The Past Is Alive (The Early Mischief) is a compilation that was released by Necropolis Records in July 1997. It serves as a time capsule, preserving some of the earliest Dissection recordings and giving fans a rare glimpse into the musical development of one of the greatest bands to hail from the cold lands of Sweden.
From the liner notes:
"This is a compilation that we have been talking about doing for ages, but not until recently we've judged that the time was right for a release like this. The reasons are many, but mainly the fact that these old recordings have been in demand from our fans for a long time, and as rumours about this release started to spread, we were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm and interest from our fans. So, for all you who missed the early days of Dissection, and of course for all the rest of you who this may be of interest for: Here's the early mischief. Re-visited and re-released. The sound quality may not be the best at times but the feeling is there, and that's what counts. Take it for what it is, a pure underground release and nothing else. This is how it was back in the early days and we enjoyed it!"
-Dissection, October 1996
This compilation begins with "Shadows Over A Lost Kingdom", from the Into Infinite Obscurity E.P. This song was recorded in 1991, and it shows a very raw version of a song that would go on to have a place on The Somberlain. The sound is not as cold and crisp as what is found on the L.P. version, yet the musicianship is flawless. This possesses more of a Death Metal feeling, similar to Darkthrone's Soulside Journey, mostly due to the production. The bass is very prominent, here.
The next song is "Frozen", from the 1992 promo for The Somberlain. This doesn't sound so far from the L.P. version, though the vocals seem to be more of a hoarse whisper, creating somewhat of a ghostly feeling, reminiscent of Tiamat's Sumerian Cry.
From the same demo/promo, is a version of "Feathers Fell". This is different as it has not only drums but also some eerie vocals, whispered from the shadows.
"Son of the Mourning" follows this, taken from the Into Infinite Obscurity E.P. This is a much rawer and more primitive sounding version of the song than what is found on Where Dead Angels Lie. The sound is definitely more oriented toward Scandinavian Death Metal. The main difference would be Jon's deeper vocal approach, though the brilliant riffs are still fairly easy to discern, beneath all the fuzz.
At this point, The Past Is Alive shifts back to the demo, The Somberlain, for "Mistress of the Bleeding Sorrow". It may have been more appropriate to place the songs in chronological order, but that is a minor complaint. This is very close to the L.P. version but, again, the vocals are different. The patterns were all set, yet the style had yet to evolve to what is found on the full-length.
Continuing on with another song from this demo, "In the Cold Winds of Nowhere" is like the other songs, not being far removed from the L.P. recordings. The pace seems slightly faster, and the vocals are different. Even with these different vocals, the Black Metal feeling is dominant. About midway through the song, there are several screams that actually would have fit very well on the L.P. version. There is an extra sense of desperation that is not quite the same.
The final song from the Into Infinite Obscurity E.P. is the title track, which is a brief acoustic interlude. This is followed by "The Call of the Mist", taken from The Grief Prophecy demo. Sadly, this is the only song on this compilation that is taken from that demo. This really feels like Soulside Journey or Sumerian Cry, in certain ways. Yet, for all the Death Metal production, this remains in the realm of Black Metal. The heavy doom riffs dominate much of the song, but there are fast tremolo melodies to be found, along with a truly trance-inducing passage. However, that's not the reason for this belonging to Black Metal. This is found in the lyrics.
"Devour my soul in eternal blasphemy
I'm the mourner of the one
Who died for you
Swallowed by the dark embracement
Open wide the somber gates!
My god has horns..."
The next song is "Severed Into Shreds", which maintains the sound from the previous song, to a degree. The quality is pretty low, but it's still good enough to get a feel for the song. This is taken from a 1990 rehearsal, and really shows a variety of styles being utilized, from Death and Doom to Black and Thrash Metal.
As for the last two songs, the liner notes explain that well enough:
"Satanized was formed by Jon Nödtveidt and Johan Norman in 1991 to create insane and utterly Satanic Death/Black Metal. The band made no efforts at all in establishing a name in the metal scene, mainly because Jon had Dissection as a priority, and both Johan and Tobias gave priority to their main band, Nocrofobic (later Decameron). Satanized as a band lasted about a year, and during that period they recorded a few rehearsal tapes and managed one hell of a brutal gig in November 1991.
Presented here is a rehearsal containing two tracks caputirng the intense ferocity that once was Satanized. It is an extremely rare recording, sadly enough with extremely bad sound quality."
Despite the very low-fi sound, one can easily tell that this had all the potential in the world to be something very good. "Satanized" and "Born In Fire" have more of a Black Metal feeling, and could easily stand beside the Mayhem material, with Dead, or bands such as Grotesque. The fast tremolo riffs and the blasting drums, of course accompanied by the vocals of Per Alexandersson (who would be a member of Nifelheim for a short period in 1996) carry this feeling as well. The sound quality does not hinder the listener from appreciating the dark feeling. It would have been interesting to see this project unfold, if they had more time to devote to it.
As for the reason it was appropriate to add this to a compilation of rare Dissection material, it only makes sense as it not only features Jon Nödtveidt, but also future Dissection members Johan Norman and Tobias Kellgrin. All in all, it is a worthy addition to The Past Is Alive.