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I only give this 95% because it is a hard album to get into, and I can see why it has divided Mayhem fans so much. Even by Mayhem's standards this is an obscure and cryptic release. Bear with it, though, as it is very rewarding in the end.
Firstly I must praise the overall structure of this. After the really solid but more "straight black metal" Chimera release they seemed to consciously return to more cryptic and experimental territory like they did on Grand Declaration of War, only this time the music is solely composed by Blasphemer. This album just flows really well, I think this is largely down to the perfect production, a sound so magical, distinct and perfect for the album on the same level as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. This album just sounds pitch black, it's like being dragged into a black hole, and it has a muddier almost death-metal production sound a little reminiscent of Immolation almost (from Close to a World Below onward at least). Handling the bass as well, Blasphemer brilliantly utilised this in the mix, driving forward the exhilarating Wall of Water and punctuating the more dynamic and sparse tracks like Illuminati Eliminate and Psychic Horns. My only possible issue in terms of sound might be Hellhammer's drums, he performs well as always but I am just not sure about the production, apparently they weren't equalised, at times they sound almost distorted, but they still do the job.
This may be to many the best Mayhem lineup ever, with both Blasphemer and Attila united for the only release they did together sadly, and Attila brought with him along with his idiosyncratic and otherworldly vocals a focus on Illuminati and Masonic themes, which fits Mayhem perfectly. The lyrics are as obscure as the music, as to be expected from Mayhem.
Given their recent output and sub-par guitarists nothing would make me happier than Blasphemer returning to Mayhem, and he certainly went out on a glorious high note with this album, his guitar-work is flawless and awe-inspiring, the riffs outright weird, dissonant, eerie...There are so many magical moments on this album that just make it more rewarding with each listen. It is hard at first, and you do need to be in the right mood to just sit down and listen to it in its entirety, but once you "get it", it's up there as one of their best yet.
Though I am a long-standing champion of Blasphemer-era Mayhem as THE worthwhile incarnation of the band, I cannot fully recommend their latest platter Ordo Ad Chao.
Unquestionably their ugliest record since Deathcrush, the production of Ordo Ad Chao sucks and unfortunately obscures what made the last three Mayhem releases great: Blasphemer’s riffs. Wolf’s Lair Abyss stands as the best produced of the Blasphemer-era- that thing sounds rich, sharp but also dirty and evil- but even the too-clear triggered sonics of Grand Declaration of War and the pristine darkness of Chimera (both fucking brilliant albums) better suit the barbed wire and alien logic of Blasphemer’s songwriting than the murky, drum-and-vocal-dominated mix of Ordo Ad Chao.
I’ll not spend all of my review on this superficial choice, but not in recent memory can I recall an album so injured by its production— it’s like getting a Dio album with the vocals barely audible. Not cool & creepy like all those lo-fi bands I like (Horna, Moonblood, Clandestine Blaze, etc.) Ordo Ad Chao sounds like a badly mixed club show. I mean seriously, parts of “Wall of Water” & “Great Work of Ages” sound like the drummer and singer are rehearsing before the guitarist even arrived. Drum legend Hellhammer is in fine form (love that purposely klutzy drum fill at 4:15 in “Wall of Water”), but any time he blastbeats, his snare hits covers up everything else—giving the proceedings a slightly industrial vibe.
On Ordo Ad Chao we have the return of Attila Csihar to the microphone and the results are mixed. Although he is a unique vocalist- and in many ways superior to Maniac (see Attila’s career highlight work for Keep of Kalessin)- his persona oddly pushes the world of Mayhem in an infantile direction. While Maniac’s work on Chimera was unspectacular compared to his daring Grand Declaration efforts, he never distracted from the material; Attila’s antics distract as often as they enhance Ordo. Though I prefer the quality of Atilla’s screeching voice to Maniac’s, his performance here varies from creepy to playful, that latter an unwanted element in Mayhem music. Also distracting is the outrageously flanged bass guitar, which is cool for a moment…but after forty BWOWS! loses its charm (as it continually covers up guitar).
A bigger issue with this album- in direct opposition to the minimalist Chimera- is that the songs are overworked, too intellectual and contain superfluous parts; see also Emperor’s Prometheus. While every single song displays moments of Blasphemer’s songwriting brilliance, every song has a section (or two or three or more) that is sub-par, doesn’t flow or seems just plain irrelevant. The first minute of “Deconsecrate,” the last portion of “Great Work of Ages” a shitload of the middle of “Illuminate Eliminate” should simply not be.
Unfocused, badly mixed, erratic, but occasionally brilliant, the new Mayhem features an ugly sound that works against the backbone of the band: the riffing constructs of visionary guitarist Blasphemer. I wanted to love this album like the last three- all of which are completely different experiences- but I don’t.
Although this album has 18 reviews or so, I felt obliged to add my own, especially after I saw the 77% rating for this album which is clearly TOO FUCKING MUCH. Now I'm not writing this review just to lower Mayhem's rating, but to express my disappointment in somewhat overrated Mayhem's present quality. Mayhem went well downhill after their not-so-significantly bad release "Grand Declaration Of War". Since then, they've been trying to recover their old glory on the "Chimera" album, and now this...
We all remember great songs from the "Deathcrush" ep or the "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" album and where the heck did it all go? Well, you'll get the point after you listen to the riffage on this album. It's pure shit, it has absolutely no "blackness" in it, no inspiration, just something that tries really hard, but fails in every aspect of brutality and that martyr black metal sound. All of that makes the songs extremely dull. I would expect more from these black metal veterans, but clearly they've gone softer over the years as they're getting older that is. All in all, I give 5% to riffage because of its high mediocrity.
The vocals are, considering black metal, extremely good, although I prefer much "dirtier" vocals in black metal, but considering the passing of time and modernization and all, I think they're really, really good. Vocals pretty much depict blackness in its full dirty misanthropic form and they pretty much succeed in this part, so I give them 15%, although I guess they would sound better if the riffage wasn't so mediocre.
As far as lyrics go, they're pretty much standard black metal. Nothing more to say about them, although they vary from song to song from misanthropic to somewhat gloomy and apocalyptic . So lyrics get 10% for being plain okay.
Because of the bad riffage, bass lines follow in "badness". It's okay, but not...good, so the bass lines get 5% along with riffage. The drumming is for the most part pretty good, considering other bad stuff on this album, and keeps up a good solid rhythm. Smashing and bashing crashes and chimes, the drumming pretty much pulls this album out of shit. But drums are not "the whole" band, but a link in a chain, and a pretty strong link. So drumming gets 15% for making all of this sound better and for being a well-oiled machine.
