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Creation was Fouled by the Stories of the False Gods - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, November 20th, 2019

It would be disingenuous to expect Mayhem’s sixth full-length to achieve the classic sound of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but the band also hasn’t sounded this natural in a long time. The production is very well balanced, sidestepping the industrial precision of 2014’s Esoteric Warfare but avoiding the lo-fi claustrophobia of 2007’s Ordo Ad Chao. The guitars are earthy, the drumming sounds organic, and the bass maintains a sturdy presence throughout with the occasional shining segment.

Even with a more orthodox style at work, any project with Attila Csihar on vocals is bound to make the most of his predictable unpredictability. The bulk of his delivery consists of his signature growling bellow but there’s plenty of room for throat singing, distant operatic warbling, and contorted roars. The instrumental layers may be rather straightforward in comparison, but the guitars do a great job of serving up theatrical buildups and intricate riffs.

Said riffs aren’t quite on the ear catching level of the classics, but the songwriting serves up plenty of memorable numbers. “The Dying False King” wastes no time in setting up the blasting onslaughts to follow but “Falsified and Hated” makes for the best example thanks to its off-kilter sound effects. A more atmospheric direction is set up with “Malum” and “Aeon Daemonium” that reaches its full height with the symphonic swells of “Daemon Spawn” and “Invoke the Oath.”

Overall, Daemon isn’t quite the second coming of classic Mayhem but it’s their best album since at least 2004’s Chimera. The album would’ve benefitted from a shorter runtime and the ingredients are all pretty much meat and potatoes, but the performances are lively, and the songwriting is dynamic enough to keep from feeling stale. The black metal world has more revolutionary things going on elsewhere but it’s nice to stop by and see the band still holding up nicely.

Highlights:
“Malum”
“Falsified and Hated”
“Aeon Daemonium”
“Daemon Spawn”
“Invoke the Oath”

Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com

Back to the roots, with style - 90%

The Clansman 95, November 4th, 2019

Standing the test of time is no easy task for a band. Lineup changes, shifts in the artistic direction, lack of creativity: the possible obstacles on the way are many, and the risk to fall in the realms of repetitiveness grows stronger with each passing day. This is nothing, however, when compared to the hardships Mayhem had to endure during their thirty years of existence. The death of guitarist, songwriter and founding member Euronymous at the hands of Varg Vikernes (who, for those who forgot, was handling the bass guitar duties during the recording of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”) sure gave an incredible dose of mediatic attention to this Norwegian ensemble, if we want to put it in a cynical way, but on the other hand, the event split forever the black metal scene, threatening the very survival not only of the band, but of the whole black metal movement.

Nonetheless, Mayhem survived, and, through numerous lineup changes and with each following release, they were able to carry on their ferocious and uncompromising brand of extreme music. So, here we are in 2019, and, twenty-five years after the release of their legendary first full-length, Mayhem are here to give us once again a lesson in how black metal should be done. Indeed, after an experimental and often debated phase of their musical evolution, the band opted for a “back to the roots” approach, and the result is Daemon, an album that stands as the direct successor of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, and represents not only a monumentary opus in the band’s discography, but also a real declaration of intents.

As I said above, “Daemon” opts for a direct and uncompromising approach, achieved through a style reminiscent of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, but not without throwing in tiny but significative bits of innovation, that, matched by an excellent songwriting level, result in a ferocious and thrilling album, thus succeeding in bringing back to life the atmosphere of the true Norwegian black metal scene, while also carefully avoiding to end up being a carbon copy of the band’s first works. Mayhem indeed prove to be amazing songwriters, providing a platter of ten (twelve if you get the bonus tracks edition) different songs, all pervaded by a strong sense of cohesion, while at the same time retaining a well-distinct identity one from the other. Guitarists Ghul and Teloch grace us with a real riff fest, and are able to keep things interesting through an intricate and varied guitar work, matched by an equally amazing performance by the legendary Hellhammer behind the kit.

We have indeed shorter and straight to the point songs, such as the album opener or the first two singles, namely “Worthless Abominations Destroyed” and “Of Worms and Ruins”, and some that are longer and somewhat reminiscent of the more experimental side of the band, for example “Falsified and Hated”, featuring a simplistic but incredibly effective and bone-chilling synth arrangement, or the vaguely post-black sounding “Daemon Spawn” and “Invoke the Oath”. Variation proves to be one of the keys to the success of the album: the songs usually avoid to adopt linear or traditional song structures, and tend to alternate fast sections, accompanied by furious blast beats and ferocious tremolo-picked riffs, to slower and calmer ones, capable of building up an ominous and absolutely evil atmosphere. In these terms, I feel like mentioning once again “Daemon Spawn” and “Invoke the Oath” over the rest of the platter, while the fantastic “Agenda Ignis” and “Bad Blood” fall in more groove-oriented realms, matched by an incredible bass work by Necrobutcher, who is able to provide some absolutely catchy and refined bass lines in the process.

