Mayhem – Deathcrush (1987) Album Review

I admit it, I can’t get enough of Mayhem. Mayhem for me is like Black Sabbath for the old and nostalgic metal fans. Indeed, Black Sabbath was, is, and will be for a long time, a source of inspiration for many bands to come, for many that just surfaced and for many that will continue to haunt the metal scene as time fades to black. Mayhem is one such ghost, a rather agitated one, severely punished and tortured by unfortunate events since their inception, but a band that showed musical talent and a lot of promises. Sure, in the reviews I made for Mayhem about the latest album (though if latest can be considered 2007) and their jewelry De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (probably the best black metal release) released back in 1994, I underlined the facts that the band got known not through their music, but through other kind of events. The death of Per Yngve Ohlin (known under the nickname Dead) who committed suicide back in 1991 and the murder of Euronymous in 1993, the mastermind behind this project, affected the playing style of the band severely, but I felt a glimpse of hope when Rune Eriksen (Blasphemer) joined the band immediately after it reformed. However, the past was what made Mayhem notorious, and the past was marked by pure violence and hatred against society and religion.

Deathcrush is one such record. A record filled with hatred, a record filled with rawness and above all, a record that promotes violence through both musical approach and lyrical content. It also shows attitude, it shows how early black metal should be like, a kind of black metal that was unheard of until then, probably, the only band that could’ve been on par with this record at that time was Bathory with their first 3 exceptional black metal records. Seriously now, Deathcrush can hardly be considered an album. You can’t just barge in and claim that an 18-minute length record could be considered an album, but rather an EP. Even though it features more than 2-3 songs, the number of songs specific for an EP, the length of the songs is pretty short, varying from 1 minute to 3 minutes. But this does not change the fact that it is a good record. Honestly, I’ve given up on the shitty things, whether it is an album or an extended play, just fuck it, Euronymous and the gang surely did not care about this crap at that time, neither do I, neither the true Mayhem fans. This disc is intended for those that understand Mayhem beyond the unfortunate and rather outrageous events that happened within the band, and around the band. The fact that these events made them well known is not a good thing for them, because the musical aspect will eventually be placed on the second row.

This record was recorded back in 1987 and released in the same year. For this record, the leader of the band, Euronymous, decided to hire two vocalists. One of them is Maniac, a man that will eventually take the mic once again for the band when the band will be reunited in 1995. The other one is Messiah, a rather unknown man, an even more unknown vocalist, a mysterious personality so to say which is surprising, mainly because everyone that interacted with Mayhem got to be known in a way or another, be it good or bad. Instead of doing the vocals himself like he did on the first demo, Pure Fucking Armageddon, Euronymous reduced himself as a guitar only player for this record. The other members were Manheim at drums and Necrobutcher at bass, the well known founding members of Mayhem.

But what can we expect from Deathcrush? Simple, rawness and more rawness. This is how metal should sound at its most violent level. It is indiscriminately, one of the most impressive and brutal records ever made. The production sucks badly, we know why, black metal should be raw and hard to approach, only this way we can feel the magic of this genre. Cheesy high production quality is, in my opinion, specific for those bands that tend to break into mainstream, however, Mayhem clearly went with the trend specific for that time. We had the old Celtic Frost records, the brutality specific for the Hellhammer records, probably the most brutal records before Deathcrush was released, we also have Bathory’s 3 albums, not too much to count on, but this is how the early black metal scene was like, limited, isolated, deep underground and unconventional.

Euronymous for me is a fucking genius. Even though many people claim that he was a weirdo himself, and that he did not really have much to be proud of, he was indeed, a talented and creative guitar player and music composer. If even Fenriz from Darkthrone credited him for creating the black metal riffs played nowadays by the majority of black metal bands, then without a doubt, he was a genius. The dude was a well known extremist and a follower of the cult of Satan, but even so, he did not manifest himself violently at the time Deathcrush came to surface.

The record features 8 songs, 2 of them being instrumentals, or rather preludes or prologues and another one a cover of Venom‘s Witching Hour, a pretty well chosen song for a cover, and a well executed one as well. Now to tell you the truth, don’t put an effort on understanding what the vocalist says, because you’re wasting your time. Black metal was not made in order for people to understand every word the vocalist says, but to feel the music. Lyrical content comes from your own study, like a sort of homework done by kids for school tomorrow. I have to admit that Manheim was not a bad drummer, but not as good as the current one, Hellhammer. Hellhammer was seriously fit for Mayhem and for this genre, not only his attitude and conceptions were what Mayhem wanted, but his skills as a drummer as well, which are top notch. Manheim overall has a good performance, but I cannot omit his sloppy performances on songs such as the beginning one Silvester Anfang, where his drumming is out of rhythm completely.

Songs such as Chainsaw Gutsfuck and Necrolust put this album into the spotlight, being the most violent and aggressive tunes featured on this album. What can you say when you hear lyrics such as “Bleed down to the fucking core / You’re going down for fucking more / Screw your slimy guts / Driving me fucking nuts!” or “Your stinking corpse I desire / Nothing can take me higher / Fucking you till your bones break / Another one has to die”? You can only feel the brutality that this band wanted to send to the listener. The self titled track Deathcrush is also a pretty interesting one but not at the level of the aforementioned ones, however, Manheim’s drumming featured on this song is far better than in other song from this record. Another interesting song is Pure Fucking Armageddon, which is as brutal as the previous ones.

To tell you the truth, this record cannot be considered as pure black metal. It is indeed raw, it is indeed heavy, it is very brutal and clearly aggressive, but death metal was aggressive too at that time, thrash metal as well, elements that this record seem to have too. It can be seen that thrash metal elements have not been removed yet, and death metal elements are featured especially on the lyrical content, but it shows clearly that we are in for a surprise in the near future. Mayhem through this record showed promise and huge expectations developing a prototype of the future black metal sound.

All in all, this record is intended for genuine Mayhem fans and not for creepy fan-boys and wannabe fans. This record is the one that shows who is a true Mayhem fan, because we have a Mayhem here more violent than never. Time might’ve tamed these guys, but their style hasn’t changed that much over the years. Surely, the most important record they offered was the second album, and Deathcrush can be considered an inferior or not in contrast with the other Mayhem records (Wolf’s Layer Abyss, Chimera, Ordo Ad Chao). I won’t recommend this one to metal fans. Those that have it in themselves will find out that the album chooses them, the same like it chose me. If out of 1000 people, or any number of people that visits this blog, just 1 gives a try to this album and actually likes it, then that guy is a true Mayhem fan, and I take my hat off for him. If not, hey, soft music exists, so leave this beauty just for me and for a few select fans. Not all Mayhem fans appreciate this record, though like I said, you can’t be a true Mayhem fan if you don’t pass the Deathcrush test!! (inserts evil laughter)

Overall Impression: 80/100