TALISMAN – Five Men Live (CD) / World’s Best Kept Secret (DVD)

TALISMAN - Five Men Live (CD) / World's Best Kept Secret (DVD)


Frontiers Records
Release date: March 27, 2005

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In 2003, Talisman had been touring in support of their latest release, Cats and Dogs. With over ten years of recording and touring behind them, it was time to think about documenting the current band in a live setting, which resulted in the latest release Five Men Live. In addition to recording the audio tracks, they compiled footage to be included in a two-disk DVD release, World’s Best Kept Secret.

Five Men Live is a very unique perspective of two very different shows on one tour. The Club Mondo gig in Stockholm conveys an intimate setting; the Sweden Rock Festival show in Solvesborg, with its outdoor-event location, is a shorter song-list and gives a second perspective of the same album. It is very interesting to hear how the band approaches these two venues by the different song placements and arrangements. The contrast of the two concerts gives the listener a rare glimpse that there is more to putting on a live show than just getting up there and playing.

Disc one, the Club Mondo set, was recorded in August of 2003, and showcases the band as a headlining act. Starting with its signature guitar riff, the band immediately launches into “Break Your Chains,” and you know they are on fire from the get go. You will find yourself seven songs deep into the disk before the tempo lets up a bit for a cover of Seal’s “Crazy.” Playing all their hits from their thirteen years together, there is no shortage of material; and with the expert abilities of bass player Marcel Jacob and guitarist Fredrik Akesson, their respective solos make this disc an absolute must-have for Melodic Metal fans everywhere.

The band took the stage at the Sweden Rock Festival in June of 2003, this time as just one of the many bands playing the show rather than the headliner. The first three tracks are the same as the ones at Club Mondo, but this time they are arranged a bit differently. Besides a more intense pace and a shortened set, the most noticeable difference between shows is the backing vocals … whereas they sounded “dead on” during the Club Mondo gig, they sound a little strained here. It would stand to reason that not being a headliner at an outdoor venue will compromise the overall sound … on-stage and out front probably wouldn’t be as clear. You have to give them credit for leaving the backing vocals so loud in the mix, again showing what a difference a gig makes.

Along with Jacob and Akesson, drummer Jamie Borger, and latest addition guitarist Howie Simon, round out Talisman’s backbone to put on an all-out Melodic Hard Rock/Metal extravaganza not to be missed. The creme-de-la-creme of what sets Talisman apart from a traditional Metal unit is the amazing vocal performances of Jeff Scott Soto. Be it thousands of people or only a few hundred, Soto addresses the audience like it is just a few of his friends throwing the world’s biggest party. He laughs and jokes with the audience and the band and makes everyone feel essential. Calling his son from the stage to have the audience wish him a happy birthday is just one example of how he makes each show a unique experience; it doesn’t feel like a job or just another show, it feels personal.

World’s Best Kept Secret is another two disk set, only made for your DVD player. The first disk is the video of both the Club Mondo gig and the Sweden Rock Festival. Both shows look and sound great, with multiple camera angles and the sound coming directly off the board. The most distracting moment of the two shows comes at the Club Mondo gig during Marcel Jacob’s solo. Here the picture becomes polarized with a stop/continue effect that looks like someone got a weird feature on their camera and decided to use it just to get their money’s worth. Fortunately, the freak-cam is short and Marcel continues his outstanding performance unaided/unabated by visualization enhancements. There are a lot of fret-board close ups for you shred-o-maniacs out there, and lots of cool Metal posturing and headbanging.

Disk two features a lot of behind-the-scene footage, as well as more onstage performances spanning various incarnations of the band. Interspersed throughout the montage of performances, rehearsals, and just hanging out is a videography of all of the full-length promo videos the band has released over the years. Not really a detailed “who’s who” documentary, the different clips seem only to represent things the band found as humorous or interesting. The casual pace is very entertaining, and shows the light-heartedness of the band, and you get a sense that these guys really enjoy the Talisman project. This is very refreshing in a time when so many of these super-groups come across as vehicles specifically designed for sales and not artistic creation.

There are some nice bonus features on disk two, a Talisman discography, an impromptu guitar duel between Simon and Akesson, and a way-beyond-cool bass lesson segment from Marcel entitled “Naked Bassist” … nice. The only complaint about these two releases is the fact that they weren’t offered as a package deal. They compliment each other so well it is disappointing the whole thing wasn’t wrapped in a single box.

If you’re a fan of Talisman, then it goes without saying that this is a must-have pairing. If you are a fan of solid Melodic-Hard-Rock/Metal served up Swedish style, a la Yngwie Malmsteen or Europe, then this is going to be required listening and viewing for you too. If you are living on the American side of “the pond,” then unfortunately Talisman isn’t readily as available to you and will be an import, and will only be available at an import price … but well worth every penny. Let’s rebel against the tide of Pop culture and ensure another fifteen years of Talisman, and the next time they release a DVD they can call it Worst Kept Secret. The world will be a better place for it.


  • Jeremy Juliano

    Jeremy was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He's been involved with and has been following the Metal scene since the early 1980’s. He started out his Metal journey with heavy doses of Maiden, Accept, and Saxon. And in recent years, he has enjoyed the new age of Metal with bands like Hammerfall, Edguy, and Nightwish, to name a few.

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