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Nice little addition, but far from essential - 72%

Lord_Jotun, October 8th, 2003

Back when it was released, this live MCD was the first symptom of the "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" frenzy that would bring Nuclear Blast to flood the market with PEM related releases (only surpassed by Season Of Mist's outburst of "Grand Declaration Of War" stuff). Since PEM seemed to have made quite an impact (both for the good and the bad) on the metal world, the label promptly decided to fire out more and more goodies to keep the momentum going, with no doubt causing Dimmu Borgir's sellout fame to spread like flu in December. "Alive In Torment" was supposed to be a limited offering for devoted fans only, but it still is widely available to this day. Maybe the limited edition hype was just a trick to lure fans into running to buy the CD as soon as it was released, but I'd rather believe that many of those fans never felt compelled to get their hands on this release... partly because not a few were left pretty disappointed by PEM, partly because, in all honesty, "Alive In Torment" is a fine little offering, but chances it could drive any Dimmu fan wild are extremely slim.

"Alive In Torment" is a 5 song excerpt of the concert the band played in Stuttgart, Germany, on April 4 2001, recorded, polished in studio by none less than Peter Tägtgren and issued on a skull shaped CD. The track selection is fairly good for an EP, with songs taken from the band's last three studio full lengths (not completely representative of the band's career, but being an EP it couldn't be anyway). Kicking off with "Tormentor of Christian Souls", probably the harshest track off "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant", we are shown a band feeling quite confident performing their material onstage, with Nicholas Barker pounding like insane and adding further groove to an already fast song. The sound is pretty clear, maybe the guitars are too crunchy and the synths could have been turned up a bit, but overall the recording quality (and subsequent studio treatment) guarantees a satisfying listening. Next come two songs off "Spiritual Black Dimensions", the speedy and aggressive "The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance" - pulled off rather well, even if once again some synth parts are missing - and "The Insight and the Catharsis", where we get a sample of Vortex's vocal power live: the man seems to be just as great as he is in the studio and he doesn't change his part a lot, even though there are of course no multi-track vocal overdubs so it sounds a bit simpler, but still effective. On the other hand, Shagrath sounds a lot more like he did on PEM than on the previous albums, meaning that his vocals are clearer but less powerful; this is particularly apparent on the first song, which is the oldest of all those included here.
The last couple of tracks are taken from PEM, namely the experimental / technoish "Puritania" and the stormy "The Maelstrom Mephisto", graced once again by one of Vortex's more impressive vocal interventions.

As I said, the sound has been treated in Abyss Studio by Peter Tägtgren to guarantee a clear listening, yet this has turned to be a double egded weapon. Of course everything is pretty audible (by live recording standards), but at times it sounds really too polished. To be more precise, this doesn't sound like a live recording at all. First, where is the crowd? You can't hear it at all during the songs, and you can barely perceive it between the various tracks. It seems like a live recorded in a studio. Secondly, the sound is too technical and clinical for a live show; especially the tracks from PEM differ very little from their studio counterparts in terms of sound. Good for the clarity, bad for the lack of power and feeling; where is that raw, crushing vibe I felt on the live tracks on "Godless Savage Garden".
Finally, the track choice. Five tracks are very few, even for an EP. You're barely getting into the feeling of it and it's over already. Also, including "Puritania" was sort of awkward, as it contains a lot of samples which have to be reproduced in playback (including Shagrath's electronic vocals on the verses), so it doesn't really feel live at all; besides, we would get countless renditions of the song on the "World Misanthropy" DVD package (even on the bonus audio CD) not long afterwards. If they replaced it with some other song like "Mourning Palace" (of which we're still waiting a good official live version) or some song off the first two albums it would have been an improvement already. The package is also considerably lacking, as the CD just comes in a transparent jewel case with no front cover (as usual when it comes to Nuclear Blast's shaped cd's), a background band pic rehashed from the PEM photosessions and a pretty forgettable back cover. Forget about lyrics, live pictures or anything like that.

Overall it's more than the sheer cash-grabbing half assed release, but from the likes of Dimmu Borgir we could honestly expect more. Search for this if you like, but don't let anyone rip you off.