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The Dawn of the End - 65%

Poe Ohlin, February 20th, 2012

This album needs no introduction. One of the most bootlegged and has an aura of controversy surrounding it. Mayhem's The Dawn of the Black Hearts was released in 1995. The recording (the main part) is a recording of a concert in Sarpsborg Norway, in February 1990. The album features what has been voted the most controversial album cover of all time. I will end the discussion on the cover there and move forwards on my thoughts on the album itself.

Tracks 1 through 8 are from the aforementioned Sarpsborg show. The main problem with the album is the sound quality. Through out the Sarpsborg part, you'll only really hear the drums and the guitar. While this isn't taboo for Mayhem recordings, it is really bad on this one. Most of the time, the drums and guitar make it hard to hear the vocals, and you wouldn't even know that their was a bass player. The vocal quality is slightly better. Dead drones in and out and this can get annoying. However, their are songs on which you can hear him quite well. As for the bass sound and quality, there basically isn't any due to everything else making it impossible to hear. Just because it's a bootleg, doesn't mean that the quality needs to be bad.

Now for the individual sounds. The drums are very loud, and make it hard to hear a lot of the music. While this is typical old Hellhammer, it can get irritating. The guitar as always, is a shrieking buzzsaw. This is what Euronymous should sound like, even with crappy quality. As always, his rifts will make your head buzz, and his solos with send shivers down your back. Dead's vocals, the main reason somebody would want to hear this album, are not his best. While they are certainly better then his work on Live in Leipzig, his singing just isn't what it can be. It should be noted that on some songs, there's an eerie echo which enhances the dark atmosphere he sets.

The track listing is usual for the period. A few songs from Deathcrush, some from De Mysteriis, and Carnage. However, it's missing Pagan Fears, which seems to occur on a lot of live Dead recordings outside of Live in Leipzig. However this isn't reason for somebody to not enjoy the track list (unless you really like Pagan Fears).

Now for the other recordings. In most cases, The Dawn of the Black Hearts has four tracks from a 1986 concert in Follorocken in Ski, Norway. These recordings feature Messiah on vocals and Manheim on drums. However, the copy I have features a few more recordings of Dead. Two tracks are the famous studio tracks that feature Dead. The the rest of the recording is of a 1988 rehearsal. I have already reviewed the studio tracks, so I'll talk about the rehearsal.

While the Ski recordings are outright terrible, these might be worse. Besides the drums, you can't hear a damn thing clearly. And while the recordings are from 1988, it's just pitiful compared to the Ski recordings. The track list is the usual offerings from the Dead era and there is no need to go further on the subject of them, or this part of the album.

All in all, Dawn of the Black Hearts isn't the legendary record that people make it out to be. With piss poor quality (except for the studio tracks) it will take a lot of repeated playings to hear everything. While this is a definite buy for any fan of Mayhem, Norwegian black metal, or Dead, it is not the best.

The Dawn of the Black Hearts - 85%

Noctir, December 22nd, 2011

Just one look at the cover of Mayhem's The Dawn of the Black Hearts is enough for even a black metal novice to realize that something had gone horribly wrong with this band. During the peak of the Norwegian scene, for better or worse, many lines were crossed. Death threats were hurled against someone for the slightest offense. People were murdered, with little or no provocation. Churches were burned down, which was the most positive of these actions. And yet, despite all of this, many felt that a more significant line was crossed following the suicide of Mayhem's vocalist, Dead. Euronymous felt no sense of loss for his fallen comrade, who had succumbed to a severe depression and a morbid desire to leave this world. The band's founder simply saw an opportunity to continue building the cult-like mystique around Mayhem, taking photos of Dead's corpse (after taking the time to position him a certain way and to lay the instruments of his demise nearby, as if they were props). He then claimed that the suicide was, partially, to protest the fact that Black and death metal had become too trendy. Even his own bassist, Necrobutcher, was disgusted enough with this behaviour to quit the band that he had helped to form. While Euronymous, himself, was murdered before getting the chance to use the photos for future Mayhem releases, one of the pictures survived long enough to be used for a bootleg, a few years later. The compilation includes two live recordings, one from 1990 and another from 1986.

