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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.