the case, band leader Sascha Konietzko's vocals are a lot more raw on the road. By contrast, 'Rebels in Control' (2011) is rock solid musically, but vocalist Lucia Cifarelli can't quite match the perfect fury she musters in the studio while performing on stage. She does fine, but there's something magical about the original tune. Still, the music has all the banging chaotic power you'd expect.

On 'Total State Machine', which is performed here without the reggae-flavored intro and outro, Konietzko again favors his yelling style, which makes the chorus sound about the same as on the album, but for the verses, I prefer the sexy whispering he used in the studio. But as generally happens with live KMFDM, the song comes across as powerful and intense. And his growling works perfectly on the next song, 'Burning Brain' where he matches the original sarcastic rage of the original track with a slightly different vocal flavor. The guitar on this track is like a gaping wound, in the best way.

Halfway through the set, they do a throwback to 'Bumaye' (2007), a distinctly unique track from the band. The apocalyptic doom is well represented here, and I'm a huge fan of the song, both in its original form and in this live version. Swinging back to the present, 'Glam Glitz Guts & Gore' preserves all the frantic energy of the album version, pounding and crashing along with unrelenting might. 'Shock' amps up the guitar over the original synth-heavy version, which is typical for KMFDM's live shows. The audio on Cifarelli's vocals are a little weird, causing them to come off as a bit too echoey and distant, but otherwise, the track is solid. But 'Murder My Heart' maintains the meaty synths of the album track, with Cifarelli sounding a little less seductive but more passionate.

The last section of the set is mostly older songs. On 'Virus' (1990), Konietzko sneers his way through the classic track, which feels stripped down, raw, and a bit rushed. 'WWIII' (2003), the title track from my least favorite album, but apparently a fan favorite, keeps the hickified bluegrass opening, during which Konietzko makes a call out to host city Atlanta before slamming into the guts of the song. The vengeful machinery in this track does have its appeal, to be fair. And as usual, the set closes out with classic encore song 'Godlike' (1990), which always takes the energy to new heights in a way that leaves the crowd wanting more.

This is the fourth live album KMFDM has released, and it's possibly their best one, owed largely to the tremendous strength of their latest studio album. As with that set, long-time fans should be pretty happy, and newer fans will continue to enjoy the guitar-centric nature of their live shows. This old grognard is pretty happy with the current direction of the band.

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