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The Grief Prophecy (1990)

The Grief Prophecy is the first demo release from Sweden's Dissection, being unleashed on the world in 1990. This brief tape was where it all began, so many years ago. The band would go on to become one of the most revered acts in black metal history, yet some might be surprised by the sound present on this demo.

It begins with "Intro/Severed Into Shreds". The opening riffs are very familiar, as they later appeared on The Somberlain as the beginning of "The Grief Prophecy/Shadows Over A Lost Kingdom". Whereas, on the album, this intro leads into cold and epic black metal, the transition is much different here. "Severed Into Shreds" features a thicker sound, including deeper vocals than most would expect from Dissection. The vocals were somewhat similar to what would be heard, a couple years later, on the first Amorphis album. Musically, it sounds a little like Treblinka and early Tiamat, not really possessing the death metal sound that was becoming popular in Stockholm. The song is very mid-paced, through a subdued thrash riff comes along, later on, followed by another tremolo riff.

The next song is "The Call of the Mist". This one begins with a slow and doom-ridden riff. It alternates between slow and fast riffs, sounding fairly similar to the song that preceded it, in sound and execution. There are some decent tremolo riffs to be found, but they're buried beneath the rest and never really expanded upon. It shows promise, but the true genius wouldn't be apparent until the following release.

"Consumed" is the final track, and it's probably the least impressive on this demo. It follows suit with the previous songs, but by this point one gets the feeling that they've already heard this. It's not bad but, as with the rest of the demo, this just isn't what most want to hear when they reach for a Dissection release. There are some nice riffs, later in the song, but they're stuck between more generic ones that may have been more interesting at the time, before a thousand other bands had come along with the same exact style.

The Grief Prophecy shows a band that was still finding themselves, in terms of sound and overall atmosphere. It was decent enough, but Into Infinite Obscurity would be the recording that really put Dissection on the map and displayed what they were capable of. Still, nothing could prepare people for the brilliance that was to come on The Somberlain.
(19 May 2010)

Into Infinite Obscurity (1991)

Released in September 1991, on Corpse Grinder Records, Dissection's Into Infinite Obscurity E.P. served as a harbinger of doom to come. Having formed in 1989 and already released a demo titled The Grief Prophecy, Dissection was showing signs of future greatness. Where some bands have to play for several years to become tight enough to create something brilliant, these Swedes wasted little time in doing so. Early on, there was some confusion as to whether this band was to be considered black or death metal. Perhaps, the overall sound of this E.P. added to the mystery, but the style of the melodies and vocals, as well as the lyrical content, are proof enough that this is far blacker than what their Swedish contemporaries were up to, around this time.

It begins with "Shadows Over A Lost Kingdom". The sound is a little thicker and more bottom-heavy than the version that would later apear on The Somberlain. However, the melodies are the same and still freeze your very soul upon listening. The vocals are somewhat gargled, by comparison to the sound that is present on the full-lengths. This is almost similar to what Tompa was doing in Grotesque. The guitar sound is a little fuzzy, which adds to the atmosphere, though the it is not as sharp and frigid as on the album version. The songwriting already displays a level of skill that exceeds many other bands who were already recording full albums, at this point. The playing is tight and it is obvious that this song was well though-out already, as it did not change between the E.P. and L.P.

"Son of the Mourning" is next, featuring more blasphemous lyrics and a slightly more intense approach. Despite the raw sound, this possesses memorable melodies that will haunt your mind. One could say that this song has more in common with the Scandinavian death metal sound, though it is still quite distinct. Again, the vocals are deeper than on later releases, yet still raspy. There is more of a contrast between this song and the re-recorded version found on the Where Dead Angels Lie E.P. than between the previous song and its later incarnation.

It all ends with "Into Infinite Obscurity". This is a sorrowful acoustic piece that bears a mournful feeling, though not entirely bleak. There is some sense of sadness present, though joined by an overwhelming feeling of relief as you are soon to descend beneath the surface of the earth, forever to be removed from this hellish world.

Into Infinite Obscurity served as a good starting point for a band that would go on to cement their legacy as one of the most legendary groups in metal. As good as it is, these songs are but mere hints of the brilliance that was to follow.
(17 Aug. 2009)

The Somberlain (1993)

Dissection is a name that is sacred in the realm of black metal. Beginning in the twilight of the 1980's, this band's earliest works were rooted in the growing death metal scene. Hailing from Strömstad, they were quite removed from the happenings in the Stockholm scene and their sound never had anything to do with what was happening there. Though The Grief Prophecy was not the most impressive demo, one could already detect a sense of darkness that many bands were lacking. The material on Into Infinite Obscurity only solidified the band's commitment to creating music with a dark and morbid atmosphere. Being so close to Oslo, it was no surprise that Jon Nödtveidt became involved with some of the leading figures of the Norwegian black metal movement, particularly Euronymous. Whether due to this or just as a result of a natural progression of Dissection's black vision, their style shifted ever more toward the cold and grim black metal that was emerging in the early '90s. At this point, Sweden did not have much of a black metal scene to speak of, other than the likes of Marduk and Abruptum. In late 1993, after several delays, Dissection's debut L.P. was finally unleashed upon the world. The Somberlain established the band as one of the premier bands in the underground, not just in Scandinavia, but all over the world.

