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OK, first things first…AIIIEEEE! That drum sound! Somebody slap Mr. Von Blomberg with a sledgehammer for allowing that awful triggered sound to dominate this album and for the album to be released like that! It’s even worse than Krisiun, for Pete’s sake! Other than that, I cannot fault this album for its perfect production—the guitar sound is full and crunchy, and the bass has an evil fuzz tone which is showcased on intros to both “Dark Night of the Soul” and “Slaughter of Dreams”, and on that latter tune the bass dominates the verses as well. The title track ends the album with a lurching doom feel alternating with brief bursts of thrash, erupting into a frenzied blast beat middle part, and is one of the better tunes on display here.
Song-wise, this album is better than “A Grand Declaration of War” because it is much more accessible than that album was, easier to follow and swallow. The songs are much more straightforward than the stop/start jerky feel that “Grand Declaration…” suffered from, and the album flows much better for it. Terrifying blast beats run rampant and the double kick work is the fastest I’ve heard since Pete Sandoval on “Opening of the Gates” on Morbid Angel’s “Gateways to Annihilation”, which ought to tell you something. That being the fact that Hellhammer still has it going on in the drum realm, no question there.
Maniac, well, he still sounds like Black Metal 101 most of the time—high, raspy, and screechy—but he does get in some sinister spoken parts and lower snarling as well. Still, he doesn't have the same level of character and personality as the likes of Isahn or Abbath Doom Culta, or even Dani Filth.
Blasphemer really comes into his own on this album as a guitarist, too, as he cranks out an impressive array of riffing ranging from power chords to the usual tremolo picking to the dissonant little Voi Vod-sounding parts that littered “Grand Declaration…”, to chunky palm muting, it’s the Prego approach to riffing.
This is a good album, but overall, something is lacking, a little something indefinable...hard to explain. Parts of this album feel as though Mayhem are trying a little too hard to impress with how fast and extreme they can play, and it's too much of a good thing. It's excessive, and this is not always good. It's lacking more in the way of dynamics and feeling--it's TOO cold and calculated, not enough humanity. You can blather on about how "black metal is about hatred and coldness, yattayatta", but really, this album would sound more convincing if some real, unadulterated rage were present to go with the furious blasting and mad riffing. This is nowhere near as prominent as many other of the great black metal bands, and I think Mayhem need to either rethink their approach or call it quits, sad to say. As they stand right now, they seem particularly impotent, and this is not acceptable for an "elder statesman" band like them.
Standout tracks: “Dark Night of the Soul”, "Rape Humanity With Pride", “Slaughter of Dreams”, "Chimera"