The first recording was done in Sarpsborg, Norway in February 1990, which was about nine months prior to the material that is on Live in Leipzig. This performance is the main focus of The Dawn of the Black Hearts, as it features the classic Mayhem line-up of Dead, Euronymous, Necrobutcher and Hellhammer. The set list is exactly the same as that of the aforementioned live album, except for the absence of "Pagan Fears". Otherwise, all of the same tracks from Deathcrush and the upcoming full-length, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, are present and in the same order. The sound quality is lower, to an extent, though this actually allows one to get a slightly different perspective on Mayhem's live shows, from this period. Whereas the vocals and drums were the loudest elements on Live in Leipzig, everything is buried at an equal depth, here. The guitars seem thicker and more powerful, rather than the thinner sound of the later recording. As bad as the production may seem, it is still superior to the majority of the offerings from the LLN bands. It may take some time for your ears to become attuned to the necro sounds; however, once you make this adjustment, the dark and morbid atmosphere consumes you and takes you back in time to a special period in the history of black metal.

Regarding the actual execution of the material, it does seem a bit more primitive, in some cases. It could be due to the poor quality of the recording, but it sounds as if the drumming is sloppy and inconsistent, as if the songs had not been fully worked out. Thankfully, the guitar playing holds everything together and gives the music a sense of structure. It is odd to think how influential Mayhem was, yet few in Norway cared to utilize the serpentine lead solo style. While the slower tempos utilized on the Deathcrush material helps to create an ominous feeling, the true darkness is found in tracks like "Freezing Moon" and "Buried By Time and Dust". The cold tremolo riffs, mournful arpeggios, doom-ridden bass and possessed vocals work well to create a pitch-black atmosphere. It is common for people to be idealized once they die, leading many to claim that they were far better than they actually were. This is so common that when it is actually true, as in the case of Dead, there are those that come out of the woodwork to try chipping away at his legacy with their cynicism. But those words are entirely worthless, as all it takes is for one listen to hear the maniacal and possessed fervor with which Dead approached his role as vocalist for Mayhem.

As for the other recording, it is from a 1986 performance that featured Messiah and Manheim, on vocals and drums. The sound quality is bloody awful and there are times when only the vocals and bits of percussion can be heard. The set consists of a couple of cover songs from both Venom and Celtic Frost. This is quite difficult to enjoy, even for hardcore fans. It is mostly useful just to satisfy curiosities as to what the band's live sound was, back then. Oddly, Messiah sounds much more in line with the likes of Cronos and Tom Warrior, rather than the harsher vocalists that followed him. It is too bad that this set did not include any original material, though it may have been even harder to discern. At least, with the cover songs, anyone familiar with them can more easily pick up on what is going on.

In the end, The Dawn of the Black Hearts is another significant part of Mayhem's legacy. Nearly all recordings from the band's classic era are worth listening to and showcase a group of musicians that were in their creative prime. So unfortunate that they were unable to record a full-length album with this line-up. The older stuff is interesting as well, but certainly the less important of the two. The only real complaint would be the cover art, which cannot be considered anything less than dishonourable to anyone that had any respect for Dead. This image should not be available for everyone's eyes, definitely not for every poser on the internet to use as decoration for their web pages. Somehow, this photo makes the record seem more like exploitation than a proper tribute. Either way, all Mayhem fans should hear this, one way or another.

Written for

Sarpsborg 1990 - 100%

LordBelketraya, December 3rd, 2011

I'm glad MA included this release despite it being a bootleg. The importance of this to the history of Mayhem and early black metal is as vital as the cover is disgusting and shocking. While 'Live In Leipzig' has a more appropriate and cool picture of Dead on the cover the sound on it is a bit thin and vocal heavy. While here you hear everything equally bad! Lol! The production is what a typical bootleg sounds like, pretty bad. LLN bad? No, not THAT bad. You hear the vocals and the intruments all on a similar level. But the ferocity sets this apart from the other recording with the classic lineup. While Maniac and Attila have their appeal and have done well fronting Mayhem for the next 20 years it still doesn't match Dead's vocals. He had it all as a black metal frontman. The intensity, the voice, attitude and most importantly THE LOOK. He was the prototypical black metal frontman. If there was a dictionary or encyclopedia that had 'black metal vocalist' a picture of Dead would most likely be next to that entry.

