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This album seems like an afterthought with so much nonsense and controversy surrounding this band. Varg and Snorre murdered Euronymous, who was perhaps the most influential person in the black metal scene at the time. There is also all the other extracurricular activities these guys participated in. How much time do these guys honestly dedicate to making a quality album, when they are out burning churches? How about Euronymous running his studio, and record shop? Euronymous was also gallivanting hither and yon getting the word out there that band-mate Dead committed suicide, that they made necklaces of his skull, ate his brain, etc. He did this just to make Mayhem seem as evil a group of guys as they come. How is this leaving time for Mayhem to write a decent album? I don't think they really did have time, and I think the album suffered for it. Too bad Varg and Snorre didn't "go big or go home" by off-ing Attila as well as Euronymous. In my opinion, Attila was the weakest link in an album that could only be considered mediocre.
This album lacks character. The album sounds like pretty much every other black metal album available in the early stages of the genre. It is fuzzy, filled with tremolo picking, blast beats galore, and lots of double bass. What it also has a lot of, is Attila Csihar's annoying schizophrenic voice. His voice is excruciatingly loud on this album. This exacerbates his almost maniacal singing style, which ranges from grunts, gutteral growls, snarls, and incoherent mumbling and then an ejaculation that sounds like a bark (see 3:15 of Funeral Fog). This strange style of singing is detrimental in the sense that it does not add a degree of mystery, emotion, or even implied insanity. It takes away from what could have been a decent album. While I was listen to the album, I stop paying attention to the music, and instead try to figure out what the hell Attila is doing.
When I do have a chance to focus on the music, there really isn't a lot there. Sure, the guitars are fast and there is decent drumming, but it lacks substance. It's standard chord progressions with massive amounts of distortion. The production is so muddy, that the chord progressions themselves are difficult to discern. There is a half-assed solo in Life Eternal (2:45-3:00) where it's a lot of whammy bar usage but not very technical. The drumming is competent, but soulless. It seemed like Hellhammer was blasting away mindlessly, because the drums sound extremely triggered. Double bass alternates with blast beats during the fast sections, and there is ample reliance on the ride cymbal during the slower sections. The fills moving from one speed to another appear contrived, and don't have much flair. They seem to be done only as a necessity. Varg is inaudible except for a few fleeting moments in the album, namely parts of Life Eternal (see about 1:15). Other than that, the murderer barely registers.
Don't get sucked into all the shenanigans this band was a part of at the time of this album's release. This album has very little quality musicianship, atmosphere, and is overall boring. There are no interesting riffs, very little diversity, and what diversity there is, can be attributed to Csihar's squealing. The best I can do for a reference as far as the vocals go, is Niklas Kvarforth. If you like listening to this style of croaking on Shining's albums, then you're in for a treat. If you are more interested in listening to a quality black metal release that has historical significance, go with Enslaved's "Vikingligr Veldi", or albums 2-5 by Darkthrone.
This is probably the album surrounded with the most dramatic background of tragic happenings. Firstly, there was the suicide of Per “Dead” Ohlin and secondly the murder of Euronymous. If you support Vikernes or Euronymous doesn’t matter since it is irrelevant to the music of this album, however one cannot help to listen to and, God forbid, enjoy the content of this album without referring to the tragic emotional background in which this was created. Ohlin committed suicide before the album was released, but he did write some of the lyrics. He is best known for the lyrics of “Freezing Moon”. Euronymous was more directly involved with the album because he played guitar. In light of this, you can clearly see the direct connotation (Euronymous) and the more indirect connotation (Ohlin). Which is the strongest? I personally will go with the indirect connotation.
The indirect connotation conjures up the personality and subjective existential trauma of Ohlin’s life. He was known as an outsider in the true sense of the word – quiet, with a morbid sense of humour, and obsessed with death. All members of this band can be seen as outsiders, but Ohlin was one in the original sense of the word and this had an indirect and very strong influence on the aura of this album. “Freezing Moon” addresses a very desolate, morbid, suicidal, and general outsider kind of concept which is almost unimaginable. The music is quite trance-like and also theatrical in the sense that the rhythm embodies a ritualistic aura that can be best appreciated by distant observation. This distance is deconstructed by the aesthetic features of the track that embodies a kind of darkness that manifests in the raw vocals, the repetition of basic, yet powerful guitar riffs, and a guitar solo that cuts through the thickest ice.
In comparison to the first track, “Freezing Moon” is much deeper because the first track is quite an overrated piece that contains mumbled vocals and music that is so poorly constructed that it is almost good in an ironic way. Don’t get me wrong, “Funeral Fog” is not shit, but it embodies a certain element of the direct connotation in the sense that it is like a ghoul mutilating an already mutilated body.
The longer the album plays the rawer and darker it gets. The vocals are fascinating. Dissed by some for being overrated in general, you cannot deny that the vocals perfectly fit in with the raw atmosphere. The vocalist constantly switches between screams, mumbling, frustrated cries and unique growls. We can argue for hours about the guitar riffs, but the thing is that these basic guitar riffs embody a very strong theatrical element which is combined with an ever-changing aura that conjures up metaphorical storms in the mind of the listener.
The last few minutes of “Pagan Fears” gets quite frustrating because there is no alteration in the riffs, but it feels like the band did this on purpose so that the listener has to cut through these dense waves in order to be blown away by the high speed introduction of “Life Eternal”. Hereafter, the track flows into a very rhythmic piece of music wherein the vocals contain an old school metal kind of feeling. The guitar solo on this one is very high-pitched, but also quite faint. It is interesting because it might joke around with the frustrations of the listener. In some way, a lot of the tracks on this album sound very much the same. I would not say that it sounds the same in a negative way, but it could get frustrating to some listeners depending on individual taste (as always). I personally would say that it sounds the same in the sense of Mayhem constructing a coherent style of raw black metal that contains a strong analogy.
This analogy manifests as something that causes the album to lay a cornerstone for the future of black metal in one way, but also a theatrical piece that is so unique that it is anti-theatrical in the sense that you constantly hear the muted voice of Ohlin in the background. This album is not rebellious; I would rather see it as a very sad, mourning piece that seeks to embody the spirit of Ohlin. The title track at the end of this album is, together with “Freezing Moon”, probably the most outstanding of the whole album with a very ritualistic sound in the sense that the guitar riffs sound like an orchestra from hell that spawns on the devil’s playground. The distant demonic cry that the vocalist gives in the beginning of this track is very scary. The guitar riffs are mostly high-pitched and fit perfectly with the high speed, blasting drums.
You can be directly connected to an album and play the guitar along with your corpse paint and general spooky appearances drenched in myths, but in the end nothing will beat the indirect connection of the tortured individual that constantly embodies the metaphorical theater, just to flee from it again and rest on the freezing moon.
Mayhem are perhaps the most infamous black metal band out there for a variety of reasons. Inspired by the raw sound of Venom and the brash sound of Motorhead and, more prominently, Celtic Frost, bassist Necromancer, drummer Kjetil and guitarist/vocalist Euronymous came together in 1984 to form the band. This lineup was short lived, releasing the Pure Fucking Armageddon EP, before Euronymous shifted to primarily focusing on guitar. In his place as vocalist stepped in Maniac, and released the EP Deathcrush that sold all of its limited 1,000 copies. Following this Maniac left and was replaced by Dead on vocals and that was where Mayhem's more famous side came about. At first he would slice himself on stage and the band would have the impaled severed heads of various animals on poles but then tragedy struck when he was found dead with a shotgun wound and sliced wrists and Mayhem were without a vocalist again. In August 1993 tragedy once again struck, with Euronymous being murdered by band-mate Varg, who would become even more famous for his work with Burzum and later be imprisoned for 21 years for the murder of Euronymous. By this point it would have seemed likely that a Mayhem release would never see the light of day. Come 1994, people were proven wrong however.
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is considered to be both one of the most influential and one of the best black metal releases of all time as well as being hugely debated. With Hellhammer on drums, Euronymous' guitar work and Varg on bass coupled with the iconic and instantly recognizable dark and morose vocals from Attila, the band were geared up to release said album containing eight songs and whizzing past in forty six minutes. The sound of the album pretty much set the bar for any straight up black metal bands that did not feel the need to mess around with symphonies nor clean vocals, using flurries of lightning fast tremolo picking, crazily speedy blast beats and some of the most agonized shrieks laid to record from Attila. Closing the package is probably the finest black metal production job ever recorded. Many bands preferred the fuzzy, raw sound that could be gained from recording in such areas as a band member's garage, but Mayhem showed that a dark and atmospheric sound could still be garnered from the listener actually being able to hear every note crisply. The production job is not as clean as, say, The Black Album, and is still very dark and has a raw feel to it but instead of the guitars being inaudible over the frenzied drumming, every instrument is perfectly audible with some great tones to them.
