|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Bjorn Stigsson|
|Record Label: BTS||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 56:33|
The Swedish hard rock band Leviticus returns following a thirteen year hiatus with a very well done live album entitled Live At Bobfest, 2003. As a fan of Leviticus since the mid-eighties, I eagerly anticipated the albums release; however, the foremost question in my mind prior to hearing it revolved around which version of the band was going to show up musically. For example, would Leviticus pursue a sound comparable to the driving hard rock and power metal of its first two releases I Shall Conquer and The Strongest Power? Or perhaps they would play a combination of commercial metal and melodic hard rock not unlike Setting Fire To The Earth and Knights Of Heaven? The answer, as it turns out, is none of the above. On Live At Bobfest, 2003 Leviticus ends up going after a bluesy seventies influenced hard rock sound similar to much of the material off the bands guitarists Bjorn Stigsson's 1989 solo effort Together With Friends.
Only two of Leviticus' three founding members, drummer Kjell Andersson and Stigsson, take part in the project. Niklas Franklin replaces original bassist Hakan Andersson. Lead vocalist Peo Pettersson, who participated on the bands final studio release Knights Of Heaven, sounds as good as ever with his gritty and soulful flavored voice. It is worth pointing out that while Peo sings in English, his dialogue with the audience between each song is in Swedish. Stigsson proves in no uncertain terms he has not lost his touch either; if in doubt, check out his amazing leads on "Deborah And Barak" and "Majestic in Power".
The main drawback to the production of Live At Bobfest, 2003 is the fact it does not have enough of a "live" feel as a direct result of the audience not being placed high enough in the mix. The band, for example, sounds as if it is performing in front of only a couple dozen people. (Compare the sound of the audience here to that on Stryper's 7 Weeks: Live In America, 2003.) At the same time, on several tracks the keyboards end up mixed so prominently they end up drowning out the rhythm guitar. (Once again, compare the guitar sound here to that on Stryper's 7 Weeks: Live In America, 2003.) The correct balance between keyboards and rhythm guitar must be reached and that is not always achieved.
You could not ask for a better track to open a live album than the catchy melodic power metal of "Flames Of Fire". Due to the presence of an organ in the mix, however, the song loses some of the all out energy of the original studio version from Setting Fire To The Earth. Peo, on the other hand, does a very commendable job of filling the shoes of the talented Terry H. (who handled lead vocals on S.F.T.T.E.).
The album maintains its momentum with the non-stop groove flavored energy of "Saved". I like how the bass guitar moves to the front of the mix to match Ez Gomer's heavy duty bass lines from the S.F.T.T.E. version. Please note that Peo does not attempt the same ear piercing scream that Terry H. originally cut loose with at the end of the song!
While I always felt that Knights Of Heaven was held back by the highly polished feel to its production, its material translates much better live as a result of coming across in a heavier and more guitar driven manner. And such is the case with the melodic rock of "Messiah" and "Oh, Lord", both tracks brought to life with a crisper and more upfront rhythm guitar sound. Please note that while there is nothing wrong with either song from a musical standpoint, other numbers from the album such as "Strong Love" or "Over The Hills" would have made the better choice in this reviewer’s opinion.
"Majestic In Power", the first of two songs from Stigssons' solo effort Together With Friends, sounds exactly the way it should live by showcasing a terrific bluesy mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards. One of the albums finest moment occurs during the songs instrumental passage when, as it slows, Stigsson cuts loose with nearly two minutes of lead guitar underscored by an organ.
A too prominent mix of keyboards ends up draining "On The Rock" of much of the all out raw energy found on the studio version appearing on The Strongest Power. While the song still remains quite good musically in highlighting a strong chorus and a nice lead guitar break, I would much rather have heard other tracks from the album such as "King Of Kings", "I Got Power" and "Light For The World".
The top notch power ballad "All Is Calm" comes across even better live due to Peo's exceptional vocal abilities which better complement the song when compared to the mid-octave ranged voice of Hakan Andersson from I Shall Conquer. Please note that the background vocals during the songs instrumental passage end up placed so high in the mix they overshadow Stigsson's lead guitar.
I find it disappointing that only one song is included from the bands hard rocking debut I Shall Conquer. I would have appreciated hearing at least one more song from the album, the more noteworthy selections being the guitar driven power metal of its title track, "Let Me Fight" and "He's My Life" or the brilliant groove-flavored hard rock of "Doubt".
"Born Again", by far the strongest track from Knights Of Heaven, makes a great transformation live as a result of its upbeat tempo and catchy hook in its chorus. During the songs first minute the keyboards temporarily drop from the mix leaving a crisp rhythm guitar on its own to drive the song forward. I wish the entire album had been produced in this manner.
At the end of "Born Again" you can hear an unruly member of the audience loudly shouting for the song "Deborah And Barak". Leviticus, instead, launches into one of the all time great Christian metal ballads in "The Suffering Servant", the song coming across beautifully live in capturing much of the power and raw emotion of the studio version from S.F.T.T.E. It is worth pointing out that the introduction of each member of the band to the audience helps carry the song out past seven minutes.
The rowdy individual in the audience gets his wish as the band kicks into the hard hitting "Deborah And Barak". With its near perfect mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards along with a fast paced solo from Stigsson underscored by double bass, "Deborah And Barak" does one of the better jobs translating live of all the albums material.
"I'm Gonna Rock" stands out with its heavy duty low end and another effective mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards. During the songs second verse former Leviticus vocalist Sonny Larsson makes a brief guest appearance on lead vocals. (Larsson received no credit in the albums liner notes but I cannot think of any other vocalist capable of hitting a high note like he can.) After Kjell spices things up with a drum solo, Peo ends the album with several minutes of creative vocal improvisation backed by the rhythm section and keyboards.
Live At Bobfest, 2003 features an all around very fine selection of songs for a live album. (I might have made a few different choices here and there, but, on the other hand, it is not possible to please everyone- which is one of the challenges facing compilations.) Irregardless, after over a decade of silence, it is great to hear Leviticus again, and the album, despite a few production problems, comes with a strong recommendation. With that being said, the only missing piece to the puzzle at this point would be to get the band in the studio and record and album of all new material!
Reviewed by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Flames Of Fire" (3:55), "Saved" (4:41), "Messiah" (4:14), "Oh Lord" (5:12), "Majestic In Power" (5:24), "On The Rock" (3:24), "All Is Calm" (5:52), "Born Again" (4:36), "The Suffering Servant" (7:27), "Deborah And Barak" (4:21), "I’m Gonna Rock" (7:23)
Peo Pettersson – Lead Vocals
Bjorn Stigsson – Guitars
Niklas Edberger – Keyboards
Niklas Franklin – Bass
Kjell Andersson – Drums