Overall Score: 8/10 Songwriting: 8/10 Performances: 8/10 Blackness: 8/10 Pros: True Norwegian black metal played with aplomb | Doesn’t deviate from Mayhem’s signature sound Cons: There may be some pacing issues for fans of an all-out assault
How many heavy bands can really be called seminal? You can probably count them on one hand. One band deserving of such an accolade is surely the possible progenitor of Norwegian black metal; Mayhem. While there can be endless debate as to who started this darkest of movements in heavy music’s history, they were certainly the ones who popularised the subgenre and made it the infamous term it is today. Immediately images are conjured up of church burnings and self mutilation at the very utterance of their name, and to this day, few bands have been able to out-evil Mayhem. Now as they return with their sixth studio album, the first since 2014’s Esoteric Warfare, will they be able to stand up to their own legacy?
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is a seminal album. With it, Mayhem captured the essence of evil and turned it into rhapsodies of hellfire with snaking, wiry guitars and blasting percussion holding aloft the gargling screams of diabolical possession. Daemon sticks rigidly to the blueprint that Mayhem helped orchestrate. This is by no means a bad thing; those that birth genres often find themselves bound to a strict set of tenets they themselves laid down, and often it is for the best. As the old adage goes, ‘if it ain’t broke…’. So this album sounds quintessentially Mayhem. From the opening notes of The Dying False King, you are sidelined by an intense force of immediacy and validity; the band have lost none of the aforementioned hellfire that fueled them back in the late 80s and early 90s. Though the line up the band has been inconsistent, namely due to the controversies of the outfit’s early years, the core philosophy remains the same; the worship of the infernal through the blackest means necessary.
The album itself is rather dynamic. Malum and follow up Falsified and Hated both go through multiple movements and tempo changes keeping the listener aware of the Luciferian goings on throughout. The entire record has a cohesive stream of consciousness and pace to it that ebbs and flows between hyper sonic and relatively placid, meaning you are granted a temporary reprieve every few minutes. It’s a necessity as the band have lost none of their vehemence over the thirty plus year career. This may well be the kindest Mayhem have been to the listener, though that in itself may prove problematic amongst died in the wool ‘true black metal’ fans as it is the raw power, the magnitude of violence that first made Mayhem such an attractive proposition. The mid tempo moments are the most enticing in the record: The lumbering, pounding of tom drums and chanted incantations that open Aeon Daemonium are enough to pique the morbid interest of any listener, while the relentless rhythmic pounding and fury of finale, Invoke The Oath sees the band finish in spectacular fashion.
Each member of the band plays to their strengths here to create a cacophony of satanic rites, each song feeling aptly fitting for a ritual sacrifice. Necrobutcher’s bass keeps a thunderous consistency to the tracks that flow gloriously from one to the next, while Attila’s vocals that move from baritone edicts of devilish scripture to howls of agonising torment layer proceedings with an exceptional snarling flair. This album may be derivative of a by gone era, but it was Mayhem who were the architects of the template. The end result is a thrilling journey through the seven circles that leaves only destruction in its wake. It may not be the most extreme album of 2019, and by virtue of the preceding records it isn’t the best Mayhem LP, but it is finer than many of their peers are able to achieve at this point in the game.
Daemon is out via Century Media Records October 25th 2019