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Uneven album put out to show post-Mayhem Maniac - 67%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, July 29th, 2008

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.)