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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.