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This album needs no introduction. One of the most bootlegged and has an aura of controversy surrounding it. Mayhem's The Dawn of the Black Hearts was released in 1995. The recording (the main part) is a recording of a concert in Sarpsborg Norway, in February 1990. The album features what has been voted the most controversial album cover of all time. I will end the discussion on the cover there and move forwards on my thoughts on the album itself.
Tracks 1 through 8 are from the aforementioned Sarpsborg show. The main problem with the album is the sound quality. Through out the Sarpsborg part, you'll only really hear the drums and the guitar. While this isn't taboo for Mayhem recordings, it is really bad on this one. Most of the time, the drums and guitar make it hard to hear the vocals, and you wouldn't even know that their was a bass player. The vocal quality is slightly better. Dead drones in and out and this can get annoying. However, their are songs on which you can hear him quite well. As for the bass sound and quality, there basically isn't any due to everything else making it impossible to hear. Just because it's a bootleg, doesn't mean that the quality needs to be bad.
Now for the individual sounds. The drums are very loud, and make it hard to hear a lot of the music. While this is typical old Hellhammer, it can get irritating. The guitar as always, is a shrieking buzzsaw. This is what Euronymous should sound like, even with crappy quality. As always, his rifts will make your head buzz, and his solos with send shivers down your back. Dead's vocals, the main reason somebody would want to hear this album, are not his best. While they are certainly better then his work on Live in Leipzig, his singing just isn't what it can be. It should be noted that on some songs, there's an eerie echo which enhances the dark atmosphere he sets.
The track listing is usual for the period. A few songs from Deathcrush, some from De Mysteriis, and Carnage. However, it's missing Pagan Fears, which seems to occur on a lot of live Dead recordings outside of Live in Leipzig. However this isn't reason for somebody to not enjoy the track list (unless you really like Pagan Fears).
Now for the other recordings. In most cases, The Dawn of the Black Hearts has four tracks from a 1986 concert in Follorocken in Ski, Norway. These recordings feature Messiah on vocals and Manheim on drums. However, the copy I have features a few more recordings of Dead. Two tracks are the famous studio tracks that feature Dead. The the rest of the recording is of a 1988 rehearsal. I have already reviewed the studio tracks, so I'll talk about the rehearsal.
While the Ski recordings are outright terrible, these might be worse. Besides the drums, you can't hear a damn thing clearly. And while the recordings are from 1988, it's just pitiful compared to the Ski recordings. The track list is the usual offerings from the Dead era and there is no need to go further on the subject of them, or this part of the album.
All in all, Dawn of the Black Hearts isn't the legendary record that people make it out to be. With piss poor quality (except for the studio tracks) it will take a lot of repeated playings to hear everything. While this is a definite buy for any fan of Mayhem, Norwegian black metal, or Dead, it is not the best.