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Oh so close, SO VERY CLOSE... - 70%

Bezerko, April 10th, 2008

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.