10 Essential Live Albums | Revolver

10 Essential Live Albums

Motörhead, Nailbomb, Lamb of God and more
pantera GIRON FBD, Joe Giron
photograph by Joe Giron

Hard rock and heavy metal are both such essentially live forms of music that while the live album may seem like the perfect medium for conveying their visceral power, the reality is that that power is almost impossible to capture on tape. Some shit just has to be experienced IRL. That said, there are a few hard-rock and metal live albums that do an acceptable job at representing the onstage magnitude of their subjects and, in some cases, the historic magnitude of specific performances. Below are 10 of our favorites.

Iron Maiden — Live After Death

(Sony, 1985)
"Scream for me, Long Beach!" Recorded during their World Slavery Tour, Live After Death finds Iron Maiden in peak form, confidently ripping through the highlights of their first five albums. The way Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's guitars are split between the left and right speakers, it's almost as if you're right there on stage with them.

Lamb of God — Killadelphia

(Epic, 2005)
The Virginian New American Metal leaders were on fire in 2004 when they hit the Trocadero in Philly for the ferocious performance captured here. The set list spans their first three albums plus one song from their record as Burn the Priest and displays a unit pissed, hungry and on the verge of deserved — if somewhat shocking, for a group so extreme — breakthrough success. That you can all but hear the internal tension bristling between the band members, which would take violent form as seen on the album's DVD companion piece, only makes Killadelphia more intense. 

Metallica — Live Shit: Binge & Purge

(Elektra, 1993)
Recorded mostly on Metallica's Nowhere Else to Roam tour, and featuring 24 career-spanning cuts including an array of ripping covers, Live Shit: Binge & Purge captured James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted and Lars Ulrich in full post-"Black Album" rock behemoth mode, but still very much in touch with their gnarly, middle-finger-waving thrash roots, as the title of the triple-disc album — not to mention its no-holds-barred sonic assault — vividly demonstrate.

Ministry — In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up

(Sire, 1990)
Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey and A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste constructed the rusty framework of industrial metal, but both were marred by anemic production. Thankfully, the group's first live album packs the brute, rough-edged power of Ministry's performance into a nonstop, 39-minute package.

Motörhead — No Sleep 'til Hammersmith

(Bronze Records, 1981)
This roaring blast of amphetamine madness makes jet engines sound soft in comparison. Recorded by legendary Lemmy-Philthy-Fast Eddie lineup, No Sleep 'til Hammersmith perfectly captures the rowdy essence of sold-out Motörhead gig; you can practically taste the lager, smell the sweat, and slip on the arena's vomit-covered floor.

Nailbomb — Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide

(Roadrunner, 1995)
Nailbomb, the industrial-metal side project of Sepultura's Max Cavalera and Fudge Tunnel's Alex Newport, only played two shows in their short shock of an existence — at Holland's Club Dynamo in front of 300 people and at the country's Dynamo Open Air Festival in front of 20,000. The latter landmark gig is locked in amber on this LP, a blistering screed complete with Dead Kennedys and Doom covers and two exclusive studio cuts recorded before Nailbomb dropped the fucking mic for good.

Nirvana — Unplugged in New York

(Geffen, 1994)
On the last Nirvana album recorded before Kurt Cobain's suicide, songs from the band's three previous records (plus a handful of covers) are given new life and greater depth by acoustic arrangements, and the cracked beauty of Cobain's voice comes through loud and clear.

Ozzy Osbourne — Tribute

(Epic, 1987)
Easily the best live album of Ozzy's Randy Rhoads-era solo career, Tribute is a stunning testament to what lead the guitarist could do in a concert setting. Compiled from various dates on the Dairy of a Madman tour, Tribute suffers from sound quality that's occasionally substandard, but the sheer brilliance of Rhoads' playing makes up for it.

Pantera — Official Live: 101 Proof

(Eastwest, 1997)
Recorded in various U.S. cities on the 1996-97 Tourkill, 101 Proof presents Pantera in their classic prime. Supporting The Great Southern Trendkill, Full Metal Phil and the boys unleash a blistering set of hesher classics (plus two studio tracks), but it's Dimebag Darrell's merciless shredding that makes the disc so fucking hostile.

Slayer — Decade of Aggression: Live

(American, 1991)
Not for the faint of heart or sensitive of eardrum, this brutal double CD features the King-Hannemann-Araya-Lombardo lineup ripping through 21 of their sickest anthems on the Seasons of Abyss tour. Raw, vicious, and thoroughly Slaytanic, this is quite simply the greatest thrash-metal live album ever made.