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I had waited to complete (at the time, OAC hadn't been made yet) my mayhem collection, because I had heard bad things about Chimera. Sure, I had heard bad things about GDoW, but that was more due to the fact that Mayhem experimented a lot on that, and that usually draws flak from a closeminded fanbase. So for a while I stocked up on bootlegs and other knicknacks until I finally got around to downloading a sample from Chimera off of Mayhem's website. It didn't sound too bad, and I wondered where all the cries of "sellout" came from. I reasoned that Mayhem might have done what a lot of bands do when they make a shitty record, and that is put the best song on your site so people will think all the songs on that record are that good. I decided to get it anyways.
What I initially thought about it was a fear that they had spent more time packaging it nicely than they did actually writing and recording. Indeed, the digipack was a 4-fold with pictures of all 4 bandmates mugging the camera. As well, the composite booklet made it hard to read the lyrics on some of the songs and looked kinda pretentious. Nevertheless, I plunked it in. Let me tell you, this is the first proper black metal effort they've done since DMDS.
Speaking of DMDS, I want to address something first. For the "fans" of Mayhem who want them to make another DMDS ad infinitum, I have a simple task: Go to your local record store that sells black metal (over in the SF bay area we have rasputin and Amoeba) and pick up a copy of this seminal black metal record called "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" by the black metal heavyweight Mayhem. There, now you have another DMDS. That's about as close as you're ever going to get to hearing another Mayhem DMDS. Dead's dead, and so is euronymous, and they were the principle songwriters of DMDS (though Attila wrote some lyrics). Do you honestly expect them to make another DMDS? I will henceforth address Chimera as an album unto its own, and avoid comparison to past albums. Apples and oranges, fellows.
Anywho, this album bitchsmacks you from the very beginning with meat n' potatoes black metal. That one, I suspect, was a middle finger to those who thought Mayhem had gone soft. Now that they got the blastbeats out of the way, it was time for another approach. It's in the next song, Dark Night of the Soul, where Blasphemer's genius starts to show. And to further the apples and oranges statement, I must illustrate Euronymous and Blasphemer's different styles. Note that I said DIFFERENT, not better or worse. Euronymous is a riff based writer. Each song is good because the individual riffs are good. Blasphemer is more of a holistic writer. He is a texture based writer, with countless seemingly amorphous riffs coming together to form a haunting picture. Each way achieves atmosphere, they're just different approaches. Dark Night of the Soul is one of the songs on Chimera that best shows that distinctive style. The cool thing is about it that it doesn't have to blast 100% of the time to sound evil. In fact, the relative doom-like slowness of the first half of that song only makes the fast part seem faster.
Maniac's voice, as well, peaks here. While he's still recognizably Maniac, his performance is a lot more forceful and venomous, taking on a noticable Dead influence, especially on My Death, Slaughter of Dreams, and the title track. His versatile performance greatly helps this album, as while it's not as outrageous as its antecessor in terms of tempo changes, Chimera doesn't settle into a rut, and it manages to be repetitive in the atmospheric parts and jarring in the transitional parts. While there are songs that are all slow (My Death, Chimera) and songs that are all fast (Slaughter of Dreams, You Must Fall), all songs are satisfactorily varied, in some degree.
Hellhammer's performance here is IMO his best. While it's not his fastest, it's the most consistent and professional. One complaint I had about OAC was the sloppiness of the drumming. Here, it's flawlessly played, yet still distinctively Hellhammer. If you've heard Hellhammer play, you know what I mean. Rounding out the lineup is Necrobutcher, who, for the first (and probably last) time, he's actually a significant part of the album. His tone is meaty as hell, and his performance here is greasy and filthy in all its low-pitched glory. As well, he's a driving force in songs like Impious Devious Leper Lord and the aforementioned Dark Night of the Soul.
So, really, once you drop the closed mind and try to accept this for what it is, it's really quite marvellous. It has a distinct atmosphere and it is a haunting one at that.