'Deathcrush' sounds better, faster and more intense than any other version heard with Dead on vocals. I'm including 'Live In Leipzig', Zeitz (Germany), and the rehearsal in 88/90(?). Let's face it, Dead & Euronymous were Mayhem. The voice, the "mascots", the sound, lyrics, music, the idealogy of the band was their doing. They were the David Lee Roth/Eddie Van Halen, Lennon/McCartney, Morrissey/Johnny Marr of black metal. And the band lost them both inside the span of 30 months. It really should have ended there. But since so many metal bands go through lineup changes and some with practically complete changes (i.e. Decapitated, Vader, etc.) we tend to let it slide, but with Mayhem they get ripped for it more than any other metal band in history.

'Chainsaw Gutsfuck' never sounded better than on this, it's slower and the drums are slowed down as well which is rare for Hellhammer since he likes to play the intro faster and more complex. In here he plays it exactly as Manheim played it which I prefer most and maybe Euronymous as well and possibly suggested that it be played that way too since we know Hellhammer is an excellent drummer and likes to play simple drum parts with more flair and virtuosity. But I'm a nut for the basic, hypnotic style of Manheim. The song that I have in mind the most from this is 'Carnage'. You hear Necrobutcher tuning his bass in the beginning and some rustling in the background which must be Dead and out of the blue he just screams in seemingly very genuine anger "CARNAGE!". No, "this is carnage" or "the next song is about carnage", nothing like that. Just a straightforward message.

While Euronymous exaggerated and lied about Dead's attitude being "trve and kvlt" and "he lived and died for the cause." The truth was Dead was a very fucked up, suicidal and disturbed man. Perhaps schizophrenic in that he would have random acts of violence and then just sit alone in silence. Was he dangerous to others, I don't believe so. But I am curious if he lived long enough to ever have a yoyo like Varg Vikernes cross his path. I'm certain the "Count" wouldn't ever want to get on his bad side. It was no act, it was real, all too real. But he never died because black metal was becoming popular and "trendy". He blew his head off because he simply wanted to experience death and all that possibly comes after it. He was just portraying the image of a man who was rotting, disintegrating which is why he never put on the corpsepaint to look precise or pretty. He literally was obssessed with death, dying and all of that stuff. People close to him all report the same story. He was genuine to the very end.

Unfortunately there's only 8 songs on here from the Sarpsborg show, but it's status, importance and quality cannot be denied. This is a document of early black metal and a time when it was still raw, underground and dangerous. Fucking essential!

F - 33%

Lyrici17, November 8th, 2008

This is the infamous Mayhem bootleg. Not only is it one of the only releases with the Dead on vocals, it’s also the notorious release with Dead’s suicide photo as the cover art. That combination alone was worth picking it up (or so I thought). After a few listens, I’m unsure whether I‘m glad to own this or not.

This is really two different albums on one disc, so I will review them separately. However, it will, as a whole, receive one score. The first eight tracks were recorded at a 1990 show in Sarpsborg. Tracks nine through Eleven (track nine really is two songs - at least on my copy) were recorded at a 1986 show in Lillehammer.

Live in Sarpsborg:

The set list is a pretty good one. At least in terms of my taste, they picked a good selection of songs. The album starts right away with "Deathcrush", which in my eyes is a perfect start. However, right from the get-go something is very clear: the production sucks. The production is alright considering it's a bootleg, but that doesn't mean that the sound quality is good - it isn't. A lot of the higher frequency stuff is lost (like most of the cymbals), but overall the levels of all the instruments seem to be pretty equal, which is almost astonishing for a record like this. Though, the bass is probably [easily] the least audible, but it's black metal, so that's almost a standard anyway. So while the production is bearable, especially when you consider that it’s a bootleg, I want to stress again, the production is not good, and I do think it effects the quality of the album.