If I was to compare this particular album to a chain, I'd say that the vocals and drumming are the only strong links with lyrics holding solidly to the other two very corroded, weak, and shitty ones.
So all in all, this is a plain mediocre album. It's worth listening to if you want to complete the whole "Mayhem goes down on black metal quality" experience. Mayhem is still an excellent and solid black metal band with live performances that go out of this world, and we still have high hopes that maybe, just maybe they'll go back to being "pure fucking Armageddon" once more rather than this.
Mayhem is one of the most respected and criticized bands in all of black metal. No one can deny the band's influence in the birth of the Second Wave, and the Norwegian scene in particular. Yet, ever since the classic De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the band has strayed ever farther from their path. Each time around, fans were hopeful for a return to form, yet Mayhem offered experimental sounds, instead. It was almost as if they were intentionally turning their back on the style that made them so legendary to begin with. Either that, or they simply tried to push the envelope and just failed miserably. Though Maniac was ousted and Attila returned to the fold, there was no way for Blasphemer to ever fill the shoes of Euronymous and he had proven that time and again. And so expectations were quite low in April 2007, as the band released their fourth full-length album, Ordo Ad Chao.
It begins with "A Wise Birthgiver", which gets off to a slow start. The feeling is consumed with dread and impending doom. As Attila's voice rises from the murky depths, an aura of darkness envelopes you. This intro sets the tone, perfectly, and gives hope for what is to come.
"Wall of Water" maintains the dark and gloomy feeling, and one can sense that something really has changed with the songwriting. This is much more straightforward and true to the essence of black metal. As things speed up, it becomes evident that the production is rather muddy and the riffs are restrained, somehow. The percussion is a bit easier to hear, but the guitar riffs seem to be in the background. However, the vocals are high enough in the mix to be heard and that is one of the most positive things about the entire album. Attila sounds possessed and gives one of his best performances, ever. As for the music, it never sticks with one tempo for too long. Rather than focusing on certain riffs, the attention is centered on maintaining a pitch-black atmosphere.
The hellish feeling continues on with "Great Work of Ages", which features a lot of faster riffs, mixed in with slow sections that are accentuated by Attila's eerie whispers. Hellhammer's drumming is a little chaotic, but works well for the material. The riffs are all over the place, at times, with no clear structure to the song. In many ways, this is what Black Metal should strive to be; to break free from the formulaic approach and to be more concerned with creating a dark and evil atmosphere.
"Deconsecrate" starts out with otherworldly screams and one has to question how this could come from a human. The answer, of course, is that Attila is hardly human. He utilizes a mix of clean and harsh vocals, creating a sinister effect. Again, the music seems to move from one idea to the next, rarely returning to a previous theme, merely taking the listener on a darkened journey through Hell. For some, this may be too much to take in, but it is all about atmosphere. That cannot be said enough.
The following song is the longest one on here, clocking in at almost ten minutes. "Illuminate Eliminate" is like some hideous beast that crawls out from the abyss to seek out human victims. It bears a feeling of dread, and the vocals add a sense of malevolence to the proceedings. The tension grows as this track slowly builds. A gloomy tremolo riff slithers among the doomed remnants of life now extinguished, as the pace soon picks up. The warmer guitar tone really works for this material as, though many would have preferred a colder sound, this helps imbue the listener with a feeling of experiencing pure Hell. The final minutes of the song sees the introduction of a mournful melody that signifies the beginning of the final descent.
"Psychic Horns" starts out with another mid-paced riff and the sorrowful sound in Attila's voice has now been replaced by pure evil. Like a spirit now fully possessed, he conveys the feeling that there is no turning back. Musically, things are more chaotic and intense, which is good to wake the listener from the trance of the previous song.
"Key to the Storms" is a shorter track that features a lot of busy drum-work, though the pace is not all that fast. In the background, one can hear faint echoes of a cold riff that hearkens back to the band's previous era. Late in the song, one gets the sense that Attila has finally lost his mind, as his ravings go beyond the farthest limits of sanity. Such is the price one must pay to enter the depths of Hell and to approach the throne of the Dark One.
The final song, "Anti", completes the journey into the mouth of the abyss, beyond the illusions of good or evil and toward the great nothingness that awaits us all. The images of Hell were but manifestations of an insane mind, at war with itself to come to grips with the ultimate truth: it is all a big nothing. As the chaotic pounding of drums joins the frenetic riffing, it becomes clear that emptiness shall consume us all. Attila's vocals personify the sound of the abyss swallowing itself, leaving nothing but a cold void.
Ordo Ad Chao is a record that should surprise many. Of course, this is not a triumphant return to the glory of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. However, what it is, is the band's first relevant release since then. The music, itself, is secondary to the hideously dark atmosphere that oppresses you and the brilliant vocal performance by Attila. For those who had written this band off, long ago, this one is worth checking out.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate Mayhem. As many of us know, Mayhem is actually a band that spawned in the first black metal wave (most notably with an EP called Deathcrush), but their climax manifested in the second wave of black metal bands with a masterpiece called De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an album that will forever be credited as the most important and the most influential black metal album.
Mayhem, as time passed, had many line-up changes. Since Dead's suicide and Euronymous's death, most people though that they will never be what they once were. Wolf's Lair Abyss was a good start, but the experimental album Grand Declaration of War didn't produce any reaction... any positive reaction, actually.
Ordo Ad Chao is probably the best work they ever did. This album, in my opinion, can be considered their maturity album. Fast and powerful blast drum beats done by Hellhammer that once again proves that he is the best drummer in the black metal scene, morbid and sinister vocals done by Attila that always amazes you - scream here, growl there, whisper here, this guy is totally unpredictable and truly a master among all the black metal vocalist. Clear bass lines done by Blasphemer (he claimed that Necrobutcher had absolutely nothing to do with the recording and production of this album) and a more modest performance done by Blasphemer at guitars that chose to reduce his guitar solos and riffs in favor of Attila's truly amazing vocals and for Hellhammer's drum solos.
I was actually amazed hearing Mayhem fans (or former fans so to say, not that they ever were though) calling it crap because of the production quality. I'm sorry guys, but this is the True Mayhem, and true Mayhem plays True Black Metal, which should be in low production quality this way you can really feel that you've listened to Mayhem and that you listened to black metal. Anyway, placing production quality over artistic quality shows the fact that fans do not appreciate a band for what they write and compose, but from how good it sounds, which is really a shame and disrespect towards a band.
The fact that it is in low production quality gives the album a more sinister aura, especially when the instrumental is accompanied by Attila's voice. You can feel this like a chant and not much of a song, sorta speak. This is not an album made for headbanging. This is an album that needs to be listened to in complete darkness and isolation and the most important thing is listening to it many times in order to understand it.
