I have to say that for me live albums are usually an Exocet missile into a band's battleship back catalogue. The main problem I have, particularly with Black Metal, is that the edge and the atmosphere is diminished, if not lost. Of course, the effect varies and some bands will be able to pull it off but I tend to prefer the studio output. There are some bands that can sound better live, “No Sleep Til Hammersmith” really added some bollocks to some of MOTORHEAD's early material, I suppose it's all in the ears of the beholder.
HORNA have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to picking out songs for inclusion on a live album and so I'll be buggered if I'm going to source where each track originates from. With such a lode to mine from, it's essential to choose tracks that will stand for themselves and not lose their essence, bearing in mind that though the song sounds dynamic to the audience, it isn't necessarily going to translate well to disc once the sound engineers have had their finger in the pie. On “Vihan Tiellä” some of the songs work well, others not so. It has to be said that the opening track “Vihan Tie” sends the sparks flying and bodes well for what's to follow, an incendiary riff spits fire from the off and these rockers get raucous for the rest of the set, more or less.
We all know that HORNA are big hitting shit-stormers in a live setting and so the art here is to capture the fury whilst maintaining quality, by and large the production succeeds but in order to stop the faster sections slipping the leash, the steadier parts do lose emphasis a tad, though it isn't long before the rabid returns to chew your ears off. The other noticeable asset is the balancing of the instrumentation so that every aspect is heard with the others, so the bass burbles happily along providing plenty of backbone for the guitars to hang off and the drums provide proportionate thump or pummel depending on the prevailing pace. Atop it all are the wretched wolfish snarl and shriek vocals that keep up the gnashing until the end though I always find it somewhat disappointing when either through design or editing there's no sign of banter with the crowd, surely there must be some with a journeyman live band like this.
Most of the tracks chosen vary within each song from all-hell-breaks-loose to dripping sluice and so there is plenty of change in dynamics right through the spectrum and only occasionally does the melody found in the studio output get lost in the mix. When that happens, the leveller is that some of the songs are better live, “Marraskuussa” definitely has one or two more horse shoes in the glove compared to the the album version. It has to be said though that for large sections of this event, you wouldn't actually be able to tell that this was a live recording, such is the genre that production values are part of the aesthetic, we are all used to the less than pristine and there are very few hints that this isn't the studio. To me that is a negative point, if you feel the need to put out a live album then the listener needs to feel part of the experience, that just doesn't happen here, though to be fair I don't think many albums of any genre manage it either.
As an album standing on it's own, “Vihan Tiellä” is worth a listen regardless, especially if you were there or if live albums are your thing. In context it disappoints as it doesn't grab you and stick you down the front with the sweaty bouncy ones and that is the whole point of a live album.
(Online September 16, 2010)