Project Pitchfork
Live 2003 (DVD)
~reviewed by Brian Parker

I’ll confess: to me, the idea of selling a concert recording never seemed like such a hot one; the intangible energy you get at live shows doesn’t translate well to film.  Also, although this DVD includes a Dolby 5.1 sound transfer, I don’t have the audio setup to review its quality.  Given these caveats, I approached the prospect of reviewing this two-DVD set with some trepidation.  (The first DVD is a live concert, the second a collection of videos.)

In an age of concert footage releases consisting of several shows spliced together, it’s worth noting that, for better or for worse, the DVD presents a single show in Dresden.  The concert kicks off with the hit “Timekiller” and a raucous “God Wrote.”  Immediately evident are the mixed blessings of going from studio to live: vocalist Peter Spilles’ voice is a little weak in places without studio help, but the use of live drums gives things a kick.

As the show goes on, we see fairly faithful interpretations of most highlights of the band’s catalog.  As you might expect, the guitar-heavy material —especially upbeat tracks— particularly shine, although the more electronic material is not poorly represented, either.

The more subdued material occasionally drags, for several reasons.  One is the track order; though alternating between faster and slower tracks may have seemed like a good idea, I was often frustrated with some sequences: a groovy track like “En Garde” moves into a thrashing guitar-heavy “Conjure” to be followed by a measured “I Live Your Dream.”  Had they followed popular favorites (like “Carnival”) with aggressive tracks (like the smashing version of “I Am (A Thought In Slowmotion),”) they might have built better energy before giving the crowd a breather.  As is, the crowd seems to alternate between going nuts for big hits and looking impatient as they wait for the next favorite.

This pacing mars an otherwise excellent and energetic performance.  Spilles hams it up appropriately, without going overboard, and Dirk Scheuber dances happily at his keyboard.  Everyone is in good spirits and seems to have their hearts in the performance without showboating.  Given Project Pitchfork’s diverse oeuvre and large catalogue, they do an admirable job of covering different “periods” of their career and hitting the popular tracks.  (To me personally, though, their exclusion of “Steelrose” was a shock.)

Beyond the music, of course, is the visual presentation.  Several cameras are employed, and the editing is well-paced; it may be less frenetic than the MTV generation is used to, but enough cuts and fades are used to make it a slick presentation.  Supplementing the band are video clips projected onto a huge screen behind them.  These are never as obtrusive as you might expect, with the camera always returning to the band—sometimes you might even wish you caught more of the projection, although often there are nothing but “non sequitur” images you’ll recognize from the sessions for some of the music videos.  Only once does the show’s effects outshine than the band, during “Awakening,” with projected explosions synchronized to flashing orange lights (all edited to much more dramatic effect than I can fairly describe here).  In fact, the band (particularly Spilles) is so heavily the focus of the editing that when the cameras keeping panning over the crowd during “Carnival” it will stand out.  Throughout the show, nice graphics present the name of the next song after the previous one ends, never becoming obtrusive.

One problem stands out, though: the sound and video are not always well synchronized.  This did not significantly detract from my enjoyment, but it is a little annoying when you see lips out-of-synch with vocals.

The music videos, presented in roughly reverse chronological order, are listed under two separate menus as “This Century” and “Last Century”; but they are more logically divided into three categories.

The first three tracks are each from one of the recent “trilogy” set of releases: “View From A Throne” from the EP of the same name, “(The) Deepest Place” from the Inferno full-length, and “Behind The Fog” from the Trialog EP.  None of these videos show the band, and each uses a good deal of the same footage in a loop, making me wonder whether this was meant to be high-concept art or whether it was slapped together for cheap promotion.  Either way, I felt fairly indifferent to this set.

The next five (“Existence,” “Timekiller,” “Carnival,” “I Live Your Dream,” “Steelrose”) are from a middle period with the albums Daimonion and Eon:Eon.  This period was the height of their popularity, at least in the U.S.; as such, I expect most buyers of the Metropolis DVD will jump quickly to these.  “Existence” has the highest production values of the lot, and almost comes off as a surreal art film set in the desert.  “Timekiller,” likely their biggest U.S. club hit, disappoints: seemingly inspired by the movie versions of Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, what seems to be meant as a visual absinthe trip comes off as the silliest video I’ve seen since the 80’s (and that includes Duran Duran’s body of work).  Thankful to put that behind me, I found “Carnival” very sexy and engaging (even with Spilles’ and Scheuber’s silly mugging at the camera), and “I Live Your Dream” quite well done.  Even the low-budget “Steelrose” was engaging with its simple sex appeal; I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the stripper had something to do with that!, but those of a different persuasion will lick their lips at the sight of Spilles and Scheuber in mesh shirts.

The DVD wraps up with a low-tech set of videos for harsh older material: “Conjure” evokes a sense of Skinny Puppy or FLA with its collage of wartime imagery; “Crash!” a small live show; “Souls” and “Renascence” are, well, the kind of thing an ambitious band on a small budget in the early nineties does.  Although these don’t age well, they’re gems for the nostalgic.

Were the first DVD sold alone, I’d be inclined to recommend buying Project Pitchfork’s albums instead of the DVD—of course if you’re already fan enough to have gotten most of the albums, the DVD is a no-brainer.  But with the videos to sweeten the deal, you’re getting an interesting sample of Project Pitchfork’s material all in one place.  This is not a terrible place for the curious with limited knowledge of the band to check them out, but for a sampling of studio versions you might also consider the collections The Early Years ‘89-‘93 (domestic) and Fireworks and Colorchange (Germany).  On the other hand, there (surprisingly) is not an exhaustive straightforward “best of” for Project Pitchfork, and this is the only way to get those videos domestically.  For fans, recommended, especially for the videos; for the curious, this should serve to whet your appetite and direct you to the “period” of their career that most suits your tastes.

DVD 1 (Live) tracks:  Timekiller; God Wrote; Trialog; Drone State;
Inferno; Awakening; I Am (A Thought In Slowmotion); Terra Incognita;
Mine (Beast of Prey); Carnival; We Are One; Alpha Omega; Tal Der
Dornen; The Spoken Mirror; Daimonion; En Garde; Conjure; I Live Your
Dream; Die Schlange vs (Damon der Antwort); Existence; Your Cut
Feather; Metamorphosis; Rescue; Carrion; K.N.K.A.

DVD 2 (Clips) tracks:  View From A Throne; Deepest Place; Behind The
Fog; Existence; Timekiller; Carnival; I Live Your Dream; Steelrose;
Conjure; Crash!; Souls; Renascence

Project Pitchfork is:  Achim Farber, Jurgen Jansen, Carsten Klatte,
Dirk Scheuber, and Peter Spilles

Project Pitchfork website:

Metropolis Records: