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Surprisingly good for a gap filler - 82%

Lord_Jotun, January 16th, 2004

In 1998, Dimmu Borgir were busy touring and collecting unanimous praise for their recent achievemnts, namely the release of one of 1997's most heralded albums ("Enthone Darkness Triumphant") an dthe subsequent live stints and appearances as renowned Metal festivals such as Wacken Open Air and With Full Force. As a consequence, the demand for new material (despite Nuclear Blast's re-release of the band's cult debut "For All Tid") started to become overpowering, but the time had not come yet for a new album, so "Godless Savage Garden" was released instead: a lengthy EP of unreleased and unusual material to appease the fans' ever growing appetite.
Basically, GSG consists of two newly recorded tracks, two choice cuts from "For All Tid" re-recorded during the EDT sessions, a cover song and three live songs. A mixed bag indeed, yet the overall quelity of the music made it a highly interesting release, eventually gaining the band a nomination for the Best Metal Award at the 1998 edition of the Spellemans Prisen (a kind of Norwegian Grammy Award).

The fan's interest immediately goes to the newly recorded tracks, as they were the only post-EDT material available at the time (although songs from the next album would start sneaking their way into live appearances and compilations not long afterwards), and therefore the only hint at the band's new direction. They indeed sound very different from anything the band had done up to that point, but neither they bear any rlation with what would follow. The album opener, "Moonchild Domain", starts with a heavy and ominous riff, which n turn gives way to more groovy sections (great double bass drumming by Tjodalv there) which also incorporate some solos, which represents Astennu first appearance on a Dimmu Borgir studio recording. The keyboards play a much more background role than on EDT, partly because of the song's structure an dpartly because the band had no keyboarder at the time, as the two new songs were recorded between Stian Aarstad's departure and Mustis's joining, so the band members had to fix it by themselves, and the final result is pretty good anyway. To this day, Dimmu have never put out anything similar to this song, and judging from the recent direction they had turned towards, probably never will.
"Chaos Without Prophecy" is even more slow-paced and Doom Metallish in its approach, with the only hints of dynamic variations relying mostly on Tjodalv's double kick; the keyboards here are more promiment and fit the apocalyptic atmosphere of the song. Once again, this is a very unusual and interesting song to listen to, but compared to "Moonchild Domain" tends to lack variety and drag on a bit, especially in the middle section where the speed becomes even slower.

The two re-recorded songs were bound to cause mixed feelings among long-time followers from the start, and indeed they did. One of them, "Raabjørn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde", had already appeared as a bonus track on the digipack version of EDT and as uncredtited track on the standard version too, so its inclusion here seemed a bit unnecessary; it is, however, one of the best songs to represent Dimmu's early days, and the ominous yet enchanting atmosphere of the original is preserved quite faithfully and enhanced by a great piano line added in the chorus which fits perfectly, while the heavy guitars add an extra dose of cutting edge. Remarkably, Silenoz performs the vocals on this one, as he used to be Dimmu's vocalist in the old days, and his performance isn't bad at all.
"Hunnerkongen Sorgsvarte Ferd over Steppene" didn't turn out equally good: the more tight playing and better production adds an extra dose of crunch which may fit the first half of the song (one of the only quasi-fast moments on the whole "For All Tid" album), but the whole affair becomes way too noisy and completely destroys the great atmosphere of the original. Things become slightly better in the second half, with some nice synths added in the background, but then again that superb clean guitar part which comes in during the "Attila, hunnernes konge" verse is completely drowned out by the oversaturated instrumentation. Good performance, but I prefer the slower, simpler and entrancing original.
The studio part of GSG is closed by a cool Accept cover, "Metal Heart"; thi song is damn catchy and has some really cool guitar work going on (check out the middle break). The chorus has also a funny effect, with Shagrath growling and Nagash miming Udo's high pitched voice at the same time. Not necessarily outstanding, but very well done anyway.

The three live songs are what makes GSG a great addition for any Dimmu fan. Recorded live in Poland (apparently during the band's first show with Mustis on keyboards), they really capture the band's raw energy on stage of those days. The set kicks off with "Stormblåst", the title track of the band's celebrated second album; the slightly unpolished live sound an dthe band's relentless performance add a great edge of aggressiveness to an already memorable track. The sounds o fthese recordings is VERY good: it's raw and aggressive, but you can namke out everything that's going on; maybe the keyboards might have been turned up a bit, but on the other hand, the guitars sound great and those drums fucking pound, and the vocals are very strong too (by the way: those are not overdubs, it's Nagash doing backing vocals).
The song ends and the band immediately blasts off into "Master of Disharmony", another song which was beginning to become overused (it had already appeared on "Devil's Path" and was later re-recorded for EDT) but still a natural choice for the live environment due to its exhuberant melodic aggression and catchy guitar work.
GSG finishes with a razor-sharp rendition of the EDT favourite "In Death's Embrace", which is performed even a bit faster than the original (you just have to compare the two versions: this one is shorter!) and comes out as nothing short of impressive, although the great piano lines are barely audible.

Overall, this little offering stands on its own as an interesting addition to anyone's Dimmu Borgir collection. It's definitely not an ideal introduction to the band, as the studio tracks don't really represent what Dimmu are all about, but well worth having rather than any other blatant cash grabber, especially for that triple live shot at the end.