The song craft itself on here is marvelous and the album itself is a masterpiece. The opener, Funeral Fog, stands out as one of the best on the record with its memorable and eerie nature and who could ever forget Attila roaring "fu-nerrrr-al.... FOG!" in that really strange, almost alien sound he has to his voice. Cursed In Eternity has some of the closest to traditional black metal shrieks found on the album, with Attila almost sounding like the bog-standard generic black metal vocalist on that song as well as there being some nice stop-start drumming sections half-way through the song on top of some really memorable riffing. However the real horrific beauty and genius of this album is found when it is left to play out in its entirety, instead of just skipping to one or two of the songs. The sound of this album is one of absolute brutality. Sure, it may get a little repetitive and samey with time, as with almost all black metal albums, but this is certainly one horrifying ride through the darkest corridors of the human mind. The atmosphere on display is one of foreboding as if the band are warning the listener to not try and understand why they do what they do, and to just go along with it, for nothing about this album makes any sense at all and yet it never fails to astound me.
This is one of the best if not the best and certainly the most instantly recognizable black metal albums of all time and, for once, is an album that actually lives up to its reputation. I recommend this to anyone looking for three quarters of an hours worth of raw, brutal black metal.
Mayhem have been through quite a lot since their inception in 1984. Led by the late, great guitarist Euronymous, they led the charges against all other forms of metal, creating among the ruins what became known the world over as black metal. Despite the many turmoils of the band, from Dead's suicide to Euronymous' murder by Varg Vikernes to the many church burnings (also committed by Vikernes), the band still knew how to make a good black metal album. While on recent releases they are becoming more experimental, quite possibly on the path to losing the sound that made them who they are today. Back in 1994, they created what is hands down the quintessential statement of the Norwegian black metal scene: DE MYSTERIIS DOM SATHANAS.
This album is darker than anything else produced during this time. Mayhem was always ahead of the scene, creating faster and much more evil material than their contemporaries like Darkthrone, Immortal, Ulver, Emperor, and the notorious Burzum, home to the aforementioned Varg Vikernes. While those bands all made excellent contributions to the scene, none of them had the same impact as this. It's an album like this that has everything that the bands these days have adapted for their own aural attacks. And we have Mayhem to thank for that.
Every aspect of this violent release is a marvel in low-production releases. The riffs are incredibly evil-sounding, and with the incredible skills of Euronymous and (apparent) session guitarist Blackfire, they are more destructive then ever. The vocals are completely inhuman, provided by none other than Attila Csihar, a talented vocalist who sadly deserves way more than he receives. The drums are quite literally light speed fast, thanks to the incomprehensible talents of Hellhammer, master drummer extraordinaire. The atmosphere is complete darkness, bringing to mind images of bloodstained ruins, churches ablaze, and the lord of lies himself. I find it incredibly difficult to imagine a way to attempt to replicate the tones and sounds on this album. They guitar tones are so atmospheric, it sounds otherworldly. Every instrument can be heard with clarity, making it more haunting, given that its mastermind, Euronymous, was killed before it was released, and here his murderer plays bass like no one's business along side the once-alive great guitarist.
This album is completely flawless. Every instrument is completely audible despite its lo-fi production. This is the definitive black metal album and it will remain that way for generations to come, forever influencing the young'uns in how it was done in Norway.
This black metal band I feel doesn't really need an introduction since they've been dishing out metal for this genre as far back as their founding in 1984. The album is a true classic among the black metal community. Anyone who doubts this synopsis can pretty much stuff it because this release was so well put together that it deserves an honorary mention. I'm not a huge black metal fan, but this album has me hooked. It's one of those albums that you can listen to repeatedly and never get sick of because it's so original, fast, furious, evil, eerie and Satanic. That sums up Mayhem on here.
The music is composed of guitar frenzies featuring fast tremolo picking chords, slower eerie pieces, bass guitar parts that are dark and dreary and drums that keep up with the music. Pretty much all of the songs are very memorable and unique. Attila's vocals are so evil and possessed. Both guitarists Euronymous (RIP 1993) and Blackthorn dish out some great riffs that stick to the mind eternally. The guitar sound is so unique and creative. It's fast like I said before, but very well played out. The chords are mostly picked with fury and anger. No letup on that front.
Even Count Grishnackh's bass guitar was audible here. The guitars aren't continuously playing fast, but they do have plenty of furious guitar work during most of the lengthy songs. Amazing what they put together I mean 8 tracks that clocks in around 46 minutes in length. They're really focus was I think on making the guitar the primary focal point of the album. It sets the tone for the dark vocals and Hellhammer's drum outputs. Really good tracks to download would be "Freezing Moon", "Pagan Fears" and "From The Dark Past".
The mixing and production are entirely solid on every aspect. You can hear the guitar melodies, bass guitar working, vocals well mixed in to augment the music, and the drums were very audible. There's nothing that went wrong here, everything was mixed in unison. There are no negative aspects to this release. It's one of the best black metal albums of all time. I say this because it's based on fact, not opinion. If you're a black metal fan and don't own this release, YouTube the songs that I mentioned and you'll want to pick it up right away.
In summary, here's a Mayhem album that stands out from all of the rest of them. It's their best album no doubt. Intensity was a huge factor here. But not every track like I said is extremely fast or extremely slow. There was one segment of the bass that was slow and played by itself without the guitars or drums, but it didn't last very long. Hellhammer blasts away here with great drum outputs that fit the music entirely. Attila's vocals were amazingly unique and dreary. It was perfect to have him on here to well fit the music. Own this album now!
How the fuck is this so loved? This is some of the worst black metal ever released. There is no redeeming factor in this whatsoever its beyond fast drums, but you can get that with any black metal band and the rest of the music will probably be much better.
The first song, Funeral Fog, features the same riff repeated for 5 minute, and takes an age to kick in, and when Attila Csihar does start his vocals, it sounds terrible, slurring his words and changing pitch to sound "tortured". I have no problems with black metal vocalists attempting to sound tortured. Pest (Gorgoroth), Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone), V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Anaal Nathrakh) and Dead from the very band I'm reviewing all managed without sounding like a total wannabe. In Freezing Moon, after the forgettable solo, Attila begins "singing", actually sounding more like a NWOBHM singer who's been smoking 20-a-day since 1980, and at other times tries some death growls, poorly executed, of course.
But it's not like Attila Csihar is the only thing ruining this album. The music is awful, too. Every riff on this album sounds the same, and it's not even a good riff to keep recycling. It's almost as if the band were too lazy to write more than one. No riff changes. No tempo changes. Just the same shitty riff recycled for 8 songs. If someone played me Funeral Fog and told me it was Cursed In Eternity, I'd have no trouble believing it. As I stated before, the drums are fast and is the only thing on this that's any good, but you can get fast drums from better black metal bands like Immortal and Marduk, and they actually have decent vocalists and guitarists who don't re-use the same crappy BM riff.
This is a truly awful black metal album. I'd recommend you invest in Darkthrone's A Blaze In The Northern Sky, either of the first two Gorgoroth albums, Satyricon's Dark Medieval Times, or At the Heart of Winter by Immortal instead of this. Avoid this crap at all costs unless you're the biggest black metal fanboy ever, in which case you probably already have and love it.
"Woeful people with pale faces
Staring obsessed at the moon
Some memories will never go away
And they will forever be here"
Portraying the ungovernable raging force of darkness and the frightening reality of a grim end requires an artist's imagination perceptive of those particular features of existence in order to form powerful, representative shapes reflecting the responsive horror and dread of a human soul, and the intuitive insight capable of grasping the universal purpose of these dark realities, communicated in the ripping voice and violent terror that defines the sound of the transcendent music of cold black nothingness. Ominous legends of destructive power and evil, Mayhem destroys the commonalities of classic heavy metal in a process of sinister reassembly in shattered forms of its defining components, plunging the rearranged formation into the black abyss of human torment and fear, shredding all unfounded ideas toward pretense and glory in a shredding execution of hardcore-style abrasive motion intensified to the extreme of human speed and stamina. Lacerating riffs and fascinatingly inventive melodies in the speeding tremolo technique simultaneously assault and possess the listener in a relentless streaming determination toward the void of death... or "Life Eternal". Mesmerizing dissonant lead guitar from the deranged conceptual dreams of Euronymous screams for the beyond in anxious events of strikingly articulate expressions of desolate wandering and mournful yearning. Piercing and stunningly captivating, the guitar work on this album elevates a standard of desecrating nocturnal descent and nihilistic reduction in underground metal, in deceptively involved rhythmic combinations of inexorable, lawless, devastating riffs, dictating adversarial rhythmic constructions formed from severe, frenzied warping of traditional heavy metal and hardcore styles, and grounded in barbarian Hellhammer's coldly surgical and commandingly decisive performance of annihilative, simplistic percussive demolishing.
"Everything here is so cold
Everything here is so dark
I remember it as from a dream
In the corner of this time"
The disturbed yet penetratingly aware thoughts of Dead are given a dynamic, wildly eccentric voice by Attila Csihar, an apparent lunatic whose tonally dramatic, provoking and distinctive vocal approach is ultimate in delivery and imaginative in arrangement. Not as haunting as Dead's enigmatic screaming, Attila's voice grates and unsettles through mid-line fluctuations of expressive tone, like a ceremony to ponder varying degrees of emotional impact rendered by the given subject, entirely severe and displeasing in tone, as it should be, and curiously meditative in articulation. These vocals are mostly preposterously maniacal and intensely confrontational, but in a few select places, particularly during the closing title-track, Attila's fearlessly theatrical singing expresses a mournfully reverent quality through chant-like ceremonial laments of a distinctly imperial character, evoking a strange aura of the esoteric against the unforgiving, dark and furious music.