Mayhem's draw for me has always been Euronymous. I'm not really sure why either. I don't even think that he's really all that good. I think it boils down to the fact that he will occasionally throw some riffs out that just really excite me. Plus his willingness to throw in some solos (regardless of length or level of wankery) is also a plus. However, he doesn't get to wow me as much on this release, just because he's, generally speaking, harder to hear - everything is. Hellhammer, as usual for me, is pretty blah. The guy is obviously a really good drummer, but he just doesn't do anything for me. Necrobutcher just does his job; I can't compliment him or complain about him in any way whatsoever.

One of the main reasons I picked this record up was to hear Dead’s vocals. A lot of people put Dead on this pedestal. Having only previously heard his efforts on "Live in Leipzig", I wanted to hear some more of him. While it is interesting to hear Dead's vocals on some of the songs he was originally set to do on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", I just don't feel like he's this amazing vocalist that a lot of people make him out to be. I didn't like his vocals on "Live in Leipzig" at all, and I think his vocals here are only a slight improvement. I don’t know if I am just missing something, or if his reputation is more about his suicide than his vocal quality (I tend to lean towards the latter personally).

Live in Lillehammer:

This part of the bootleg is hard for me to even review. The production is so crappy that all you can really hear is vocals. You can somewhat hear the music in the background, but for the most part is just sounds like a blob of sound. It's decipherable, but to me, it's not worth deciphering. The volume goes up and down, and the stereo aspect is nonsensical. Plus all of the songs are covers (which to me are kind of boring). To be honest I think this bootleg is considerably worse as a whole because of this half. I think I would have ultimately liked the release overall if the Live in Lillehammer material had been omitted. That’s obviously, just my opinion though.

Overall, “Dawn of the Black Hearts” was a big disappointment for me. Frankly, I don’t understand why people like this release so much. I might go as far as to say that I think people make themselves like it because of the cover art and because Dead does the vocals. I personally don’t think it’s very good. The quality of the recordings just aren’t good enough to warrant a high score. I think Mayhem is just one of those bands that is meant to be heard live, and I don’t think “Dawn of the Black Hearts” does them justice. If you want to hear a good Mayhem live album, I would highly recommend “Mediolanum Capta Est”. Unless, you really want this record for the cover art and/or to hear Dead’s vocals (or if you‘re looking to complete Mayhem‘s catalogue), I would avoid this release at all costs.

An Amazing Release - 94%

captain_ahar, July 15th, 2008

I'll start by getting production value out of the way. It's terrible. However, considering that the set was recorded nearly twenty years ago on equipment that, even then, would have hardly been state of the art, this seems like a facet not worth dwelling on.

What does matter is the performance, and that does not disappoint in the least. Dead is simply amazing. As much as I enjoyed Maniac's vocals on the classic, Deathcrush, they are just blown out of the water by Dead's poorly recorded contribution. He offers up a growl that is hard to miss, and harder to forget. He is not performing for laughs, it couldn't be clearer, and that sincerity really plays into the albums favor.

Similarly, the rest of the band turns in a great performance as well, as they rip through a set littered with Deathcrush stand-outs and a smattering of songs later featured on the follow-up, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Euronymous shreds from track one straight to the end, showing the same no-nonsense flair showcased in the first EP.

Hellhammer also gives a great, though somewhat workman-like, performance. It gets the job done, but he doesn't turn in some of the variation offered by Manheim on Deathcrush. That being said, given its a live recording, the drums are a lot more raw and hard hitting.

Not much can be said about the bass. Simply put, you can't really hear what the hell Necrobutcher's doing. It should also be noted that this is not limited to some of the songs, or even most of them, but all.

All in all the first nine tracks of the album are really something special. Showcasing what was once an incredible band at arguably their finest hour. At the same time, you can't help but think what might have happened had Dead not checked himself out so early. A voice like that with some real recording equipment to capture it would have been a treat indeed, perhaps eliminating the misstep that was Attila Csihar, and the partial-birth abortion that was Maniac's return.

