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The Freezing Moon single is a release that is of high interest to any hardcore fan of Mayhem's classic era. The release features two songs that appeared on the CBR compilation, Projections of a Stained Mind back in 1991. Recorded in 1989, these tracks are the only studio recordings made during Dead's tenure in the band. Re-released as a single, in 1996, this served to stir up more interest in the band, prior to their rebirth.
"Freezing Moon" is the quintessential Mayhem song. Right off, one notices that the drums and bass are much higher in the mix and dominate the sound more than they should. Actually, the primary complaint about this recording is that the drums overpower the riffs in some places, but it is not to such an extent as to leave the song bereft of atmosphere. By this point, the song was firmly established and is fairly identical to the version that would later appear on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Of course, the music is not the real selling point, here. The vocal performance of Dead is the best captured during his years with the band and offers a small glimpse into what was and what could have been. With all due respect to Attila, this song shows that Mayhem suffered a great loss with the passing of their strange Swedish vocalist. His voice is very morbid and like something that crawled out of a damp grave. It is not strained or over-the-top, as displayed on the many live recordings and rehearsals from this period. Dead shares some similarities with Quorthon, on Under the Sign of the Black Mark, and yet sounds more evil and possessed. This is the standard by which other Black Metal vocalists would come to be judged. As a result, the atmosphere of the track is very dark and truly showcases the development of Mayhem from the days of Deathcrush.
"Carnage" proceeds to destroy the versions found on the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo. Everything is very precise and the song possesses an old school thrash feeling. In particular, one riff near the middle is mildly reminiscent of "Chemical Warfare". The song isn't as dark as the one that precedes it, but still carries a primitive, ugly feeling. Again, the vocals are the highlight, here. As with the previous song, the sound is raw yet clear enough to allow the riffs to be heard.
Freezing Moon captures an important band in their prime, arguably at their creative peak. It's the only studio recording from Mayhem, featuring the classic line-up and is the best example of what Dead was capable of, vocally. While it is a shame that he didn't live long enough to record the full-length, at least some pieces of his work remain. These songs are a great representation of what this band was all about, and epitomize Black Metal itself. An essential release.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Malcolm Dome once said about Venom’s At War With Satan, “It’s the moment Venom reached for the stars. A glorious failure then? That’s very harsh. Just make up your own mind.” In a way, this single is much like At War With Satan. At War With Satan has great songs, no doubt about it, and so does this single. However, something just doesn’t click when listening to either records. You’re listening and thinking, “FUCK YES, CARNAGE!” and you’re headbanging, but it’s just not something you’d listen to seven times a week (or even day…). Maybe Mayhem WERE reaching for the stars, and that’d be no surprise to me. For all his self-proclaimed “Communist” leanings, Euronymous really was quite a greedy business man as far as I can tell, but just like many bands trying to make it big something is missing. Integrity maybe? Who knows, but there is something this record is missing…
That something would be two things, one for each track. When it comes to Carnage, the aggression is missing. Listen to live versions (any Mayhem era) or the versions on the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo and you will hear one thing above all else: absolutely intense, raw aggression. That’s what made the song great in the first place! Here the aggression is lacking, particularly in Dead’s vocals. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re great on this release, second only to his effort on Dawn of the Black Hearts (or maybe December Moon, but let’s keep this to Mayhem), but it seems Dead is aiming for a more atmospheric effect here. While it sounds cool, everything but his screams of “KILL!” during the first two verses sound out of place. The other element contributing to this lack of aggression is the guitar tone. Again, it’s nice, it’s thick, but where the hell is the screeching solos from the live albums? Not to mention the riff at 2:10, which is normally one of my favourite riffs by Mayhem or any other metal band sounds weaker than it should. I’m trying to headbang while listening to this part right now, and it just isn’t working.
Now Freezing Moon also has something lacking, feel. Dead’s vocals are much more fitting on Freezing Moon, you can see here that Dead’s vocals very much did shape the way Attila performed the song on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (though Attila really did take a largely different direction on that record of course and I’d like to state that his effort during the last verse of the song is particularly chilling, saving this song from obscurity. So where’s the feel lacking? The solo is the answer to that question. In my opinion, that solo (or should I call it The Solo?) was perfected on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, where the high notes sounded utter black metal perfection. Here it’s in a more embryonic state and Euronymous seems to have made it a bit more, dare I say it, accessible than the band’s live efforts at the time of the recording. On an interesting side note, listen to the Ha Elm Zalag bootleg and you’ll hear probably one of the earliest recordings of Freezing Moon and the solo is a very much raw and ripping affair (recorded in 1989 if I remember correctly).