"A dream of another existence
You wish to die
A dream of another world
You pray for death to release the soul
One must die to find peace inside
You must get eternal"
The production enhances atmospheric presence through an organic quality of cave-like instrumental resonance, which is given reasonable clarity and distinction in the sound, with notable features being the powerful presence of thundering sound supplied to Hellhammer's drums, and the definitively 'necro' tone of the guitars, which radiates a certain merciless frigidity. This cold and lifeless guitar tone is undeniable, and when mysteriously beautifully streaming and nostalgic melodies gradually emerge and take form through this tone in vividly harsh riffs, the sublime effect of dark beauty is inescapable. Speeding currents of detonating riffs conspire with pulverizing, slow cryptic reductions to awe and terrify in aberrantly defiling songs of simplistic, familiar structure, balancing each attribute of pattern definition toward its hope-crushing antagonism. This is a direct reflection of the thematic concentration, which is an exploration of those ideas condemned by the common mindset as 'evil' and 'dark', natural forces (nocturnal coldness) and oppositional thought processes (Antichrist) that threaten the established social order. These considerations are given a decidedly abstract and obscure character of expression framed in an archaic and primitive sound-picture; secret knowledge ascertained only by the authentically investigative and passionate spirits, denying the weak need of obviousness in artistic tangibility. In the simple formations of these savage, grisly, instinctual riffs of indefinite chaos, there is a tenebrous world of discovery into which one must enter and explore to ever grasp a complete understanding of the meaning of this darkly beautiful and violently alienated music known as black metal.
Not that it's necessarily possible to 'objectively' review any work of music to a fault, but when you're up against something with the wealth of history of a De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, there are even more considerations than usual. This is an album loaded with infamy, for reasons obvious to everyone. I mean, one of the members of the band killed another member. Churches were burned. Angels cried, and devils laughed their hooves off. Somewhere, a kitten or puppy was probably crushed, but nobody noticed. But let's look at the more 'positive' elements to its construction and release: it was fundamental to the careers of some of the most prominent figures in all of the black metal genre, considered so even in today's world.
There is really no comparable lineup to that of Mayhem's full-length debut, and there will perhaps never be. Sure, as far as individual talents are concerned, such collaborations have existed, but not with this level of name dropping. You had the band's leader/writer, the late Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous) on guitars. Jan Axel Blomberg (Hellhammer), drummer for many well known projects, handing out one of the most voracious beatings of his entire career. Varg Vikernes (Burzum), the most loved and hated individual in the entire genre, was bringing up the bass end. The prolific Attila Csihar slathering his unique, grimy vocals all over the rush of the rhythms. Perhaps the least noteworthy individual on the album is other guitarist, Snorre Ruch (known here as Blackthorn), but even this is a man whose underground credibility is well known due to his creation Thorns, which is perhaps the most recognized cult industrial/black metal act to date. Fuck, had they just added Fenriz on the cowbell, the record might have simply exploded, never to be experienced by mortal ears.
Yes, every time I read through that roster, I find it staggering to say the least, but it wouldn't mean a damn thing to me if the music wasn't there to back it up. So, does it add up? For the most part, yes, but in some ways, not. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is a highly divisive album, and understandably so, because all manner of personal opinions and investment in the history of its members will always rise to the fore, influencing the emotions of the listener. But in reality, it's just a very tight, solid black metal record that may very well be the best representation of the 'generic' album of its class. There is very little variation woven through the writing, and most of the tracks spend 5-6 minutes blazing through the same 2-3 hooks. About the only element that distinguishes it from the tens of thousands of albums to follow in direct worship would be the vocals of Csihar, which trade in the predictable rasping for a more ghoulish tone, as if some pale aberration were retching all over the carefully packaged contents of the rhythm section.
There was another album around this time that cast a similar shadow: Transilvanian Hunger, one of Darkthrone's numerous masterworks. Both albums are extremely straightforward, with very few surprises hidden amongst the pacing: blast beats and repetitious riffing. I would say that Fenriz and friends easily win out by comparison, because the songs are so much more raw, cutting and effective, with enough character that they completely overcome their perceived flaws. But De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas does feature a few elements you won't find there. I already mentioned the vocals. For another, the bass is much louder, an integral ballast to the forceful momentum of each track. This creates a more tangible, if less haunting emanation. The drums are likewise much stronger than Darkthrone. Blomberg is unquestionably considered the 'greatest' of black metal drummers, more through his history and projects than a technical measurement, but he's a living storm with Mayhem, just not one that kicks up much out of the ordinary. Surely, his work here is a template for the many thousands to follow, but I found his performance here more efficient than interesting.
The lyrics are actually quite simple. Dark images pandering to the most generic of concepts, like vampires, the occult, heresy, and of course that age old standby: death. They're rarely poetic or especially insightful, and they don't conjure up images beyond the expected, but I have to say that ultimately, they service the music quite well, even though so much of it moves at the same relative pace. But when you've got Attila involved, you can take even the most pedestrian and predictable of ideas and squeeze something memorable from them, and that is exactly what happens, as the prim prose is wielded like a cautionary parable from a perverse prophet of the shadows. A lecher. An unpleasant individual that is more apt to smell your blood from the pulpit and lick its lips than offer you the blood of Christ. I actually wish more bands had adhered to a style like this, perhaps not with the same impoverished tonality, but just given their style more character. As it stands, too many have fallen to the belabored rasping camp.
Almost all of the eight songs are straight charges, and all incorporate blasting in at least some capacity. That isn't to say they are completely monotonous, for many of the tracks do have slower bridges where the eeriness of the proceedings is amplified, like the spacious, droning segue which bisects "Freezing Moon", or the brazen tremolo picking meets Black Sabbath breakdown in "From the Dark Past". The most intense of the compositions is "Buried by the Time and Dust", which brakes for no myth or man, but fails to become dull thanks to Attila's incipient lunatic raving and the subtle twists in notation that Ruch and Euronymous evoke. But my favorites are probably "Pagan Fears", with its compelling, rocking motions, or "Cursed in Eternity", of which the rhythms remind me of Emperor's epic In the Nightside Eclipse, sans the symphonic elements. "Funeral Fog" and the closing, savage title track represent the next best crop of material.
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas does suffer from a small degree of bloat, but that being the case, I still find it myself able to listen through all 46 minutes without complaining. The dark bombast of the album's low end rhythm mechanics provides enough of a fascinating foundation for Attila. The production in general is quite good for the time, especially compared to something with a shadier sound, like the early Immortal albums (which I enjoy for their own reasons). All told, I have never felt the same pining for this as I do for Ablaze in the Northern Sky, Det Som Engang Var, In the Nightside Eclipse, Pentagram, or Frost. I feel like its all too easy to let the roster speak for itself and sway the judgment of quality, but in fact, the music here is just not that impressive beyond the consistency of its delivery. Whereas most of those aforementioned records are brimming with astute evil or majesty through their very building blocks, this album always felt like it was relying on Csihar to perform the sacrificial rites, which he does. Mayhem had a very good album on their hands here, perhaps great, and it's one of a kind as far as their own discography, but personally I've never found it a top of the line experience.
If you know anything about black metal, you will undoubtedly have heard of Mayhem and their supposed classic “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. The hype surrounding this album and the people involved in creating it is phenomenal, reaching almost cult levels of fanaticism. Now I can’t help but ask myself, what the hell is it all for?
This album is probably the greatest disappointment I have encountered in all my metal life. These are seven of the most repetitive, tone-deaf miss-compositions ever to befall my ears from any genre. I simply cannot understand why anyone would pretend to enjoy “De Mysteriis…”, other than because of the controversy surrounding it, and if that is the case it all seems like a juvenile bore to me.
Now, before this begins to sound like a rant, I should mention that there is a modicum of talent present on the album, in the form of Euronymous and Hellhammer. The guitars and drums are the only noteworthy elements, salvaging this raucous joke from a sub-10% rating. Euronymous wrote some decent riffs here, making his untimely passing all the more tragic. One can only imagine what great things he could have done for the genre had he been surrounded by other talented musicians. There are many memorable sections on the album, showing his prodigal black metal vision. His slow power chords and excellent tremolo riffs would resonate in the genre for years to come.
Hellhammer showed much promise very early in his career with “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. The many double-times and excellent blast-beats feel almost prophetical of the great heights he would later reach as a black metal legend. Sadly, however, this is as far as positive aspects of this album go.
Attila Csihar is a well-known name in extreme metal. He has had many notable vocal performances with talented bands such as Anaal Nathrakh, Keep of Kalessin and Aborym. One wouldn’t have predicted this, listening to “De Mysteriis…” back in 1994, however. The vocals on this album are probably the main factor contributing to my disdain for it. It is a pitiful mess. Half the time he simply recites the lyrics in a rhythm completely mismatched to the music, to the point where one wonders if he was even in the same studio at all. The rest of the vocals are a horribly constipated gargle so torturous that I couldn’t bear the whole duration of the album, having given up listening to it by track 3 the first time around. It gets particularly painful around the 2:00 mark on “Life Eternal”.
The fact that Hellhammer lowered Varg’s bass after the all-too-publicized murder is barely noticed, because the bass is actually quite prominent on most of the tracks, but that’s more of a curse than a blessing, really. The bass just makes the noise more indistinct with reverberating notes inharmoniously punctuating the music and ruining whatever good the guitars and drums were doing.
