Review Summary: We Must Become the Change We Want to See is a classic masterpiece of a live DVD put together by several unbelievable musicians. Five stars all the way.
I often find myself scouring Sputnik for new music, trying to satisfy my curiosity of exactly what’s out there. I don’t completely remember how I ended up coming across The Sound of Animals Fighting, but that moment honestly was a life changer. Not anything ridiculous like saving my life or anything like that but much more subtle, much more chronic. Needless to say, I gave them a shot and listened to one of the highest rated albums of all time on Sputnik, the live DVD from TSOAF entitled We Must Become the Change We Want to See
. Luckily the DVD in its entirety was uploaded on YouTube. Like most “out there” experimental music, TSOAF took a little while to really set in. From the get-go it was pretty obvious I had never watched or heard anything quite like them. After the first time I watched the entire set, I wasn’t overly impressed. Funny how things like that work.
I awoke the next morning to jump in the shower and what music do you think popped in my head? Bingo, you got it! Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, TSOAF took hold of my brain and would not, under any circumstances, let it go or let anything else near it. So here I am a week later, in the same position (well with clothes on) that I was in seven days ago, except now having listened to all three TSOAF albums and this DVD extensively. So with no further ado, please let me start actually reviewing the album and stop rambling.
The DVD starts off calmly enough, with Matthew Kelly from The Autumns singing "The Heretic" a cappella. Although this version of the song is still very good, and of course, sung beautifully, I think singing it in a cappella really takes away from the album version. The instrumentation and dual vocals really made it stand out as an absolutely breathtaking track on the album, and now that they are gone, I can’t help but to feel "The Heretic" has been downgraded just a bit. While Kelly sings, the viewer is shown some rather peculiar semi-close-up shots of his face in a bright light with the rest of the venue pitch black.
As Kelly finishes, the familiar distorted guitars and drum line of "Act I: Chasing Suns" begins. The lights come on only when RX Bandits’ drummer Chris Tsagakis begins to abuse his cymbals. The viewer is then subjected to the sight and sounds of complete musical mayhem: Tsagakis pounding away on the skins, Anthony Green of Circa Survive bouncing across the stage in his unorthodox manner, Steve Choi of RX Bandits shredding away on his guitar, Joseph Troy, also of RX Bandits headbanging and moving with the music, another RX member, guitarist Matt Embree, semi hidden in the shadows, and quite unfortunately Craig Owens…ugh.
But all is not lost as the main attraction begins. That is, of course, the vocals of Anthony Green. Green yells his way through the mayhem until it gives way to the slightly more in-control chorus featuring dual vocals from Green and Owens, who prances across the stage like a teenage whore, as usual. The entire band sounds great throughout the track, and it is also probably the most energetic number of the night, with musicians and crowd bonding perfectly to absolutely tear the House of Blues apart. Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis
is being shown on a projector screen behind the band throughout the set, a painter is seen putting the finishing touches on his work to the right of the band, and another starts to the left to round out a pretty crazy sight.
"Act II: All is Ash or the Light Shining Through It" is played rather seamlessly next. It features Rich Balling limping across the stage with a cane before delivering his vocals and dancers with probably the ugliest masks I have ever seen dancing in the background. Again, the band delivers a great performance, sounding exactly like the record, all the while maintaining the amazing energy on stage. "Act III: Modulate Back to the Tonic" brings in vocalist Keith Goodwin from Good Old War singing dual vocals with Green while Rich Balling fills in the lines from Peter Pan
. Goodwin and Green seem to have great chemistry, and certainly sound great together. The only bad thing about this track is Craig Owens rearing his ugly on-stage….routine? He does sound pretty decent on most of the songs he sings, but I just can’t take whatever exactly it is that he does while he sings. The crazy chorus does eventually give way to the great Zeppelin-esque solo, which still sounds amazing live.
"Un’aria", just like on the record is sung a cappella by Craig Owens, and is actually tolerable because Owens does do a great job hitting the highs, and does not move around at all (pheww!) After putting the mic back, Owens retires to his tom and snare set up next to Tsagakis and provides the percussion backbone to "Skullflower". Green and Goodwin again blow this track away, each sounding about as perfect as humanly possible. The second time through the verse really puts everything into perspective. A shot from near Owens out toward Green, Goodwin, and the crowd is shown, and in nearly every fan’s face is a true sense of awe watching these two great vocalists doing their thing. Few are singing along and those who are must have been doing so lightly, because a very quiet and respectful mood is set by the crowd the whole way through by not singing along too much or randomly yelling during the soft sung parts.
"My Horse Must Lose" brings the return of Matthew Kelly, this time with his guitar. Kelly again delivers an amazing vocal performance. I feel like Kelly and Tsagakis really take center stage here, Kelly with his singing while Tsagakis grooves away, tight as ever on his kit. As soon as it came, My Horse Must Lose is gone, giving way to "Horses in the Sky". This is the only song where I ever feel that the band really doesn’t sound the best, mainly during the first verse when Craig Owens flatly half-sings, half-yells his lines, which ruins the spacey sounds coming from Embree’s guitar. The chorus sounds much better, however, as Owens actually sings and is backed up by Joseph Troy. The guitars sound other-worldly during this song, really putting it back into stable footing.
My personal favorite song on the setlist, "Stockhausen, es ist Ihr Gehirn, das ich Suche", comes next. Green delivers arguably his best lines all night when he wails 'maybe I’m just not ready.' I can’t help but to feel complete musical nirvana every time he states those lines, every time I listen to this song. The entire band really does a wonderful job here. After the hectic "Horses in the Sky", Stockhausen was a perfect song to bring a mood change, noticeably slowing the pace and dimming the mood along with the lights. "This Heat" is the longest song of the set, at over 10 minutes. Goodwin is the sole vocalist in the beginning of the track as he grooves along with Troy’s bass. TSOAF are a true masterpiece in this song with Goodwin nailing his lines, Owens pounding away on his tom, Tsagakis providing the beats, and the distorted guitars and bass giving the song its psychedelic feel.
Unfortunately all things must come to an end, and We Must Be the Change We Want to See
is no exception. It draws to an end with "Act IV: You Don’t Need a Witness". It begins, of course, the same way "Act I: Chasing Suns did, the energy of both the band and the crowd still being there. Gre"en handles the duties of singing the verse and screaming his way through the tail end of the chorus. A convulsing female dancer accompanies him on stage adding yet another interesting on-stage sight. Act IV is a quick track and as the distortion fade, so too do the members of The Sound of Animals Fighting, absolutely on top of their game in every single way.
The sound quality on We Must Become the Change We Want to See
is astounding, everything sounds crystal clear. The on-stage happenings are wonderfully documented with great shots at the right times. Everything about this culminates perfectly to make it easily the best live DVD I have ever watched. If you are a fan of TSOAF this is an absolute must-watch. If you like experimental progressive rock then I would certainly suggest this as well. Even if you don’t fall into either of these two categories, I still strongly urge you to watch with an open mind.
"Act I: Chasing Suns"
"Act II: All is Ash or the Light Shining Through It"
"My Horse Must Lose"
"Stockhausen, Es Ist Thr Gehirn, Das Ich Suche"