As Author’s Choices, every one of our authors gets the chance to pick one album that the rest of the authors need to listen to and write a short comment about.
Lords of Chaos, a drama based on several brutish happenings during the rise of Norwegian Black Metal in the early 90s and especially a band called Mayhem, has been a subject of controversial discussions since its release in 2018, not only within the Extreme Metal Scene. Even amongst the involved participants it seems that everbody had to tell a different story of the events and together with the sensationalist approach of the media towards the topic, its mysterious attraction was – and still is – unbound. Yet much more important, however, is the fact that a couple of legendary records such as A Blaze in the Northern Sky and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas were put forth during that time.
At this point I have to admit that before seeing the movie, I was not that interested in the historical foundation and heritage of Norwegian Black Metal, I just enjoyed listening to some of the records I could connect to musically, but that changed drastically during reading its name-giving and non-fictional book, so I decided to give each band and record a listen which was mentioned in there anyway.
In 2019 Mayhem announced the signing to Century Media records and an upcoming tour, followed by a new release, Daemon. Due to the aformentioned hype about the Lords of Chaos movie and interview statements by the band with direct relation to historical events described in the book, I felt myself forced to consider the record isolated from all this influences in order to be able to listen to it as unbiased as possible. This also led to the fact why Daemon was my Author’s Choice for this month – I was curious how my fellow team members would approach their listening process of the new tracks of this iconic Black Metal band.
As always in my contributions for the Author’s Choice I prefer to write about things which come to my mind when I think about the band, their release and everything around it, rather than analyzing the record song by song. So to wrap things up, I shortly point out the aspects which attracted my attention when listening to Daemon. First of all, the production turned out quite modern, each instrument can be clearly differentiated from one another giving enough space for their individual musical expressions. I did not expect that from an oldschool Norwegian Black Metal legend like Mayhem, but I have to say that it perfectly fits to the variable and dynamic songwriting and instrumentation. Daemon isn’t a mere romanticizing of the classic 90s Black Metal sound or a pure self-quotation of their previous efforts. Mayhem easily accomplishes pushing the boundaries without loosing focus on their roots and identity.
As far as I can remember, I first got in contact with Black Metal when I was about 15 years old and listened to Transilvanian Hunger by Darkthrone. Some time later I also found more Black Metal bands – also because of friends recommending classics such as Immortal, Marduk and of course also Mayhem. Back then, when I first listened to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas it was mainly because of the vocals that I could not connect with this album – shame on me I know the historical significance of this release. Nevertheless, I hastily closed the Mayhem chapter and dived deeper into other bands. When the infamous Lords of Chaos movie came up, though, the topic Mayhem also came up again more frequently. Thus, I had to relisten the music, because, as I knew, my musical taste had changed several times already within fifteen years. Again, the album mentioned above still did not strike me – although the guitars on “Freezing Moon” are still undisputably one of the best within the entire genre. However, I listened to Deathcrush for the first time and found my way towards Mayhem with this and further releases. Thus, I was also very interested when they signed to Century Media and announced a new album. Although I was not on my way to kill Euronymous, I kinda liked the sound on this release. As many have said already – there are a lot of features that can be said to be “regular Black Metal features.” This is, in fact, a “regular” Black Metal release – but I guess the conservative perspective of the music is a key aspect especially to this genre – if you’re not Darkthrone. Thus, I have to admit that this release is quite good as an introduction to Black Metal and also has several positive sides (apart from the clean vocals) – but I also have to admit that I will most probably not listen to it again – because I still can’t find too much interest in this conservative side of Black Metal.
To be honest, I had never listened to Mayhem. Why? No idea. A few months ago, I saw a video on YouTube, it was a live show with a full performance of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and that’s when they got me. So I was really looking forward to the new release and wanted to see them live – I had the chance in to see them in Oberhausen on the 22nd, but my work said “No!” At least I can talk about the new album a little.
First of all I love the production. All the instruments are set at the right spots and you can separate them from another. I don’t like these garage-sounding mono-recordings where you just hear a sough and nothing else.
Especially the bass sounds great to my ears and there are some really hypnotic runs in there. Together with the drumwork, we have a great base for great music.
Next thing: The vocals. Each time the opera-like voice enters I’m surprised. It’s a special flavour in the songs and it feels somehow special. I really don’t need a whole album or even song with it, but a few phrases in a song to season it works great for me.
I’m pretty sure that some of my author friends here think differently… Roman?
In every artform there‘s some kind of common sense when it comes to the „greats“. In the horror-movie genre these would be George R. Romero or John Carpenter. Everyone who hears their names knows that they are among the best in their peers. Mayhem are Carpenter and Romero fused together, only for the artform Black Metal. Every fan of Black Metal knows this band, their history and why they are important for the genre. But the personal socialisation plays an important role in admiring those greats. In my case, I must confess, that traditional Black Metal doens‘t scratch the itch, when it comes to Black Metal. I grew into this genre with Deafheaven, Downfall of Gaia or Numenorean. So I am very new to this kind of music. This record sounds like the typical Black Metal album, if you want to give an introduction to the sound and style to a stranger to this artform. Not my taste, but surely a treat for fans and purists alike.
Extreme Metal, in some examples Black Metal, and myself will not become very close friends, and it doesn’t change with this album. There are some songs and albums I like from the genre (but there is more a kind of Doom in it), but this album I doesn’t even come close to that. I heard the album and I was sometimes really surprised how different the music is in its songs, some other bands from the same genre are 59 Minutes of the same strumming-sound. But I am not an expert in this genre and I think the other members of TMB can more appreciate Mayhem. For me, the hour of music wasn’t irritating, but it wasn’t enjoyable too.