I suppose this album was very scary and impressive in 1994, but I urge whoever listened to it at the time of its release to give it another go. This time, ignore all nostalgia about the excitement it caused when you first heard it, ignore all the controversy and hype, and ignore the elitist opinion. Turn your attention to the music alone. Then rejoice for all the choice we have today, and thank God that black metal doesn’t sound like this anymore.
I’m certain the initial effect of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” was profound. I’m sure everyone was very proud to be so dark as to be listening to a group of murdering, neo-nazi extremists. Today, however, there’s just so much more out there. Amidst all the excellent black metal that released after 1994, this simply isn’t good enough anymore. The production is praised undeservedly, with over-distorted guitars and irritating effects, over-accentuated drums and bass and an overall unpleasant noise, casting an unfortunate shadow over the decent guitar- and drumwork. Half of the musicians were untalented, and all of the hype was unnecessary.
If this wasn’t such a revered album, so widely recommended, I would have stopped listening 3 minutes after it began. Since it is, I held on, trying to see the point, waiting for it to get better. It doesn’t. The highlight is the minute before Attila opens his mouth on every song. Do your hearing a favor, and write this album off for what it is, a pointless waste.
In the year 1984, a band called Mayhem was formed. The founding members were mere teenagers who were influenced greatly by bands such as Hellhammer, Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost. The so-called “leader” of the band, Euronymous, strived to create a new brand of metal, a genre that would fully embrace the energy of black magic and Satan. Then a vocalist in Sweden caught Euronymous’s eye, a vocalist known as Dead. Dead was recruited into the band, and the rest is history. I believe we all know the controversial history of the band by now: Dead committing suicide, Euronymous collecting Dead’s skull fragments, and Varg Vikernes murdering Euronymous. Murder here, suicide there, crazy stories, but is their music good? Is this band just another GG Allin, pure shock value, but horrendous music? The album, ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ was released in the year 1994, and it finally showed that this band was something more. In fact, they were something else entirely.
The idea of creating music that spoke of the Devil and black magic was a silly idea at first. At the time, it was already done to death by Slayer and Venom. So how could Mayhem do the same thing and think that they were doing something new? But when I listened to the album, I finally understood. The music was simple but memorable, and it created an atmosphere that was unlike anything at the time. Euronymous may have been an insane asshole, but he had a vision, a vision that was black metal.
When Dead committed suicide, a new vocalist was needed. But who could replace him, and sing his lyrics without sounding too cliché and silly? The answer was a vocalist named Attila Csihar, a man from Hungary. There have been countless arguments on who was better, Dead or Attila. I will have to go with Attila on this one. The man had a creepy vocal style that was unpredictable. He would sing here, growl there, shriek over here, and scream over there. It was something that Dead could never do, for he always screeched and growled his way through all the songs. But one still wonders, what if? What if Dead was given the chance to perform in the studio and record his vocals for this album? Would it have been better? No one will ever know. But what made Attila’s performance excellent however, were the lyrics. Dead may have been dead at this time, but he still influenced the band from beyond the grave. For you see, it was he wrote the majority of the lyrics on ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’; lyrics that spoke of death, insanity, and the macabre. They were excellent, and Attila singing them with his unique vocal style is what solidified the vocal delivery. It was a good choice to leave out the famous introduction of Freezing Moon however, for only Dead could deliver it flawlessly. “When it’s cold, and when it’s dark, the Freezing Moon can obsess you!”
Then comes the guitar playing by Euronymous. Euronymous was no Kirk Hammet, but he wrote riffs that were filled with morbid energy. An energy that created the album’s atmosphere. What made it so great was the fact that it was some-what simple, but it still did so much for the album. Simplicity is complexity I suppose, and he truly showed how black metal riffs should be done. Riffs that were simple, catchy, and memorable; riffs that characterized black metal perfectly. Euronymous was a ridiculous person, but the black metal genre would be nothing without his idiotic views that started it all.
One thing that surprised me was the bass, it’s actually audible. Not only was it audible, but it actually adds to the black atmosphere of the album. I’ve heard that the drummer, Hellhammer, lowered the basslines on the album after Varg murdered Euronymous, but it’s still there. Don’t get me wrong, the bass is not the first thing you will notice, but it’s still strongly present. If the stories of the basslines being lowered are true, then I wonder what the album would’ve sounded with the original mix.
Hellhammer is a solid drummer that gets the job done, but it’s nothing intricate or complex. It is, however, unrelenting and persistent. Hellhammer is probably better than most in the black metal genre, but then again, an amazing drummer is not needed in order to create a good black metal record.
The thing that may surprise many people who have not heard this album is the production. It is not the usual shitty-bedroom fuzzy quality that black metal is infamous for. It is actually clean and balanced, each instrument and vocal lines are all audible and distinguishable. Yet it does not detract from the atmosphere that this album creates; it still compliments the Satanic black magic imagery that this album portrays, which ultimately proves that shitty quality is not necessary to create a grim, kvlt atmosphere.
This album is what solidified the Norwegian black metal scene. Several black metal acts had already released black metal albums before this album was recorded and released, but Mayhem has always been there since the beginning. This album is one of three albums that I believe best represents the black metal genre. If someone were to ask me what black metal is, I would simply give them this album. The characteristics of black metal are all here. Some may find this ridiculous, since so many have claimed that this album sucks and that it had done nothing for the genre. But the black metal genre may not have been exposed to the world had it not been for the controversial stories and events that surrounded Mayhem. The historical significance of this album is what makes it so hard to ignore.
It all happened sometime in 1988, when Euronymous recruited our beloved Dead from the local death metal scene in Stockholm, Sweden to join up in his band to create a new brand of extreme metal, to define what the future of extreme metal was to be, to bring forth all the morbid aesthetics created by their mentors in Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer to it's full fruition and summon the great beast of Black Metal from the dark fiery abyss of the six hundered and sixty six layers of hell.
It was all well calculated, and nothing juvenile. This was serious fucking business, and on the way they brought a few other comrades in the saturated and silly norwegian death/thrash metal scene with them to assist them in this task, and what we got was different blends and definitions of how it all could work out, to varying results. But, of course, Euronymous being the mastermind behind it all, knew that his own band Mayhem would maim everything in his way as he started to conjur up the material for their debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an album concerned on the secret rites of a rumoured book only existing in one copy where all evil and satanic rituals was printed, probably by Satan himself!
At the time that the ideas were developing in their dark subconscious, Dead decided to pass on to another bleak dimension of death, but not to the surprise of his friends who had seen this coming for a while. But because this things came to a halt for a while. Where could they find another vocalist with a great, if not greater, artistic vision? Where could another morbid mind hide itself? Why, if not in the land of the once great Kingdom of Hungary! The land of Elizabeth Bathory, the Carpathian Mountains, ancient castle ruins and bloody battles of the past, and perhaps the thing of of major relevance - once the country to which Transylvania belonged! Here recided another man who had been developing his own ideas under the monicker of Tormentor, and with the at release cult-classic demo "Anno Domini", basically a raw thrash metal album with black metal undertones, a great record which wouldn't pass the ever seeing eye of Euronymous, here is where Attila Csihar lived, and it didn't took long for Euronymous to get him to join him in his quest for eternal devastation and destruction of all that is moral and aesthetical pleasing! But I'll digress, and now go forward about what this album is all about.
Those who believe they get this album at the first listen don't really know anything, those who feel a spark of inspiration and witness some sort of dark behind what you initially hear with this album are going along the right track, and then there are those like me who didn't hear anything special the first time arround, nor second... But, within our feeble minds and our hidden dark subconscious, some mysterious things was happening, the seed which had been planted slowly grew to infest our heads with all this morbid, weird tales, the haunting landscapes pictured in the simple, yet effective, lyrics created by our beloved Dead, the morbid - everything about this era Mayhem is morbid! - guitar tone, with it's raw, sharp, melodic ring, like the chime of a bell of doom, conjuring necrotic neurotic psychosis within the minds of posers, bringing forth evil tidings of a world approaching Armageddon! I could go on forever about the major importance of Euronymous performance, but it's outstanding and unmatched to say the least. But let's not forget the drums, ever pounding forward, rolling on like a beast hunting for it's prey. And then we have the thing which bring this all together, evil gestalt of Attila, the one who was bringing this shared aesthetical vision to the epitome of what could be created at the time - moaning, singing, croaking, growling and rasping forth the message of total true Mayhem to mankind, sometimes in a morose droning fashion only to suddenly cramp out a scowl that shills the marrow. Total necro! All in all a unique performance of vocals, only to be touched upon by a select few since that are cutting close in their own personal expressions. Bundled up together these key points make up a record which could reveal the mysteries of our Lord Satan to those who are strong enough of will and soul, evil enough at the deepest corners of their inner cores, blessed with a inner self of putried morbidity, to grow and bring menace upon this world of hypocrisy!
Throughout the history of contemporary music, there are only a few records which manage with this task, to create an album which may grow within you, and which can lead to different interpretations every time when you listen to it, accomplished by layinger the music with a fuzz and ideas that might appeal to you in different manners each and every time, that invite you to be a part of the creative ritual, making the music you listen to not only a piece of music which you approach and witness, but where you yourself are one within the process of it all, emphasizing and arranging bits with your own emotional organs as your soul become embraced by the sound. Be ware, or it may consume you! But once again, I'll digress, and move toward the end with this review.
