Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mayhem - Freezing Moon (1996)

The Freezing Moon single is a release that is of high interest to any hardcore fan of Mayhem's classic era. The release features two songs that appeared on the CBR compilation, Projections of a Stained Mind back in 1991. Recorded in 1989, these tracks are the only studio recordings made during Dead's tenure in the band. Re-released as a single, in 1996, this served to stir up more interest in the band, prior to their rebirth.

"Freezing Moon" is the quintessential Mayhem song. Right off, one notices that the drums and bass are much higher in the mix and dominate the sound more than they should. Actually, the primary complaint about this recording is that the drums overpower the riffs in some places, but it is not to such an extent as to leave the song bereft of atmosphere. By this point, the song was firmly established and is fairly identical to the version that would later appear on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Of course, the music is not the real selling point, here. The vocal performance of Dead is the best captured during his years with the band and offers a small glimpse into what was and what could have been. With all due respect to Attila, this song shows that Mayhem suffered a great loss with the passing of their strange Swedish vocalist. His voice is very morbid and like something that crawled out of a damp grave. It is not strained or over-the-top, as displayed on the many live recordings and rehearsals from this period. Dead shares some similarities with Quorthon, on Under the Sign of the Black Mark, and yet sounds more evil and possessed. This is the standard by which other Black Metal vocalists would come to be judged. As a result, the atmosphere of the track is very dark and truly showcases the development of Mayhem from the days of Deathcrush.

"Carnage" proceeds to destroy the versions found on the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo. Everything is very precise and the song possesses an old school thrash feeling. In particular, one riff near the middle is mildly reminiscent of "Chemical Warfare". The song isn't as dark as the one that precedes it, but still carries a primitive, ugly feeling. Again, the vocals are the highlight, here. As with the previous song, the sound is raw yet clear enough to allow the riffs to be heard.

Freezing Moon captures an important band in their prime, arguably at their creative peak. It's the only studio recording from Mayhem, featuring the classic line-up and is the best example of what Dead was capable of, vocally. While it is a shame that he didn't live long enough to record the full-length, at least some pieces of his work remain. These songs are a great representation of what this band was all about, and epitomize Black Metal itself. An essential release.