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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.