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This is really hard to review. In my opinion, doom metal, especially the more extreme varieties, should always strive to be uncomfortable and soul crushing. And Skitliv's amfetamin certainly does this. To a T. This sounds like a soundtrack to crushing hate and despair. I know that sounded cliche', but this truly does sound like addict music. Being a recovering addict myself, I know what it feels like to have the hopeless, misanthropic, hateful anger at the world that only an addict at his personal bottom can experience.
Unfortunately, this is also really hard music to listen to. Not because the atmosphere is uncomfortable, but because it's really cluttered and messy. However, a part of me thinks that was intentional. It's cluttered to reflect the cluttered and almost schizophrenic state of mind that an addict has. That doesn't make it any easier to listen to, though. The studio tracks are the real oddities here, but they seem to be a bit cleaner done than the live tracks, especially the live version of amfetamin, which literally turns into chaotic noise, feedback, and screaming at the end. A great way to end a CD, maybe, but I'll be damned if I've listened to this more than twice all the way through. It's good for the occasional listen, but I can't force myself to listen to it that often. It's simply not that good.
Even when an artist experiments, there has to be a certain amount of "meat", so to speak, in the music. That is, something for the listener to chew on for a while. A musical theme to ponder whilst listening to the aforementioned music. There's very little meat on Amfetamin, very little substance to hold onto. When it works, it's very magical, and almost sadomasochistic in its tendencies. Unfortunately, it doesn't work a lot of the time, or features jarring shifts of atmosphere that are frankly too hard on the listener to expect him to keep up. Again, I get the impression that was intentional.
In short, there's nothing wrong with making a really weirded out, jarring, uncomfortable, and at times amelodic release; just as long as you don't expect people to like it. Which is all the better, I suppose, because I doubt Maniac wants people to like it. He wants people to hate it, because for a while I think he hated himself. However, even if you take that into account, Amfetamin is simply too spotty and reckless to appreciate fully. It's not terrible, and I can definitely see the good points, but it's also very inconsistent, which in the end kills it, or at least maims it. Get this as an oddity, but if you want a solid album, wait until the full length comes out, this is more a odds and ends release.
After leaving Mayhem, singer Mayhem wasted no time in forming his new project Skitliv and releasing debut album "Amfetamin". Unusually perhaps the first two tracks are studio-recorded pieces and the remaining six tracks were recorded live in London in late 2007. One of the two studio-recorded songs and one of the live songs lay claim to being the "title track" but they are not very much alike: the studio "Amfetamin", featuring both Maniac and his Mayhem replacement Attila Csihar on vocals, is a slow suspenseful song with a doleful guitar melody of six notes repeated over and over, holding the entire song together by repetition while terrible ghoulish voices slaver over the lyrics and various guitar-generated and other sound effects glide by in the background. The song has a loose and spaced-out floaty ambience thanks to the lack of percussion and bass guitar and the leisurely melody repetition. By contrast the live "Amfetamin" is a raw and cacophonous piece of guitar improvisation over a thudding drum-beat, becoming more drone-like with long sustained piercing guitar keenings. Hardly much singing is going on either, Maniac growling his lyrics in the first half of the song, whereas the studio version is dominated by voices throughout.
The second studio track "Slow Pain Coming (Cold Spring Mix)" also has its live version here. The studio version combines a rapid industrial rhythm, lazy guitars and percussion playing a heavy doom melody that barely hangs together due to the slow pace, and Maniac's vocals that tend mostly towards BM-styled distorted grim singing that may occasionally break out into deep growls, shouts and groans. The live version - which is actually track 6 on the CD and not track 4 as shown on the CD sleeve - is raw and raucous with Maniac using a slightly more natural voice and emitting tortured howls and groans. What the live version lacks in technical finesse and complexity due to the lack of any preprogrammed rhythms, it makes up for in a loose playing style that heightens suspense and gives the impression of imminent collapse into chaos.
Of the other songs here, the best one is track 3 "Intro: Who Will Deliver Us from Gold & Planets?" for the repeated line "Who will deliver me from myself?" that echoes endlessly in an apparent vacuum. (By the way, track 4 is actually "A Valley Below" and track 5 is "Hollow Devotion".) The live tracks, excepting "Intro ..." and "Amfetamin" tend to be slow and repetitive songs with an air of dread and suspense hanging over them. Maniac shouts or growls his lyrics but does not use BM-style vocals. Compared to the studio tracks, most of the live tracks have little that's out of the ordinary and only "Amfetamin" is different, being unstructured and improvised.
