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As much I hate to seem like I am simply jumping on the bandwagon here, I must admit to this album being a major disappointment. As most know, after De Mysteriis was released, Mayhem as a band disbanded, obviously due to the murder of Euronymous, Vikernes being sentenced, and Attila's distance, Hellhammer was the only remaining member. He chose to continue the band in 1995, with past members, Maniac on vocals and Necrobutcher on bass, with a new guitarist, Blasphemer. After recording the vicious Wolf's Lair Abyss EP, this newly formed lineup seemed to be promising.
This album is very experimental, incorporating electronic and industrial elements, and other effects, along with black metal elements. Just not what you would expect from a band like Mayhem considering their past works. I think it was great that they decided to attempt at something original, I just wish they hadn't chosen this path. With Euronymous dead, Maniac seems to have taken creative direction.
Grand Declaration Of War is rather vicious at times, especially with Maniac's black metal vocals, as they are quite brutal. This, however, does not mean they are good. I have never been a fan of Maniac's vocals, mainly because they are very uninteresting and uninspired, in my opinion. Vocals aside, Blasphemer however, does seem to be a suitable replacement for Euronymous, although not as good, does a decent and respectable job. Some of the riffs in the songs Crystalized Pain in Deconstruction, In The Lies Where Upon You Lay, and View From Nihil are decent. The drums are quite fast, and decent as well on some songs, yet at sometimes can be aggravating also. Some songs have passages where Maniac is talking, which I don't like at all. Perhaps the worst song on here is A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun, which uses odd whispering vocal effects, and all instruments are absent, replaced with digitalized beats instead, which is a disgrace in my opinion for such a band.
The whole album is a concept album, with lyrics about future destruction of the world, society decaying, war, and related topics. I wouldn't say the lyrics are terrible, just truly nothing new really. I assume Maniac wrote these, which is not surprising, as he is also not the most original in this department either.
I've sure fans of industrial metal would enjoy this, but for traditional fans of black metal and earlier Mayhem, this is truly not for you. What saved this review from a serious low rating was some of the musicianship, namely by Blasphemer. The whole idea of this kind of experimentation by a band such as Mayhem though was a very bad idea. I am just happy that Maniac is out of the band now, and with Attila back on vocals, perhaps we can look forward to some decent material in the future.