I can only assume anyone who is reading this review is likely to have heard of Germany’s own retro power trio Kadavar; if not, you must have been living under a stoner, badoom tish! Sorry, bad pun, but I couldn’t resist. The only reason I say that is that if you haven’t heard a band before, a live album is a potentially dangerous introduction. Let’s face it, for every live album of the quality of Thin Lizzy on ‘Live and Dangerous’ or Orange Goblin’s superlative ‘Eulogy for the Fans’ there are a host of stinkers rushed out in a fit of contractual obligation or to fill a gap created by financial wrangling or writer’s block. As such, I am wary of the live release and of the thousands of CDs I own, a scarce dozen or two are live.
So, with that massive caveat, it’s time to fire into the album, their second via Nuclear Blast, following on from 2013’s ‘Abra Kadavar’. Firstly, please don’t mistake this band for the identically named and now defunct Italian death metallers; rather this Kadavar are three luxuriously bearded Germans who clearly have a taste for all things retro, band pictures being awash with tie-dyes and kaftans. This same retro look is matched by their sound, a heady mix of psychedelia, blues rock, and a chunk of more modern stoner. Preceded by a smattering of audience chatter, the band fire in with ‘All Our Thoughts’, a good concert starter with a pile of hooks to get the audience grooving as well as a nice bass line to get heads banging. When the guitar goes into an extended solo that could happily carry the tripper into the stratosphere, the bass and drums prove their power, the sound always being full and heavy, playing with a full texture some bands lack and a testament to their playing ability. ‘Living In Your Head’ follows, and Kadavar continue to delve deeply into the past; imagine Hawkwind and Cream having a bit of a jam and you’d be in the right area, the drum skins sounding like they could have been battered by the latter band’s ‘Dangerous Mr Baker’. This sound is even more apparent in ‘Black Sun’ with the extended guitar free interplay between booming bass and pounding drums, a feature of Cream’s live shows.
This freakout style of play is extended to epic proportions in the eleven minute plus ‘Purple Sage’, a thick slab of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd being thrown into the mix, howling and screaming acid rock guitar effects building up into an intergalactic sound scape that surely deserves an oil lamp projection show and a little bit of chemical uninhibiting to get the full effect. It is on tracks like this that live shows can pivot, giving the audience time to float away in a sea of sound; conversely on an album they can sound somewhat out of context and even self indulgent. This is not me taking particular aim at Kadavar, rather again highlighting what can be the inherent drawback of the live album; what can be stunning live, surrounded by friends in a club or a field and full of adrenaline and other non internally produced stimulants can fail to have the same impact at home on a stereo or through a set of headphones, no matter how good the equipment.
If, like me, you have Kadavar’s studio albums, or have enjoyed catching the band on stage, ‘Live in Antwerp’ is a worthy addition to your collection. If you don’t, can I maybe recommend you seek those out first before buying this one?