This was the album that defined it all, what black metal was all about. Some may say Darkthrone did, but Darkthrone did never understand anything about black metal, they were mere kids playing the game, not knowing what it was all about, puppets in the hand of Euronymous! This is what inspired people worldwide to bring the morbid art of black metal onward to something great, Greater, to deliver us from this mundande world to one full of peril and morbid sickness.
This is a dark piece of art yet unmatched in it's brave vision of how to shape your own destiny, to go into the dark subconscious and bring forth your most morbid thoughts and put an end to life as we know it, to broaden the horizons, to find a new insight of your own visions and dreams and bring forth a new expression within something which is already limited by it's own definition.
This is the dark legacy of Euronymous and Dead, a testimony of the morbid visions conjured by the black emperors of the sepulchral past. Here, gentlemen and zombies alike, we have perfection.
Don't forget... When it's cold, and when it's dark, the freezing moon may obsess you!
In all honesty, this is just as amazing and essential as most people say, but for decidedly different reasons than they generally state. In my experience, there's really no other black metal band that has been able to capture the same mood and style portrayed on this record, and on top of this, that very mood itself was mastered by Mayhem in these eight tracks, so perhaps it's for the best that others aren't even trying. It's amazing how even at this stage in their career, Mayhem was busy smashing the conventions of black metal and displaying the true potential of the genre as an artistic force that nearly every other artist pales in comparison to. Mayhem are not at all the godfathers of black metal post-'Deathcrush', but instead are the wild, untamed masters at the edge of the genre who deserve more reverence than they truly get.
I don't feel like going on for ten pages about how it changed black metal (since I don't think it really did much at all) or how awesome it is for whatever reason of the moment, so let's just look at a few specific factors that make this such a great and mandatory release:
-Attila's vocal performance is bar none one of the best in black metal. If you dislike Attila's vocals, you have no business judging music at all. They perfectly fit the atmosphere and music that Mayhem created at this time. They're daring, unique, and flawlessly executed, and all those who feel that this album would be better with Dead involved seriously need to think about why they would prefer generic black metal vocals to one of the most stirring black metal performances of all time. Both strange and rich in tone and daringly operatic and melodramatic, Attila is really the critical force on this album that holds it all together. With any other singer, this wouldn't be nearly as great, because the nasal and harsh yet strangely unaggressive intonations of Attila form a magnificent contrast with the unique and utterly non-stereotypical black metal the band plays. His clean, definitively majestic wailings in the title track alone are enough to prove his quality as a vocalist and artistic force. While in many black metal bands the vocals are merely a backdrop of convention used to add rhythm, on this release they're absolutely critical to the success of the album as a whole.
-The riffcraft is just flawless and has yet to be cloned in any significant way by another artist. Euronymous was making great, thrashy riffs and gorgeous tremolo-picked melodies as well as some fantastic lead guitar, and everything he does is just perfect on this album. There are no filler riffs. Each one is as incisive and amazingly catchy as the last, and most are far more complex than the majority of black metal from over a decade later. There's nothing to say about them; you listen, you understand.
-The production is about as good as it could possibly get, with naturally produced reverb and probably one of the best drum production jobs in all of black metal. It captures the atmosphere of the music perfectly, with each instrument very clear and present, along with an awesome guitar tone that's ferocious and cold yet very melodic and tonal as well.
Really, it all comes down to the atmosphere. While other black metal bands these days are all obsessed with war and Satan and nocturnal grimness and what have you, Mayhem went in a decidedly more gothic direction than that. There's still tracks about Satan and winter and stuff but they seem expressed in a somewhat more subtle, occult fashion. It reminds me of the first Gorgoroth album on some level, with a definitely different feel from other black metal from the same time period (and from the future), which seemed concentrated on conjuring a mood in which aggression was only a part, not the whole damn thing. It's just so obvious that much more time and effort was put into crafting these songs than the vast majority of black metal; I guess that's tragic on one level, but I guess you can't expect much more.
Anyway, 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' is just as good as everyone says. You should buy it if you don't currently own it. Fun fact: the opening two songs which everyone already knows by heart are easily the weakest tracks on the disc. When 'Cursed In Eternity' kicks in, you'll know where the good stuff is. 'Buried By Time And Dust', the title track... well, whatever, just go and get it.
I am not a fan of black metal's ideology per say, which most would say is inseparable from its music, and I think much of the self-importance that the entire scene seems to have in comparison to those who came before it of late is downright annoying. I do think very highly of most of the artists who are credited with influencing the genre; namely Venom, Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer, Bathory, Slayer, Celtic Frost, and a small group of 80s/early 90s death metal bands that could be connected with/morphed into early members of the scene. As such, I can have an appreciation for many of the albums under the black metal banner; one could maybe call it crossover appeal.
“De Mysteriis Dom. Santhanas” is one of those albums to has crossover appeal, mostly owing to its very clean production and strong sense of organization. It still listens like a raw, untamed monster despite this because of the stylistic devices which have since become cliché; namely the continuous tremolo picked riffs, seemingly perpetual blast beats, and goblin-like vocals. However, its charm is that it doesn’t rely solely on these the way most of their imitators due and instead has a fair share of additional elements; the most striking of which are the fair share of complexities in the song structures and some quasi-virtuoso guitar soloing in a few of the 8 blacked chapters of this rather morose book of sounds.
Many complaints by fans of the band were directed at Attila for an alleged inferior vocal performance to his predecessor. Unfortunately “Live in Leipzig” is the only release before this that I haven’t heard so I can’t make a judgment on Dead’s vocals, but I can say affirmatively that he is way better than Maniac. The Gollum-like ravings, the almost Dave Mustaine-like mutterings, and the woeful Lord Dracula inspired baritone at the end of the title track are what keeps this album from venturing into well-produced ambient noise and thrash riff intros/interludes.
It's not much of a stretch to state that every song on this album is good and listenable by any metal standard, save perhaps too much repetition and limited variation keeping some of this from being as exciting as one would expect from a Venom or Mercyful Fate album. “Freezing Moon” is an exception to this tendency and elects to have a couple of down-tempo riffs introduce the song before launching into a mid-80s Slayer-like barrage of speed. It does well to keep from holding onto one idea or one tempo for too long, and Attila’s vocals are dirty as hell but surprisingly in tune with the music. Euronymous plays a solid solo; not the most impressive thing I’ve heard, but a decent offering in the style of Kerry King.
“Pagan Fears” has a lot of progressive death metal tendencies at the start, showcasing a pretty solid start up riff, but ultimately Hellhammer steals the show here with some extremely impressive fills and a solid display of inhuman endurance. It isn’t really any wonder why he has been a very highly demanded drummer associated with over a dozen metal acts. “From the Dark Past” and “By Time and Dust” both have excellent opening riffs, but the drumming tends to carry most of the weight afterwards. There is a general flaw in this approach to metal drumming, which is even more abused on the releases of all the 2nd and 3rd tier black metal bands I’ve encountered. What you eventually get is the concept of up becoming down that was hinted at in Dante’s Inferno. After encountering the Dragon and the 9th plain of Cocytus, Virgil and Dante reach heaven by continuing to descend until down becomes up. Likewise, the continuous repetition of the fasted humanly possible beats become so distorted that they blur into a slow, trance-inducing pulse that essentially works against the innate tendency of exposition, climax and denouement; which is what makes a truly great song.
This album is essentially the zenith of the original black metal movement stylistically, regardless to whether or not it conforms to or contradicts the earlier standards set by this band and the ideals of the movement, (it technically does both in various respects). Fans of mid-80s Slayer, Venom, Mercyful Fate and Hellhammer will find a lot to like on here, although the overused blast-beats and slight over-repetition isn't for everyone. I’ve found it best to treat this as an experimental technical death/thrash hybrid, and I do consider it to be a cut above a good number of releases in the death/thrash style.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 24, 2008.
Mayhem is the band's name and most definitely mayhem were the circumstances in which this first full-length album was recorded and released in 1993 which help to explain why, when you clear away the mythology, the rumours and other baggage around this record, you find a pretty good if not technically accomplished black metal album. Your first impression can be that the music is fast, furious and frenzied and all over the place and on repeated listenings you realise you have to accept it on its own terms as a raging vibrato guitar noise drone that complements the brutal drumming. The production of the record is quite basic yet fairly clear. Drummer Hellhammer thrashes away on the skins at several hundred BPM and guitarist Euronymous, accompanied by bass player Count Grishnackh aka Varg Vikerenes concentrate on whipping up the intense strings-based sandstorm drone out of which Euronymous may play a chilling, spiky lead melody that pierces straight to the bone. In those early days, singer Attila Csihar, who replaced Dead as vocalist after that fellow's suicide, had a, uh, less refined vocal technique than he does now but his dulcet tombstone tones lend a special brand of psychotic madness and darkness to the recording, and there are even moments of camp in his singing in tracks like "Cursed to Eternity". In the title piece he carries on like a demon-possessed Pavarotti howling the Latin lyrics. Csihar doesn't even pretend that he can sing as fast as the others can play so he proceeds at his own leisurely pace (though he manages to keep in time with everyone) and slavers over the lyrics with a relish that is almost cartoony and verges on the pornographic.