The final four tracks are pulled from a live set in 1986 featuring the same lineup as Deathcrush, which was released the following year. We have a handful of Venom and Celtic Frost covers, none of which offer anything much of worth, and certainly nothing more than the originals they are based on.

Highlights : Death Crush, Funeral Fog, Chainsaw Gutsfuck

Essential For All Black Metalheads - 95%

Vor, December 11th, 2004

Everybody in the black metal scene knows the story of Mayhem so I won't even bother retelling it. Aside from being one of the most bootlegged albums in metal history, Dawn of the Black Hearts is a terrific slab of legendary black metal with an incredible performance by Dead, easily Mayhem's best vocalist in my opinion.

The highlight of the album is definately the live performance in Sarpsburg, Norway, 1990. This part of the entire record has the best and most listenable production which is not saying by any means that it is clear because Dawn of the Black Hearts is as raw as it gets. However the songs played are mostly classics including "Freezing Moon," "Carnage," "Funeral Fog," and "Pure Fucking Armageddon." The songs relentlessly slay listeners as the legendary line-up plays their instruments like they're possessed. Dead's vocals are so aggressive and work perfectly with Euronymous' unique guitar playing. Hellhammer's drumming isn't as polished as what he does with the band today but it works to convey the atmosphere of the music, playing more primitively than the more mechanical sound that is found on newer albums like Chimera.

It is practically to impossible to hear anything on the next live performance on the album, taking place in Lillehammer, Norway in 1986. The sound is not really in the normal raw black metal vein, a better way to describe it is muffled. The tracks sound more like creepy atmospheric music that lead up to an actual song. The vocals are completely different, not even having that classic black metal rasp yet. Doing a cover of Venom's "Black Metal", it is interesting to see how the band evolved as time went on and became the powerhouse that they remain up to this day.

Next comes the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo which originally came on tape with one side saying "Fuck" and another saying "Off." Once more the band displays their classics that have been heard in so many different ways and versions. However, this demo is one of the first original versions of the songs and is recorded rawer than ever, almost hiding the vocals completely. Nonetheless, those who enjoy the great Mayhem classics should enjoy this. It is the basis of so much raw primitive black metal that has exploded in the scene today. Another cover of Venom's "Black Metal" is on the demo, played as a "total death version," which basically means really aggressively.

If you are a black metal fanatic like me, getting this album is mandatory. It is a testiment of Norwegian black metal in its prime that not only serves as great atmospheric music, but a part of black metal history as well. Also, if you own Mayhem's 1990 Rehersal tape, you know what to expect from Dead's vocal performance and Euronymous' shattering guitar playing. Without this album, there is a huge gap in your black metal collection.

Essential! - 92%

stickyshooZ, August 22nd, 2004

Albums appear and disappear over the years, very few of which can really be labeled as true classics; something that is of historical excellence and importance. You know those old albums you’re always hearing about and how when you listen to them they match up to all of the hype? This rare gem is one of those achievements on every scale for its influence on large amounts of black metal musicians. It gained even more popularity due to Euronymous' efforts to look brutal by using a picture of his self-slain band mate for the cover. The presence of coherent and audible instrumentation is almost surreal, given the fact that the production is piss-poor. Who the Hell would have expected such an amazing musical deliverance in a bootleg, much less a Mayhem bootleg?

The fuzzy production doesn’t offer a serene atmosphere, and before listening I imagined that the bass would be practically non-existent on something like this, since the bass usually ends up taking the fall in the occurrence of sub-par production, but everything is amazingly audible! Without a doubt, this is Mayhem’s finest line-up; the raspy growls of Dead, the sharp and cold axe work of Euronymous, the pummeling and distorted four-string crushfuck from Necrobutcher, and the violent speed and precision of Hellhammer’s drumming makes this one of the best BM line-ups in history. Lack of lucidity doesn’t stop the guitar from delivering a stunning performance of heavy and speedy necro tremolo riffs as well as some punishing and thrashy ones. It’s not too surprising that the thrash elements are there, considering Euronymous worshipped Venom. Just about every single Mayhem classic is on this bootleg – Deathcrush, Chainsaw Gutsfuck, and Freezing Moon being my favorite tracks on here; what more could you really ask for?

