Live In Leipzig is an audio document of the singular event of Blackhouse playing a live show after being in existence for over thirty years at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in Leipzig in 2015. According to Brian Ladd who is the founder and sole member of Blackhouse, he had attempted to play some live shows in the early days of the group in Utah where he lived, but there were too many upset skinheads. It may be true that in the industrial music scene there is a dearth of pro-Christian groups, although I suppose if you were going to start one you couldn’t be in a better place than Utah to do it. These days, Blackhouse resides in Eureka, California. “California uber alles!,” as Ladd (otherwise known as Sterling Cross) says to the crowd in Leipzig as we fast forward about thirty years!
Naturally, Blackhouse’s set is mostly early tracks including “Five Minutes After I Die,” “Answers for You,” “Mercy Seat,” “The 2 Classes of People,” and more. Most of these modern renditions sound more or less like sampled versions of the original recordings that have been remixed with live vocals, but they sound good in the recording and surely sounded even better over the massive PA at the Volkspalast.
“The 2 Classes of People” poses the question, “do you know which class you are in?” I can readily say that yes, I do know. While I may question the validity of Blackhouse’s spiritual message, I can appreciate the sentiment that he has expressed in interviews that industrial music and, by extension, noise does not have to be all about negativity and that both have immense power and emotion that could be felt as joy rather than sorrow or anger.
I still get a chuckle out of hearing Robert Tilton doing his speaking in tongues routine, and, of course, the track “Speaking in Tongues” is centered around a particularly good sample of Tilton saying, “bound by alcohol, bound by crack,” although I think technically those utterances are in English rather than tongues. But no matter! They are classic fodder for sampling in the early days of industrial music. Even just thinking of Tilton’s name evokes images of the man grimacing while raspberry sounds can be heard on a grainy VHS tape from video trading days gone by. I was inspired to do some searching and immediately found the clip of Tilton saying “bound by crack,” and from there found out that Tilton is actually still out there spreading the good word for cash. That is, except nowadays it’s in rented conference rooms in shopping malls to much smaller groups of people. It must still be lucrative.
“Cheers Reign Down on Johnny” and “Be Good!” are back-to-back in the setlist, and at first I thought he was doing a very loose version of “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Berry. I’m mostly mentioning this now because of Berry’s passing earlier this year, otherwise it might be ironic for a Christian noise project to do a cover of Chuck Berry since he had a reputation for being somewhat debaucherous.
My final revelation about Live in Leipzig is that it’s a pretty decent document of a live performance—an occurrence that is frankly rather rare. The sound quality is very good although I think the mixing of the vocals is either too loud or not balanced with the vocal effects. At times, the vocals could even be considered stark. There is, of course, video footage of the performance to be seen, and curiously enough, the vocals seem to be have been better mixed there than what is presented on the CD. At times, I get the distinct impression that Ladd is channeling Lux Interior, and even though I love the Cramps, I don’t know if that kind of tongue-in-cheek vocal style works in this context. However, his more recent vocal work seems to be less distorted, so it may have been an artistic choice. At any rate, if you are a fan of Blackhouse, then surely you must get this release.