Penned by Dead originally, all the lyrics are creepy and possess an obsessive quality: they draw little sketches of darkness and fear, and of the fragility of life and the ease with which it can end so quickly and so soon. The title track describes a sacrificial ritual performed in the dead of night. The simplicity of the lyrics masks very dark and troubled depths and a yearning for peace which, unfortunately for Dead (I've seen rumours that he could have been a borderline schizophrenic), only death could bring.
The album conveys an overall impression of intense and never-ending rage, psychosis and frightening evil. The production does not make the music as raw as it could be but all the same it is unstoppable with a life and force all its own, and this is perhaps the main achievement of the record. The style of music is free-flowing metal drone close to minimalism with no regard for song structures or other song-based conventions and in the early 1990s this would have been unusual. The musicians play so fast their playing becomes all intuitive and they seem to be possessed by an alien spirit. The ambience of the record is so sinister, even the spaces between tracks are ominous.
In its own way, "De Mysteriis ..." is an important piece of black metal history as the style of the music here helped to define black metal as distinct from other forms of heavy metal. It seems to be the only full-length album Euronymous made before he died (if the earlier "Deathcrush" is counted as an EP) and it happens to feature the man who would later murder him. (There is of course the story that Euronymous's parents tried to get Vikernes's contribution to the album erased. Certainly the bass parts aren't very high in the mix.) The album also helped to cement Attila Csihar's reputation as a singer of sinister repute and Csihar rejoined the band in 2004. The album's cover is of interest too as it features a silhouette of one of Scandinavia's largest cathedrals, Nidarosdomen in Tronheim, Norway, where the Norwegian crown jewels are kept. I have heard that Vikernes once wanted to blow up this cathedral but haven't seen any information to support this rumour.
When you consider the unstable and tragic context in which the album was made, you realise it's a wonder that it ever got released at all.
What makes this album special is the pure unadulterated black metal that these Norwegians managed to create. This album reeks of nihilism (a dead man’s guitar hovering over the basslines of his murderer) and misanthropy with brutal riffing and drumming and the insane vocals. Besides that the circumstances in which this album was released with the murder of Euronymous and various other events in Norway makes this album an important milestone as this album was released at the peak of the Norwegian black metal movement.
Attila’s vocals are simply insane. Initially the vocals sound ridiculous but later as you get the hang of it, you’ll feel that it is pretty much appropriate for the kind of feelings that this album attempts to evoke. These mad operatic vocals blend with the music to create a cold atmosphere. Themes of death, decay, the supernatural dominate the lyrics. The lyrics show extreme apathy towards life and all that it considered normal and construct a morbid atmosphere and finds beauty in it.
The riffs in this album are simple yet awesome as the songs are pretty much riff oriented. Do not underestimate these simple tremolo drenched riffs as they achieve cohesion with the vocals and the lyrics. The drumming is brutal and exceptional with machine like precision.
This album very well captures the aesthetics of black metal. It is cold, dark, misanthropic and brutal. Every song of this album is important to create such atmosphere. The sound is further developed from that in 'Deathcrush' as it is atmospheric achieves higher level of complexity. This is a monster of an album which set the standards for later bands. But I haven’t seen a more nihilistic album than this.
Certainly, the first Venom albums are essential if you are searching a definition for 'black metal', and some records of Celtic Frost and Bathory too, who perfected all that dark force who developed later in Norway, in the early 90's, with bands like Darkthrone, and of course, all the legacy of a man like Euronymous, through Mayhem. Yes, it's true that the circumstances of his death overrated his figure a bit, but "De Mysteriis" influenced the whole norwegian BM movement. No band has reached the high levels of this album, and I think that never would be reached anyway. Beyond the cold and asymmetric rhythms and structures of the music, they settled a way of making black metal, copied by all the nordic bands that came after Mayhem, some of them at a good way, but other in a very bad way. Another topic is the Hellhammer's drum playing, that influenced everyone with his cold and mechanic style.
After Dead's suicide, the hungarian Attila took his place as frontman, and really gave his personal touch to the music, wich proved to be the best choice at that time, in fact, everyone expected that Attila's singing sounded a little like Dead, and there's many similarities, but Attila's voice, cold and demonic, gave to Mayhem a different level, although sometimes it's a little exaggerated.
The bass lines were recorded by Varg Vikernes, also known as Count Grischnack, who later murdered Euronymous, some months after the recording of the album. In fact, Euronymous' family didn't wanted an album with Varg and Euronymous together. Hellhammer told them that he would re-record all the bass lines, but he lowered the volume of them instead, because he didn't know nothing about playing a bass guitar.
The first song, "Funeral Fog", burst in on a so intense way, bitter and cold, that with a few notes you'll realize what's to come later, not just in the album, with an entire influenced generation too. In general lines, it may seem that "De Mysteriis" is monotone, and probably it's true, but when you process the ambients and bitterness, you'll surely realize that you are in front of a masterpiece of BM music.
With "Freezing Moon" you notice some changes in the music, from extreme and raw to slow and with a cold tuning, "Freezing Moon" is one of the few songs with a guitar solo. "Cursed in Eternity" follows the same patterns, mechanic, dark, cold and of course nocturnal. "Pagan Fears" starts in a very catchy way, a good rhythm with nice drum playing, when after a while, the anti-rhythmic patterns start again, the exaggerated voice and the drums and guitars dicotomy. "Life Eternal" adorns the album with that melodic bass playing and the almost unnoticeable Euronymous' guitar solos, in a song that would be great influence for the epic (and viking) bands that came after Mayhem.
"From the Dark Past" and "Buried by Time and Dust" are the less melodic pieces of the record, but the most intense ones. In "Buried", Hellhammer's drum playing is astonishing, he seems to be a restless machine.
Finally, the title track, settles the intensity of the whole album, with that grim voices of Attila, although in this song, he does some clean vocals.
Finishing, "De Mysteriis" changed the way of making extreme metal, and made of black metal, more that a music, a way to see life (or death)
This album is most known for the events surrounding it's release. Mostly everyone is familiar with the story already, not going to write about it. But judging by those who created this and all that happened, it is surprising this was even finished and released. With all considered, this is truly a landmark in black metal and extreme metal in general. The album is almost perfect in my opinion, and is a remarkable improvement from the material on Deathcrush.
This album can be best described as cold black metal with hints of death metal (Those, mainly being on vocals in certain parts). After Dead's suicide in 1991, Hungarian black metal vocalist Attila Csihar from Tormentor was invited to perform the vocals for this album. Although Dead unleashed some great vocals during his time in the band, I am definately more happy that Attila performed the vocals here. Despite his Hungarian accent that is sometimes noticeable, Attila is a great vocalist. Unlike most black metal vocalists, he incorporates much in his vocals. He growls, drones, grunts, screams, and even chants. His vocals are very interesting and are not of one single pitch or style like most black metal vocalists. His vocals adds a lot to the music, I would even go as far to say that I am glad Dead was not alive to record this.
The actual music is excellent. Euronymous puts on a great performance on guitar. As I've said, he was always able to create simple, yet catchy, hypnotic riffs. The songs all vary in tempo, and all tend to be very atmospheric. In many of the songs, there are extended periods without any vocals, which works in their favor here. Freezing Moon is a slow, heavy track, while, Pagan Fears is fast paced and vicious. The drumming here is also superior, Hellhammer showcases a lot of talent. His best performance being on the tracks Buried By Time And Dust and Freezing Moon in my opinion. Varg Vikernes does good on bass as well, although it seems to be lowered, I'd still prefer him to Necrobutcher as a musician anytime. The entire line up here was very talented and all seemed to work very well together. Just about every song on here is a highlight, although the best in my opinion would be Freezing Moon, Pagan Fears, Life Eternal, and the title track. The title track is especially a highlight, being the most epic, enhanced with Attila chanting in certain parts. I would say this is the best track on the entire album. The production is much better then on previous releases yet still retains the primitive, cold atmosphere intended.
As opposed to Deathcrush, I really enjoy the lyrics on this album as well. All written by Dead before his death, are very cryptic and dark. They mainly focus on depression, death, ancient times, and the occult. Very few bands can compare in this department. The lyrics are just perfect and fit the music very well.
Overall, this is easily Mayhem's greatest work and it's just too unfortunate that such a line up that was present on here will never get the chance to work together again. It was very original for the time it was being produced, and influenced countless bands in black metal and metal in general. It was unique from anything released prior and still stands out in quality when compared to most that was released after. I would reccommend this to any fan of black metal, although any real fan has already heard it most likely. No one's black metal collection is complete without it.
Bleak and painful can only begin to describe the agony that this album bursts from its guitar drones, drum blasts, and howling vocals. Without a doubt in my mind this is one of the finest Black Metal albums released and should not be underscored for the dark history behind its creation.
On the surface "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" seems like a typical Black Metal, "Hail Satan", kind of thing but you've got to delve beneath that facade. Sure there is the whole hail Satan thing and the paganism but that's the hallmark of Black Metal lyrics and music. This album is so well done in terms of sound. Each of the tracks has an ambient air to them that make it all the more "evil" sounding (after all that's what Black Metal is isn't it? Guys trying to sound as evil as possible).
