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Certainly, the first Venom albums are essential if you are searching a definition for 'black metal', and some records of Celtic Frost and Bathory too, who perfected all that dark force who developed later in Norway, in the early 90's, with bands like Darkthrone, and of course, all the legacy of a man like Euronymous, through Mayhem. Yes, it's true that the circumstances of his death overrated his figure a bit, but "De Mysteriis" influenced the whole norwegian BM movement. No band has reached the high levels of this album, and I think that never would be reached anyway. Beyond the cold and asymmetric rhythms and structures of the music, they settled a way of making black metal, copied by all the nordic bands that came after Mayhem, some of them at a good way, but other in a very bad way. Another topic is the Hellhammer's drum playing, that influenced everyone with his cold and mechanic style.
After Dead's suicide, the hungarian Attila took his place as frontman, and really gave his personal touch to the music, wich proved to be the best choice at that time, in fact, everyone expected that Attila's singing sounded a little like Dead, and there's many similarities, but Attila's voice, cold and demonic, gave to Mayhem a different level, although sometimes it's a little exaggerated.
The bass lines were recorded by Varg Vikernes, also known as Count Grischnack, who later murdered Euronymous, some months after the recording of the album. In fact, Euronymous' family didn't wanted an album with Varg and Euronymous together. Hellhammer told them that he would re-record all the bass lines, but he lowered the volume of them instead, because he didn't know nothing about playing a bass guitar.
The first song, "Funeral Fog", burst in on a so intense way, bitter and cold, that with a few notes you'll realize what's to come later, not just in the album, with an entire influenced generation too. In general lines, it may seem that "De Mysteriis" is monotone, and probably it's true, but when you process the ambients and bitterness, you'll surely realize that you are in front of a masterpiece of BM music.
With "Freezing Moon" you notice some changes in the music, from extreme and raw to slow and with a cold tuning, "Freezing Moon" is one of the few songs with a guitar solo. "Cursed in Eternity" follows the same patterns, mechanic, dark, cold and of course nocturnal. "Pagan Fears" starts in a very catchy way, a good rhythm with nice drum playing, when after a while, the anti-rhythmic patterns start again, the exaggerated voice and the drums and guitars dicotomy. "Life Eternal" adorns the album with that melodic bass playing and the almost unnoticeable Euronymous' guitar solos, in a song that would be great influence for the epic (and viking) bands that came after Mayhem.
"From the Dark Past" and "Buried by Time and Dust" are the less melodic pieces of the record, but the most intense ones. In "Buried", Hellhammer's drum playing is astonishing, he seems to be a restless machine.
Finally, the title track, settles the intensity of the whole album, with that grim voices of Attila, although in this song, he does some clean vocals.
Finishing, "De Mysteriis" changed the way of making extreme metal, and made of black metal, more that a music, a way to see life (or death)