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

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994) Album Review

Mayhem is indeed one of those bands that, back when they formed and even nowadays strikes fear. It is a band that is covered in mystery, like many early black metal pioneers. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (roughly translated as (Satan’s Secret Rites) is their first full length album released in 1994.

People that do not know this have no idea why they are called legends. Mayhem is considered the band that managed to define black metal and separate it from other genre influences such as trash, heavy and speed metal. Even though the band was born in the first wave, it manifested its climax during the second stage in the early 90s.

Mayhem at that time had a different line-up, gathering some of the most notorious and exceptional black metal artists at that time. Their core member Euronymous (credited for creating the typical black metal riff that we hear today), Varg Vikernes (Count Grishnack, Euronymous’ murder, and also the main figure behind the black metal band Burzum), Hellhammer (nowadays considered the best black metal drummer) and Attila Csihar (Tormentor’s vocalist) gathered after Dead‘s (Per Yngve Ohlin) suicide and Necrobutcher‘s departure to put the final wrap-up for this album.

It was once again delayed because of Euronymous’s death in 1993, murdered by Varg Vikernes which later he will be sentenced to prison. The album was released in 1994, delayed again by requests from Euronymous’s parents that wanted the bass lines from Varg Vikernes to be replaced, however the only member remaining Hellhammer had no bass knowledge so Varg’s bass lines remained on the album even today.

Why is this album so popular and so well received? Mainly because the icons of the black metal industry at that time contributed in making it. Euronymous at guitar, Varg at bass, Hellhammer at drums, Dead writing the lyrics and Attila doing the voice.

This album features low recording quality though slightly better than Deathcrush, not because at that time the recording process was not that good but because the black metal bands at that time considered that high quality sound is for mainstream bands and not for self proclaimed underground bands. Truth to be told, black metal was and it still is part of the underground metal, except for some select countries like the Scandinavian ones.

This is an album that does not have a beginning nor an end. Even though you can sense a variety in terms of structure in this album, it is pretty much monotone induced especially by Attila’s voice. This is probably one of the very few and rare black metal albums where the vocalist does not scream, shrieks, snarls or grunt. The voice gives you a feeling of grief, you have the impression that the vocalist somehow struggles in order to perform his task, it’s as if, the album sends you a death message. Every time there is a change of rhythm, the voice will disappear leaving space for the absolutely stunning instrumental.

This album is indeed a surprise. At that time, black metal bands such as Marduk, Dark Funeral or Satyricon focused on extremism and violence which manifested in their playing style and as well as in their lyrical content, however Mayhem’s awaited album appeared with a very unusual calm. Now don’t get me wrong, the sound and instrumentals fit in the black metal genre (sound mostly created by Mayhem itself) but it does not give you the impression of a rough, tough or raw kind of sound, you do not feel violence or aggression from it like we were used to hear in Deathcrush (1987) but rather resignation, the feeling covered in sorrow and death.

The sound of this album gives you the impression that the silence of death caused by Dead’s suicide and the murder of Euronymous managed to put some peace on their music. That is how death should be portrayed, complete silence, which sort of reminds me the name of the record house that released this album, Euronymous’s own label, Deathlike Silence Production.

The album begins with the song Funeral Fog portraying an image of a funeral, of death, covered by silence, covered by fog. The second track is in my opinion, the best track from this album, heck, probably the best track this band ever made which is covered by a huge majority of the later black metal bands, a symbol for every black metal musician. Entitled Freezing Moon this song is actually, in my opinion, the core of this album, representing this time the man that tries to remember the place where he died “by following the Freezing Moon“. It features hypnotic riffs, random and powerful blast drum beats, rhythmic bass lines and the all too unusual voice of Attila.

Cursed in Eternity and Pagan Fears follow the same pattern Funeral Fog showed until we reach another special track, the 5th track entitled Life Eternal where we again witness an explosion of blast drum beats and distorted and unconventional guitar riffs. From the Dark Past, the 6th track from this album is like Life Eternal a delight for any black metal fan. Explosive drum beats combined with unconventional bass and guitar lines accompanied by Attila’s vocals which this time features a little bit more aggression compared with the other songs.

Finally, Buried By Time and Dust and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas end this exceptional album the same way it began, with the same specific Mayhem musical traits and with the same voice Attila used from the beginning (though in Buried by Time and Dust I admit that he struggled to put a little bit more energy and effort in his vocal lines) until the end.