This was one of the first black metal albums that I ever heard and has since remained somewhat of a measuring stick against which all other albums are compared. Being in the states, I was a few years late in picking this up, and had only really become aware of the band by seeing a few Dissection t-shirts at concerts and thinking that there must be something special just based on the feeling conveyed by the artwork. Upon hearing The Somberlain, I was completely blown away. This was one of those magical albums that really managed to take me to another world, far beyond this mundane reality. During the winter months, I listened to this record over and over again, just soaking in the cold and nocturnal atmosphere conveyed by the dark melodies and the sinister vocals. Everything about this seemed to fit together, from the music and lyrics even to the cover art and the obscure photo of Bran Castle that is found inside. These guys really understood that the aesthetics needed to match the musical content in order to form a complete package.

The darkness begins to unfold from the absolute first moments, as some demonic speech is played in reverse, leading into incredibly cold and dark tremolo riffs. This guitar melody is very memorable and does well to establish a feeling of gloom. "Black Horizons" is a monumental opener, featuring somewhat of a Mayhem influence, which makes sense as the album is dedicated to Euronymous. The song structure is masterful, with each passage flowing into the next, flawlessly. Jon's vocals are even more raspy and hellish, expressing a very misanthropic and almost inhuman feeling. Near the middle of the song, there is a clean guitar section which is done in a far superior manner to anything from bands like Satyricon, sometime after this. The lead solo possesses a lot of feeling and adds something to the sound. As the clean guitars return, a sense of tension builds, erupting with a high pitched scream from Dan Swanö, followed by a woeful choir. The mood becomes even more dismal and melancholic, before returning to the main riff from earlier and moving toward its conclusion. This is a brilliant opener, demonstrating great skill in songwriting and execution, luring the listener in with a grim classic of epic proportions.

As if the first song was not dynamic enough, proving that Dissection was far above the majority of the mediocre bands that were springing up everywhere, the title track comes along to put the final nail in the coffin of doubt. From the very first notes of this majestic composition, the listener is dragged deeper into the abyss, leaving this world behind. "The Somberlain" begins with a cold and mournful riff, soon erupting into a hellish whirlwind of hatred and melancholy. While this music is much more melodic than what some other bands were doing, it still possesses a very dark feeling and never becomes 'light or weak'. It is clear than Jon knew exactly how to incorporate these black melodies in order to create a sense of gloom and morbidity. Just as the music is utterly flawless, the lyrics are among the best ever written. Everything comes together to take the listener to a world of endless winter nights, as the razor sharp guitar riffs cut through your flesh like bitter winds howling from the north. The slower section in the middle of the song is one of the highlights of the album, imbuing the listener with a feeling of incomprehensible sorrow and yet a sense of optimism at the coming of death and the knowledge that this world will soon be nothing but a shadow of a memory. There is a definite Mayhem influence, late in the song, as everything fades away and leaves only an icy tremolo riff to accompany the diabolic incantation. This is the sort of song that one does not simply listen to; this is an experience, one that will never be forgotten.

"I flew over crystal ground
My existence, numb
Over orchards of grievance,
sorrow and tears
This beautiful silence
calls me now"

After such intensely passionate (and lengthy) songs to begin the album, it only makes sense to give the listener a bit of a breather. "Crimson Towers" is a brief acoustic instrumental that allows for somewhat of a break while also fitting well into the overall arrangement of the album. It has kind of an introspective vibe, and is a perfect bridge between the previous song and the one that follows.

As the drum roll leads into the frozen guitar melodies of "A Land Forlorn", one has to be amazed with the quality of each track on this album. Rather than putting all of their effort into a handful of songs and then padding the album with filler, each song possesses a unique feel and maintains the same level of quality as the rest, serving as an integral part of the record as a whole. This is another dynamic piece, featuring its fair share of fast tremolo melodies and blasting drums, but dominated by slower riffs that convey a gloomier feeling. The transitions from one riff to the next are seamlessly done, exhibiting great skill on the part of the musicians. Much of the song has a sombre tone, with some rather sinister parts woven in as well. The band's roots in old school metal are clear, and there may even be some Candlemass influence in some parts of this. The sense of epic doom is conveyed well during the last minute or two. It creates a sense of finality, as if you are rapidly approaching the grave and many images pass through your mind, but all in a blur as the coffin lid opens and welcomes you in. This is one of the most epic endings to any song that I have ever heard.