Another thing I want to add is that I credit Maniac and Dead for their impressive vocals on other Mayhem works, but they pale in contrast with Attila. The guy can actually express emotional and spiritual states through his vocals, culminating with his cries in the song Key to the Storms.
Conceptually, unlike the old Mayhem albums, this one does not focus on Satanic, gore, or evil themes like we noticed in Deathcrush or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. It focuses especially on war, mythology, and misanthropy. We hear about a global flood in Wall of Water, though I don't really know if they were making a reference to the biblical flood or rather to a flood as a natural disaster.
By far, the best song this album has (not that the other ones aren't good, but this one makes its presence much more felt that the others) is Illuminate Eliminate. The song spawns for almost 10 minutes and you can also hear elements from doom metal and even progressive metal in it. Attila's vocals shine mostly in this song, expressing his emotions in a brilliant manner.
The last song, Anti, also marks the first video ever made by Mayhem, directed by Costin Chioreanu. Though the video does not really have any meaning since it only shows footage of a Mayhem concert, the song really has meaning. This song depicts the theme of war and makes references to Annunaki (check Wikipedia if you want to know more).
Overall, a masterpiece. Though I mourn the departure of Blasphemer, I am sure that if, in the near future, Mayhem will release another album, I want it to be like this one - dark, morbid, and sinister. With Attila, Necrobutcher (though I don't really trust him when it comes to composing music) and Hellhammer will pull off something even better. Now with Teloch as composer, we might see another album in the near future. Hail Mayhem!
Man, I would not want to be Attila Csihar's psychiatrist, nor would I even want to sit in on such a session. I'd quickly lose touch with all his various accumulated personalities, dizzied by his emotional contrasts. But then, I'm not really talking about an hour with a licensed shrink, but the 40 minutes one spends locked into the vices and disjointed devices of Ordo Ad Chao, the fourth Mayhem full-length in a career well over two decades deep. Attila returned to the fold shortly after the release of Chimera, Maniac off to pursue other interests, and yet again we are faced with a massive transformation in the band's core sound. If you thought the leap between Wolf's Lair Abyss and Grand Declaration of War was wide, then compare and contrast this one to its predecessor.
Ordo Ad Chao is quite the antithesis of Chimera. Where that album boasted some punishing and slick production values, meaty guitar tones and violent yet dynamic riffing, this one sounds as if its being performed in the basement beneath you. Like you're a fly on the wall of some infernal, subterranean gathering. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to discount this as a Mayhem album altogether, but instead what might occur if a trio of known and respected Norwegian musicians brought a tape recorder along to an unfortunate encounter with a bag of bad mushrooms. Or, if you will, a deconstruction of the principles upon which the previous full-lengths were built. Up to this point, I realize I'm not painting a very positive outlook on this album, but in truth I did actually enjoy it quite a lot.
Or 'not enjoy' it, depending on your perspective.
Csihar was hardly a candidate for sanity on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 13 years prior, but the guy is simply all over this thing, as if it were some galleria of sickness. He very often seems to be improvising his lines, for how else could such a clutter manifest itself and still manage to seem authentic. In "Key to the Storms", he transforms from a sobbing, decrepit miser into a cackling lunatic. In "Anti", his guttural growls and heightened shrieks are enough to send anyone to the suicidal hotline. Wants us to hear every tremor upon his tongue. The schizophrenia and sadness presented through these eight pieces is a noted contrast to Maniac's more robust delivery on the last album. Sure, neither of these guys are the first you'd want to invite to a family dinner, but Attila's performance is far more scatterbrained and broken, which fits the music here like a needle to a vein.
Yet, while he's clearly the side attraction here, it's the music itself which takes center stage at the asylum talent show. Ordo Ad Chao is by far the least comfortable of Mayhem's records, in that it seems to shun the concepts of accessible melody and predictable structure altogether. Both the guitars and bass were performed by Blasphemer, and he seems to second guess himself through the whole runtime, offering sodden, dissonant grooves and brief spurts of razor tight tremolo licks that immediately pierce the surrounding atmosphere (as in "Great Work of Ages"). Even more bizarre: the drums. Hellhammer lays down a lot of grooves here, but he also bursts into some sick footwork on tracks like "Deconsecrate" and "Illuminate Eliminate" which is so damn dense and thundering that it almost explodes right out of the muffled, tenebrous mix that drags the entire album down into the murk of desolate, metaphysical symbolism of the lyrics.
And that (the sound) will understandably prove a hurdle for most. Clearly we're looking at an entire different realm of aural transgression here, which bears more in common with most of the recent cavern-core retro death of the past few years than the black metal genre. In fact, outside from a few of the riffs and growls, it feels more like a somnolent, perturbing death metal journey than one we'd normally associate with Mayhem. The intentional under-wrought production is all too fitting to the composition, or rather the 'lack' of composition, and I can't see how else it would come across so harrowing and adventurous. Unlike other deconstruction's of sound, like 1349's miserable Revelations of the Black Flame, Ordo Ad Chao is almost hypnotic. A lattice of swollen, infected veins that loose pus into the listener's ears. A vortex of grime and agony. A welcome therapy for the mad, BY the mad.
While the failure of this album isn't really unexpected, it's still deeply disappointing; while cognitively I'm aware that there will never be a 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' part two, I get my hopes up with every new Mayhem release that comes out. That in mind, a Mayhem release doesn't need to be 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' to be good; it would just be highly encouraged. 'Ordo Ad Chao', however, is just bad all around, and is really the soundtrack to yet another one of black metal's original greats plummeting into a sea of mediocrity and self-parody, the start of which was pronounced as far back as 'Grand Declaration Of War'. On no album until this point, however, had the band managed to make an absolutely 90 degree drop in quality; there was a hint of a curve on 'Grand Declaration Of War' and a somewhat steeper one on 'Chimera', but 'Ordo Ad Chao' is just silly; it's really as though Mayhem is pulling a neo-Darkthrone and realizes that literally anything they release will sell thousands of copies, so why try at all?
I guess I might as well come out and say that, unsurprisingly, the major bright spot on this release is Attila. His performance on 'Ordo Ad Chao' doesn't quite match up to the dark majesty of 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas', but it comes very close at times. The man's particular style of seemingly improvised grumbling and gnashing and wailing is, as always, completely unique despite the best efforts of others in the black metal scene to clone his sound. Attila carries the album as much as he possibly can, managing to add some level of gravitas to even the most explicitly and unflinchingly boring material found on this CD. He doesn't save the album, but he truly goes down with the sinking ship in a spectacular manner, and he's worthy of commendation if just for his bravery in the face of utter horror.