A splendid work. Though some songs from this album have been released with Dead as vocal, I do consider this album better with Attila doing vocals since not all the songs feature Dead as vocal unfortunately. The plus for this album gets the song Freezing Moon, which is one of the most known black metal songs and the song that has been covered the most by the other black metal bands. (Behemoth, Vader, Gorgoroth, Enslaved, etc.) De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas reigns as the most outshining black metal jewel, recognized by most black metal musicians as the most inspiring and amazing black metal record ever made. Though Mayhem will never be the same without Dead and Euronymous, their music still lives somewhere in the darkness of our hearts and souls.

Overall Impression: 96/100

Mayhem – Ordo Ad Chao (2007) Album Review

I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate Mayhem. As many of you know, Mayhem is actually a band that spawned in the first black metal wave (most notably with an EP called Deathcrush), but their climax manifested in the second wave of black metal bands with a masterpiece called De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an album that will forever be credited as the most important and the most influential black metal album.

Mayhem, as time passed, had many line-up changes. Since Dead‘s suicide and Euronymous‘s death, most people though that they will never be what they once were. Wolf’s Lair Abyss was a good start, but the experimental album Grand Declaration of War didn’t produce any reaction… any positive reaction, actually.

Ordo Ad Chao is probably the best work they ever did. This album, in my opinion, can be considered their maturity album. Fast and powerful blast drum beats done by Hellhammer that once again proves that he is the best drummer in the black metal scene, morbid and sinister vocals done by Attila Csihar that always amazes you – scream here, growl there, whisper here, this guy is totally unpredictable and truly a master among all the black metal vocalist. Clear bass lines done by Blasphemer (he claimed that Necrobutcher had absolutely nothing to do with the recording and production of this album) and a more modest performance done by Blasphemer at guitars that chose to reduce his guitar solos and riffs in favor of Attila’s truly amazing vocals and for Hellhammer’s drum solos.

I was actually amazed hearing Mayhem fans (or former fans so to say, not that they ever were though) calling it crap because of the production quality. I’m sorry guys, but this is the True Mayhem, and true Mayhem plays True Black Metal, which should be in low production quality, this way you can really feel that you’ve listened to Mayhem and that you listened to black metal. Anyway, placing production quality over artistic quality shows the fact that fans do not appreciate a band for what they write and compose, but from how good it sounds, which is really a shame and disrespect towards a band.

The fact that it is in low production quality gives the album a more sinister aura, especially when the instrumental is accompanied by Attila’s voice. You can feel this like a chant and not much of a song, sorta speak. This is not an album made for headbanging. This is an album that needs to be listened to in complete darkness and isolation and the most important thing is listening to it many times in order to understand it.

Another thing I want to add is that I credit Maniac and Dead for their impressive vocals on other Mayhem works, but they pale in contrast with Attila. The guy can actually express emotional and spiritual states through his vocals, culminating with his cries in the song Key to the Storms.

Conceptually, unlike the old Mayhem albums, this one does not focus on Satanic, gore, or evil themes like we noticed in Deathcrush or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. It focuses especially on war, mythology, and misanthropy. We hear about a global flood in Wall of Water, though I don’t really know if they were making a reference to the biblical flood or rather to a flood as a natural disaster.

By far, the best song this album has (not that the other ones aren’t good, but this one makes its presence much more felt that the others) is Illuminate Eliminate. The song spawns for almost 10 minutes and you can also hear elements from doom metal and even progressive metal in it. Attila’s vocals shine mostly in this song, expressing his emotions in a brilliant manner.

The last song, Anti, also marks the first video ever made by Mayhem, directed by Costin Chioreanu. Though the video does not really have any meaning since it only shows footage of a Mayhem concert, the song really has meaning. This song depicts the theme of war and makes references to Annunaki (check Wikipedia if you want to know more).

Overall, a masterpiece. Though I mourn the departure of Blasphemer, I am sure that if, in the near future, Mayhem will release another album, I want it to be like this one – dark, morbid, and sinister. With Attila, Necrobutcher (though I don’t really trust him when it comes to composing music) and Hellhammer will pull off something even better. Now with Teloch as composer, we might see another album in the near future. Hail Mayhem!

Overall Impression: 92/100