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Personally, I'm not a fan of live albums from a band (unless it's from a band deceased or a band that'll never perform ever again... or just most live albums suck in general.) Though, what Dimmu Borgir produced here is pretty... well, pretty good and smart of them!
Firstly, this mini-CD makes for a great collectors item for any true Dimmu Borgir fan because it's a shaped album. I believe this is a limited CD and I couldn't pass up on the idea of buying this CD. No, I'm not a huge fan of the band, but I bought it because it's a shaped CD, it's technically an EP and it was cheap (maybe a good $7.00.) I like the fact that this album is a live EP; it's not some full length live album. Like I said before, personally, most live albums aren't interesting to listen to... if I wanted to see a band live, I'd see them if they were to come my way. Though, this kind of live album is tolerable...
None the less, it's a damn good live album. All the songs sound like they should and not altered like most bands do with their material when they play live (like having different lyrics, pausing in between songs with some bullshit "this is your last chance... get the fuck up! C'mon!") Every instrument can be heard clearly surprisingly... the keyboards (which practically make the band up) could be heard slightly and that could've been a little bit louder. Other than that, there are no complaints with the production of the sound.
The live performance itself is pretty much an experience... damn these guys put up a great show this night I can imagine. They don't let up! They sound like they gave it their all in this mini-live album. Don't believe me? Take a listen to Nick on the drums... the guy sounds like a damn machine gun when blastbeating! Shagrath puts on a great vocal performance like wise (in the vein of his "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" days, not the later days.) Everything else, performance wise, is grand.
I suggest that, if you're a collector of albums, you should get this because it isn't much money and the actual music inside isn't bad at all. If you're a huge Dimmu Borgir fan, then get this before it sells out! For anyone else out there, it doesn't hurt to check this live album out... it practically sounds like an actual studio album rather than a live album so just pick it up for the hell of it. It's worthy of having a place in your CD collection.
Ear Candy: Tormentor Of Christian Souls and everything else on this album. "Tormentor..." really does it for me though because the performance on that track is bar-none great.
I must admit that Live Albums are quintessencially cheap due to their purpose; to buy artists more time and more money. However, there is little point in debating why bands release them. Especially in this case, there are few (or at least not as many as there should be) bands that sound just as good as they do live, as in studio. With this perspective, Dimmu Borgir can hold there own against the likes of Cannibal Corpse for stellar live perofrmances.
The extraordinarily funny aspect of "Alive in Torment" is that Dimmu Borgir performs songs that were written and released much earlier in their career (before Galder and Nicholas Barker joined) that are performed better than the studio releases. This is espected however, mainly thanks to the departure of the sloppy Lead Guitars of Astennu, the unimportant bass element performed by Nagash, and the horrible percussion of Tjodalv. "Spiritual Black Demensions" had the potential to exceed "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia", but this was never achieved for reasons previously mentioned. It is in "Alive in Torment" that we become aware of this. Tracks one and two were both originally written for SBD, and after adopting Galder and Nicholas, these songs skyrocket in musicianship to become possibly the best two songs Dimmu Borgir have ever written.
Not to mention the inclusion the first track "Tormentor of Christian Souls", that was originally written for "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" that also sounds much more evolved compared to the studio version! One unfortunate truth to this album is the poorly performed "Puritania", that (due to its length) one would assume is the easiest song for Dimmu to pull off. This is not true. The blast beats were horribly rendered on this track, and the Guitars were panned out (seemingly). Of course, this Live Album picks up again as the final track is "The Maelstrom Mephisto" which is played beautifully for a song of its speed.
One could argue that this was a particularly cocky release by Dimmu Borgir, as if the whole point was to say "Look how far we've come." Which they have, making this album extremely enjoyable. Enjoyable songs were played, enjoyable musicianship was heard, and the production on this cd was excellent (for a live performance).
For those of you who wish to have a broken down description of the musicians, all you need to know is that they are same musicians from PEM, playing older songs. This is an absolute must buy for Dimmu fans, that will sell quickly with the uniquely shaped cd!