Apart from him, Hellhammer's drumming is good. And that's about where my positive comments on this album end.
Hints of it were present on 'Chimera', but on 'Ordo Ad Chao', it comes out in full force: Mayhem has become uncomfortable in their own skin and are looking elsewhere in the black metal scene for artists to emulate in hopes of retaining relevance. In this case, the artist chosen is Deathspell Omega amidst a whole host of other modern bands (generally the ones affiliated with the 'orthodox' style), who for some reason have been chosen to embody Mayhem's new sound. The results, as expected, are disastrous to anyone who enjoys Mayhem for who they are versus who they attempt to ape. Gone is the exquisite sense of melody and substantial thrash and heavy metal influences of even the previous full-length, and we're left only with an extremely boring array of generally atonal, lethargic tremolo riffs which lack even the most minor motion behind them. Throughout the album one gets the distinct impression that the band simply doesn't care (with the exception of Attila, of course) and is grinding out music for the paycheck.
This album is really remarkably immature on a musical level; it's as though the band has lost any sense of progressive or novel songwriting and is falling back into the sort of riff slideshow patterns one would expect from a random one-man black metal band in eastern Europe, not a first-tier artist. It's overly primitive, and not in a good way; just a lazy, careless way that shows a band which has both run out of ideas and is completely insecure with themselves. There's nothing else that explains such a dramatic and ill-advised shift towards the style found on this album: it simply has to be a matter of fear and laziness. None of the songs manage to go anywhere or convey any atmosphere between the sort of basic darkness that anyone with a guitar and functional hands can create, and even the most complex songs come off as underdeveloped and boring.
A special place in hell, though, is reserved for this album's production, which is so bad in so many ways that it almost makes you think this album is a joke (if the songwriting alone didn't make you think that). At once too quiet and horribly clipped despite it, it's an obvious attempt to capture a 'raw' sound at a good studio, making for a paradoxically clean yet deliberately underproduced sound which captures nothing good at all. Perhaps the worst afflicted are the drums: they're a faint rumbling that very clearly clips and crackles whenever a tom fill or cymbal strike emerges. Guitars are a waffling wall of sludge without any treble, but the lack of a high-end doesn't make this sound heavy, as the dynamic range and overall tone is so compressed that even the most violent moments of this music (and there are very few) sound weak and lifeless.
'Ordo Ad Chao' is an awful album which never should have been made, but numerous people will think that Mayhem are geniuses simply because they've managed to 'keep up with the times', even though in doing so they've sacrificed everything which made them wonderful to begin with. Don't buy this; I can't even recommend one download this in good conscience because anyone who's been into black metal for two years has heard all the ideas in this release executed better elsewhere. There's probably no hope for the band after this, so I consider this a farewell to one of black metal's once great artists, who like so many others fell into the abyss, never to return.
Ordo ad Chao.
This is an ominous piece of work, containing the oddest compilation of Mayhem's efforts up until this point.
Though I was badly disappointed by its predecessor Chimera, Ordo ad Chao truly revived the Mayhem flame within me. This album carries a really fantastic atmosphere and a much grittier sound that gives off the idea it may as well have been made in the middle of the Second Wave.
You will not find catchy and "progressionist" riffs in here. The guitar work is certainly wrought with an obscurity resembling their very own ‘De Mystheriis dom Sathanas’. Starting off in 'A Wise Birthgiver' with a decrepit and atmospheric sound, Blasphemer's labor on Ordo ad Chao simply strikes me as odd - It is pretty much non-linear and follows weirded-out tempos, setting it's own pace. At times it can be slow and suddenly burst into crushing tremolos as those seen in 'Work of Ages'. HOWEVER, there are times when the distortion shifts and creates some pretty cool moments (0:50 of Illuminate Eliminate)
The bass lines are pretty much the responsible for thickening the sound and giving it an enthralling feeling. The bass doesn't stand out much more than the guitar, since they both act as secondary to the songs' purpose, which seems obviously to unsettle the listener with a truly dense sound.
Now onto the drumming: It carries a very tribal feeling to it, adding to the whole ritualistic atmosphere on the whole CD. One thing I do have to say about the drum sound is the strange sound that the Ride Cymbal makes, since at times it is pretty much an odd bell (have you ever stopped before the tracks, when the train is close and there's that awfully annoying bell? That's the one!)
Last, but by no means least, comes the time to discuss Attila's work. I absolutely praise this album's vocals, since they don't sound trivial or overproduced. This feels spontaneous, and there are many REALLY odd sounds that he makes that contribute to just how unsettling this album can be (The beginning and again at 3:50 on Deconsecrate). Making gurgling, screaming, breathing in, chanting, growling, whispering and so on... I applaud the vocal work in here. It's blaspheme, and totally amazing.
The only downside is that to truly appreciate this album and not finding it over the top and corny, you must listen to the WHOLE CD, not just bits-n-bobs. Give it a good spin one night and you will be truly enthralled.
Hail Ordo ad Chao.
Mayhem has returned to bring us another piece of black metal art, this time with Attila handling vocal duties. Attila had not been with Mayhem for almost 13 years so his return was much welcomed. On this album, his vocals combine the deep growls of Dead with Maniac's high pitched shrieks along with his signature all too familiar sound. The final product is a blend of screams, cries, guttural growls and demonic spoken words. Fans of Attila will be very pleased to hear this album but if you were expecting something similar to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, you may be disappointed.
The music to Order Ad Chao is definitely very different from anything they have ever created. The riffs can be compared to some of the work heard on Wolf's Lair Abyss. Blasphemer's songwriting style has changed a lot since Chimera. Fast tremolo picking with the typical eerie black metal chords make up the sound of most of the riffs but the atmosphere of this album is purely evil and cold more so than any of their previous releases. This album does not contain any of the crunchy break downs that were heard throughout Chimera. The riffs which are very complex and tend to change drastically are usually used only in one sequence and are rarely repeated more than once in the songs. Mayhem changed drastically since Chimera because they went from using the verse/chorus structure a lot to not at all in Ordo Ad Chao.
The unpredictable nature of this album makes listeners constantly wondering what is next to come. Fans of traditional black metal may find listening to Ordo Ad Chao unpleasant but to others it just proves how talented the musicians are. Rehearsing to record this album must have been a pain in the ass! The quality of the recording is weak even in comparison to earlier Mayhem recordings. I was disappointed by this because it ruins powerful sound of Hellhammer's drumming. The distortion is very high and drowns out a lot of the toms and the double bass. Even though the recording quality is not as good as it could have been, the album is sure to go down in history as one of the most innovative and unique black metal albums of all time.
