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Are you willing to exchange currency for slight variations of things you have already owned? Are you stuck forever in the early to mid 90s? Do you have a Mayhem hardon the size of a shadowy cathedral? These are all questions to mull over when considering a purchase of Life Eternal, which is a tape of rough mixes from the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas sessions, originally made by Attila Csihar. If this were any lesser band, of course, something like Life Eternal would be almost guaranteed to be ignored, but Mayhem have the advantage of an almost Beatles-esque rabid following who collect bootleg recordings, rare and vintage clips and just about anything else they can get their hands on. Such is the reward for notoriety. Necrobutcher, Hellhammer and Euronymous could have recorded themselves chatting over beers at a noisy disco, or taking a piss on a camping trip while shooting the breeze, and people would pay for it.
So, at least with Life Eternal, there is some music to experience. Five cuts from the full-length album the band were about to unleash, with some altered vocals that didn't all make the final cut of the record. Side by side, there's not much of a difference in the actual music. You'll hear a click track here, where on DMDS it disappears. The guitars sound slightly more subdued than on the full-length, where they are more potent and bright. But the biggest deviation is likely in Attila Csihar's performance. The style is pretty similar, but his enunciation on several of the lines is changed. You might hear some more of his cleaner, low-end droning style than on the 'official' version of a track, and because the guitars are not as prominent here, he does stand out slightly more. There is also a brief drum intro to "Funeral Fog" which the band clipped off during the full length mixing and mastering, but it's all of about a second and really adds nothing...I can see why it was castrated.
All told, this is not something I really cared for. I enjoy Attila a great deal, but I'm not sure I'm willing to exchange his dialed up presence for the less resilient guitars, and even so, I never found the varied vocals to be all that more compelling than DMDS. It makes a lot of sense to me why these are not the versions on the final album, and thus it seems like no more than a means to rake in a few bucks with a limited edition release. Granted, with its DVD box packaging and other baubles, Life Eternal is a sure collectors' item, and a cool little 'peep' from Csihar's personal label Saturnus, which hasn't seemed. But for its musical value, it's a pretty vapid affair best suited to those that like to pore over the details, and in no way supercedes the quality of the tracks' inevitable evolution.
The story behind De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas often eclipses the actual musical achievement accomplished by the mighty Mayhem. Whether longtime fans or new to Black Metal entirely, it is quite likely that most people reading this know a bit of the history of this Norwegian band, or even a passing familiarity with the murder, suicide and church burnings that have become so much a part of Mayhem's legacy. Even while many will give a nod to the overall importance of this group, far too few will really get past all of the hype and sink their teeth into what is really a classic piece of Black Metal history. A lot of people dismiss De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas as merely an overrated product of the music media. Such creatures are truly ignorant and deserving of being burned alive for even approaching this music, while being so blind to true quality. For the rest of us that appreciate and hold this album in high regard, any small piece of the puzzle is worth tracking down, such as the From the Dark Past bootleg, for example. As time passes, more remnants of that distant time have been unearthed.
Life Eternal is an E.P. that was released just a couple years ago, consisting of material pulled from Attila's personal collection. The songs here are rough mixes of five of the tracks from Mayhem's debut full-length, in somewhat altered form. Far from an attempt at cashing in on the popularity of the band's old material, this seems more like an offering to the dedicated fans to have another piece of that special time before things fell apart, back in 1993. The liner notes include some photographs from the recording session, with one in particular being of interest as it features Euronymous, Varg Vikernes, Snorre Ruch and even Metalion of Slayer Mag fame. The cover art is also intriguing, as it offers a slightly different angle on the image that adorned the original album; quite fitting, as the music also offers a similar view of the music itself.
The most notable difference would have to be the vocal performance. Attila appeared to already have a very firm grasp of what he wanted to accomplish on the album, though it still required a little fine tuning before the final recording sessions. What can be heard here is a vocalist trying out various techniques in order to see what best suited the music and the overall atmosphere of the record. The dissimilarities are often difficult to perceive unless one has spent a significant amount of time listening to the originals, thus knowing each line very well. More noticeable are the various moments when an extra scream or a few additional repetitions of lines are present. When comparing them, it is very fortunate that these excessive bits were dropped. There is also an interesting difference near the end of "Life Eternal", where it sounds like multiple layers are being used for the final lines. A new level of evil is brought to these morose words, originally penned by Dead.
"I am a mortal, but am I human?
How beautiful life is now when my time has come
A human destiny, but nothing human inside
What will be left of me when I'm dead?
There was nothing when I lived"
As for the music, the guitars sometimes sound a little more crisp and the drums seem a little lower in the mix. This is actually a good thing, as the riffs are the most important aspect of this and should never be overpowered by the drums. I once read something that claimed that Hellhammer's drumming was all that held this album together and that Euronymous's guitar melodies were chaotic and nonsensical. I always felt that was an asinine conclusion and by hearing these versions of the songs (with the drums lowered), one can clearly hear that the riffs are certainly forceful and coherent enough to maintain a sense of direction on their own merit. One of the things that people will notice right off is the drum roll that was always present at the beginning of "Funeral Fog", but later dropped for the L.P. This decision was a very wise one, as it enables the music to create more of an initial impact when the album starts out at full intensity like that, without warning. Small things like that can make all the difference in the world.
In the end, Life Eternal is a valuable addition to anyone's Mayhem collection and is certainly worth checking out, whether you are extremely familiar with De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or not. The material is strong enough to be enjoyed on its own, without the need for comparisons to the L.P. versions. This is a limited release, so be sure to seek this out sooner rather than later.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
You thought you liked De Mysteriis Domini Sathanas? You will fucking die this time around! THIS is what that album could have been. Sure it's only five of the songs in a random order, but it completely owns the 'real' versions of these songs. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to have to strangle Atilla for sitting on these songs for as long as he did - they're that awesome.
This, for all intents and purposes, is the exact same as the studio album. The only difference I can hear with the actual songwriting is the little drum piece to start "Funeral Fog". It's the same death metal tremolo riffs with just enough thrash influence as to remain interesting and worthwhile, but with the added bonus of actually being able to hear the guitars (and bass!) That was my major gripe with the original release - everything was buried under too much distortion, overloud drums, and you couldn't really understand what was being said. This appears to be a pre-production version of these songs as the vocals are subtly different, but Csihar is still puking out blasphemies and sounds evil as fuck.
The previously mentioned "Funeral Fog" is probably the highlight, but that might just be because it was the first Mayhem song I ever heard. "Freezing Moon" is also good and surprisingly better than the version from the 'Projections of a Stained Mind' compilation with Dead on vocals. The rest are certainly no slouch either.
Heh, I wish the other three songs from the album were on here, but that would be have been a little much to ask for (it'd be kind of cool to comprehend Atilla singing in Latin, but that's another matter entirely).
This is completely and totally awesome. Far and away the best Mayhem.