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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.