EXCELSIS CORRUPTUS DELUXE
LIVE DVD ATAVISTIC RELEASE:
OCTOBER 7, 2003 REVIEW: NOVEMBER 29, 2003
live is an almost entirely different thing than on record. At least for
us who appreciate all the levels of sonic perversions involved in the
studio recordings. Live, the emphasis is on crunching, raw power rather
than subtleties. This made me consider the first Foetus live show I attended
(a double bill shared with Coil at London’s Royal Festival Hall
September 2000) a bit of a disappointment. In hindsight, that may have
been partly due to the fact that I’d just had my mind fucked for
good by Coil’s bedlam-burning, bowel churning, worldoverturning
apocalypse of a live show. Music as ritual, ritual as music. Anything
would have come short after that.
But I also had a lingering feeling that Foetus live could, and should,
be more than a huge rock’n’roll noise fronted by a hip-swivelling
maniac dressed up like a kitsch Lucifer. After all, this is the possibly
most important artist of the last 20 years we’re talking about.
A year after that, I got to see Foetus live again. That time I managed
to stop theorizing, and start appreciating the show for what it was: a
great rock spectacle. And that’s exactly what “Male”
invites you to take part of. This live DVD, which has previously been
available on video, was filmed in different venues in the early nineties,
and contains 13 songs of menacing power. Sure, you won’t get any
mutated brass sections, and most samples and electronics are either nonexistent
or simply drowned out by the rest of the music. What you will get though,
is a great live band tearing through bone crunching versions of the songs.
Live performance seems to be an opportunity for Jim Thirlwell to let his
inner rock’n’roll demon roam freely. He swaggers behind his
microphone with a menacing grin, as the band rips the songs to razorsharp
shreds. “Free James Brown” makes Big Black sound like a folk
outfit. But there is room for nuances as well. In “I’ll Meet
You in Poland, Baby” - WWII reimagined as a lover’s quarrel
between Hitler and Stalin - Hahn Rowe's violin adds a desolate beauty
to a song that’s genuinely moving despite all its ironic twists.
And even in the particularly demonic take on nihilistic anthem “Anything
(Viva!)” the violin is allowed to swirl through the debris.
But mostly this Foetus is still a loud and relentless one, as witnessed
further in the superb cover of Alex Harvey’s “Faith Healer”,
the sordid “Hot Horse” and the waves of noise in “Butterfly
camerawork looks decidedly low budget on “Male”, but it suits
the show and the music well. And although the sound quality on this DVD
is excellent, the picture sometimes looks like a third generation video
copy. Whether this is due to lack of proper master tapes or an aesthetic
choice I don’t know. If you’ve got a fetish for technical
perfectionism you may find this annoying, but personally I think it rather
adds to the experience of this sick rock’n’roll show.