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Atilla's Return - a decade late & a dollar short - 8%

sublime_wreckage, February 2nd, 2008

--Disclaimer Edit---
Let me just respond to these little tweeny boppers by who think they've stumbled onto the aural equivalent of a perfect black metal album with a proper negative review about this album, because black metal it isn't. If you want the God's honest truth, this album is only an intellectual challenge if you were dropped on your head as a child, or grew up to overcome fetal alcohol syndrome. Die-hard black metal fans have a hard time "digesting" this trendy, band-wagon hopping exercise of Deathspell Omega-esque worship because it's just that... over-bloated, boring, pretentious shit masquerading as something some other band penned. I can only surmise Mayhem decided to do this so a new wave of self-loathing teenaged fans could croon over them, and spend their mother's hard-earned dollars on Ordo Ad Chao cds, "THE TRUE MAYHEM" t-shirts and hand out perfect 100 point reviews without so much as taking the time to acknowledge that a perfect metal album may NEVER exist. If it did, it certainly wouldn't happen because a band could only create an atmosphere that didn't otherwise exist by cheating their fans out of a proper treatment to sound quality and structure. Mayhem has basically abandoned all previous music standards that made them who they are today. But I suppose that's as much one man's idea of trash as the next's treasure.

The fact is Ordo Ad Chao is the equivalent to some hipster splashing random acryllic paint on a canvas, or better yet plaster molding his anus, hanging it above the mantle and calling it art. We who have been around to witness real milestones know who innovated what... which is why one can easily point to the current trends in the, so called, new wave of black metal bands these days, and identify where Ordo Ad Chao rips its sound off from. I'll concede, Atilla is talented as is Hellhammer and Blasphemer... and while a select few ISOLATED moments during this exercise in futility showed moments of promise, they are, for the most part, overwhelmed by a piss-poor attempt to sound "primal" and atonal. The reality is it just comes off as a shambling and meandering mess of dischordant riffs with awkward sections of blast beats and fills that, together, never get fully realized into any manner of coherency or purpose. Those with a discerning ear know "cavernous" and "challenging", in this particular case, are nothing more than euphemisms for sound quality and structure akin to pointless, anal drivel. You know, this album did discern a difference in it's listeners... but it was between multi-generationally hardened black metal fans who've witnessed countless trends come and go vs. those of you that currently worship at the altar of a band who has released just another album in a long line of albums that most correspond to trends gone by in black metal history: Mayhem. That said, sometimes even those with great taste get it wrong too. So, I don't hold it against anyone for liking this, as we all have our tastes. But you have to call out bullshit when you see it, and anyone trying to pass off the message that "you either like Ordo Ad Chao, or you don't get it intellectually", is a proper charlatan who needs to be put on notice.

-----Review Starts-----

What's really sad about this pitiful album is the fact that it marks the return of a vocal genius from the hey-day of this band's career: Atilla. Those of you familiar with him know his legendary (and challenging) vocal stylings from De Mysteriis, and even less of you may remember that one Mediolanum (live) track, "From the Dark Past", where he outshined Maniac effortlessly. What I find completely ironic about the timing of Atilla's return is how it couldn't have come at much more wrong time (I suppose Grand Declaration of War might have been just as bad). The point is, Mayhem decides they need to get rid of Maniac only AFTER Chimera?! This makes almost no sense at all, considering that Chimera was Maniac's first tolerable vocal delivery in his entire abject career with Mayhem. Granted members often part ways with bands due to a variety of other reasons, such as dysfunction, laziness, etc. (fact is I have no clue why Maniac was gone, I just know it could have come a decade sooner).

