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Studio Tracks is the only release of Mayhem (or should I say, The True Mayhem because of its historical lineup: Dead, Euronymous, Necrobutcher and Hellhammer. A lineup that would never be present again at a studio to record anything) that has Dead on vocals; this is the only release Mayhem has with Dead where the quality of music was recorded in studio and for that reason its better than a demo, a bootleg or a rehearsal; even when these two songs could be simple demos, the quality they have fits perfectly well with the atmosphere and with black metal genre overall: they are dark, mysterious, they create heavy and strange surroundings, like being locked in a weird place at night without escape. Both songs are sinister and, in my opinion, this is more than just black metal or old school (first wave) black metal; Sarcófago's INRI, Vulcano's Bloody Vengeance or Necrodeath's Into the Macabre are considered black/death/thrash metal releases, and in these two songs I find darkness that, although it's not as extreme like the aggressive evilness found in those albums I said before, it is a more sinister darkness.
Its all about the atmosphere these two songs create, Carnage sounds like if they had someone locked and they were about to torture him and after that they were about to do a kind of invocation; and, with Freezing Moon, we have the best version that could be found of this song, neither the version appearing in De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, nor the ones in Leipzig or Dawn of the Black Hearts are as interesting as this version is. Dead sounds just like if he was really dead, even when his vocals are not the harshest or the most shrieky in the whole black metal genre (although there is people who consider him the best black metal vocalist ever), they do sound like if Dead was sick or had an infection inside his body that gave him a strange kind of pain.
After vocals, what sounds better is the drums, which aren't noisy and sound well and they get along with vocals, guitars and bass doesn't sound as prominent as vocals or drums do, and this could be because of the production of the songs, nevertheless, it's not a bad thing since all of this creates a heavy, cold and dark atmosphere.
I consider this release a somewhat kind of black/death metal because guitars in the last 25 seconds of Freezing Moon sound a bit "rotten" (in a death metal way); same for Carnage, in the last 40 seconds of the song, it sounds a bit to death metal too, it could be used on a death metal song and it would sound interesting.
When anyone who is a fan of Mayhem and wishes to hear the voice of Dead (in song, although there is audio on Youtube of his speaking voice) usually buys either Freezing Moon, Live in Leipzig, Dawn of the Black Hearts, Year of the Goat (Morbid), or any number of bootlegs (or the Euronymous tribute album), so for any fan to try and find or own anything with a studio track of Dead's vocals, it's a pretty hard task. However, this tape features the only two studio tracks Dead has ever recorded.
Now while I will admit Dead's Morbid days are better, he does have his moments with Mayhe where his voice is black metal perfection. This is not one of those. The quality of the recording is quite good for a studio recording in 1990. You can hear all of the instruments and vocals quite well (even if Necro fades out every now and then). It's a stretch to say that this is the best quality Mayhem recording ever as their newer releases are quite good (even if I don't like the albums themselves), so I'll go out on a limb and say these are the best recordings with Dead during his Mayhem years.
Now while the quality is very good, it doesn't mean the songs themselves are any good. Now before you all start acting like a 12 year old girl who heard somebody say Justin Beiber sucks, I don't mean the lyrics, as they are two great songs. However, just the way they sound on this recording doesn't seem like Mayhem. It's not clean or polished, but it just doesn't feel like how most Mayhem recordings (even non-bootlegs) sound. I mentioned earlier on that this isn't Dead's best performance and it truly isn't. While he does sound like his usual possessed self and sets a very dark atmosphere, it just doesn't hold up to his other Mayhem recordings. I don't know if this is because it's not live or a rehearsal, but it doesn't sound like how Dead usually sounds. Other than Dead's vocals, the other parts of the songs fit very well in their sound. Hellhammer is quite loud on this recording and this helps in the thundering beats of the songs, especially on Carnage. Necro is his usual self, although you can actually hear him on this recording. Euronymous is also very good sounding. The solo in Freezing Moon is better then the one later on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and the riffs on Carnage just sound awesome.
All in all, this recording of the only two studio tracks with Dead aren't the best. The quality is very good for this era of the band and gives a glimpse of what De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas could have sounded like (yes, I know almost everybody says this), and while the instruments sound good, Dead's vocals just seem so off. If you can get hold of these studio recordings (doesn't have to be on this recording, as they are on others), give yourself a pat on the back. It's the best era of Mayhem and this recording shows it, except for the vocals.
Let me start by remarking that I’m no Mayhem fan. In fact, I disrespect Necrobutcher and Hellhammer for reviving Mayhem in 95. Shitting on the legacy and legends of Dead and Euronymous by turning Mayhem into a commercial and mainstream metal band; Euronymous must be revolting and rumbling in his grave since this happened. Back then the music of Mayhem was in my opinion good, what they do now is average and completely overrated. (To avoid confusion to the dimwitted masses, I hate Burzum too).
Here we have in my opinion one of the only two Mayhem recordings worth owning, the other being The Dawn of the Black Hearts; the reason for this is simple: DEAD!!!
The band performs two of their best known songs, recorded with the legendary line-up in a proper studio. This time you can really appreciate the abilities of the band as musicians. Euronymous’ tremolo picking, Necrobutcher’s pissed off distorted bass, Hellhammer’s true blasting and most importantly the mighty legend, the myth, the original walking corpse painted freak, Dead.
The guitar tone is thin and eerie, sounds like bee swarm coming to sting you to death. The distorted bass creates a rumble in the background, the marching boots of a host of demons coming to claim you. The drums are a very antique and primitive war machine; perhaps a small tank to slaughter small villages, with rocket launchers and everything (cymbals).
The vocals are mid toned ghastly grunts or growls slightly on the high pitch end. Sinister, sick, possessed. Very… freaky. If I would’ve heard this at age 9 or 10 I would’ve probably shit myself, had nightmares and all kinds of weird crazy shit going on in my head. This very rare recording is the perfect example of why Mayhem were who they were during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Here you can actually appreciate the evil musical genius of Euronymous and the truly demonic vocals of Dead in all it’s infamous and pompous glory and splendor.
Unlike the aforementioned live recording, everything is distinguisible yet retains the dirty garage sound of the demo tapes recorded back then. I dare to say this is the best Mayhem recording of their career. Also the best performance or versions of Freezing Moon and Carnage out there, these are the originals, the true ones, the ones that made those songs anthems for black metalheads like yours truly. The true one and only jewel of the Mayhem catalog, actually buried and forgotten in time by layers of bone and dirt and dust and forsaken just in the memory of few demo tape and bootleg collectors since they never surfaced in a proper formal release, only as a demo tape as a promo sent to different zines and labels before Deathlike Silences came to be.
Nowadays only available in different bootlegs available in the market, most notably “Tribute to the Black Emperors” split with Morbid (Dead’s old death metal band from Sweden like most people know) By the way, Morbid's side of the split is their December Moon demo with Dead on vocals too.
Some label should release this on vinyl or CD (or both!!) and make it available so to preserve these invaluable jewels and milestones of the curse of mental illness known to man as Black Metal.