I bought Ordo Ad Chao in the summer of 2007 in Australia, and I would listen to it on the ships when we left ports, so I had alot of time to thoroughly listen to it.
As the months have passed I have read a fair share of negative reviews written in offense towards Mayhem, as if to sound the trumpets of a terrible injustice to the "fans" who scream for thier 13 dollars back. I just had to write a review. So to the naysayers, I will be targeting your thoughts and I will be praising this album. Dont continue if you hated this album.
Lets start off with the production quality. This seems to be the biggest complaint coming from these so called "fans". I'm sorry, if the production quality on a FUCKING MAYHEM album is more of concern than the quality of the music, then you should probably take off that Deathcrush t-shirt and give it to a real follower of the band.
Yes, the production is a full 180-degree turn from the pristine crisp sound of past efforts like Chimera and Grand Declaration Of War. Its a safe bet to say it was done deliberately. Its very low-grade, very murky and cavernous. In all honestly I think it fits very well. This is not supposed to be a happy, headbanger metal album. Its Mayhem returning to the older sound, and quite frankly we should be grateful. Not ripping on ex-vocalist Maniac, but lets be honest....Chimera had a total of 3 incredible tracks and the rest was as bland as whatever Satyricon is doing nowadays...yeah I said it.
Vocals. Amazing. Simply moving. To a true Mayhem fan, Attila's return almost brings tears to your eyes. His performance is nothing short of astonishing. I wouldnt have expected anything less than black metal's champion shaman, and his range is all over the fucking place. His signatures are all present, with some fresh sounds as well such as *spoiler* his hideous sobbing and crying on "Key To The Storms" and the 'so-gutteral-most-gore bands-give-up' low roars on "Anti". The lyrics are as chaotic as the album's title entails, ranging from suicide, chaos, Annunaki, and even a kickass concept of the world devouring itself in an end-all humanity flood in "Wall Of Water".
Blasphemer's guitar work, contrary to the bullshit being said by trend-whore "fans", is absolutely brilliant. Snaking, listener-unfriendly anti-melodies and subterranean riffs interact to create a brutal, ugly and simply disgusting atmosphere that I find only comparable to "committing suicide and dying in a sewer line". Some of Blasphemer's most brutal guitar work is showcased on this album, ranging from chaotic Aura Noir-esque spaz outs to slow, dirge/doom/drone sub-textures that churn like nausea in the pit of your stomach. Bass lines were a little different this time around, with Necrobutcher adding some 'flange' lines in the mix, that make the atmosphere more punctuated. I think the centerpiece of the album is the track "Illuminate Eliminate". It has everything in it.
The drums. Hellhammer pulls off some of his finest and fastest drumming in the band. Blast beats are insanely precise and this time around the double bass rolls have exceeded all efforts. I can only sum up his kit handywork in one word. Insane. Seriously, just listen.
Ordo Ad Chao in my opinion is Mayhem's finest record ever. Every Mayhem fan has his/her own preference on what constitutes their "best" album, but for me this is Mayhem's most mature and challenging album ever. Not only a harrowing return to form, but a hate-filled statement to the underground that the godfathers of the scene are still the champions. This album is not an easy listen, and not intended to be ready to digest. It takes a clear head, an open mind, and a TRUE appreciation of the band and its art to understand this album. This is the challenge that Mayhem have thrown out to the fanbase to filter out the trend whores from the die-hards, a rallying nightmare that only the strong are allowed to participate in. This is what makes Mayhem stand out still after 20+ years of terrorizing the genre of black metal.
All Hail Mayhem!
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.
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!
Necrobutcher: Hey guys, I think there's a reason why we isolated some of our black metal fans from our last few albums!
Blasphemer: Omgz! How?
Necrobutcher: We used death metal production! Black metal fans don't like it!!1!
Necrobutcher: So if we like totally make the production all raw stylez, they'll think we're kvlt again! lolz!
No really, they must have had this conversation. That would be the only justification for the inane production on this album. Sure, if this was a band starting out - they couldn't actually afford production, I'd be forgiving - but c'mon, this is Mayhem. They make thousands off each album. They're not exactly struggling musicians anymore.
To be more precise of the production: this is the sort of "raw" production that makes metalheads who listen to Dimmu Borgir believe this is what "raw" black metal is. If anyone describes this production as raw in a positive and honest context - please, go shoot yourself. This is not raw. This is the raw you get when you have a thousand dollar budget, and you twiddle some shiny knobs in your studio to make it sound atmospheric. I'm afraid that does not constitute as raw.
Firstly, the song structures are boring. This is the song writing level that you would expect from a new band - or even a band made of young teenagers who want to write some fun, cheesy black metal. The riffs are uninspiring, repetitive (and not in the good drone way, either) - and the drumming is completely unimaginative. Which brings me to another point - what is with the drum production? Does having poor drum production turn you into a black metal genius? No, it doesn't. There are scattered moments throughout the album where it's just random, slow guitar and Attila doing "weird" vocal lines over the top. Look, if you think that's unique, scary, "evil" or atmospheric - you too can shoot yourself.
Vocally, it's typical Attila. I guess I can give him credit for the simple fact that he has a distinctive voice, which is commendable - but he sounds bored. They all sound bored. This is boring to listen to. The aggressive, thrashy passages that are meant to get you excited are weak. While writing this review I went through three songs, but I thought it was the same song. There is nothing memorable about anything on this CD. At all.
I can not understand why so many people have given this such a high rating. If this was the first album by an unknown band, I can guarantee you it wouldn't receive such praise. But I guess since it's the "true" Mayhem going "back to their roots" that makes it fantastic or something.
If you like deliberately under produced, contrived black metal written by people who used to be influential in some way (which could be argued, Master's Hammer obliterates this band) then you'll probably lap up this album and gloat over the fact you own some "raw" black metal. If, on the other hand, you don't care for such folly - I suggest something more groundbreaking, original and interesting.
I gave it 5 points for Attila, but his overuse of echo-ridden, "creepy" sounding vocals is just annoying. It's not unique, arty, scary or whatever else.
They are back! With Ordo Ad Chao, Mayhem is telling the metal scene that they are back and ready to take their place as black metal elite. What we have with this album is 8 tracks of pure sonic darkness. I mean, this record is truly grim and fucking dark. No one with any sense expected Mayhem to come with such a ruthless assault.
The first thing that strikes you with this album is the production. It's easily the rawest Mayhem has been since the Deathcrush EP. But this is a different kind of raw. The low end is boosted pretty strongly, making the guitars take this truly filthy, heavy tone. It's easily some of the heaviest sounding riffs i've heard in black metal. The drums are something else, with the ride bell being louder than everything else, and the toms completely dark and grand. Attila sounds like a beast in this, with some of the strangest vocals in years.