"Heaven's Damnation" shakes things up a little, being a bit more straightforward and faster than the previous song. While still dark, the atmosphere is not quite as obscure as before. Rather, this is just evil and cold. Jon's vocals possess a rather urgent feeling, being delivered in an intense tone. As with the whole album, the musicianship on display is fantastic and proves that Dissection were leagues beyond many others that were pumping out cheap albums around this time. The '80s roots are detected again, as some of the riffs have kind of a traditional metal feel, despite being played in the black metal style. Compared to some of the other songs, this is structured in somewhat of a more direct manner, yet still includes a strong variety of ideas and is no less memorable than any other song on here. The slower part in the middle helps to maintain the same dismal feeling that pervades much of this record, soon leading into a riff that sounds somewhat inspired by old Bathory. It ends with a brief acoustic passage that might not seem like much, yet really adds something to the overall effect. Little things like this are able to make such a difference, whereas most other musicians wouldn't have even thought to include that.

The next song is another favourite and proves to be yet another classic among many. "Frozen" is one of the shortest proper songs on here, yet is it just as effective as the eight-minute epics. Aptly titled, the guitar melodies are ice cold and maintain a feeling of utter darkness. The lyrics deal with vampyric themes, yet are go in the total opposite direction of inferior bands that attempted to touch on this topic. It really ties in well with the misanthropic and hateful tone of the rest of the lyrics on this album. This is a fairly straightforward song, still possessing the same nocturnal feeling as the rest and being one of the more memorable compositions on here. This is a perfect example of what black metal should sound like and makes one wonder how in the world some dimwits ever called this death metal or even 'blackened death metal'.

"Far beyond all light
Within the black and the coldest breeze
Caressed by the dark, I had my sleep"

Another acoustic interlude follows, giving the listener a chance to gather themselves after such an intense barrage. "Into Infinite Obscurity" is strong enough to stand on its own, but works best within the context of the album as a whole. The feeling is not as oppressively dark as some of the other material, here, allowing you to get a sense of where you are before the fog rises again.

"In the Cold Winds of Nowhere" starts out with doomy bass line and a guitar melody that instills a sense of dread, creating an image of ravens circling above ancient ruins, high in the moonlight sky. Though clocking in at over four minutes, this song feels way too short in some way. This is a good contrast to songs of similar length that seem as if they take forever. The listener is able to get caught up in the sorrowful atmosphere as the cold and gloomy melodies become embedded in the mind. Several different paces are utilized, only reaching top speed for a brief time. The lead solos, as usual, fit the music very well and add to the dreary aura, unlike many other bands that either ignore the use of solos or toss in meaningless ones as if fulfilling some requirement.

The doom element is again present in the intro to "The Grief Prophecy / Shadows Over a Lost Kingdom". It's too bad that this was dropped on the following album, as these sections really help add to the dark feeling and make the compositions feel all the more epic in nature. Despite its short length, this song still includes various time changes that feel natural and flow well. Sounding much more crisp than the demo version, the melodic riffs do well to carry on the majestic and nocturnal feeling. The production on this whole album is very good, being clear enough for everything to be heard as it should be, yet still retaining an underground feel and never getting to the point where it sounds unnatural.

The final song is "Mistress of the Bleeding Sorrow". It features another classic black metal riff in the beginning, before transitioning to a doom riff and featuring a solo that is reminiscent of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" for some reason. This song remains somewhat slow and mournful throughout much of its four and a half minutes. Of course, the album couldn't end without things speeding up one last time, near the end. This mini-epic is a great closer, though it sort of falls short of what one might expect, considering the way the album began. The album then draws to its conclusion with the instrumental, "Feathers Fell."

The Somberlain is an undisputed classic of Scandinavian black metal, forever earning a place among the likes of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Under A Funeral Moon, Pure Holocaust and Det Som Engang Var. As a matter of fact, it may very well rank slightly above most of these albums. With memorable riffs, an undeniably dark and morose atmosphere and genius songwriting, Dissection proved to be among the elite and cemented themselves as the most important Swedish band to come along since Bathory. Nödtveidt and Zwetsloot display an incredible sense of melody and show that this can be incorporated into such music without making it light or happy. Ohman's skilled drumming places him among the best in this field, as well. This is cold, nocturnal black metal that is filled with hatred, sorrow and pure evil; a record that is permeated by an overwhelming lust for death and total removal from this world. This is a mandatory release for anyone into the Second Wave sound. If you don't own this, kill yourself.
(22 Jan. 2008)