Anyways, the other reason for Atilla's return marking piss-poor timing on behalf of the band is that they decide to bring him in on this piece of shit, coaster of a compact disc called Ordo Ad Chao... more or less a 4 track garage-recording quality DEMO (or an obvious attempt at such in a modern studio... way to go guys, really). I mean, what WERE they thinking? And who the hell are they trying to impress by turning the treble dial all the way down, popping caps of psilocybin mushrooms and recording this hackneyed crap of a song "Illuminate Eliminate" as if by eerie candle-light? Some return to their dark, esoteric roots? Give me a fucking break. On the other hand, it almost makes me laugh as the current batch of black metal neophytes melt over pseudo-philosophical bullshit like Deathspell Omega with their borrowed death metal and drone aesthetics of phlegm-gurgling vocals, insipid, atonal guitar noodling, obstreperous compositions (see fas - ite... and chaining the katechon) and overall down-tuned, chunky sound. I mean, come on... what a pathetic attempt to cash in on what's trendy, placing their bets that the youngling fans would lap this feces up (like Grand Declaration wasn't a big enough kick in the ass for them?). I suppose Mayhem even thought they could hide that they were attempting pawn this trend off as their own innovation, by hiring Atilla and counterfeiting this new wave "black metal" with production shortcuts analogous to recording the album through 6 inches of drywall, plaster and insulation. The sound is literally so muddy and flat that when I first heard Ordo Ad Chao I thought I had received a leaked internet copy that hadn't been through the final mixing and mastering process; I even checked the bit-rate, my speakers, and everything else I could think of for problems. Its hard to imagine folks with a moderately intelligent grasp on music would be fooled by this or enjoy Ordo Ad Chao, but it's as the old cliche goes: there's no accounting for taste.

Anyways.. in the current climate of Mayhem (last 10 yrs or so), Chimera wasn't a half bad record... I mean, it was a typical no-frills Blasphemer and Hell-hammer affair, that while didn't capture the glory of Mayhem's work with Euronymous, it certainly was a bit of a throw-back to the Wolf's Lair Abyss MCD's simplistic, yet elegant writing style and effective overall sound (Fall of Seraphs and Ancient Skin still have this wonderful quality about them that I enjoy to this day). The reality is, Ordo Ad Chao could've used a lot of the magic found on those two tracks, and Chimera to a lesser extent. I digress.

As I mentioned in my "disclaimer" the music found on Ordo Ad Chao just really doesn't go anywhere or do anything special. It seems content to noodle around in atonal frequencies for extremely long and boring stretches, with hellhammer chiming in at unexpected or unusual intervals with sudden blast beats or out of place fills which attempt to give it some sense of the abstract. In truth, it sounds totally aimless and improvised, as if they were attempting some sort of black psychedelic drone metal. The problem is that riffing is mostly monotonous and wholly unconvincing at creating a sense of dread or evil atmosphere (this is further typified by the overall fuzzy sound production, and guitar reverb, which is the only thing that gives it a semblance of spatial awareness---as if in a dark cave). There also seems to be no real passion behind the band, save for Atilla. And even when they commit to a course (or tempo) change, it sounds much too contrived and as if done so in a completely arbitrary manner with respect to the overall composition. I feel no sense of purpose, or natural/organic flow.... just an aimless, empty mess with the occasional aggressive break-out. As such it does absolutely little, if anything at all, for me.

Don't buy this record if you expect the album I was when I found out Atilla was coming back. As it seems ONCE AGAIN, Mayhem has failed it's original fan base. Oh hell, who am I kidding? I never knew who Mayhem's fanbase really was, as Mayhem's always been a bit of an anomaly to me over the years; a band who continually whored themselves to the trends of its trappings (always finding themselves at the middle of black metal's goings-on for some reason or another, typically more for their notoriety and mystique than stand-out music). Their only true acclaim coming in the late 80s and early 90s for releasing Deathcrush and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. If you really think about it, Grand Decleration was easily an attempt to copy Moonfog bands of the time (Thorns, Satyricon, DHG). And De Mysteriis was a serious departure from the Sodom-inspired Deathcrush, that, while despite being pretty decent, was an obvious attempt to become relevant in the 2nd wave by copying their Norwegian counterparts who had released material in the years prior (91-93; really no need to name names here). The conclusion I have come to is that Ordo Ad Chao is garbage and rightfully gets the 8% it deserves. Don't like it? Well, that's just too bad. You can always go out and buy yourself an Ordo Ad Chao t-shirt and cry in it, though!