Euronymous' guitar playing is nothing phenomenal or earth shattering but it does deserved to be mentioned for its veracity. Every riff on this album is perfect, strummed in exact patterns, and technical with a hint of simplicity somewhere. Attila Csihar sends us back to the very pits of hell with his vocals. Some would say they get annoying or irritating at times. To me they fit the tracks and the rest of the ambient hellish noise perfectly. He is never too loud, never too rasped, just a fine Black Metal voice. Last but not least Hellhammer pummels away on his drum kit. The blast beats and cymbal crashes make it sound as if the entire world is falling down around you as you listen to this and if you even once deviate from the order of things all shall die. That's the kind of sound "De Mysteriis Dom Sathans" offers up to a listener.
Now to the negatives. This is not a perfect album by any means. Is it one of the best Black Metal albums? Yes. But there are better. It very well may be the best Mayhem album however. The only real flaw I find in this album is that some of the tracks seem to be in the same key and even use the same riffs and note patterns, just a bit mixed up to add a bit of flavor to it. It's not a bad album by any means. In fact it is well worth you buying. I whole heartedly recommend picking up this album. It's a piece of Black Metal history that should not be forgotten.
Mayhem may not have a masterpiece on their hands but it certainly has changed to shape and way Black Metal music has been made over the past 10+ years and that is worth more than any masterpiece could bring.
Mayhem are arguably the most prolific Norwegian BM band in history. We all know their stories of murder, arson, suicides etc. Can they live up to the hype with the music, the thing that counts the most? We will see...
Well, here it is. The album that was 5 years in the making and delayed because of various reasons. When you first listen to this you will feel the cold coming through your speakers and the pure aggression of the riffs and drums. Euronymous was no slouch when it came to creating riffs that were from the depths of hell and songs like Freezing Moon and the title track are just that. Basically, when you listen to this album, you will understand where the band was coming from when writing and recording it. It really is something that not only the band, but Euronymous himself can be proud of and I'm sure they are. At the same time though, listening to this is emotional, due to the murder of Euronymous by Cunt Grishnack (yes I said it.) I have no love for Varg and he should be tortured to death for what he did. Ok, enough of that, back to the music.
The drums are at times insanely fast and other times are mid paced and full of intricate little fills, although Hellhammer is ten times better now than he was back when this was recorded. The vocals are actually my second favorite part of this record, next to the riffs, due to Attila's wonderful performance. We all have our favorite Mayhem vocalist: Dead, Maniac or Attila. I love Dead but Attila is just so much more versatile. He can scream but he also adds so much depth to the songs vocal wise with his weird, almost chant like vocal assault. He even adds some very eerie operatic singing to the title track.
The bass is, despite the story, still in tact and mixed in very well. During songs like Life Eternal the bass is doing a very cool little part that is damn catchy. Varg did a good job. Having listened to so much old Mayhem, at times I forget it's Varg and think Necrobutcher is doing the bass. Either way it still sounds great.
When it is all said and done, this album is a very fitting testament to the enduring legacy of Euronymous, arguably the godfather of Norwegian BM. I know Euronymous is proud of this record and its lasting impact on the scene today. Hell, even Varg has said this is the one BM album he would take with him to a deserted island so it is obviously a classic slab of BM infamy. In closing, well there is only one thing I can say...
No matter what comes of Mayhem in the end or what they go on to produce in the future, they will no doubt be a band who goes down in history as one of the most contoversial bands that has ever graced this planet and this album will remain a vocal point in Black Metal's history. We all know the events leading up to the release of the debut full-length album "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" therefore there is simply no need to dwelve into those matters which occured over a decade ago once again. This album is a landmark in Black Metal history and consisted of one of the most promising line-ups that has ever existed up until this very day. Consisting of eight blasphemous tracks, this album totals at just over forty-five minutes.
First, this album has a truly unique production. It captures the sound of instruments brilliantly. The production enhances the general feel of the music, which is notoriously cold, grim and blasphemous. Songs are primitive and chaotic in sound. Repetitive riffs, blast beats and haunting screams from Attila are imperative to Mayhem, especially the vocals. Attila creates almost operatic like vocals at times to portray the grim sound Mayhem are trying to create. The riffs create an ambient backdrop to the music and enhance the cold feeling atmosphere that the production and instruments have laid out. A highly melodic and ambient piece is what is created out of this. Connotations of death, destruction and violent chaos are the obvious themes running throughout Mayhem's music, and given the past history of the band its quite fitting. Dead's lyrical guidance is obvious on this album. Lyrically it suits the music perfectly and adds to that grim and cold sense of feeling that Mayhem portray through their music. Instruments are particularly well performed, controlled and repetitive throughout to create that desired affect on the audience. Tempos range from mid-paced to a much faster pace. Music is generally simplistic, but highly affective. A highly aggressive album packed with lots of punch and chilling atmosphere. There are slight variations in riffs throughout, but hardly at all. Guitars are generally highly distorted and have a fuzzy affect. Hellhammer uses a lot of double bass throughout the album, this intensifies the music. At times this can lack in diversity, but as with a lot of Black Metal it's not meant to be diverse, but instead simplistic and true to the roots of the genre.
Hightlights include: Freezing Moon, Pagan Fears and the title track.
...and I suppose that's what they were going for. The vocals were described perfectly as sounding like "an operatic popeye," and they're rather weak, but vocals are never a large part of a black metal production. Yes, as other suggested, the guitars are a tad repetitive, but isn't that what made Varg's "ambient black metal" so wonderful? Except, in this case, rather than expressing loneliness or hatred, it's simply eerie darkness.
I would go to the trouble I usually do to write a track-by-track review, but I don't think it was Mayhem's intent for you to listen to certain tracks more than others. It seems to be instead a work that you should listen to as a whole album, not skipping any tracks. This is probably because of the large emphasis on atmosphere in this album, like in most black metal. The band never loses focus on this atmosphere, but detracts with constant, hammering drumming that loses its effect after the first few tracks.
This album is enjoyable in the sense that it creates a dark atmosphere, and I don't think that the repetition detracts from the guitar lines. What stopped this album from being spoiled for me was all the negative reviews I had read prior to listening to it. So begin listening with not expectations at all, and you will be very pleased with what you find. I highly recommend this for black metal fans, or just fans of atmospheric music.
In light of this album's popularity and status I save myself and spare you my usual thorough and lengthy introduction and get right to the point. I have reflected for a long time what would be the best way to describe this album in as little words as possible and in the end, all my thoughts would lead to the same old saying: "too good to be true". I say that mostly because of the expectations this album has stirred up prior to its release. In addition to the demented rawness of the "Live in Leipzig" album, the joining of both Varg Vikernes - famous for his unique skill of creating abrasive atmosphere with Burzum - and Snorre Ruch, maybe the "uncrowned king" of inducing a clinical kind of darkness into Metal music merged in the imagination of the impatient follower of the still young Black Metal scene to an expectation of an album so dementedly raw that it would make Beherit seem like Melodic Metal, so abrasively atmospheric that it would send shivers down the spine of even the most steady and strong-willed listener and so clinically dark that the vast scene of Industrial bands that were present throughout the 80s could just as well have packed their stuff and given up on ever accomplishing what this album would have achieved.
As it usually is in life the higher your expectations are the more disappointed you will be in the end, and speaking for myself I can barely put in words the disappointment I have felt over "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". Perhaps, if it had just not fulfilled all the expectations I could have respected the work and the skill the musicians have put into this, but beyond merely unfulfilled expectations this goes into the entirely opposite direction. With a flawlessly clear production and admittedly brilliant melodies - not to mention skillfully played ones - this gets nowhere near "demented" or "raw" and the only band that could seem like Melodic Metal in comparison to this would indeed be a Melodic Metal band. Yes, they did indeed manage to be more dementedly raw than Iron Maiden, but what accomplishment is that for a field of music that holds so rigidly to the claim of being the most extreme and uncompromising? Also, with its traditional - if not generic - leads, riffs, rhythms and structures there is little atmosphere present beyond the appeal to a Metalhead's inherent instinct to nod his head to "some cool grooves". As for the final part, again, there is in fact little "clinical darkness" present, and as for the pursuit of such atmosphere I would indeed - even being what one might call a "full-fledged Metalhead" - find it on any Skinny Puppy album rather than on this one. However, which leads us to probably the strongest point about this album, there is a form of darkness ever present after all, not in the guitars, the melodies or the arrangements but in the haunting ritualistic vocal performance of Hungarian legend Attila Csihar of Tormentor fame. Varying between near-dead moaning and breathtaking highlights such as the monumental cleans vocals used in the title track his contribution to this album represents a sole ray of (un-)light on this otherwisely massively disappointing album.
All things considered, I cannot grant more than 35% in my rating for all this album could have been and in the end was not. It presents some solid, entertaining tracks and it may be predestined to adorn itself in a black aureole of "the legend" and "the cult", but beyond that all it is after all is a mediocre piece of music at the very most. All in all, it was "too good to be true". Too well produced to be a true Black Metal album and too well intended to be a true Mayhem album.
(edited May 29th, 2006. Paragraphs added.)
