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Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you might know about the internal trouble that eventually led to a less than friendly-mannered split and legal dispute within Gorgoroth. While vocalist Gaahl and bassist King obtained the legal rights to the band name, this hasn't stopped founding member Infernus from (perhaps rightfully, I’ll not get into that here) remaining active with his own version of the band, organizing several releases for 2008. True Norwegian Black Metal is not a normal live-recording, as it was recorded in the infamous Grieghallen Studio under the supervision of legendary producer Pytten, and the fact that Infernus handles both the guitar and bass duty leads me to believe that this is a very deliberate spear in the side of King’s incarnation of the band.
In addition to being a “live” recording, this release also serves as a “best of”-collection, featuring some staple songs from the band’s live show through the years, taken from every album from 1996′s Antichrist up to and including 2000′s Incipit Satan (fans of Pentagram will be disappointed). While early songs like “Revelation Of Doom” and “Profetens Åpenbaring” are essential to the Gorgoroth-legacy, Gaahl’s voice lacks some of the intensity that made the originals such ferocious black metal masterpieces. In an actual live setting this is more than made up for by his immense stage-presence, but when lacking the visual stimulation the songs feel rather toothless without Pest behind the microphone. On the other hand it’s refreshing to hear some of these songs that originally had a very raw and grim sound being re-imagined with the refined strength of today’s far more musically proficient Gorgoroth, which makes the album worth a closer look for dedicated fans.
That being said, with the simultaneous release of the band’s first live DVD, True Norwegian Black Metal feels a little too much like a shameless cash-in, and with a running-time of 31 minutes it leaves a lot to be desired. Listeners who are looking for a place to start their Gorgoroth-collection are better off getting the original classics, and if you're getting just one Gorgoroth-release in 2008 you're better of looking into their Black Mass Krakow DVD, which does the live-experience the band has become infamous for much more justice.
Written for The Metal Observer
*Note: I wrote this review before Gorgoroth (at the time) settled their cat fight. I originally had this review posted on this page, but it was removed when the "True Norwegian Black Metal" live album was formally discontinued and thus removed from the database. However, it has since been released and I found this review rotting in the corridors of my documents, now revised to fit some updates about the band and for the majesty of its eternal glory. Hope you enjoy:
Gaahl: Why is this live CD out, Infernus? Why must you and Regain Records still bring back those memories you, King, and I all shared when things were good? Do you not understand how hard these changes have been?
Infernus: Well, I thought the fans would enjoy it. My emotions have driven me crazy, but releasing “True Norwegian Black Metal” gave Uncle Infernus a little closure from your difficult departure.
Gaahl: This is why I cry myself to sleep since we split. This is why King has been sitting in his room with a teddy bear one of his students gave him, fuming about the time we spent together. Why do you conjure these memories like a group of cultists summoning Satan?
Infernus: You bitch! How dare you! This is what Gorgoroth was, and you killed it!
Gaahl: No! It was your fault!
Infernus: Was not!
Ladies and gentlemen, you were just given a special sneak-peak at the return of Gorgoroth’s gripping soap opera after a steamy season of power, betrayal, dishonestly, and more lawsuits than Kobe Bryant’s forced exile from a whorehouse! Believe it or not, the series’ original season left all black metal fans with a stunning cliffhanger nobody saw coming: Gaahl and King tried taking Gorgoroth for themselves, while Infernus and Regain Records quickly joined forces in hopes of saving the guitarist’s moniker! But after anxiously awaiting another saga of juvenile bullshit, “True Norwegian Black Metal – Live in Grieghallen” has revitalized those good times (and bitter judgments) rather impressively. This live album caused yet ANOTHER lawsuit filed by Gaahl and King, but one thing remains certain: it’s a great way to piss off those cretins. The three stooges definitely had a great chemistry together, and hearing them playing as one can warm any heart, regardless of how frostbitten you are. That is the magic of this final hurrah.
The original synopsis I occupied has been my only one: “Live in Grieghallen” is outstanding. There’s no doubting Gorgoroth was unified under black metal’s flag for our entertainment, and these sensational performances each have their own perks, both good and evil. Gaahl, however, unquestionably reigns like Odin; his distinct shrieks are exquisite throughout. Taking his insane tone intact, this eminent vocalist slurs twisted notes and deafening barks like it was nothing, yet it all looks good towards his direction. Gorgoroth’s remaining members also contribute wondrous plug-ins likewise, clearly feeding black metal cannibalism with Infernus’ rapid riffs and erupting percussion, adjoining classic tunes like “Revelation of Doom” on an unflawed foundation, even for ones that were previously poor. For instance, I hated “Antichrist” based on several grounds, yet I can’t resist expressing how awesome “Bergtrollets Hevn” and “Possessed (By Satan)” are with Gaahl yelping alongside that raw atmosphere. You can certainly contemplate this live recording’s quality when a rabid hater faces another direction shortly thereafter.