Night's Blood (1994)

From the band's earliest days, Dissection was known as being quite the force to be reckoned with, as it related live performances. This is but one of the many reasons that they managed to build such a strong following, over the years. While a lot of bands avoided playing live at all costs, this is where Dissection truly thrived and they did an excellent job of bringing their songs to life. The Night's Blood bootleg features a live show from 4 May 1994, just some months after the release of the band's debut L.P. This recording was taken from a four-day black metal festival, in Oslo, Norway, that also included the first live gig of Gorgoroth. Released on vinyl by Headache Records, Night's Blood serves as one more piece of Dissection's legendary existence.

Regarding the performance, itself, the band executes every song with precision and accuracy. Naturally, the bulk of the material comes from The Somberlain, though they also play an instrumental version of "Where Dead Angels Lie", which seems to have already been fully developed, musically. For the most part, the songs are the same as the studio versions, though often at a faster pace. Songs like "Frozen" and "Heaven's Damnation" are sped up quite a bit, as if the band was feeling much too energetic. This happens in a few other places, such as the middle of "In the Cold Winds of Nowhere", as the level of intensity increases. Thankfully, "The Somberlain" is more faithful to the original, as speeding it up unnecessarily would have ruined the atmosphere, in this case. It is too bad that they did not choose to play "Black Horizons", as well, a song that frequently appeared to be ignored when playing live.

The sound quality is pretty rotten, with an ever-present hissing that is similar to some of the old Moonblood rehearsals. If you can manage to tune that out and turn the volume all the way up, it is not too difficult to hear everything that is going on and to enjoy it. Because of the unprofessional recording, there are times when things seem to run together and moments where the drumming (and even the bass) crush the main guitar riffs into oblivion and those less familiar with the songs might lose track of what is going on. For those that appreciate shoddy production, this is for you, as it is the most necro that Dissection has ever sounded.

Night's Blood is not essential, but is certainly something that hardcore Dissection fans should seek out, in one form or another. This bootleg has its problems, with the hissing and the occasional drops in sound, yet it sort of adds to the charm. It does not come close to the quality heard on Live Legacy, for example, but it still worth hearing, nonetheless. The vinyl may be hard to come by, but it has been bootlegged by various labels, on CD.
(5 Sept. 2012)

Storm of the Light's Bane (1995)

Storm of the Light's Bane is the second full-length album from the masters of Swedish black metal, Dissection. Recorded in Hellspawn/Unisound Studios in March 1995, and released the same year, this album had some big shoes to fill with regard to their debut L.P. The Somberlain.

The album begins with the intro, "At the Fathomless Depths" which has a great classical feel. Immediately, you get a sense of the difference in production on this album. This sounds a bit less raw and more streamlined, certainly not in a bad way. The guitar tone is very cold and is suited for the wintry cover art as well as the lyrics and music contained here. This intro piece sets the tone very well, before "Night's Blood" explodes into your ears.

The first song showcases the very tight playing of this band complete with new guitarist, Johan Norman. The melodies are dark and furious while the vocals possess a haunting effect. The Iron Maiden influence can be heard in the guitar harmonies, showing a bit of this band's influences. "Night's Blood" is very fast-paced and shreds right through the listener like the winds of a Northern blizzard. Then there is a slower, acoustic section which does well to add to the atmosphere. It is somewhat reminiscent to the first track on The Somberlain, which features a similar passage. Epic and majestic, this album gets off to a great start.

The freezing black metal chaos does not let up on the second song. "Unhallowed" blasts from the start and then goes into a somewhat more mid-paced riff. Jon Nödtveidt's scathing vocals are quite unique, I think, and are in top form here. There is absolutely no mistaking him for anyone else. The lyrics are well articulated and the cold black metal melodies make this a nocturnal masterpiece. And, as usual, when solos are utilized they actually mean something and add to the integrity of the song. It may sound repetitious, but this is yet another classic song. Timeless and superior to most others. It must also be said that when Dissection uses clean or acoustic passages, it is done far better than anyone else.

The next song is perennial crowd favorite, and a staple of the live show until the end, "Where Dead Angels Lie." This song is slower than the previous ones, and probably the catchiest one on the album. This, of course, makes this the most accessible track here, I would imagine. This album really displays a band that has cemented their distinct sound. While the trace influences of Maiden and Mayhem are present, this is very much a Dissection album. Whereas others simply copy their favorite bands, Dissection take these influences and incorporate them into a broader sound all their own. "Where Dead Angels Lie" has a creepy and melancholic feel. This is aided by the glass-shattering scream near the end. The cold wintry imagery conveyed in the lyrics of this song, and the rest of the album, fits perfectly with the sound and the aesthetic presentation of the album.