I didn’t even bother with tracks nine through twelve, because they are practically unbearable to listen to from atrocious production and equally shitty sound quality. Maniac doesn’t even sound like Maniac on those tracks; he sounds like a teen who just entered puberty. The bass on these tracks is nowhere to be found and the drums tend to dominate the overall sound. Seriously, just don’t bother with the last four tracks. Regardless of those tracks, this is close to possessing a title of ‘masterpiece.’

The new Mayhem may not be bad, but it’s evident that they need to take a lesson from their early days and try to emulate the old material, because it’s their best material. This is essential for black metal fans, hands down.

KVLT!!! - 96%

langstondrive, March 10th, 2004

This is one classic album. Sure, the production is poor as hell and sometimes it sounds as though Hellhammer is the sole member, but the raw power of the songs comes through much better than on the actual albums. Firstly - thankfully, Maniac is gone for the first 9 songs. That being said, the songs that appeared on Deathcrush (Deathcrush, Necrolust, Chainsaw Gutsfuck, Pure Fucking Armageddon) are done much better with a good vocalist. Dead's style is much more of a growl than a shriek, which I definitely prefer.

Three "new" songs (at the time) are also included - Funeral Fog, Freezing Moon and Buried By Time and Dust. The latter is horrid - you can't hear ANYTHING except the drums. Funeral Fog is done amazingly, but I do prefer Atilla on this particular song. Freezing Moon is the best song on here, especially when everything cuts out except the bass. EVIL! A song from their demo days also appears, Carnage. Once again, the bass takes over right from the beginning and the song kicks all ass, especially with the raspy vocals of one Dead.

In addition to the above, there are also 4 songs from a concert in 1986 (well, 3 tracks, as the first two are part of one track). They are basically useless, as nothing can be heard above the static.Danse Macabre is nothing but screaming from the audience. Black Metal (Venom) is done half decently, much better than on Pure Fucking Armageddon at least. Procreation of the Wicked is an excellent Celtic Frost track, nothing special here. I never thought Welcome to Hell was a great song in the first place. Oh well, at least it's under the static here.

Get this, it's next to impossible to actually find it. Just download the Mp3's and save yourself a hassle.

Dawn Of The Poorly-Produced Hearts. - 84%

Minion, February 1st, 2004

You've probably heard the story behind this recording, so I'll spare you a history lesson and move right on to the music. Now then, this is the best lineup the band has ever had, performing ltheir classics live in concert. It's an eerie thing, knowing that two of these guys would be dead soon. Except for Dead, who was already Dead.

Okay, that was really lame. But it is a good performance. The guitars are raw and brutal, and Dead's tortured shrieks fill the gloomy air, making for a spine-chilling experience. The performance is not the problem. It's the mix. In short, worst production ever. Actually, the production on the first eight songs, being recorded four years later than tracks nine through twelve, are a lot better than the last few tracks, recorded in 1986. The guitars on tracks one through eight tend to be obscurred by distortion at times, especially on Funeral Fog and Carnage, but overall it's not bad. It's the cover songs that blow the proverbial cock. THESE have the absolute worst production I have ever heard. The only thing audible is the vocals, and everything else is a muddy, dirty, muffled, wet ball of feces. You can't even come close to discerning anything from anything else, including the crowd noise. Totally unlistenable. But the 1990 performance more than makes up for it.

The setlist is fantastic. They play virtually everything they had at that point, including a few songs from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Dead's vocals really add something to these songs - just listen to the way he introduces Freezing Moon. "When it's cold...and when it's dark...the freezing moon will obsess you!" Badass. The Deathcrush songs are given a better treatment with a good singer, too.

All things considered, this is not De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. This is better. Fuck the lame production, this is heavy fucking METAL the way it should have been done on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Listen to this, bang your fucking head, and disregard the covers. This is Mayhem the way Mayhem should always be heard.