Back when it was released, this live MCD was the first symptom of the "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" frenzy that would bring Nuclear Blast to flood the market with PEM related releases (only surpassed by Season Of Mist's outburst of "Grand Declaration Of War" stuff). Since PEM seemed to have made quite an impact (both for the good and the bad) on the metal world, the label promptly decided to fire out more and more goodies to keep the momentum going, with no doubt causing Dimmu Borgir's sellout fame to spread like flu in December. "Alive In Torment" was supposed to be a limited offering for devoted fans only, but it still is widely available to this day. Maybe the limited edition hype was just a trick to lure fans into running to buy the CD as soon as it was released, but I'd rather believe that many of those fans never felt compelled to get their hands on this release... partly because not a few were left pretty disappointed by PEM, partly because, in all honesty, "Alive In Torment" is a fine little offering, but chances it could drive any Dimmu fan wild are extremely slim.
"Alive In Torment" is a 5 song excerpt of the concert the band played in Stuttgart, Germany, on April 4 2001, recorded, polished in studio by none less than Peter Tägtgren and issued on a skull shaped CD. The track selection is fairly good for an EP, with songs taken from the band's last three studio full lengths (not completely representative of the band's career, but being an EP it couldn't be anyway). Kicking off with "Tormentor of Christian Souls", probably the harshest track off "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant", we are shown a band feeling quite confident performing their material onstage, with Nicholas Barker pounding like insane and adding further groove to an already fast song. The sound is pretty clear, maybe the guitars are too crunchy and the synths could have been turned up a bit, but overall the recording quality (and subsequent studio treatment) guarantees a satisfying listening. Next come two songs off "Spiritual Black Dimensions", the speedy and aggressive "The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance" - pulled off rather well, even if once again some synth parts are missing - and "The Insight and the Catharsis", where we get a sample of Vortex's vocal power live: the man seems to be just as great as he is in the studio and he doesn't change his part a lot, even though there are of course no multi-track vocal overdubs so it sounds a bit simpler, but still effective. On the other hand, Shagrath sounds a lot more like he did on PEM than on the previous albums, meaning that his vocals are clearer but less powerful; this is particularly apparent on the first song, which is the oldest of all those included here.
The last couple of tracks are taken from PEM, namely the experimental / technoish "Puritania" and the stormy "The Maelstrom Mephisto", graced once again by one of Vortex's more impressive vocal interventions.
As I said, the sound has been treated in Abyss Studio by Peter Tägtgren to guarantee a clear listening, yet this has turned to be a double egded weapon. Of course everything is pretty audible (by live recording standards), but at times it sounds really too polished. To be more precise, this doesn't sound like a live recording at all. First, where is the crowd? You can't hear it at all during the songs, and you can barely perceive it between the various tracks. It seems like a live recorded in a studio. Secondly, the sound is too technical and clinical for a live show; especially the tracks from PEM differ very little from their studio counterparts in terms of sound. Good for the clarity, bad for the lack of power and feeling; where is that raw, crushing vibe I felt on the live tracks on "Godless Savage Garden".
Finally, the track choice. Five tracks are very few, even for an EP. You're barely getting into the feeling of it and it's over already. Also, including "Puritania" was sort of awkward, as it contains a lot of samples which have to be reproduced in playback (including Shagrath's electronic vocals on the verses), so it doesn't really feel live at all; besides, we would get countless renditions of the song on the "World Misanthropy" DVD package (even on the bonus audio CD) not long afterwards. If they replaced it with some other song like "Mourning Palace" (of which we're still waiting a good official live version) or some song off the first two albums it would have been an improvement already. The package is also considerably lacking, as the CD just comes in a transparent jewel case with no front cover (as usual when it comes to Nuclear Blast's shaped cd's), a background band pic rehashed from the PEM photosessions and a pretty forgettable back cover. Forget about lyrics, live pictures or anything like that.
Overall it's more than the sheer cash-grabbing half assed release, but from the likes of Dimmu Borgir we could honestly expect more. Search for this if you like, but don't let anyone rip you off.