This album will probably appeal most to those of Mayhem's fans who are interested in following Maniac's post-Mayhem career. For me, this album is uneven in that the studio tracks are more adventurous in execution than the live tracks, and the high expectations the studio tracks build up for the listener tend to fade with the live songs which are mostly straightforward doom metal. Probably if Skitliv had waited longer and written more material, then put out, say, a double CD set with one disc having all studio tracks and the other disc having all live tracks, we could have had a more varied and interesting album with more experimentation.
I get the impression that "Amfetamin" the album was put out to show that, yes, Maniac can survive without Mayhem but beyond that, the album doesn't say much else.
(Thanks to Bezerko for advising that tracks 4 - 6 are actually "A Valley Below", "Hollow Devotion" and "Slow Pain Coming". I was confused by the track listing on the CD sleeve and thought there was a mistake there, now I know and have changed my review.)
Skitliv (Norwegian for ‘shit life’) is the new project of Maniac, the infamous former singer of pioneering Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, and Amfetamin is the band’s second release, following the limited edition three-track demo CD Kristiansen And Kvarforth Swim In The Sea Of Equilibrium While Waiting. Skitliv is an extreme metal supergroup of sorts, with a changeable lineup revolving around a core of Maniac and Niklas Kvaforth from Shining.
Amfetamin opens with its title track, a slow, doomy piece with Maniac’s venomous, rasping vocals well to the fore, augmented by a vocal guest appearance by none other than Attila Csihar, Mayhem’s current vocalist, who’s also noted for his work with Aborym and Sunn 0))). Given the received wisdom that there’s no love lost between Maniac and Attila, there’ll be widespread interest in hearing the two of them working on the same track. ‘Amfetamin’ also features only guitar and vocals, with no rhythm section. ‘Slow Pain Coming (Cold Spring Mix)’ follows, a remix of a track originally released on the first demo, with a Sabbathesque riff backed with industrial ambient noise. The pace picks up a little when the vocals and drums kick in, but the end result is indeed slow and painful, sounding more like a cross between doom metal and Amphetamine Reptile bands like Helios Creed, Helmet and Cows than anything of a black metal persuasion.
After these two studio tracks, the remainder of this EP’s 44-minute duration is composed of a live set, recorded at The Underworld, Camden, in December 2007. These live tracks contain a lot of crowd noise, and the audience members don’t sound notably enthusiastic. Maniac berates them for not being able to think for themselves in his intro to ‘Virescit Volnere Virtus’, but maybe they have thought, and decided they don’t like what they’re hearing. The set is introduced not by Skitliv themselves, but by Current 93, on this occasion comprising David Tibet and Andrew Liles, whose short track, recorded especially for use as the intro to Skitliv live performances, is entitled ‘Who Will Deliver Us From Gold & Planets?’. Whilst it’s interesting in a Rock Family Trees sort of way to be able to trace a connection between Mayhem and Current 93 in this way, you’d have to be an exceptionally completist Current 93 fan to want to purchase Amfetamin just for these two minutes of vocals and effects. A live version of ‘Slow Pain Coming’ ensues, which is even harsher and more abrasive than the studio version. ‘A Valley Below’, taken, like ‘Slow Pain Coming’, from the first Skitliv demo, continues in the same sluggish vein, with dry, stripped-back guitar, bass and drums grinding out ugly, primitive metal whilst Maniac snarls and growls over the top – this is actually the highlight of the release for me. ‘Hollow Devotion’ is also doomy and desultory, but ‘Virescit Volnere Virtus’ injects some energy, with Maniac’s vocals burning with fury and hatred. The set closes with a live version of ‘Amfetamin’, which leads the listener on a tortuous path of feedback and loose jamming before the track finally gets going after a couple of minutes. Maniac sounds completely out of his head on this one, with the band’s sound literally disintegrating around him. At this point, Skitliv really leave the realms of extreme metal altogether, producing a sound altogether more experimental and dissonant, something like Gravitar.
It’s really hard to know what to make of this CD. The crumpled, slashed and soiled paper of the cover art is an apt reflection of Amfetamin’s messy and unlovely musical contents. Skitliv present the listener with two studio tracks, recorded in different studios by two different line-ups, followed by six live tracks, one of which is by a different group entirely, and the other five performed by yet another line-up. Offhand, I can’t think of a single other release that’s structured like this. An EP with five or six studio tracks and a couple of live tracks as a bonus, sure, that’s common enough, but two studio tracks and six live tracks? No relatively unknown band without an album out yet would choose to set out their stall like this. Maniac presumably believes that his cult status, and the other famous names gathered on this release, is enough to guarantee that his audience will indulge him in his eccentricities, but Amfetamin is the kind of release which trades on past glories rather than adding to them. There’s a Skitliv album with the working title Glem Aldri Korset in preparation, but it’ll have to be a lot more coherent than Amfetamin for Skitliv to be regarded as more than a curiosity.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: