It's surprising to think that a band that's been around as long as Skillet (this year is their twelfth) has never released an appropriate live project. Years back, they were part of an Ardent Worship series of three releases (along with All Together Separate and Satellite Soul) which was a lower budget live worship project that wasn't quite a true representation of Skillet. However, with the band being bigger than ever since the release of their 2006 record, Comatose, they've captured their Spring headlining "Comatose" tour in a unique CD/DVD package, aptly titled Comatose Comes Alive.
Most audio/video combo live releases tend to either have an excellent version of only one or the other, seldom both. For Comatose Comes Alive, the audio disc is easily the strongest of the two, however, they certainly haven't skimped on the video side of things either. The audio mix is nothing short of amazing on the CD portion of Comatose Comes Alive. It's crisp, it's full, and frontman John Cooper's voice sounds fantastic without sounding doctored in any kind of way in post production. Also, the guitars and bass are given the life they need to make a live rock album sound really good. Many live recordings are unbalanced, either focusing on the quality of the vocals over the instruments or vice versa. On Comatose Comes Alive, the mix is almost perfect. Background vocals pop forward when needed and fall to the back at just the right moments. Also, the disc includes most of the chit-chat from Cooper between songs, but includes it at the end of the track that precedes the next song, making it easy to skip for repeat stereo plays when you just want to get to the music.
The song selection from the show covers mostly cuts from Comatose (a whopping eight, to be exact), with almost all of the other songs being from their previous record, Collide. It isn't until the encore with "Best Kept Secret" and a worship interlude two songs before it with "Angels Fall Down" that the band reaches back as far as their 2000 album, Invincible. The encore choice especially sounds great among the newer material, as well as presented in a live format. It would have been great to hear even one or two more classics thrown in, but I can understand the band's decision for sticking to the newer stuff. Lastly, the audio disc unlocks downloads for all of the bonus songs that were featured on last year's Deluxe Edition re-issue of Comatose. It's a nice treat for those who didn't want to double-dip with the re-release, but bittersweet for those who did just to get these songs.
To accompany the incredible audio disc is a live video DVD, presented in 16:9 widescreen format. The editing is extremely stylized. The opening of the concert is shown in a trim, ultra wide shot, with a dirt and scratches effect on the film to make it look aged and classic before the first song "Comatose" bursts open and the screen jumps into the full 16:9 aspect ratio. The screen dances from song to song with frantic lighting, spastic camera angles, and image effects that zip from frame to frame, keeping things always moving and never boring. The quick cutting can be a bit much at times, however, with some of it having a dizzying effect (especially on "Whispers In The Dark"... just think Cloverfield), but when the songs slow down, like with "The Older I Get," the angle cutting slows to give the camera a chance to linger a bit longer. Also, some of the camera effects lift the viewer out of the live concert setting, making it feel more like a music video than a live concert DVD. Lastly, there is some unintentional video noise and pixelation viewable when watching this on the bigger screens, but it's not enough to really harm the enjoyability of the disc. This is truly a quality live concert experience, especially when it comes to a live Christian rock production, and just what Skillet fans have been waiting for. The concert DVD also includes more talking from John Cooper than on the audio disc. Before the encore on the DVD, Cooper introduces the band and speaks about the meaning of the album and tour title "Comatose" as well as the message behind it. It's a nice fit for the DVD, and a wise choice to have trimmed it off of the audio disc.
The concert DVD has some extras, including a couple of music videos from the album Comatose and "Savior" from Collide, as well as a "behind the scenes" studio video of "The Older I Get." All of the videos are really disappointing as they look extremely pixelated on a bigger screen TV. In an increasingly HD world, it's not expected for the videos to be presented in high resolution, but it is expected for them to at least have a fair amount of clarity -- especially since they're presented in widescreen, along with the concert footage. Lastly, there's a slide show of live photos that slowly spin from photo to photo while the live music for "Better Than Drugs" and "Whispers In The Dark" play in the background. The photos look okay blown up on the big screen, but still look a little fuzzy at times. You can't scroll through the photos as it's just a video of photos, but it offers another viewpoint for their live show. While these are great bonus items, it would have been nice to have a little background footage of the band behind the scenes at this show or on the tour - especially since it's no secret that the band members enjoy filming candid material for use in online blogs.
It's unfortunate that it took this long for Skillet to score a real live project, but if it had to take this long just to ensure that it would be done just right when it finally did come to pass, then it's well worth the wait. Skillet's Comatose Comes Alive is easily the best CD/DVD live concert experience to arrive in years and something that raises the standard for such releases. Comatose Comes Alive is a great representation of Skillet's powerful live show, and like it, just plain rocks.- Review date: 10/19/08, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Disc One - Audio
Disc Two - DVD
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