Regain Records: Are you sure this live CD we’re doing is legit?
Infernus: Of course. Uncle Infernus does not make mistakes.
Regain Records: You know we shall always stand by the rightful owner of Gorgoroth, right?
Infernus: Yes. Uncle Infernus knows you have made the right decision.
Regain Records: Why do you always talk in the third-person?
Infernus: Uncle Infernus cannot comprehend this loss of Gaahl and King. They make Uncle Infernus happy!
Regain Records: Shit! Someone tell Lord Belial to get tissues ASAP! He’s like a pregnant woman losing water!
But when dancing around enjoyable showmanship, “Live in Grieghallen” heaves a dirty ambience right in your face without concern of external damage. Gaahl’s vocals are obviously placed above everything else, while Infernus’ guitar playing is evenly equated with Gorgoroth’s percussion effort; proper distribution is shown clearly, alongside great balance of cacophony. Overall, those riffs feel heavier than ever (see that genital chomping on “Destroyer”) from captured distortion, and the other members each burn violently into the mayhem with their separate contributions, crafting a storming record worth hours of fun. Filthy and raw, it’s exactly how I like my black metal cooked on stage.
You know, I really find this release quite pleasing, mainly because the group is warmly based around a consistent style, causing them to revolve nicely during these selected tunes; not just that, but whoever produced and mixed it deserves a damn crown. The feud behind this CD has finally ceased when Gaahl and King formed the short-lived God Seed while Infernus continued his stint in Gorgoroth as its rightful owner. However, “Live in Grieghallen” is a very good release, and Gorgoroth followers should definitely start riots until they have obtained a copy of this drama magnet.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Now this is an unusual dilemma to be reviewing an album under: should I actually bother to do it at all? The reason - since Regain Records sent us this promo, the Swedish courts have agreed with Gorgoroth's appeal against Regain that "True Norwegian Black Metal - Live In Grieghallen" is in violation of various copyrights and agreements and has been ordered to cease distribution of the release. So basically, for the time being at least, you the reader may never get to hear this!
Anyone who follows the goings-on in the Extreme/Black Metal world will of course know about the split in the Gorgoroth camp, with Gaahl and King Ov Hell heading in one direction with the name, and sole remaining founder-member Infernus heading in another. There has still yet to be a resolution to the argument and so frankly Gorgoroth is currently a bit of a mess. As if after the infamous Krakow performance of 2004, Gaahl's 'performance' in "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey" and more recently his potential 'coming out' hadn't already given the band a somewhat shady reputation! For the record though, "Live In Grieghallen" features the line-up pre-split, so is apparently that of Gaahl (vocals), Infernus (guitar AND bass) and Garghuf (drums) which goes some way to explaining what was to be my first point - that "Live In Grieghallen" does not sound in the slightest bit like a live recording. There is no sense of atmosphere, no crowd noises and emits a well-rounded, clear sound that just simply cannot have been a live recording, or at least without significant over-dubbing and re-mastering. Whether the full 'concert' is contained or not I don't know but there are just 8 songs, barely lasting half an hour that ends as quickly as it finishes - "Alive In Athens" this is not. However all is not as bad as it may seem - the clear sound allows the dark brilliance of tracks like "Possessed (By Satan)" and "Unchain My Heart!!!" to be fully realised and it is during moments of these that one relishes that despite all the bravado and controversy, Gorgoroth have penned some damn fine pure Black Metal tunes. Gorgoroth sit firmly within the Darkthrone side of Norwegian Black Metal than say, Emperor or Mayhem, never reaching manic speeds nor featuring anything pretty or against the rule book of what constitutes 'True Norwegian Black Metal'.
Dirty old Thrash Metal riffs, of the kind blasted out by early Sepultura, pervade through in "Destroyer" and "Revelation Of Doom" and Gaahl screams for all he's worth, providing the listener with the sense of a man who clearly has issues with the world during a 20 second long strangled howl nestled in "Unchain My Heart!!!". Rather than aligning solely with Darkthrone there is time for an Isengard-influenced "Profetens Apenbaring" which, in true Isengard fashion, features the same nasal vocal style Fenriz created in that cult solo band of his.
Despite everything that surrounds Gorgoroth these days it is nice to listen to them for what they are: a Black Metal band. They aren't the most extreme but are surprisingly efficient at their parts and have long created a space for themselves in the pantheon of BM greats. "Live In Grieghallen" is a tempestuous release, possibly destined to never see the light of day, and with a short running length and doubts over it's 'live' status hardly a classic in the making but more a statement of exactly what is surely the most controversial music sub-genre in the world: True Norwegian Black Metal.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net