Experimentation's been a big part of Mayhem's repertoire the last 10 or so years of their career, and OAC is no different. They manage to combine an even more sinister version of Chimera with the epic feel of AGDOW. Songs like Illuminate Eliminate and Psychic Horns are some impressive, epic pieces of work, with winding riffs and dark, moody passages that hits you from all sides. Blasphemer is a master, dominating that evil guitar tone and contorting it to his will. Necrobutcher's bass is that much more important here, adding to that heaviness of the guitars. Mayhem hasn't sounded this tight since De Mysteriis for sure.
Adding to that, there are serious headbanging moments during Wall of Water, and especially the last minute or so of Deconsecrate. Some of the most chaotic passages ever, Mayhem manage to bring up a black storm of riffing and still make it powerful and moving. Sadly, the album suffers its only drawback: it's too short. It seems like it ends way too quickly, and it seriously leaves you wanting more. This is one of those albums everyone will remember as Mayhem's true declaration of war.
Ordo Ad Chao is Mayhem's 4th studio album, which for 24 years of existence isn't very impressive, but remember they've been very busy with EPs/labels/live albums/dying. Of those 4, only one is universally respected, 1994's seminal black metal album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. After that was A Grand Declaration Of War, an incredibly experimental album with vocalist Maniac. I personally thought it was a great record, truly original in a genre which was becoming stale, however it was very badly recieved, and Mayhem lost a very large portion of their fanbase. Since then more bands have been emerging and changing round black metal even more, and I think Mayhem perhaps responded to that with 2004's Chimera, which was certainly more raw and to the point, but still Maniac was on the mic, and honestly he wasn't very good.
You'll be glad to hear, then, that for Ordo Ad Chao, Atilla Csihar, vocalist on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas has returned after some time touring with Sunn O))). Other than that, the lineup is the same as on Chimera, Blasphemer, Hellhammer and Necrobutcher. Some thought this album was going to continue on the slope that Mayhem were supposedly on starting in 2000, but after the announcement that Atilla had returned, hopes were getting high, and were sustained when they uploaded a song from the new album to their myspace.
Now, to the actual album itself.
It's fucking evil.
After a 3 minute track of what is essentially intro sounds, military snares and evil mumblings, the first song kicks off. From here you will have a lo-fi attack on your ears. The album has only 8 tracks, but also includes Mayhem's longest song, Illuminate Eliminate, clocking in at 9 minutes and 40 seconds.
Obviously the first thing people will notice about the album is the production, it's incredibly lo-fi, it's very raw but you can tell it was honed to precision, as you can hear every instrument well, there is no white noise and all the interludes have a lingering eerieness which, given crystal clear production would sound pretentious and rubbish (something which I feel plagued A Grand Declaration Of War).
There are many times where you doubt that this is really a black metal album. There are incredibly slow paced doomy riffs (enhanced no end by the unbelievably sludgy guitar tone), and moments where (no pun intended) mayhem breaks loose. Somehow, it is all pulled together by Atilla's vocals. You will hear him use his voice in so many different ways it's hard to count. There are very low rasps, very high screeches, a few gutturals, spoken word, melancholy cleans, sinister whispers, hell, Illuminate Eliminate even has something resembling a pig squeal. you name it, he's got it. He doesn't do this in the same way as, say, Dani Filth does (and admit it, he's got some decent range), every style he uses compliments the atmosphere and mood perfectly. If you read the lyrics while listening, yet more evilness jumps out at you, There's the standard fare anti-Christian lyrics (which are actually pulled off very tastefully), songs which hint at mythology and battle, and also some songs which sound like they are about spirituality and soul-searching.
Instrumentally, this album is a mixture between all of their releases. As much as some of you would hate to admit, there are moments that could have come straight out of A Grand Declaration Of War, with the minimalism (Sunn O))) clearly rubbed off on Atilla) of some parts, and the pure demonic fury of others reminding me of Deathcrush and (to an extent) Wolf's Lair Abyss. I think some of this can be linked to Hellhammer's ever consistent drumming, he was always a great blastbeater, and his minimalistic drumming between actual song segments add just as much spookiness as the guitar.
In black metal, bass is never considered that important but Necrobutcher has held up his position well. With the very low-end production, the bass is clearly audible, but rarely noticeable as you are often paying more attention to Atilla or Blasphemer, but, despite his basslines rarely stepping away from root notes, his rhythm is perfect, if you can listen intently enough.
Blasphemer has done an excellent job over Necrobutcher, tritonous little overdubs add more flavour to what is otherwise standard fare tremelo picked riffs that Mayhem have always used. Of course, they pull that off well too, but some of the lengthy tracks on Ordo Ad Chao couldn't be held together unless you were given more ominous melodies to keep you anticipating the next explosion.
There are moments, unfortunately where that next explosion doesn't come, and it can make you zone out a little, and you don't pay attention to all the work the guys have done to make this sound, in the words of Hellhammer, "necro as fuck", but some of these songs are fucking brilliant, either as classic Mayhem tracks or epic experiments, with some blastbeats thrown in for good measure. Best songs are Great Work Of Ages, Anti and Deconsecrate.
I'll start this by saying that Wolf's Lair Abyss was the last album I really liked a lot from Mayhem. I thought GDoW was too technical for its own good (though it contained some good songs IMO) and that Chimera was too boring. This new one though, well, holy hell.
Finally, after 3 years the new opus from legendary black metallers Mayhem has arrived. A lot has changed since Chimera, the last full length. Maniac is gone, Attila is back and the band seems to have found new life (death?) A lot of people were very excited by the return of Attila, myself included, and were anxiously awaiting the new album. When it comes to this band you know that a lot of time will be taken to create an album that is not only worth listening to, but that will be equally disharmonic and abrasive in nature. I heard Anti when it was first made public and was actually blown away by its sonic fury. The bass drums were honestly the fastest I have ever heard anyone play. The production was also something which stood out. It was necro and very, hmmm, muddy perhaps is the right word. Now I usually don't like a muddy sound but this was just completely awful (in a good way) and really commanded my attention. I bought this album just a few days ago finally and after listening to it maybe 5 times in total (which is not enough to fully grasp this record I will admit) I feel I can write a decent review.
As I said before the production is necro and even though this word is used way too much, grim. It's a nice change of style though from the usual crystal clear crap we hear nowadays. The instruments, especially the drums are very in the background it seems, compared to the vocals. The drum sound reminds me slightly of NeChrist, in that they sound almost hollow. Guitars are distorted to the utmost level yet the sound is really awesome. The bass is there and can be heard most of the time. I'm honestly having trouble writing this because I just don't know what to say about this album. I don't feel I should write a normal review, because this album is just not normal. Very hard to describe what I'm thinking in my head when I listen to it. I think that's the ultimate beauty in this album. It's so different from what is out there now.
