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Mayhem are perhaps the most infamous black metal band out there for a variety of reasons. Inspired by the raw sound of Venom and the brash sound of Motorhead and, more prominently, Celtic Frost, bassist Necromancer, drummer Kjetil and guitarist/vocalist Euronymous came together in 1984 to form the band. This lineup was short lived, releasing the Pure Fucking Armageddon EP, before Euronymous shifted to primarily focusing on guitar. In his place as vocalist stepped in Maniac, and released the EP Deathcrush that sold all of its limited 1,000 copies. Following this Maniac left and was replaced by Dead on vocals and that was where Mayhem's more famous side came about. At first he would slice himself on stage and the band would have the impaled severed heads of various animals on poles but then tragedy struck when he was found dead with a shotgun wound and sliced wrists and Mayhem were without a vocalist again. In August 1993 tragedy once again struck, with Euronymous being murdered by band-mate Varg, who would become even more famous for his work with Burzum and later be imprisoned for 21 years for the murder of Euronymous. By this point it would have seemed likely that a Mayhem release would never see the light of day. Come 1994, people were proven wrong however.
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is considered to be both one of the most influential and one of the best black metal releases of all time as well as being hugely debated. With Hellhammer on drums, Euronymous' guitar work and Varg on bass coupled with the iconic and instantly recognizable dark and morose vocals from Attila, the band were geared up to release said album containing eight songs and whizzing past in forty six minutes. The sound of the album pretty much set the bar for any straight up black metal bands that did not feel the need to mess around with symphonies nor clean vocals, using flurries of lightning fast tremolo picking, crazily speedy blast beats and some of the most agonized shrieks laid to record from Attila. Closing the package is probably the finest black metal production job ever recorded. Many bands preferred the fuzzy, raw sound that could be gained from recording in such areas as a band member's garage, but Mayhem showed that a dark and atmospheric sound could still be garnered from the listener actually being able to hear every note crisply. The production job is not as clean as, say, The Black Album, and is still very dark and has a raw feel to it but instead of the guitars being inaudible over the frenzied drumming, every instrument is perfectly audible with some great tones to them.
The song craft itself on here is marvelous and the album itself is a masterpiece. The opener, Funeral Fog, stands out as one of the best on the record with its memorable and eerie nature and who could ever forget Attila roaring "fu-nerrrr-al.... FOG!" in that really strange, almost alien sound he has to his voice. Cursed In Eternity has some of the closest to traditional black metal shrieks found on the album, with Attila almost sounding like the bog-standard generic black metal vocalist on that song as well as there being some nice stop-start drumming sections half-way through the song on top of some really memorable riffing. However the real horrific beauty and genius of this album is found when it is left to play out in its entirety, instead of just skipping to one or two of the songs. The sound of this album is one of absolute brutality. Sure, it may get a little repetitive and samey with time, as with almost all black metal albums, but this is certainly one horrifying ride through the darkest corridors of the human mind. The atmosphere on display is one of foreboding as if the band are warning the listener to not try and understand why they do what they do, and to just go along with it, for nothing about this album makes any sense at all and yet it never fails to astound me.
This is one of the best if not the best and certainly the most instantly recognizable black metal albums of all time and, for once, is an album that actually lives up to its reputation. I recommend this to anyone looking for three quarters of an hours worth of raw, brutal black metal.