"Retribution - Storm of the Light's Bane" speeds things back up, and then transitions into an old school thrash riff. The hateful venom spewing from Jon's lips is like a battle cry. The band, very confidently, goes from tremolo picking to thrash and into more traditional metal riffing. The cold and epic atmosphere is still very much present and there is no weakness to be found on this album.

The icy acoustic guitar that begins "Thorns of Crimson Death" introduces another melancholy and deathlike melody. The song is carried by a mid-paced thrash riff and Jon's poisonous vocals take your mind beyond reality. The song then speeds back up as the freezing fury of black metal is unleashed once more, in full force. This single melody kills 99% of entire albums that have been released since. Again, an acoustic passage adds another dimension to the song. This is done perfectly, and not in a cheesy way such as countless other bands. Then the epic, Hellish main riff returns to carry the listener into the abyss once more. Also worth noting, perhaps, is the backing vocalist, Erik "Legion" Hagstedt.

Nearing the end of the album, we have one of my personal favorite Dissection songs, "Soulreaper." The main guitar riff is typical Scandinavian tremolo picked mayhem, and the song is fast and possessed like a mighty winter storm. Near the middle of the song, one can hear acoustic guitar being played along with the electric. It makes for a nice effect, and is maybe done somewhat better than when Darkthrone tried this on A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Tony "IT" Särkkä makes an appearance, contributing backing vocals here. I have absolutely no complaints about this song, in any way. Very few bands are capable of producing a single song of such quality, let alone and entire album. At this stage, Dissection clearly had no peers.

Finally, to close the album out, Alexandra "Axa" Balogh's "No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep" leaves a lasting impression of melancholy and death. This simple piano piece fits very well and accentuates the atmosphere of the album.

I cannot say whether or not Storm of the Light's Bane ranks above The Somberlain, as they each have their own identity while being similar. In this case, I do not wish to compare these two classic albums. Dissection is no mere band. Their albums aren't simply music. They are nocturnal rituals. This is best listened to while walking through the desolate night in a winter storm. You do not merely listen to Dissection, you experience it...
(29 Jan. 2008)

Where Dead Angels Lie (1996)

Where Dead Angels Lie is a classic E.P. released in April 1996, by the mighty Dissection. This has to rank alongside Haunting the Chapel as my favorite E.P. ever. The search for this particular release took a little longer than I'd have wished, but it was well worth the wait.

It begins with a demo version of "Where Dead Angels Lie". Where this differs from the studio recording is that it is much more raw and features a slower pace than on Storm of the Light's Bane. In some way, this only adds to the ominous and eerie atmosphere. Instead of ice cold razors, slicing through your skin, it feels more like rusted hammers, crushing your bones. The vocals are a little different as well, being a bit more Hellish and raw, aat times. It is interesting to hear how the song sounded in an earlier form, and to then compare it to what was released later on. Often, demo versions aren't very good and are more of a curiosity than something to actually enjoy. That's not the case here. This is quite essential, in my view.

The next song is a cover of Tormentor's "Elisabeth Bathory". The band does an excellent job capturing the feeling from Anno Domini, and Jon even does a good job emulating Attila's vocal approach. As much as I love Tormentor, this cover equals the original, at the very least. The execution here is perfect in every way.

This is followed by my one of my favorite songs on this E.P., a cover of Slayer's "The Antichrist". One can truly feel the passion that went into this and assume that the band has an extreme fondness for old Slayer. Everything is crisp and pulled off very well. Being an old Slayer fanatic, I can't put this over the original, but it's one of the best Slayer covers I've ever heard. It's quite an interesting and enjoyable listen.

"Feathers Fell" is similar to the version found on The Somberlain, though this contains whispered vocals. It creates a calm effect, though I prefer it without any vocals of any kind.

"Son of the Mourning" is next, and is a re-recorded version of an older Dissection song, from the Into Infinite Obscurity E.P. The vocals are pure Hell and add a lot of intensity to the song. The production is vastly superior to the earlier recording, though still fairly raw. It is short and goes directly for the throat, not wasting time with anything else. Next to "The Antichrist", this is probably the best song on here...well, with the exception of the title track.

The final song on here is the L.P. version of "Where Dead Angels Lie". This brilliant song has already been covered in my review for Storm of the Light's Bane. A true classic and an excellent choice for the E.P.