I'll move onto the vocals, probably the best part of the album. I loved Attila's performance on De Mysteriis and he has always been my favorite Mayhem vocalist, so it is no surprise that his work here is of the highest caliber of excellence. He uses his usual croaks and deep talking/chanting, but he also utilizes shrieks and screams occasionally as well, like on the Aborym material. He really has an incredibly wide range of styles. There is a scream which opens Deconsecrate (I think it's this one) which is so demonic and so cavernous that your blood will curl. Truly a masterful performance from one of the best in the entire genre of black metal.
The songs generally are slow, with some fast parts scattered around here and there, but the overall mood is very... doomy I'll say, with a sense of evil in the air. I get the feeling of being in a void when listening to this, like I'm in absolute nothingness. I'm sure they were going for something like this though when recording, but damnit if they didn't succeed. I think this album is going to literally take years before it can be understood and appreciated to the fullest extent. It's so complex and so mysterious that every listen will bring out something new which you didn't hear the last time. I'm not sure these songs will be adequate for the live setting, if only for the fact that none of them jump out and scream "hit." They are not catchy and listening to individual songs will do no good. You must listen to this in its entirety. Anti may be the only really catchy song on here.
There is a CD-ROM track on the metal slipcase version I bought, but apparently all it reveals to be is the entire album on one 40 minute or so track. Also revealed is a picture gallery, which is empty. Not sure what that was all about, maybe going for more mystery. Anyway, I'm sorry I couldn't write a better review, but my thoughts for this album are very hard to put down into words. Let's say this. It's creepy. Cudos to Mayhem for really setting a bar for which others probably will never reach. Truly I feel this album is ahead of its time and will take years to catch up to.
This review is wriiten by a person who:
- thinks that "Deathcrush" is catchy, but ultimately forgettable.
- considers "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" a mediocre album.
- very much enjoys "Wolf's Lair Abyss".
- thinks that "Great Declaration of War" is a good, listenable album, nothing close to the atrocity it was proclaimed as.
- was quite pleased with "Chimera".
- enjoys Maniac's vocals.
- doesn't like Attila's performance on "De Mysteriis...".
- doesn't mind Hellhammer's triggered blasting.
- prefers Maniac and Blasphemer over Dead and Euronymous.
This said, the new Mayhem album is in a league of its own. Maniac is gone, Atilla is back, and behold!...his vocals are excellent. Blasphemer's riffs are as good as ever, but this time they're more twisted, more doom/drone/noise-influenced, and more interesting than before. Hellhammer cuts down on blast beats and triggering and shows a totally new side to his drumming; looser and sometimes even devoid of an immediately recognizable rhythm and are, overall, aimed at evoking a dark, suffocating atmosphere.
When I heard the final track, "Anti", for the first time (and was thoroughly impressed with it), I just hoped that it was not a pre-production version and that the album will actually sound as raw and filthy as the said track did. How relieved was I to hear the album with its cavernous lo-fi production! Surely it was recorded on professional equipment, but it does sound genuinely raw and unpolished. The guitars are full of the low end and are rather muffled, the bass is buried, and the drums are mixed in an odd way with the ride cymbal being the loudest element. This fits the music perfectly and shows that Mayhem can once again sound raw without falling into the "St. Anger" trap of blatant lack of authenticity.
Strangely enough (or not), the two most important musicians on this album are the non-original members, Atilla and Blasphemer. They are the ones responsible for the music and lyrics and their performances are the most notable. The former shrieks, wails, cries, grumbles, and produces a wide variety of odd noises in a far more effective way than back on "DMDS". The latter, on the other hand, proves himself capable of creating disturbing, dissonant, and quite original riffs that are able to remain interesting despite being inherently rather inaccessible.
In conclusion, this is the beginning of a NEW Mayhem, a band able to stand on its own without a need for comparisons to past efforts. Not an easy listening, but a highly rewarding one.
“Ordo ad chao” – from order to chaos. At last, Mayhem has done it, revived and reshaped the rawness of the glory years and provided everyone from fans to doubters the album that projects the band forward once again to the sharp end of extreme metal.
There’s significance in the title. Initially announced as “Ordo Ab Chao” (order from chaos), the band revealed the true title closer to release. The change is appropriate: rather than compromise and try to restore some convention, predictability or “order” to their music to placate increasingly perplexed fans, Mayhem took the bold step, veered off and created something startlingly different yet again. From chaos to further chaos!
Most Mayhem fans will agree that the last album, “Chimera”, didn’t quite cut it, although it pointed the way forward to an extent. Rather than restate the riff-heavy formula of “DMDS” or follow the misty mountain prog path of “GDOW”, “Chimera” took the bestial blast of “Wolf’s Lair Abyss”, hammered it into layers and textures rather than riff-based song structures, gave it a super-clean and surgically precise attack and then … kinda didn’t engage. It was as if the effort to slay with power and extremity couldn’t quite gel with the pristine sheen of modern studio reproduction. If only Mayhem could somehow return to the necro sludge of the past without slavishly repeating old formulae …
Well they’ve achieved it, and with integrity intact. The album’s signature is principally in its low-fi sound. It’s not the brittle attack of “Deathcrush” or the cavernous Grieghallen reverb of “DMDS. It’s definitely old school but … different. How did they do it? Did they use some low-budget demo studio or book time in Darkthrone’s Necrohell? It sounds to me like Mayhem recorded in the best quality studio, then processed the tapes/files through the audio equivalent of PhotoShop, painting in the molten reds and basalt greys, grinding the mids and meat-tenderizing the bottom end, turning out the most satisfying leaden crunch. Hellhammer sounds like he borrowed Fenriz’ toms, yet his cymbals shimmer through, like glints of sunlight through a volcanic cloud. Blasphemer turns down the treble to get closer than ever to Euronymous’ classic somber tone. Necrobutcher disappears once more back into the mire, fusing with the muted kick drums to deliver a bass-heavy mix. Even the voice of newly-returned Atilla (no longer, it seems, spelled “Attila”) is made to serve the overall atmosphere, mixed down to compete with the backline.