“De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is damn fine album, but it isn't exactly the best black metal album ever. The album contains Mayhem's fourth lineup change. This time replacing the now six feet under Dead with Attila. I do have to give Dead some credit though; he was the one that wrote the lyrics for this release. So how does this album fair? It fairs pretty good. Which mind you are a few steps below, "This is the greatest black metal album ever!”
Many of the Mayhem classics that you've come to love and obsess over are here. Freezing Moon, Funeral Fog, and From the Dark Past just to name a few. The production is far better than the Promo 1987 demo. Some of you may have remember my review for it. Turns out it was a bootleg containing the only two studio tracks by Dead. Enough about the bootleg though. The lineup on this album may well in fact be Mayhem's best lineup. I almost hate to say this but in some aspects Attila was a lot better than Dead: more on that later.
The guitar riffs on this album done by Euronymous are pretty decent, however despite popular misconception Euronymous was not the great black metal guitar player that a lot of people made him out to be. The riffs he played were fairly simple, and in rare cases he would make use of the scales. It also appears that Euro was big fan of power chords. Normally this method of guitar playing would not garner anyone the award of the Guitar God. Euronymous does manage to play these simple riffs extremely fast, and switch from riff to riff on the fly which does require talent. His best guitar works happen to be on Freezing Moon, Funeral Fog, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and From the Dark Past. The riffs on these songs are very catchy and hard to get out of my head, a definite plus. Unfortunately the guitar riffs for the other songs don't fair as well. Euronymous - 75/100
The bass lines and bass riffs for the album provided by Varg "I'm Killing Euronymous" Vikernese are also catchy, and in a rare case some of the bass lines are actually memorable. When that happens with most metal albums it's considered surprising; when it happens with a black metal band it's almost enough to faint over.. Unlike, Euronymous though, Varg's bass playing never succeeds in actually making it front in center ahead of Euronymous's guitar playing. Part of the reason for this is because the bass was turned down for personal reasons. This is a shame, since in more than few cases the guitar riffs are not exactly that great and the drums become boring after a while. Varg - 85/100
Next up is the drumming brought to you in part by Hell-"I'm the normal one of the band" hammer. The thunderous, artillery style drumming I've come to love from the Promo 1987 bootleg is back. This time mixed with some clearer production drum lines. Hellhammer manages to keep the pace and rhythm of the whole album which is very fast and loud. At times it seems that Hellhammer has to steal the spotlight from Euronymous. Which is a lot of times, it simply gets tiring after awhile. Hellhammer - 80/100
At last the vocals provided by Attila are the best thing on this album. Earlier in the review I had mentioned that Attila's vocals are better than Dead's vocals. Here is why; Attila manages to change his vocals around in a theatrical sort of way. This brings out the full atmosphere of the album and almost makes it into an event. His singing, grunts, shrieks, screams, chants, yells and growls are all very damn good on this record; especially on "Freezing Moon" "Funeral Fog" and the title track. Dead's vocals on the other hand tended to remain within the same range. He sounded like a man shrieking while being tortured by demons in the depths of Hell. It gets boring after a while. Attila - 100/100
“De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” may be well in fact Mayhem's best studio album to date. The true Mayhem fans will already own this album, but for the new fans that are just now dipping their feet into the Mayhem pool they should skip over the newest releases with Maniac on vocals and pick this one up instead. Don't expect perfection though. Overall 85/100
In the cold depths of oslo, norway during the years of the early nineties spawned a revolution in black metal. A small cult scene influenced by early works of Bathory, Hellhammer, Venom, and Holocausto a generation of new bands spawned. Creating blasphemy and art that was more than just music. One of the leaders during the black metal revolution was Mayhem. A norwegian band that had been around since the early 80's. Known for releasing some of the most famous extreme metal releases, mainly noting "Deathcrush" and the infamous "Pure fucking armageddon" demo Mayhem's cult fanbase kept drooling for the time to happen when the band would release their first full-length LP.
after nearly a decade of line-up changes and history within the band include the suicide of singer, Dead, the graphic horrid live performances featuring the crazy vocalist mutilating himself on stage; Mayhem finally had the ability to write the long awaited LP. Mayhem frontman and final existing member of the original line-up, Euronymous, was killed shortly after finishing the recording. His guitar work featured on the album is timeless. Featuring some really dark and evilest riffs even in the time of black metal. Due to the suicide of Dead, Mayhem required a new vocalist who is known as Attlia Csihar, an operatic vocalist at the time a member of a hungarian group known as Tormentor, was asked to do vocals on this album as a session musician. What would be the work of this session musician ends up being some of the most diverse, and original vocals at the time in black metal. These vocals really stick out as an amazing tool in the aid of this album to make it more powerful and striking than imagined at the time. From the long howls of "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuneral fog" on the first track of the album to the graveland-esque snarls. Along with Attlia and Euronymous drummer Hellhammer adds to kettle with some amazing drum work. Though lost in the traditional horrid black metal production the drumming itself makes your heart skip a beat each time and continues pummeling itself into your ears. Also we cannot forget the infamous bassist Varg, Known for burning churches and finally killing Euronymous back in 1993. Who's basslines are found to be almost inaudible but the very backbone of the heavy sound that is mayhem.
Despite all the things that make this album a black metal classic this album does have a bunch of filler within the mix which is a bit depressing to see on a debut LP, but nonetheless a masterpiece that should be owned by anybody interested in the black metal scene!
After listening to this album a bit, I can see why many consider this to be an essential part of the modern black metal movement. The vibe and feeling on this album are amazing, if the playing isn’t, and the production is actually slightly better than most black metal out there. And really, nobody else sounds like Csihar Attilla—his inimitable deep, raspy, thickly accented moans, growls, and screams are unlike any other black metal vocalist out there. He sounds really, truly unhinged, like a mental hospital inmate who happened to wander into the studio and ended up having a total meltdown in front of the mike. Take notes, all you aspiring black metallers out there; this guy is the real deal, sounding genuinely more menacing and threatening than most.
The guitars and bass merge into a single ugly wall of fuzz, yet each has a distinct presence, and Hellhammer simply beats the living crap out of his kit (although he’s not as tight as he’s since become) with vigor and enthusiasm. The riffing is simple, but engrossing, and it seems that Euronymous knew his way around a riff more than some would imply, as they are actually well structured and catchy in their repetitive, minimalist flow, and his raw, caustic guitar tone really added to the feel of this album.
Every tune is played with all the ability they could muster back then, which makes it feel all the more sincere, and I guess this is what is meant by “true” in black metal circles. The fact that they put their hearts into the music is what makes this an undeniably powerful and still influential album, and you can sense that in every song. Definitely a keeper, and most definitely one of the most true cult masterpieces out there alongside the old Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost albums.
You've heard the hype, but have you actually heard the music? If you're like most inexperienced fans of extreme metal just barely putting your foot in the water, then the answer is, of course, "no." I won't really go into the story, as I'm sure you've heard it all before. To give you more of an appreciation for the work that went into this album, though, I'll give you the lineup and the appropriate information about each participant.
Atilla Csihar- vocals (from Tormentor and Aborym)
Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes- bass (from Burzum and Old Funeral)
Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth- lead guitar
Snorre "Blackthorn" Ruch- Rhythm guitar (from Thorns)
Jan "Hellhammer" Axel Von Blomberg- drums (also from Arcturus, The Covenant, Winds)
Yngve Per "Dead" Ohlin- lyrics (also from Morbid)
So now that we have the cast established, let's take a look at the show. Despite what some people say, Mayhem was not the archetypal Norwegian black metal band. Essentially, the music is death metal played like thrash with perhaps the worst vocalist in metal history. Let us focus on that last point for a moment.
Atilla Csihar manages to sound drunk (or severely retarded), regardless of what approach he is taking. He attempts clean vocals (in Latin, no less) on the title track. Were they not so painful to listen to, I suppose they would be funny. Otherwise, his grunts and screams are reptilian in nature and make me long for the glass-gargling shout of Dead or the high-pitched shriek of Maniac. His Hungarian accent also severely hinders his pronunciation in places (as if he's really trying; but as we are all aware, he is not) but it's hard to notice because it's not like you would be able to understand the lyrics anyway. So why did Euronymous and Hellhammer pick Atilla to carry on in Dead's place? If he was so bad, why was he the man for the job? The fact is that Atilla is so awful that he is the only man who could have pulled it off. The only way this sick symphony could have ever completely manifested itself was through the tortured (or torturing) vocals of Atilla. His voice is the most distinct thing about "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas," and it is what you'll remember after hearing it.
Now on to the rest of the music.
As a guitarist, Euronymous is competent, but he's not a conventional virtuoso. His solos are bizarre and inverted, kind of like evil versions of things that Trey Azagthoth might do. The guitars in the background provide an ambient wall of distortion that allows the lead guitarist to paint a more complex picture in the foreground. The music is not grim like Darkthrone, but it isn't melodic like Emperor. It isn't abstract like Burzum, but it's not straight-forward like Immortal. Mayhem takes cues from all four of these bands in the creation of this record, which shouldn't surprise anybody listening to this record or reading this review.
Do I recommend this? Yes, wholeheartedly. But if you've read the hype over and over again, you're probably expecting too much. To be sure, the album is good, but it's not really the "landmark" that some people claim it is. It's well above average, but not really perfect. Overall, however, it's definitely worth your time.