Most of these songs are available on other releases, these days, but I recommend any true Dissection fan to seek this out anyway, as it deserves to be appreciated as a separate release. One of the best E.P.s ever.
(23 Dec. 2008)

The Past Is Alive (The Early Mischief) (1997)

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.
(13 Feb. 2009)

Live Legacy (2003)

Live Legacy was released in the winter months of 2003 and features a live recording of Dissection's performance at Wacken, from 1997. It was originally released as Frozen in Wacken, as a bootleg in 1998. The sound is a lot better on this release, though it is missing one song ("Night's Blood") due to irreparable issues with the sound quality. This album served as a harbinger of doom, as it would re-establish Dissection's presence and build anticipation for new material that would follow, after Jon's release from prison the next year.

The cover art accurately depicts the atmosphere created by this live album, as it's freezing cold. The music of Dissection is incredibly powerful and this release is no different. The songs are executed, flawlessly, and the guitars possess the same razor-sharp, cold sound as on Storm of the Light's Bane. Jon's vocals possess a little reverb and it perfectly suits the music, giving a slightly more demonic feel. It is quite obvious that Dissection is a live band, fully capable of delivering their masterpieces in proper form, in a live setting. The performance is powerful and intense, and it's no secret why this is my favorite live album, ever. Even for those who don't usually appreciate live albums (a category I fall into) this is an essential release.

The songs are performed just as brilliantly as on the studio albums, with only slight differences, such as the ending of "Unhallowed" which seems to get very old school with the build-up and the brief solo that is added. A similar thing is done at the end of "The Somberlain", the final track. It is very enjoyable and adds to the song rather than detracting from it, definitely showing off the 80s metal roots of this band. Of course, this song retains all of the dark and melancholic atmosphere as the studio version, being one of the highlights of this album.

The only thing I could possibly complain about regarding Live Legacy is that it is too short. Being completely obsessed with Dissection, nothing less than a 6-disc set, featuring all of their songs and a couple dozen cover songs would be completely satisfying. Of course, surely it is a sign of an incredible band to always leave the listener wanting more. I highly recommend this album for any fan of Dissection. You may have heard all of these songs, on the proper albums, but you haven't heard them quite like this. They are just as fresh here as when they were originally recorded. This is an essential release and very much worth the effort to acquire.
(23 Dec. 2008)

Maha Kali (2004)

Already, after the recording of Storm of the Light's Bane, Jon Nödtveidt faced problems with the line-up of Dissection. His subsequent conviction of being an accessory to murder, in 1998, left him imprisoned for several years. During this time, music that had already begun to take shape was worked on and transformed over time. By 2004, Jon was released and, immediately, put all of his energy toward the rebirth of Dissection.

Many fans had waited since 1995 for another Dissection L.P. Others had discovered the band after it had been put on hold, yet they too still had certain expectations. The statements that were issued from Jon, even back in 2003, indicated that he planned to take the music world by storm as soon as he was released, and that Dissection would burn the metal scene to ashes.

After waiting for several years, I had been patiently looking forward to more icy, cold hymns of nocturnal majesty. Finally, in November 2004, the wait was over. I was in Stockholm, set to preview the Maha Kali E.P. at the record store. My initial reaction was of disappointment and even confusion. This was not at all what I expected.

As soon as "Maha Kali" begins, it becomes apparent that the bitter cold melodies of the past were no more. The sound here is much more bottom-heavy and mid-paced. As for the sound, some of this may be due to the fact that the guitar and vocals were actually recorded in prison, in 2003. The song seems somewhat similar to, yet not quite as interesting as, "Where Dead Angels Lie". The version that appears on Reinkaos is better, though this is not saying very much.

"Unhallowed (Rebirth Version)" is next. Musically, the playing is tight and concise. However, it really lacks the cold atmosphere from the original. Still, much like a live recording, it is interesting to see a different take of the song, done so many years later and with several new band members. Probably, this was done to show that the band was quite capable of performing the classic Dissection material. Jon's vocals sound very good, without being rusty or degenerated as one might expect after so long. Unfortunately, everything else about this seems lifeless and without feeling.

Over time, my opinion has changed. Listening to it now, I find this E.P. to be an interesting and worthwhile release, as it gave everyone an opportunity to get used to the changes that were to come on the next album. Maha Kali serves as sort of a bridge from the old to the new, featuring new material that would indicate the direction the band was going in and a classic song, just to show that they have not forgotten the roots of the band.
(14 Feb. 2009)

Reinkaos (2006)

Reinkaos is the third full-length from the mighty Dissection. In fact, it is the final album from this legendary band. Prior to being arrested, Jon Nödtveidt had already begun working on material for the next album. As he put it, these ideas were but seeds that continued to evolve, during his years in prison, which finally came to fruition as the band entered the studio and recorded the album. Some have expressed disappointment with the change in sound, as this bears very little resemblance to the band's classic material. Still, there is something to be said for Jon's artistic integrity; he wrote the music that he wanted, knowing full well that it was nothing like that which was expected of him after so long. Whether or not this can still be considered black metal is up for debate. It hardly sounds like it, though in the old days it was more the lyrical content that defined things, as with the early Mercyful Fate albums. Nonetheless, whatever label one wants to give makes little difference.  

