Mayhem

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Deathcrush EP

Mayhem - Deathcrush EP ©1987 Deathlike Silence Productions
1. Silvester Anfang
2. Deathcrush
3. Chainsaw Gutsfuck
4. Witching Hour
5. Necrolust
6. (Weird) Manheim
7. Pure Fucking Armageddon

From the willfully scrappy cut-and-paste design of the front artwork, to the anti-Scott Burns logo on the back, and then the militant marching-drum rhythm which opens the album, it appears that Mayhem had very much intended their first releases to be an open declaration of war against the conventions and sensibilities of the then-nascent death metal musical movement. And given that this is the case, it's a bit ironic that the music of Deathcrush (often called a "mini-album", although I don't know what the difference between a mini-album and an EP is supposed to be) can only really be considered Black Metal in retrospect. Given the band's ensuing legacy, Mayhem comes across on this disc as one of the rawest, ugliest death metal bands around, sloppily bashing out primitive chunks of aural violence with hateful abandon. The production opts for ear-grating high-end over-heaviness, the music constantly sounds like it's on the verge of falling apart, and vocalist Maniac's hoarse locust-swarm screams only add to the overall sense of willful ugliness that the band was no doubt going for. The result is a form of extreme metal which, although a hard proposition to take in long-playing format, is nonetheless an intriguing snapshot of a much-storied group in the process of coming into its own as a musical unit.

While I wouldn't exactly call this the definitive Mayhem listening experience (for that, check out De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an album which boasts goofier lead vocals and superior songwriting), Deathcrush does succeed in acting as a bitter, vicious foil to the type of audacious brutality which was still rising in popularity (and yet to peak) at the close of the 80s. Indeed, this sort of music would require some development in order to sustain itself as a distinctive genre (or anywhere past the twenty minute mark, at that), but Deathcrush's brevity nonetheless enables it to work within a limited palette without getting too old or too tiresome. Like all of Mayhem's music, it isn't the most mind-blowing or incredible extreme metal out there, but it was (and continues to be) very influential, and what it does, it does capably well…and hideously well, at that.

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 12/2009

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Live In Leipzig

Mayhem - Live In Leipzig ©1992 Century Black
1. Deathcrush
2. Necrolust
3. Funeral Fog
4. The Freezing Moon
5. Carnage
6. Buried By Time And Dust
7. Pagan Fears
8. Chainsaw Gutsfuck
9. Pure Fucking Armageddon

The only official Mayhem release with Dead on vocals, which in itself makes it mandatory. Dead is without a doubt the best - no, the definitive - Mayhem vocalist, and one of the best in the genre. His vocals really shine on "Freezing Moon", "Carnage" and "Necrolust". The album starts off with "Deathcrush" which, though a good song, is not really performed very well. In addition, the sound quality is quite terrible - the drums sound like they're miles away. Anyway, next off is "Necrolust", where all the band members do really well. Dead spits out long lines of tortured vocalisations, Euronymous does his ultra-atonal chaotic guitar solo (his style is very different from Trey Azagthoth's, though they could vaguely be described with similar words), Hellhammer hammers the hell out of his drums, and your head throbs with the sheer violence of Mayhem. The spine chilling "Freezing Moon" is probably the highlight of the album - the slow, creepy riff can be really unsettling when listened to at night, and the guitar solo is absolutely one of the saddest ever done. The tone of the guitars might not be as black as on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but is nevertheless very efficient in creating an atmosphere of malevolence. "Carnage" also has an unbelievable solo - the unique shrieking and wailing of Euronymous' guitars is really abrasive and harsh (has to be heard!). "Buried By Time and Dust" and "Pagan Fears" - two really good tracks off De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas - are done very well too. It's rounded off by "Chainsaw Gutsfuck" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon" which apparently are old crowd favourites (judging from the huge cheers). The instrumentalisation might not be as impeccable as that by most death metal bands, but sometimes the sloppiness and the poor timing add an organic, nihilistic twist to Mayhem's music. An excellent release, just as good as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in my opinion.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 02/1999

