This review covers a track by track production assessment/structural analysis of each song contributed by the band attributed.
Copyright © 1994 Necropolis
1. Abruptum - De Profundis Mors Vas Cousumet. This was interesting although built from simple elements, a slow dark song staggering power chords against one another in violent escalation. Some background keyboards, wisps of sound curling around notes and chords. Raw frontal production.
2. Mayhem - The Freezing Moon (taken from CBR compilation). Holy shit, it's a Mayhem track with Dead singing and Euronymous playing exactly as he's played this song on every live recording of this band I've heard. Still, this has wide production that captures bass, vocals and guitar chords very well but drops the lead guitar track into obscure lossy recording.
3. Dissection - Where Dead Angels Lie (taken from W.A.R. compilation). Classic Dissection in the style of their first album, with a competent and strict death metal band playing Iron Maiden style melodic rock in black metal tempos with an appetite for rhythmically violent vocal tracks and eclectic lead guitars. Beautiful synchronized melodies and intricate structures highlight a song that otherwise serves as rhythmic background for the delivery of a story-cadenced vocal.
4. Emperor - Moon Over Kara-Shehr (rehearsal track). Garage background guitar distorted to ambient depths of confusion, with what sounds like sped up or machined drums underneath. I have no idea if there's any bass but the vocals sprawl and mewl as they did on the demo. The melodic foundation to the epic feel of “In the Nightside Eclipse” extends itself here to find more respite from sense in the speed thrills of overlaid melodies. The first riff of this song sawhorses between two chords while moving a second melody between them, with interweaving strum speeds contemplating the containership relationship of both speed and tone. Luckily this song diverges into several variations of this idea broken up with almost punk rhythms and grand declarative interruptions. This song comes from the “Wrath of the Tyrant” demo and bears the sound and complexity of that release, augmented with some new knowledge and some over-the-riff playing that's indiscernible on this recording. Patterns here are not evolved, and seem to be holding space and dominant rhythm while waiting for evolution, but there’s some amazing potential here.
5. Mysticum - Kingdom Comes. Flowing streams of chords doled out in the cutting speed strum of a black metal band with a kickhappy rock beat moving behind screeching vocals that hang rhythms behind riffs and precurse rapid change with violent exclamation. Mostly composed the same way boring death metal is composed, it achieves an interesting atmosphere but lacks the power of individuality to give it the voice it needs for its communicative efforts.
6. Marduk - Untrodden Paths (Wolves Pt. II) (from 'Opus Nocturne'). Not much to say about this except that it's later Marduk: fast simple power chord riffs in mostly linear order with beyond blast speed drumming clattering like a beetle on speed in the mix below. Good sound, good rhythm, relatively interesting tonal composition that keeps my attention for over half the song.
7. Thorns - Aerie Descends (rehearsal track). Dragging a dead horse rhythm with harmonic complements produces ornate funeral music with a dying lull and hang in the bass accompaniment. Simple, familiar rhythms given new nuance and context. The same basic compositional elements cycle through this song but are given effect by the harsh breathless vocals and rhythm of muffled strumming and delicate speed picking. There are few musical surprises but from this rough track already there is promise for a new style of black metal. This band comprises Bard Faust and Snorre, with other members having moved on in one way or another.
8. Mayhem - Pagan Fears (rehearsal track). A full band sound as these guys fall into rhythm with one another but it has lost the savagery and pure flinging anger of Euronymous’ crosscutting lead guitar. Much more competent than the old Mayhem but unused to these elements of composition and the corresponding technique. Sound is clear but fogged with acoustical distance flattened by simple recording. New vocals are trying too hard and end up extruded screams like knives slicing old metal; that is about the metaphor I would use, perhaps, some other aspect of this tune revealed by this different approach that leaves it refrigerated, sterile, distant.
9. Dissection - Elizabeth Bathori (taken from W.A.R. compilation). Operatic vaudeville comedy in this sort of predictable but fast and gratifying song, in many ways like the powerful declarations of oldstyle metal a la Judas Priest in its choice of main riff. Sort of cheesy keyboards poison parts of this with a doorbell tinkle and shine. Although the main riff is cool connecting parts of this song are rudimentary power chord standoffish stilts of compositional support, so I rate it slightly lower than the more elaborate pieces from the albums.
10. Ophthalamia - Deathcrush (taken from 'Via Dolorosa'). A fairly faithful but much more competent cover of the classic 'Deathcrush,' at this point covered to death and smothered in its own powers, whatever they were. Here however the cyclic and violent rhythmic of the song is brought forth with precision right hand work on the guitar.
11. Enslaved - Loke (taken from 'Frost'). Enslaved provide some of the most technically aware fast black metal, building epic masterpieces from a few wiley riffs improvised from chaos. Fast percussion nails every part of these guitar shadows into a space, and in that space the harmonies expand to give that place context in a song of simple aggression, wanderlust, or power.
12. Arcturus - Rodt og Svart (taken from 'Constellation'). Lush keyboards float a guitar riff in the luxury of its background, but underneath these orchestrated pop-music-isms music moves in the riff variants and individual instrument work. Percussion is intense, provided by Hellhammer of Mayhem, in its groundholding ability with these sweeping, emotional and spacy rhythms -- in this song holding together the attention focus, which would otherwise be diffused by these simple pattern variations. The overbearing keyboard intensity makes it hard to hear if this is guitar or bass moving simply, engagingly in a a three-note variation, but it adds organic rhythm to what’s otherwise soundtrack material. Harsh grated howls from beyond guide the lyrical journey of this work, simply plating it with timbre and aggression, which plays it well against the ludicrous yodeling when this vocalist tries to sing 'clean.' I like the music, although its simple, and can only laugh it for being goofy as all hell yet deadly serious.
13. Mysticum - In Your Grave. The insane machine drumming, especially the 600 BPM highhat, direct this as a message of importance into your mind but it is really a few simple chords in a sequence of racing phrases and blasting beats interspersed with structural pieces and crusing rock n roll rhythms. This isn't a bad track, and has nailed the rhythmic components of its overall architecture but should perhaps refine riffs, add more tonal variation, and incorporate more guitar complexity. Vocals screech, bass is audible, but guitars are a wash behind the keyboards and the spiking deviations of vocal distortion.
14. Emperor - The Ancient Queen (taken from 7" EP). Classic Emperor low-fi sound and one of their simpler, earlier songs. Like some abstract death metal this reaches toward melody but mostly develops a suspenseful, entrancing, architectural sense of rhythm.
15. Mortiis - Unreleased Outro. Oddly synchronized random keyboard melodies with chanting and lightning covering them in modulating tormented deconstructive sounds, these brief bits of music work exceedingly well to create a dark atmosphere that provides enough interest on a granular riff/phrase level to maintain a linear structure on a greater level of communication. Dramatic, choked with emotion, and dripping cheese despite its evident composition and artistic sentiment.