Naturally, I found myself somewhat disillusioned with the Maha Kali E.P. I later realized that my primary complaint with that release was the production. I had gone into it expecting the same cold and nocturnal feeling that was present on The Somberlain and Storm of the Light's Bane. The thing is that such expectations were simply unrealistic. In retrospect, the E.P. served well to prepare people for the change that was to come. If I had to guess, I'd say that the material that was developing around '97 was more in line with "Where Dead Angels Lie", focusing more on melody and less on speed. That seems to be the main link between new and old, in a sense. Like many, I was very skeptical about the new album, but an interview that followed the release completely sold me. Jon's words were filled with conviction and passion for Reinkaos. He viewed it as the completion of his work as a musician, and such words are not to be taken lightly, so I decided to give it a chance anyway.

The first thing one may notice is the absolutely terrible production. This is as sterile, plastic, fake and modern as it gets. No matter what style of music that Jon wanted to implement on this record, almost anything would have been more suitable than the utterly wretched sound achieved here. And, since one is very much connected to the other, it must be said that the drumming is another big problem. Tomas Asklund's performances are always so very robotic and wooden, there's no intensity or feeling of any kind. One would be served just as well by using a drum machine. This is what you get when you choose musicians based on their ridiculous religious beliefs as opposed to their actual ability to play with conviction. That is a word that can really be attributed to Jon because, for better or worse, his vocals and guitar playing are the only parts of this album to demonstrate any sense of passion. Say what you will about the more simplistic structures and basic songwriting, but he really seems to believe in what he's doing and that comes through.

This is certainly not the album that I am going to reach for when I am in the mood for the trademark Dissection sound, but it has become a guilty pleasure of sorts. I usually despise anything remotely catchy within death or black metal, and this type of production typically makes me vomit. Nevertheless, Dissection has long been one of my favourite bands and I still feel some sense of loyalty to the lone remaining member. Even though the lyrics are mostly a bunch of complete nonsense, Jon's vocals are venomous and sinister. The hatred for this world, and for existence itself, is overflowing. As well, there are a number of memorable melodies throughout the record, such as the solo in "Starless Aeon" and the instrumental title track. There are some dark and introspective acoustic bits, here and there, which add a little atmosphere to the music and hearken back to the old days. 

Reinkaos is not what most of us wanted or expected. It is absolutely not the sort of thing that seemed to be promised when Jon was still in prison and talking about how Dissection would return and burn everything to ashes. That was in 2003, and while I knew the band wouldn't come back and just make a copy of the last album, I expected something of a natural progression, such as that between The Somberlain and Storm of the Light's Bane. Instead, what we got was something totally different that hardly shared any characteristics with the past. Jon's voice and sense of melody is unmistakable and this is the only real connection with what had come before. Having said all of that, this is still a solid album and can be enjoyed if one can simply overlook those shattered expectations and the various flaws within. The passion that Jon put into this album cannot be denied, yet it is for each person to experience and judge for themselves. Reinkaos is the final chapter, and ultimate statement, from the legendary and eternal entity known as Dissection. It is all the more poignant in that Jon felt this was the crowning achievement of his musical career (perhaps his life) and has since passed from this mortal realm.

(22 Aug. 2006)


Live in Stockholm is the official CD release of the audio from the 30 October 2004 Dissection concert that took place at Arenan. Early versions of the Rebirth of Dissection DVD came with a CD as well, but since then it's been bootlegged numerous times. This may have been Escapi's attempt at getting some profit out of this, as the release is rather minimalist and appears that little effort went into it. It seems a bit odd that the DVD was released in 2006, yet this wasn't available until September 2009. Like many others, I had hoped that the next Dissection release would be another DVD; maybe something featuring a live performance from the final tour, including new songs among the old. Regardless of that, I was very pleased to see that this had finally seen some sort of official release.

