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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.