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Half a year after Sleep of the Angels was released, Century Media and the band decided to release a fan-oriented EP to capitalize upon the success they were having. Since the band had not previously put out an 'official' live recording, it made sense that any such package should include some material from the tours the band had been enjoying, and why not from their amazing European package alongside Samael and Moonspell in 1996? A time when all three bands were exploding internationally while simultaneously expanding and experimenting with their sounds. A Gothic, atmospheric metal tour de force.
Alas, the five offerings here are all rather cruddy sounding, not so much that you can't make out what the band is doing, or Sakis Tolis' fierce and distinguished rasp, but the melodies seem rather dim in this setting and I have doubts that this was taken from a professional board mix. Sounds more like it could have come out of a hand held recorder. At any rate, despite the underwhelming quality, its enough to tell that the band were quite tight even at this point, a fact I can confirm from numerous sightings of their tours over the years. All of the selections are from Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, which might turn some off that might have preferred the old albums, but this was the album they were touring on, and it makes sense. "Shadows Follow" and "King of a Stellar War" probably sound the best, but "Diastric Alchemy", "The First Field of Battle" and "A Dynasty from the Ice" are all comparable.
Unfortunately, the rest of the EP is a waste, with the band reprinting "Der Perfekte Traum (The Perfect Dream)" and "Moonlight" (bonus track) from Sleep of the Angels. Where this release might have been blown out to include rare demos (there are at least 4 I could think of) or EPs (The Mystical Meeting, Dawn of the Iconoclast and ΑΠΟΚΑΘΗΛΩΣΙΣ would all have been worthy candidates), it just falters. The live recordings are not bold enough to be recommended, and the studio tracks are redundant and useless, so Der Perfekte Traum is weak at best, and not worth your time or money. Check, please.
"Der Perfekte Traum" is a weird little EP. Two of the most melodic and laid-back tracks of Rotting Christ's lengthy career share their space with a bunch of live tracks from their black metal era (all live tracks stem from the Hellenic black metal classic "Triarchy of the Lost Lovers"). I suppose they tried to unify their then-angered fanbase a little, as it hadn't been a long time since their rather sudden departure from the Hellenic black metal sound.
The first two tracks are gothic metal with no traces of extreme metal left in their sound (apart from Sakis' harsh vocal delivery, yet even that one seems to have decreased in aggression) but especially "Moonlight" grants a rather satisfying listen. It sounds like it could have been on their style-shift release "A Dead Poem" and I even prefer it to some of the tracks on that release.
"Der Perfekte Traum" is quite a weird song. It has German lyrics and reminds me of the earliest Rammstein record a little. Rotting Christ and Rammstein? Yeah, that's a true "what-the-fuck" moment here. German spoken-word chorus and whispered English verses, combined with very little instrumentation and a few more aggressive vocal passages here and there. I'ts been a few years since I had listened to this song for the first time, but I still can't tell whether it's a lame copycat attempt or an original concept gone a little wrong.
Anyway, the truly important material (at least for me) is the nice sum of live tracks; as I said, all five are excellent black metal classics and sound, typical for Rotting Christ, at least as good as their studio counterparts. Tracks like "Shadows Follow" and "King of a Stellar War" are punishing and even evoke a little nostalgia as Mutilator Jim, one of the founding members still plays the bass on these songs, recorded back in 1996, shortly after the release of their third monumental full-length.
This might not be the perfect choice for newcomers to experience the excellence that is Rotting Christ, but for those like me, who can't have enough of their material, I can recommend this wholeheartly. See the studio tracks as a slight stumble in their evolution and be relieved that this EP was no indication for the further direction this band would take.
This release gets a generous 80 from me, but only for the integration of the excellent live tracks.