Initially, I planned on doing two separate reviews for the recently released Gigantour 2 CD and separately sold DVD of the same name, via Image Entertainment. But like many metal fans are sure to attest, you can’t really have one of these releases without the other nearby. And the same theme applies for reviewing these items. And so I will break them both down right here as best I can, hopefully coherently.
This pair of releases collects highlights from the second go-around for the Megadeth-spearheaded tour, which took place in 2006. The original tour in 2005 had some bigger names compared to the ’06 lineup, including Fear Factory and Dream Theater, but the quality of bands on the second tour should not be overlooked. Seven metal groups trekked across North America two years ago with Megadeth, including southern-fried Testament admirers Lamb of God, Opeth, Sanctity, Into Eternity, The Smash Up, the legendary Overkill and Arch Enemy. And all are represented on both Gigantour 2 releases.
After listening to them a few times, it is apparent that Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who handpicks the bands he tours with, picked a killer lineup that rivals what Ozzfest originally sought to accomplish: come see some of your favorite metal bands and leave having discovered new potential favorites.
With both formats, you get over and hour’s worth of performances, plus a bonus/hidden live version of the ever-relevant Megadeth classic “Peace Sells.” As far as the track lists are concerned, there’s a six song difference between the Gigantour 2 CD and DVD: Opeth, Sanctity, Into Eternity, and Overkill contribute different songs on both discs, and Lamb of God has three tracks on CD as opposed to two on the DVD.
Other than that – and without giving too much away – the CD has one more performance (15 in total) than the DVD, but the latter has an additional hour’s worth of some cool, fan-friendly behind-the-scenes footage of the ’06 tour and several insightful band interviews. Thus, both discs have a lot to offer.
On CD (and DVD), The Smash Up, a metal band from New York, starts things off with a good but hardly distinctive track called “Rachel’s Day.” Compared to other bands on this tour, if this song is any indication, these guys are a damn solid outfit but would fit better on a Deftones or Sparta tour than an extreme/thrash metal circuit. From there, the listening experience gets much better.
Overkill, one of the pioneers of thrash metal from the same time period Megadeth formed (in the mid-‘80s), never got the commercial fame the latter enjoyed, but they didn’t need it. Fifteen studio albums into their career, these New Jersey natives are one of the more respected and recognized acts in heavy metal and still churn out records, the latest being 2007’s Immortalis. On the Gigantour 2 CD, Dropped-D tuned tracks like “Thanks For Nothing” and the Eddie Van Halen-like shredding on “Long Time Dying” sound fresh and timeless.
On the DVD, their late ‘90s gem “Necroshine” and influential 1982 classic “Rotten To The Core” made for two well-chosen inclusions that were performed with more energy than some of the younger acts on this bill. And it’s not like Overkill tries to hide their age. No, as lead singer Bobby Ellsworth put it before performing “Rotten”: “New guys, watch the old guys. All those on the floor, Rotten To The Core!” They truly looked like they were have a blast and played like it too.
Back to the Gigantour 2 CD, my favorite (non-Megadeth) track was melodic death metal stars Arch Enemy’s performance of the superheavy fight song “Nemesis.” It features a bridge section that is so explosive that if you’re not banging your head or otherwise expressing how f-in’ awesome it is by the time it ends then you just don’t have true metal in your blood. Its militant, Fear Factory-ish buildup and crunchy, chromatic riffing climax that follows is the most pleasantly blood-boiling section I’ve heard since Byzantine’s “Stick Figure” track from a few years back. Another highlight on both discs — and pleasant discovery — was death-meets-prog metal group Into Eternity and its extremely versatile (and underrated) singer Stu Block, who sounds like Rob Halford fronting a black metal band.
As far as the audio mix of the DVD goes, I found that of the three choices, DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0, the latter sounded the best. There’s not much difference between the latter two mixes until you get to the Lamb of God tracks, where on Dolby 5.1 it sounds like the singer’s vocals and audience’s shouts that intro “…Something To Die For” have an unnatural filter or something else running through them. Nothing major, but it isn’t noticeable until that point in the DVD; if you play the track through Dolby 2.0, you’ll notice a more natural and consistent sound all through the performance.
Also, the video shots on the Gigantour 2 DVD captured all the best moments of each band’s performance(s), though at times the shots went back-and-forth from stage to audience or from band member-to-fellow band member a bit too rapidly for my liking. But that’s not a big deal either.
Megadeth, the band who put this tour together, gets the most songs (4) on both discs, to no one’s surprise. Though I’m big on “The Scorpion,” all performances here sound as fluid and heavy as they ever have. The ageless voice of Dave Mustaine leads his mates through the rapid-fire riffs of “Take No Prisoners,” the more recent “Washington Is Next” and the politically charged classic “Peace Sells.” And the audience gladly sang along to the latter, the ultimate highlight of these twin releases.
In all, Gigantour 2 CD and DVD releases give metalheads the world over a sizable sample of some of the best of extreme and thrash metal, though they both could’ve used a few more live cuts. If you attended the tour itself in 2006 then you probably already know a lot about these bands. But for more conventional, say “old school” metalheads like myself, these releases made me better appreciate the talents of newer metal bands like Opeth and Into Eternity (even if they aren’t exactly “new” anymore), as well as the resiliency of the original speed metal groups like Overkill and Megadeth.
For more information on these releases and the third Gigantour tour (which is now underway), go to the Gigantour homepage.