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One of the best demo comps I've heard - 90%

enshinkarateman, March 24th, 2010

I was in my local record store when a CD in the "Used" bin caught my eye. It was only three bucks, and it happened to be by Swedish death metal legends Dissection. Dissection were always one of those bands that I'd heard praised endlessly, but the fact that the main man behind Dissection was incarcerated for murder made me a little wary of checking them out. However, I decided that there are a lot of great musicians with troubled pasts, so I bought their demo compilation, "The Past is Alive: The Early Mischief", for three bucks. That was easily one of the biggest steals I've seen in recent years, because Dissection kicks an obscene amount of ass.

When I bought that album, I said "OK, this is a black/death demo comp, so either it's gonna kick ass, or the sound quality will be so bad it'll make the German Poison's demos look like The Black Album". Luckily, the production is just about perfect for a demo, being clear enough to discern what instrument is which but still containing that raw edge that gives off an atmosphere of sitting in on a friend's band's rehearsal, just knowing that they're gonna "make it big" one day. In fact, it reminds me of my junior and senior years of high school when I would download every old-school 80's extreme metal demo I could get my hands on. The songs themselves are gems of European extreme metal, falling somewhere between black and death metal without a hint of -core about them. I've heard the term "melodic death metal" used to describe Dissection, but that seems a little inaccurate. True, there are melodies in the guitar parts, but the sound is genuinely brutal and it shouldn't be associated with the tons of "melodeath" bands who cropped up after At The Gates released "Slaughter of the Soul". The great thing about Dissection is that use brutality and melody to compliment each other rather than use one to dilute the other, to superb results.

Even the interludes are great. You'd think a man who writes such violent music would be incapable of creating anything other than balls-to-the-walls metal, but "Into Infinite Obscurity" and "Feathers Fell" prove that Jon knew how to inject variety into the otherwise musically limited world of extreme metal. "Feathers Fell" is the highlight of these interludes, bringing to mind a soundtrack to medieval times. I always dug that kind of stuff, so it's no wonder I would find "Feathers Fell" an unlikely gem on the comp. The song it segues into, "Son of the Mourning" is just as good, although for completely different reasons. It's a neck-breakingly heavy tune with vocals that bring to mind an early Chuck Schuldiner. "Mistress of the Bleeding Sorrow" keeps up the assault with an intro that sounds like Thin Lizzy if Thin Lizzy were possessed by Satan. The whole comp is filled with absolutely putrid metal that gives off an aroma of stinking evil. I'm pretty sure I was just possessed by Euronymous when I wrote that last sentence, but the statement remains: This is not your little brother's metal. This is a masterpiece of extreme metal that needs to be checked out by any fan of the genre.

Two of the tracks on the comp are by pre-Dissection band Satanized, and while the booklet says something to the effect of the sound quality being "poor", but the production isn't nearly as bad as other demos from around this time period. The songs don't seem to be too different from Dissection (albeit with a different vocalist, to my understanding), and that's a good thing. Again, audiophiles probably will shy away from this, but we're talking about a rehearsal recording in Europe in the early '90's, so it's a wonder that the recording even sounds this good, especially when we compare it to demos by, say, Mayhem.

I could understand being cautious about checking out a band with such a checkered past, but I would wholeheartedly recommend this demo compilation. I have yet to pick up a studio album from Dissection, but if the tracks are anything like the songs on this compilation (and from what I've heard, they are), I know I'll be satisfied with my purchase. If you can find this demo comp, I highly recommend it. Especially if you find it for as cheap as I did. I mean, three bucks! You'll spend more in gas on your way to the store! Even if it is more expensive (and realistically, it probably will be), it's worth every penny.

Highlights: Just about all of them

This review was written for

Great For Fall or Winter Weather - 90%

SunGodPortal, March 4th, 2007

As the previous reviewer stated, this may not be the best place to start with Dissection, but it's where I did. I foolishly expected straight-up black metal when I got this so I was a little disappointed at first. It sounds like early 90's black metal played by a band more accustomed to a death metal style not too far removed from acts such as Entombed, Dismember or early Darkthrone with what sounds like a strong King Diamond influence in some of the riffing.

Like early Darkthrone, it's a little more on the doomy side, utilizing slower and mid-paced tempos more often than faster ones. This music is pretty well-rounded and the musicianship is expressive and slightly above average for this period and style, but without sounding pretentious or showboaty like a lot of other bands. The acoustic pieces are very tasteful as well. There's a certain maturity about these songs that makes them even more enjoyable after repeated listens.

The lyrics are more along the lines of most black metal that isn't directly about Satan, which means they are deep, moody and poetic without sounding too personal. I'm not sure what else to say about them. They're good.

As I said, I was a little disappointed at first, but I listened to this CD a few times and it really grew on me. After having this compilation for a year or so I decided to get "The Somberlain" and I was again disappointed. By this time I had grown to love "The Past Is Alive" and I felt that the album versions lacked the unique atmosphere of these versions, sounding just like everything other recording at the time: lacking emotion, a good mix and with too much reverb. I thought the drumming sounded a little under-rehearsed as well, at least by album standards. One song in particular that I really prefered the earlier version was "Feathers Fell." I really missed the percussion, vocals and the interesting aesthetic they provided. They gave it a more thoughtful and original sound.

The Satanized tunes are just like the project's name itself, fairly generic. The recording quality sucks. I won't take any points away though. They don't break up the flow by appearing at the end of the album. They are pretty much just extras, take them or leave them. I kind of feel the same way about "Severed Into Shreds," but none of them are really terrible. Just nothing to write home about.

I don't know what it would be like going from "The Somberlain" to this, but for me having gone the other way I feel that these versions are superior. My favorite tracks are as follows: Feathers Fell, The Call of the Mist (love that short solo near the end), Frozen and Mistress of the Bleeding Sorrow.

While I no longer own it, after writing this review I'm starting to think I wouldn't mind having this again. I don't see this as essential, but I sure as hell enjoy it when the weather is cold and the pipe is warm.

A preview of things to come - 75%

kd, November 30th, 2003

This album/compilation is pretty good. It features promo and demo material from DISSECTION along with SATANIZED's rehersal tapes all on one CD. Musically, this CD is great, but the Ther Somberlain demo tracks don't capture the enery that their first full-length did. This CD shows you the ideas that they had for the first album, but in a sort of infantile way...this is mainly due to the production that doesn't capture the sound nearly as well as The Somberlain. SATANIZED's tracks I'm guessing were recorded with a boombox at a reheral? It certainly sounds that way The highlight of this would have to be the The Somberlain preview tracks(which were of course re-recorded) are the highlight of this album. If you're just start out with Dissection, I wouldn't recommend starting with this album. Start off with their first full-length, The Somberlain, then get Storm of the Light's Bane. If you get this before the following albums, you might not fully appreciate the genius of DISSECTION. Over all a good package, compotent musically and artistically, but as I said before, the production kills that. It's a nice piece to add to the seasoned DISSECTION fan's collection.