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De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas ©1994 Century Black
1. Funeral Fog
2. Freezing Moon
3. Cursed In Eternity
4. Pagan Fears
5. Life Eternal
6. From The Dark Past
7. Buried In Time And Dust

With a scene as mysterious and enigmatic as the Norwegian black metal scene, I suppose it only makes sense to have one band whose aura of lore and legend is larger than their musical accomplishments. Mayhem easily fits that bill. Flaunting a history full of the stuff of demonic soap operas with members committing suicide, church burnings, and of course the murder of the leader/guitarist Euronymous, Mayhem's non-musical aspects are much more dramatic and overwhelming than their spotty and quite frankly, very overrated music. Diehard black metal fans claim De Mysteriis dom Sathanas to be a landmark album. But if you cast aside their legendary status in the black metal world and instead listen to what is at hand on this record, it's very hard to take them seriously. The vocalist at the time is absolutely a kneeslapping riot. Sounding like someone impersonating Dave Mustaine attempting black metal sneering, this dude simply kills me with his terrible, terrible vocals. These aren't evil! They're a comical parody! For what it's worth, the mono-dimensional music sounds very unrehearsed and written almost as an aside to their non-musical doings. The guitar work is flat, uninspired and totally devoid of a dark, evil black metal atmosphere that other groups have succeeded in creating. Perhaps Varg from Burzum stabbed Euronymous to death for simply being so lame. But I digress. I have attempted listening to this album in various settings, including the prerequisite dark, moonless winter night, but it truly lacks the ability to impress me in any degree. If you are the non-discriminatory black metal fan who swoons to anything even remotely naughty, then you might something worth your time here. For the rest of us, we'll simply start spelling overrated M-A-Y-H-E-M.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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From The Darkest Past [Bootleg]

Mayhem - From The Darkest Past Bootleg ©1994 Lust Records
1. Funeral Fog
2. Freezing Moon
3. Cursed In Eternity
4. Pagan Fears
5. Life Eternal
6. From The Dark Past
7. Buried By Time And Dust
8. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

In the great spirit of the Sex Pistols, the glut of various demos, practice tapes and bootleg live performances surrounding the band Mayhem can only serve to empty the pockets of those willing to shell out the bucks for these dubious discs. Essentially From the Darkest Past is a practice tape from the "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" sessions, without any vocals. If you read my review of De Mysteriis, you are probably quite aware that I am hardly impressed or cowed by any of Mayhem's work. This non-vocal version is marginally better as you don't have to suffer through those awful, nasal throat noises that pass for vocals. However, over the course of the eight songs presented here, you realize Mayhem was really nothing more than a second rate garage band that latched onto the imagery of the black metal scene and their surrounding lore of evil to bring attention to their band. I grant that drummer Hellhammer is actually quite talented as evidenced by his massive amounts of side projects. But the mere fact that he pursues these various outlets for his creative energies demonstrates that Mayhem had to have been somewhat boring for him. The most annoying aspect of Mayhem is the fact that nothing you hear on this record is anything remarkable or slightly evil. It's simply thin, commonplace speed metal with a hint in the Bathory department. There simply are superior black metal bands out there.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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Wolf's Lair Aybss

Mayhem - Wolf's Lair Aybs ©1997 Misanthropy
1. The Vortex Void Of Inhumanity
2. I Am Thy Labyrinth
3. Fall Of Seraphs
4. Ancient Skin
5. Symbols Of Bloodswords

Per usual with everything Mayhem have released, Wolf's Lair Abyss continues, unabated, in the band's salt-rubbed, non-epic tradition: it is, well, atrocious. From where I stand, Mayhem--possibly the most overrated band in the underground--play uni-levelled 4-track quality thrash, incorporating miserable production to convey a so-called atmosphere. But they're from Norway, so we call it black metal. And they've been at it, incredibly, since the mid-80s, so we call it influential. You can call it what you want; I call it lame. Legendary, for sure, but when the dust settles, Mayhem cannot really boast a pile of quality, effective, or even interesting songs. But it's a pile of something, though.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 11/1998

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Review #2:

Another good release from this excellent band (never mind what Burzum fanatics or Chedsey's cronies say) - a band whose name effectively describes its music. The recording is good - acceptably organic, and thankfully not over-produced. It is a five track EP, the first track being a spooky intro with keyboards and horns. I think this would be the perfect soundtrack to Diablo II Anyway, it successfully sets the mood for the ensuing...chaos. This is definitely one of the fastest albums I've ever heard - chaotic blasts are ubiquitous, accompanied by (typically) rapidly strummed power chords from Blasphemer, who has managed to fill Euronymous' shoes surprisingly well. The drumming not only provides a backbone to the manical riffage, but sometimes even takes the initiative to emphasise its non-linearity - something I feel is rather new to black metal. The drums are chaotic but not imprecise - Hellhammer effectively manages to vary the tempo of his blasts without wandering into the well-trodden (by a lot of other technically proficient drummers) territory of over-drumming or even sounding sloppy. Though the riffs in themselves are not catchy, coupled with the drums they manage to create this hypnotic, evil, almost claustrophobic effect. Vocals are insane rasps which complement the music very well; totally unique (un-generic) to keep with the Mayhem-tradition-of- having-weird-vocalists. The music doesn't really get boring (as one might expect it to), as the tracks (I hesitate to call them "songs") are quite short in length and small in number. Definitely recommended - though it is not as good as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or even Live in Leipzig, it is innovative and rewarding in its own right.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 01/1999

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Grand Declaration Of War

Mayhem - Grand Declaration Of War ©2000 Necropolis/Seasons Of Mist
1. A Grand Declaration Of War
2. In The Lies Where Upon You Lay
3. A Time To Die
4. View From Nihil
5. Il Principe

A controversial album to say the least, and a musically, lyrically, and conceptually ambitious release, Mayhem's Grand Declaration of War is a landmark CD that forces the listener to put behind him or her all preconceived notions of who this band should be, and what this band should sound like. The album is purposely divided into two halves, commencing with the pre-war insurrection and ending with the apocalyptic aftermath. Alas, because of poor arrangement, the music lacks coherence and comes off as patchy and disjointed. But what's done is done, and Mayhem ought to be commended for having the testicular fortitude to experiment, even if the end product turns out to be somewhat disappointing.

As many probably have heard by now, Grand Declaration of War sounds nothing like Mayhem's previous discography. Well, that's not entirely true; the first five tracks bear a fairly strong resemblance to the Wolf's Lair Abyss material, in that the black metal guitar tremolo dissonance and blasting percussion are retained here. The emotionless, systematic, rigid "A Grand Declaration of War" kicks off this album with the same tremolo guitar work and militaristic snares. A hypnotically repetitive, moderately paced song, the music and lyrics here capture the dismal and unforgiving ambience of war and totalitarianism nicely. Complex, syncopated, technical rhythms are new to Mayhem, and they foreshadow the ambient industrial experimentation that is to come later in the album. "In the Lies Where Upon You Lay" is a faster song that sounds more like old Mayhem than the previous one. But in another departure from the black metal norm, Maniac adopts an oratorical, spoken word style that is infinitely more charismatic and compelling than his appallingly wearisome rasps, which unfortunately are also put to use here. The lyrical content is unashamedly anti-Christian, with Maniac playing the role of a satanic pastor preaching to the converted, of course. Ending abruptly, this is a solid but uneven song that could benefit from some rearranging. At least it's not as bad as "A Time to Die," which really ought to have been excluded from the final cut. Clocking in at less than two minutes, this third track, which incidentally sounds the most black metally out of all the songs here, sticks out like crab grass on a golf course. No sermonizing here; the lyrics are completely screeched. Speaking for myself, I feel that Maniac's black metal rasps have become an anachronism, out of place with not necessarily the music, but with the album's lyrical content and thematic focus. The exceptional "View from Nihil" begins with some more calculated, march-like rhythms and that demagogical, homily style that Maniac uses so effectively before breaking out into faster black metal. Spanning two CD tracks, this is a technical song that is mostly in the manner of "A Grand Declaration of War." Track five ends with about fifteen seconds of silence before segueing into the notorious second half of the album.

