Wisdom in Chains: Die for Us, Live [DVD]

Erik Hinton

Unlike most genres of music, hardcore is not about the spectacle of the band but rather the all-inclusive participation of everyone present.

Wisdom in Chains

Die for Us, Live

Label: MVD
US Release Date: 2007-04-24

There is something contradictory about a live DVD of a hardcore band. As anyone who has ever been to a hardcore show will testify, the band’s performance itself is hardly the focus of such shows. Since its inception in the late '70s, hardcore (birthed from the acerbic womb of bands such as Minor Threat, Black Flag, etc.) has revolved around the communal cohesion and response to the music being played. One needs but to glance at the liner notes or interviews with any hardcore band and, most likely, one will find more instances of “family” than in even the least creative genealogy texts.

Hardcore shows are a forum for similarly attuned teenagers and young adults to gather in a unity that only a sweat-soaked, choleric pit of peers fighting each other can truly bring. This togetherness is the real focal point of a hardcore show. Often, as demonstrated many times throughout the course of this DVD, the band will cede their microphones to atonal fans to sing the refrains. Such exhibitions reveal a fundamental truth of hardcore: unlike most genres of music from opera to virtuosic guitar rock, hardcore is not about the spectacle of the band but rather the all-inclusive participation of everyone present.

So how does one translate such an experience in which subject and object are conflated to a medium which strictly divides the two such as video? The simple answer: You don’t. That is not to say that Wisdom in Chains: Die for Us Live does not try to do so. This record of the May 2006 show in Kingston, Pennsylvania combines an assortment of low angled shots, extensive footage of crowd response, and a wide variety of close-ups edited quickly together in an attempt to emulate the frenetic energy of the show. While this is done sloppily and only vaguely matches the beat, such mimesis fails not because of the flaccidity of its execution but because of the impossible chasm which it means to span.

If anything, these flailing attempts to match the dynamism of being in a pit and screaming lyrics with one’s friends piled on top of them make the failure of the video medium all the more salient in its conspicuous attempts at reconciliation. Every wide-angled frame of an enthusiastic youth crowd surfing reminds viewers that they are firmly on the ground, every telephotoed face-to-face shouting into a microphone of the crowd and singer marks the video’s audience’s distance from the fray.

Another failing of the DVD, albeit perhaps predicated by the subject rather than the technique, is that the 25-odd minutes chronicled on the disk do not build or arc whatsoever. One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching recorded concerts is being able to replay the momentum of a show which grows from a simple song or two to an experience as the musical elements permutate. It would be facile to blame this shortcoming on hardcore music itself, the songs of which are very similar. However, I have experienced many such performances and, more times than not, there is a definite progression in milieu.

What starts as a few excited unlookers running around and hardcore dancing with a somewhat apprehensive crowd morphs into an omnipresent “moshing” in which nary a single youth is inert. Finally, as fatigue combines with a peculiarly generated fellowship, the crowd congeals as the set comes to a close, flailing arms repurposed for the holding of a mass of teenagers together.

Family. No such spectacle occurs here; intimacy is frustrated rather than flourished. I feel that a large factor in this disappointment of expectations is the camera’s stagnant repetition of shots: close-up of singer. Low angle of guitar. Wide shot. Rinse. Repeat. Nothing is withheld from the spectator in which to facilitate a build. The camera should have kept a safe wide-angle which gradually crept into a telephoto climax throughout the course of the set. Additionally, the arrhythmic editing completely eschews acceleration in favor of a complacent medium tempo.

Finally, there is no post-mortem. One derives endless pleasure from witnessing a pit fan out and self-abused fans collect themselves…and often pieces of their clothing. Without such closure, the DVD seems to just end and the experiencing of witnessing the show is anything but emulated.

The two special features provide a clear binary between the strengths and weaknesses of this release. The first is a three song recording from a live show at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. The recording quality makes the performance unwatchable, there is hardly any editing, and, most damningly, the performance feels sterile. The shortcomings of the medium are grandstanded.

However, there is also an interview with Mad Joe Black, the lead singer of Wisdom in Chains. In this roughly 10-minute segment, Black cogently outlines how hardcore music unites people and delivers a brief recap of hardcore’s history. The spoken content of this interview is useful in its explication of the oft-maligned and misinterpreted genre. However, again, poor camera work -- who shoots an interview in extreme low angle? -- undermines the quality of the piece.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.