without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Yes, the production (or lack of) is horrific. Yes, the playing probably isn’t all that great. Yes, Euronymous was an absolutely horrible vocalist. Does any of this matter? To some, yes it will matter, but the trick to this demo is to look past the production (and Euro’s vocals), and at the music itself. Which, for it’s tim,e is amazingly aggressive and showcases some of the best Mayhem riffs in their history. Not only that, but two out of the three full songs on here (excluding the intro and Mayhem) still appear in Mayhem’s live set. What Euronymous, Necrobutcher and Messiah made here is an absolute classic, and one of the first releases from the just starting Norwegian black metal scene. It actually contains two separate recordings, the Voice of a Tortured Skull demo (tracks 1-5) and a rehearsal afterwards (tracks 6-9). It’s kind of ironic that the rehearsal sounds clearer (and better) than the actual proper recordings.
The sound: Well, this is one of the worst part of the demo. Considering I can get clearer sound out of the microphone on my mp3 player, it’s pretty damn bad. It’s very muffled and very bass heavy. Depending on your point of view, you’ll either discard the entire demo for this or you’ll accept it as it is and get on listening. Once you’ve gotten used to it, it really isn’t that bad, I just wouldn’t compare it to Grand Declaration of War anytime soon. To help, listen to the final four tracks off of Dawn of the Black Hearts. Then you’ll think the recording quality on this is fantastic.
The Vocals: Now these are just horrible. Luckily they are only on the first five tracks. It’s Euronymous on vocals, and let me just say, I’m glad Maniac and Messiah did Deathcrush, because Euronymous can’t sing for shit. They are mainly deep grunts akin to something found in brutal death metal rather than black metal and they are made even worse by the fact that they are extremely muffled. In the end, they just sound like a big hunk of bass. The lyrics are horrible as well, don’t expect anything in that department.
Guitar: Now this is really were this Pure Fucking Armageddon shines! The riffs on this album are fantastic. Besides that repetitive but undeniably awesome riff that forms the main part of Ghoul, we have the legendary Pure Fucking Armageddon riff as well as Mayhem’s earliest solos in Carnage. Sometimes the guitar get buried beneath everything else, which is a shame, but they are still audible barring a few select parts.
Bass: Another shining part of Pure Fucking Armageddon is Necrobuther’s bass. It has a really heavy and deep tone to it and carries the whole demo on its back. If the bass was not present, there may have been some more room for the guitars, but then the demo would have been lacking some serious grunt, particularly on Ghoul. At times it acts more like a rhythm guitar, playing the riffs while Euronymous solos during Carnage. At other times it just beefs up the sound of the guitar.
Drums: There really isn’t much to say about the Messiah’s drumming on this album. They are very basic, and no where up to the standards that Hellhammer would later set, but they still fit Pure Fucking Armageddon perfectly. They’re simple and rough, but that’s the way they were meant to be! Actually the drums are at a very good level in the mix and don’t drown out anything as they did on Deathcrush.
Side Fuck: The demo starts off with a short intro by the name of Voice of a Tortured Skull. This intro is probably one of my favourite intros of all time. It has a very evil atmosphere and at times invokes thoughts and images of torture. Following Voice of a Tortured Skull is the classic Carnage. While in its earliest form here, the song has remained virtually unchanged to this day. It features the first Mayhem solos, as well as some solid riffs and bass work. After Carnage comes Ghoul, one of my favourite Mayhem songs of all time. It’s so simple, yet it sounds absolutely brilliant. The riffs are awesome and it’s really a shame that the song is basically forgotten, being left out of the live set. If you have more craving for this song, as I did, I would recommend finding Carpathian Forest’s cover. Euronymous never stopped telling everyone who would listen how great Venom was, and here Venom’s Black Metal song is covered as a “Total Death version”. Basically its just a really fast version. It has no vocals (yay!), but sometimes it’s so fast the song becomes a big sludge, and you cannot tell when the next part of the song starts. Then the title track, Pure Fucking Armageddon. This song, along with Freezing Moon has come to define Euronymous era Mayhem. After the brief whirlwind of chaos, the listener is treated to “The Riff”. It’s the greatest riff of Mayhem’s career and one of the best riffs in metal history. Here Pure Fucking Armageddon is played at the right speed. On Deathcrush it was played too fast, and lost some of it’\s greatness. This was of course corrected on Live In Leipzig, restoring the song to it’s former power.
Side Off: Now we move on to the rehearsal side of Pure Fucking Armageddon. First up is a brief track called Mayhem, featuring the band mucking around a bit with some random drum bashing. It moves on to increasingly fast drumming with some screaming accompanying it. The final three songs are just different versions of Ghoul, Pure Fucking Armageddon and Carnage (in that order). The sound is a bit clearer, letting the guitar really raise its head and show the power of Euro’s riffs and Necro’s bass lines. Oh, and there’s no vocals, which is a huge bonus.
Pure Fucking Armageddon may not the best sounding demo in the world, but it’s one of the greatest and most influential. This demo was the start of Norwegian black metal, even if it’s closer to thrash and early death metal. Underneath the crap sound lies some awesome songs and some even better riffs. Get past that sound and I’ll guarantee you’ll love this demo. This is metal in it’s rawest form and it’s a shame that modern bands cannot create songs of this calibre anymore. Don’t pay for this though (unless it’s the limited vinyl version, they’re worth a bit of money), download it as you may not be able to handle the sound. Unfortunately Mayhem no longer offers it as a free download off of their website, so you’ll have to dig around for it. This is black metal history, and if you’re going to get any of the old demos from the big Norwegian black metal bands of the early 90’s, get this one.