Entitled "Il Principe," the remainder of the CD is listed as one monster song that spans eight tracks, but luckily for the attention impaired, this song is broken up into four discrete components. Part i, "A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun," also spans two tracks and begins with a single line of processed, whispered vocals that ushers in a uniform, minimalistic, and almost danceable industrial beat, à la Skinny Puppy. The "true" black metal faction may be pleased to hear that the vocals are mostly screeched, but the "robotic" sounding choruses may well be grounds for legal separation. Taken for what it is, the song is actually fairly well written, and makes use of silence and empty space rather effectively. Relative to the rest of the album, however, "A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun" sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb (or crab grass), and should have been either saved for the end or omitted entirely. In a return to the technical black metal sound found earlier, part ii, "Crystalized Pain in Deconstruction" is an angry, schizophrenic song that continues with the "robotic" vocals first heard in part i. Those expecting a carry-over of this sound however, will find themselves disappointed: "Completion in Science of Agony" is nearly as industrial as "A Bloodsword…" Beginning slowly and minimalistically, the music gradually becomes more layered and complex before dying in silence. But wait, the song isn't over yet; random noises, and then screeches and synths enter, and the track finally concludes with guitars carrying on the synth melody. The lyrics here preach genetic purity and Nietzschean morality, the latter albeit in a bastardized form. The album ends with "To Daimonion," a number that begins in the spirit of the album's first half before fading into nothingness. By the way, there is a short hidden track of sorts after a few minutes of silence.

So what do I think of this album? Well, it has some awesome moments, the packaging is gorgeous, and for the most part I like the cold, sterile atmosphere that the clean production, crisp rhythms, and industrial beats create. But I am also left with the impression that Mayhem weren't really sure what sound they wanted to create while they were writing and recording, and that, instead of carefully arranging the music, they tried to throw everything they could dream up at you, to see what sticks and what doesn't. This of course makes for a diverse album, but Mayhem lack the songwriting talent to pull all the disparate parts together. While Grand Declaration of War is by no means a perfect CD, it is a promising rebirth for a band that many had written off as dead and buried.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 06/2000

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Ordo Ad Chao

Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao ©2007 Season Of Mist
1. A Wise Birthgiver
2. Wall Of Water
3. Great Work Of Ages
4. Deconsecrate
5. Illuminate Eliminate
6. Psychic Horns
7. Key To The Storms
8. Anti

If you're like me, then Mayhem is not your favorite band. You might enjoy roughly half of their seminal De Mysteriis dom Sathanas album, but ultimately you do not understand their appeal beyond the history surrounding them, which even in itself has grown tiresome. Even their attempts at jumping onto the quasi-avantegarde metal bandwagon, such as on A Grand Declaration of War, strike you as forced and merely only touching the boundaries that other bands (such as Ulver and Arcturus) have leapt over with reckless and successful abandon. With all this in mind, it would be surprising to you that their new album, Ordo ad Chao, is as interesting as it is.

So, what happened? Longtime Mayhem-gurgler Maniac was kicked out of the band only to be replaced by none other than previous Mayhem singer Attila Csihar, and the band opted to abandon the more crisp and clear production of previous albums in favor of a production that bathes the music in a subterranean rawness, not entirely unlike a more stripped down version of what is found on Weakling's Dead as Dreams. Blasphemer's riffs are still as dissonant as ever, but he has now diversified his textures in order to include a heavy amount of reverb and echo effects. Hellhammer's drums have a bit more swing to them this time – I daresay he sounds almost jazzy – and Attila's strange croaking/grunting/occasional speak-singing attribute to the overall weirdness of it all. Some songs abandon structure entirely in favor of noise and effects. The overall atmosphere is intriguing and quite unexpected from a band like Mayhem.

Is it good, you ask? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Ordo ad Chao is a decent little album, but its goodness lies mostly in the surprise factor and less in the actual music. An interesting listen? Yes. An essential listening experience? Not verily.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2007

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