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This album seems like an afterthought with so much nonsense and controversy surrounding this band. Varg and Snorre murdered Euronymous, who was perhaps the most influential person in the black metal scene at the time. There is also all the other extracurricular activities these guys participated in. How much time do these guys honestly dedicate to making a quality album, when they are out burning churches? How about Euronymous running his studio, and record shop? Euronymous was also gallivanting hither and yon getting the word out there that band-mate Dead committed suicide, that they made necklaces of his skull, ate his brain, etc. He did this just to make Mayhem seem as evil a group of guys as they come. How is this leaving time for Mayhem to write a decent album? I don't think they really did have time, and I think the album suffered for it. Too bad Varg and Snorre didn't "go big or go home" by off-ing Attila as well as Euronymous. In my opinion, Attila was the weakest link in an album that could only be considered mediocre.
This album lacks character. The album sounds like pretty much every other black metal album available in the early stages of the genre. It is fuzzy, filled with tremolo picking, blast beats galore, and lots of double bass. What it also has a lot of, is Attila Csihar's annoying schizophrenic voice. His voice is excruciatingly loud on this album. This exacerbates his almost maniacal singing style, which ranges from grunts, gutteral growls, snarls, and incoherent mumbling and then an ejaculation that sounds like a bark (see 3:15 of Funeral Fog). This strange style of singing is detrimental in the sense that it does not add a degree of mystery, emotion, or even implied insanity. It takes away from what could have been a decent album. While I was listen to the album, I stop paying attention to the music, and instead try to figure out what the hell Attila is doing.
When I do have a chance to focus on the music, there really isn't a lot there. Sure, the guitars are fast and there is decent drumming, but it lacks substance. It's standard chord progressions with massive amounts of distortion. The production is so muddy, that the chord progressions themselves are difficult to discern. There is a half-assed solo in Life Eternal (2:45-3:00) where it's a lot of whammy bar usage but not very technical. The drumming is competent, but soulless. It seemed like Hellhammer was blasting away mindlessly, because the drums sound extremely triggered. Double bass alternates with blast beats during the fast sections, and there is ample reliance on the ride cymbal during the slower sections. The fills moving from one speed to another appear contrived, and don't have much flair. They seem to be done only as a necessity. Varg is inaudible except for a few fleeting moments in the album, namely parts of Life Eternal (see about 1:15). Other than that, the murderer barely registers.
Don't get sucked into all the shenanigans this band was a part of at the time of this album's release. This album has very little quality musicianship, atmosphere, and is overall boring. There are no interesting riffs, very little diversity, and what diversity there is, can be attributed to Csihar's squealing. The best I can do for a reference as far as the vocals go, is Niklas Kvarforth. If you like listening to this style of croaking on Shining's albums, then you're in for a treat. If you are more interested in listening to a quality black metal release that has historical significance, go with Enslaved's "Vikingligr Veldi", or albums 2-5 by Darkthrone.