So this is the record that could’ve gained Mayhem so much more exposure on a musical basis, but it hasn’t. People of course still fellate this due to its status as Dead’s only studio work with Mayhem, but it’s quite simply poor compared to the band’s other efforts. Not to say it’s bad by any means, but for a band that has produced far more brilliant records (even in the Dead-era, just listen to Dawn of the Black Hearts and Live in Zeitz for raw black metal perfection) this isn’t up to scratch. I’ll give the points for the effort, and for the fact that these really are two brilliant songs, but it just could’ve been so much better.
Alright, all flaws aside (I'll get to those in a second), let's take a look at what we have here. We have two studio tracks that were recorded with Dead. Dead. Who was it? It was Dead. The guy who most folks end up talking about when they have a long-winded talk about black metal. I don't care where you start from, if you spend long enough talking about black metal, you'll always end up at Dead. So, love him or hate him, you'd better respect (if you're a black metal fan, at least) what he's done for the community. His image and vocals have influenced many that have come after him.
That being said, this is a treasure in it's valuable rareness. Not rare in a physical sense (many people just download it, and the songs are available in a couple of other places) but rare in what it entails. It's the testament to what could have been, if he had just chilled out about being dead. Why couldn't he have waited another year or two?
Now, onto the music itself. Freezing Moon... well, it starts off great, but something about the first little bit makes you uncomfortable, and you aren't sure what. Then it dawns on you... the fucking drums! Each time the cymbal is hit, you shudder a little bit, because you realize the Bass drum and, well, the entire drumset to be honest tends to overshadow the rest of the instruments. The guitars come through, although you have to strain to hear specific strokes, but the bass guitar is virtually inaudible. I can't remember if Varg was playing on this one, or if he came later, but nice job, whoever you are! Nice job not getting your instrument heard!
Carnage, it's the same thing all over again. And since that song tends to be more drum-heavy to begin with, well... forget about hearing too much else.
But despite the mixing problems, the instruments sound so clean, so precise, and so well-meshed. There is none of the "kvlt as fvck" mentality in this studio that leads them to betray all thoughts of clean recording, these guys actually tried like hell to make an accessible recording. Despite the flaw in the drums it came out wonderfully. And the follow up was just as great, although without Dead, I wonder how much better it could've been.
And speaking of Dead, our black-metal-martyr, what about his vocals? Well, my friends, if you loved Live in Leipzig, then you'll more than likely be astounded by what he can do when he's not forced to cut himself for attention on stage... the vocals are fantastic. No drop-outs. Nothing uneven. Alot of people can't stand his voice as heard on Leipzig, but if they heard this, they might think twice about writing him off as "overrated."
All in all, it's a great single, and it's a great piece of black metal history. It also can be used as an arguing point. "Dewd, liek, why do u liek Dead so much?... he wasn't verry good, and he wasn't even on a album!" You can pull this out and say "Listen and recant, bitch." Because, after all, who wouldn't like to rub this in a naysayers face?
I'm giving this a 50 because even though it's the only studio shit Mayhem did with Dead, once the music gets fast (much of it is fast) all you can hear are the drums and vocals. The drums aren't mixed or mic-ed worth shit and they have way to much reverb. They basically push all of the other instruments out of the mix. It sounds like it was recorded in 20 minutes. No shit. It's awful. On a lighter note, it's wonderful to hear Dead sounding so clean. He doesn't exactly have a sound that's totally of his own, but there's something about his voice that sounds unique to him alone. It's like a black metal vomit, but with a sort of whispering feel and enough conviction to choke a horse. These two songs are a piece of black metal history, but it's kind of sad to listen to. I love Attila, but I would kill to hear Dead sing on "De Mysteriis..." That wouldn't make any difference though. In his own words he and what could have been are eternally "buried by time and dust..."
And considering that I'm not much of a fan of Dead's wailing and screaming as much as I adore Attila Csihar's sick and original singing. Interpretation wise (everything but the vocals): this doesn't sound far away from DMDS, specially Pagan Fears which sounds VERY similar to it's final version. The Freezing Moon, however, sounds more "natural" without the excessive reverb on the drums, more aggressive, IMO.
Besides this, the only recordings I heard featuring Dead are Live in Leipzig and a few rehearsals I downloaded from the net a long time ago. These two songs feature the vocalist at his best: sick, furious, dark, evil sounding. For a lack of better comparison, a much more perverted sounding Nocturno Culto.
If you ever wondered the reason of Dead's myth, you should listen to this. Hell, he even surpasses Attila, which is not an easy task. De Mysteriis would have sounded much more killer if all the songs came from this sessions.