There’s no doubt that Blasphemer’s influence as composer has pushed Mayhem towards more texture-based music, away from clearly defined riffs. The opening track, “A Wise Birthgiver”, is the shot across the bows, a true statement of intent. Rather than blow the listener away with a riff-driven metal overture, Blasphemer has chosen to create a dark, broiling vista, a first look into Mayhem’s magma chamber of horrors. The second track, “Wall of Water” sees the band get down to business with characteristically savage attack, rolling and careering like a black sea of lava. Atilla’s voice is the perfect instrument to complement the murky mix, his theatrics – once reviled – now brought into play to shape, define and ride the music. Basal growls, strangled rasps, mournful tortured cries and his favourite demonic operatic howls – Atilla has expanded his repertoire since DMDS and his choice of vocal devices seems to match the music appropriately at every twist and turn.
“Illuminate Eliminate”, at nearly ten minutes, is the longest track on the album and one of the longest ever recorded by the band. Again, it confidently shows which way Mayhem is heading – towards a more modernist symphonic approach, crafting longer atmospheric works built on shifting textural patterns.
The concluding track, “Anti”, is probably the closest to the older Mayhem in style. The pace is accelerated, driven by furious drumming and the whole band lets rip. Interesting, then, that label Season of Mist and Mayhem’s website should pre-release this, the final album track, as a downloadable mp3 rather than another track more in the new mid-paced, moody style.
Season of Mist’s packaging and the album cover’s designers deserve a special gong. The limited edition’s metal slipcase is impressive enough, but beneath it, the jewel case’s slick and back tray reveal no text, logo or illustrations, only an expressionist spray of dark, igneous patterns, just the right visual representation of Mayhem’s new music.
I’ve listened to the album half a dozen times and cannot fault it. Mayhem is minority music, so extreme that few will admit to enjoying it. This new atmospheric approach, yet another departure from the “classic” DMDS sound and style, might possibly further alienate the (dwindling?) faithful. But, to me, “Ordo Ad Chao” is a modern masterpiece and, placed alongside the band’s back catalogue, shows that, despite the serpentine and restless changes in style over twenty years, Mayhem answers to no one and continues to reign as the number one extreme band on the planet.
Mayhem is the first ever black metal band I got into back in the mid 90's. Mainly due to the stories I heard about them. I will always have a special place for the Dead-Euronymous era and I know nothing will ever out do their material. But I still liked some of Maniac era and now the Attila era. I didn't like his performance on 'De Mysteriis' except for the songs that I didn't hear Dead sing himself (Life Eternal, Cursed In Eternity and De Mysteriis). I generally don't like to give negative reviews of my favorite bands but when I eard this album I was pretty surprised. I didn't think Attila could please me as a singer but here he makes his material and he sounds good. His performance here is far better than on De Mysteriis in my opinion.
One of the first few things you'll notice when hearing this is the tune of the guitars and the atmosphere. It's noticeably darker and more "necro" sounding than before. I would even say that it's better than 'Chimera' as a whole. Attila really sounds comfortable with the band and really sounds fucking demented. His voice is not frightening like Varg's loud screams but he just sounds mentally unstable and schizophrenic. At times he'll growl, scream and even yell some "operatic" latin verses out loud. He's like 3 people rolled into one and all 3 personalities are trying to get out at the same time. Blasphemer's guitar sound and riffs are some of his best and less "technical" sounding, they're more straight up "necro" style riffing which is what I like best anyway. I think Hellhammer kind of holds back a bit here and doesn't show off like he did on the newe Dimmu album which is fine with me. Mayhem kind of drifted for a while there in trying to show off their technical prowess and strayed from the "true" black metal sound. As for Necrobutcher, he doesn't do anything remarkable but he never did in my mind anyway. He's a solid bassist and rumbles away with the rhythm as he does best so no surprise there.
The album starts off with an ambient like intro (A Wise Birthdgiver) and then hits us with 'Wall Of Water' and the guitar and drums go along nicely before Attila gets into his crazy mode and the song is a good beginning to the album, I'd even say that his voice resembles that of Horidus from Demoncy. The next track 'Great Work Of Ages' has a similar pattern to the prior track with the low guitar tone and repetitve drums, Attila once again whispers some incoherent babble and then yells some operatic stuff and then growls some other things. This track is a perfect example of "schizophrenic" side of Attila where it seems like 3 different people are doing the vocals. Illuminate Eliminate is almost a 10 minute track and perhaps the most weird one on the whole album and that's saying something. It's hard for me to describe this track but it's definitely the slowest one here. You just have to listen to it yourself. They save perhaps their most known track 'Anti' for last and it's on par with the rest of the stuff on here, all in all it's a very consistent release and perhaps the most unified and focused they've sounded in many many years.
Like Marduk, Mayhem needed a shakeup at the frontman position since they were both starting to get a bit stale. So looking at all the Norwegian bands of the early 90's era it's kind of shocking to think that Mayhem (Gorgoroth also get the nod) have stayed closest to the black metal sound today. Darkthrone kind of sound like punkish black metal, Satyricon sound like black 'n' roll, Burzum is on hold for obvious reasons, Immortal and Emperor are doing comeback tours but before they split up they were mere shadows of their early days. I suppose Mayhem are a band that will always have a chip on their shoulders and always have something to prove to the public since no one ever gives them a fair shake for continuing without Dead and Euronymous. After hearing this I for one am glad they did.
Like I'm sure a lot of you reading this will be, I was initally extremely excited when I first heard that Attila was returning to the Mayhem fold, and even more so when it was leaked onto the grapevine that he'd be bringing back some of the stygian darkness of his SunnO))) guest time back with him, after the rather sterile work of the 'nu' Mayhem in the last few years. However, my excitement dissipated considerably when I heard the song 'Anti', which closes the album, which was let slip by the label as promotion. I thought it was dull, emotionless, and out of context I had no idea how it could fit into an album that would be anywhere near as good as Ordo ab Chao was rumoured to be. Puzzlement ensued.
So, here we are a few weeks later, and the new album emerges whole. And it's fucking great. Not only is it the band's darkest and most coherent work thematically and sonically since DMDS, but the album has a geniune 'evil' vibe surrounding it, created by the angular and doomy riffs - a far cry from the occasionally extremely awkward sounding ones on the last album - and of course Attila's excellent (and utterly demented) vocal performance. Although it sounds like he uses his whole body, not just his fucking throat, on some of the songs.
The album makes infrequent and subtle use of non-distorted guitars and background soundscapes, with distinct drone and avant-doom influences on a number of the songs, most notably "Wall of Water" and "Illuminate Eliminate". The wall to wall blasting that typified Mayhem's post-Euro output is all but gone, replaced with a keen understanding of dynamics that permeates the whole record, resulting in a multi-faceted and extremely exciting listening experience. Which is not only great, but really surprising. Don't let your prejudices against the Blasphemer-era lineup ruin your chance of getting a fucking classy album.