So, first the negative aspects of this shall be addressed. The packaging leaves a lot to be desired. The 'booklet' simply opens up to reveal a few photos and nothing more. Only three of the members are pictures, as Tomas Asklund is nowhere to be seen. On the inside, as well as on the back of the CD, the track listing omits "Heaven's Damnation", which is track 9. Due to the time constraints, some of the songs from the performance were cut. "Maha Kali" and the Tormentor cover, "Elizabeth Bathory" both got axed. Strangely, these were not the only ones left out. "At the Fathomless Depths", despite being listed, isn't actually here; only the final seconds. Similarly, "No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep" was removed as well. The strange thing about this is that the CD is about 74 minutes long, meaning that both of these would have fit. So, there's no real explanation as to why they were left off. Speaking of the intro, it's listed as track 1, but that track is actually the first half of "Night's Blood". For whatever reason, this song is split onto two different tracks. Track 2 begins with the acoustic section of "Night's Blood". At any rate, this isn't a big deal, really, since most people will listen to something like this as a whole album, instead of going for certain songs. However, it does add to the unprofessional feeling of the release. It doesn't appear that any of the remaining band members had anything to do with this.

Despite these minor issues, this is a must have for any Dissection fan. This live performance is very intense and passionate, capturing the raw essence of what this band was all about. There's a magical feeling that can't be properly articulated with such feeble words; however, it's something that can be felt. Obviously, the Rebirth of Dissection DVD is the recommended method by which to relive this special night, but Live in Stockholm 2004 is the perfect companion piece, as it allows you to listen to this brilliant live show at your convenience. A couple years back, I actually considered trying to set up a tape recorder to capture these sounds, as I wished to be able to listen to this in my car, etc. I'm not usually so fond of live recordings, but Dissection was a very special band and that really came through during their shows. Much like Live Legacy, you can really tell that this isn't a band that simply goes through the motions when on stage; the songs come alive and take on added dimensions, in this setting.

The sound quality is top-notch, and the energy and passion of the band, as well as the interaction with the crowd, comes through as well here as on the DVD. After so many years away from the metal scene, Jon Nödtveidt had returned in a blaze of hellfire. He'd assembled musicians to serve as his tools, to convey the message and the dark magic that he set out to conjure, and you can really feel the intensity in his performance. Regardless of the cheap packaging or the errors, the end result is yet another fitting tribute to the legacy of the mighty Dissection. This album captures an incredible live show and is especially desirable for anyone as obsessed with the DVD version as I am. Buy this!
(8 Nov. 2009)


Originally released as a split VHS with the most unworthy Dimmu Borgir, The Gods of Darkness features one of the final gasps of the true Dissection. Recorded live in Köln, Germany on 31 March 1997, this performance is just as solid and possibly even more complete than the one on Live Legacy. The original release included bits of an interview between each song, as well as a video for "Where Dead Angels Lie", none of which are present here. However, the nearly 50-minute live gig is accompanied by three demo tracks from 1994.

For early 1997, the setlist is pretty much what one would expect. It leans heavily on the Storm of the Light's Bane and Where Dead Angels Lie material. Considering the time constraints that were likely in place, they did quite a good job and still managed to include a couple lengthy tracks from The Somberlain. "Black Horizons" has always been a personal favourite, though seemingly often ignored for some reason, so it is a very welcome addition to this performance. Unlike Live Legacy, there were no technical issues preventing the mighty "Night's Blood" from appearing and giving the disc a more complete feeling. It's too bad, though, that they weren't able to squeeze in a couple more songs, like "A Land Forlorn" or "Soulreaper".

As for the quality, this is a professionally-done soundboard recording, so you can hear everything very clearly and there is hardly any noticeable crowd noise (even during the quiet parts). That said, of course live renditions of these songs could never completely match the cold sound of the studio albums. That is actually a good thing, here, as it would be rather pointless if they were to mechanically reproduce everything with no variation. A massive part of the charm regarding The Gods of Darkness is the more raw feeling that it possesses. Slight differences in guitar tone, Jon's vocals and even Kellgren's drumming all come together to give a slightly different perspective on these classic songs. It's all a bit more organic, and you can really sense the energy and passion that the band puts into the songs. It must be said that the drumming does not seem quite as crisp and accurate at times, but it is surely difficult for most to match Öhman's talents.

The bonus material consists of three unreleased demo tracks from 1994. Though the differences between these and the proper album versions are rather subtle, they are enough to create a somewhat unique atmosphere. The backing choir found near the end of "Retribution - Storm of the Light's Bane" accentuates the gloomy feeling of the song. The primary difference would be the more primal and vicious vocals, sounding less restrained and with a somewhat shrill tone at times. Some of the extended screams of "Night's Blood" just somehow adds so much.

Much like Mayhem, Dissection existed in its classic form all-too-briefly and its output was rather limited. As such, fans must cling on to any and all recordings of these songs, hanging on every detail and nuance. The sound quality is excellent and beats the hell out of other bootlegs, such as Night's Blood. The Gods of Darkness is a perfect companion piece to Live Legacy and offers a more raw and intimate look at this legendary black metal band and is absolutely essential listening.
(17 Aug. 2016)

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