One final mention goes to legendary frontman Attila Csihar, who provides what is definitely the best studio performance of his career. Attila has always been a one-of-a-kind singer, especially among the black metal scene: his unique style consists in alternating agonizing screams to raspy vocals and almost operatic sections, something that could be assimilated to a sort of ritual chant of death. If his vocal performance probably sounded a bit too raw in the debut, here we have him at his absolute best: his screams sound piercing and demonic, his raspy vocals are perfectly controlled, and the intensity, the fullness and the diaphragmatic technique he puts in his operatic ones are nothing short of amazing. An absolutely polyhedral and unique vocalist, capable of shifting from the most ominous scream (or death growl) to the most astonishing operatic register, without losing even an ounce of his malignity.

Add now to the aforementioned elements and the fantastic performances of the musicians a perfectly matching production, capable of sounding modern yet at the same time adequately raw and evil, and which complements each and every element of the music: this is Daemon. Mayhem were able to craft the real successor of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”: ”Daemon” is an album that will surely stand the test of time, and which represents one of the strongest additions to the band’s catalogue. Possibly one of the best extreme metal releases of the year, surely one not to miss.

Originally written for: The Metal Observer.

Reflections of the dark past - 88%

HviteGuden, November 3rd, 2019

It's well-known, that Mayhem is considered to be a one of the central figures of black metal, as this band was the most influential in the Norwegian scene of the late 80s and early 90s. However, the first full-length album of Mayhem and Norwegian black metal opus magnum "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was released after the most dramatic events related to the genre, which had made it popular worldwide, and after the appearance of the fist albums by the other cult Norwegian formations. After the death of Euronymous the band was majorly releasing experimental stuff. A lot of metal enthusiasts has been calling Mayhem a band of a single album. Yet it's necessary to say, that, despite being controversial to some extent, the mid and later periods of the band's history had their moments. Anyway, many waited for "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 2.0" or at least for Mayhem being enough black again.

It's important to note, that even the band itself felt dependent on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". That's why in 2015 it recorded a live version of the album - "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive". After that Mayhem had a prolonged and intensive tour, where the band was playing the full tracklist of the legendary opus. And according to the guitarists, Teloch and Ghul, they were writing new material in the process of the tour, while, of course, the program of the tour had a huge impact on the music they were writing. That's how "Daemon" was created. Sure, it isn't literally "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 2.0", but it's a big step towards that kind of a sound.

So, "Daemon" presents classical black metal sound, similar to "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" in particular. There's no chaotic structures or avant-garde elements. It's black metal and nothing more or less stylistically. Yet the production is good. Anyway, even "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" wasn't raw and had quite clean sound for its time and place. Still structures of "Daemon" compositions aren't standard. They are majorly lineal. Well, such kind of structure was always common for the genre. Black metal compositions often had a kind of a narrative structure since the beginning. But this quality is more pronounced on "Daemon", than it was on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". Yet the main thing is the fact, that with its sound "Daemon" revives Mayhem's atmosphere of its early 90s era.

The music of "Daemon" is vigorous. It's mostly dynamic, however, the tempo becomes lower pretty often, which makes music diverse alongside with the fact of the album having lineal structures of its compositions. Dark energy streams with a brute force. The melodies have a mysterious touch of the classical Mayhem era. There're characteristic disturbing and malevolent tremolo riffs, which represent the manner of Euronymous and Snorre Ruch. The bass lines are well-pronounced, just as it has been with Mayhem since its early periods including "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", where Necrobutcher was ironically absent and replaced by Varg Vikernes. And Hellhammer's work is professional like it has always been.

A good point about "Daemon" that it isn't just a copy of "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". It isn't some bleak attempt to imitate the legendary sound. It's a convincing inheritance of the well-recognized atmosphere and moods. "Daemon" is about the same dark. Its riffs aren't only written in the same manner, they are performed with about the same quality. The songwriting is truly impressive. Well, there's some more obvious citing of "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", but in reasonable amounts. For example, "Malum" resembles "Pagan Fears" with a couple of riffs and this is a good reference, while the composition itself is a one of the album's highlights. At first it brings malicious and anxious moods, but closer to its ending it explodes with an utterly dark solemnity, where Attila's powerful clean vocals are the key factor.

Talking about Attila's vocal performance, it's fair to note, that his theatrical manner brings a lot to the music of the album. Through the years Attila has become more professional as a vocalist. He executes his "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" style, which now sounds better. He can perform bitter screams with different kinds of timbre, he can perform variable clean vocals as well, which sometimes sound absolutely epic. The diverse vocal performance fits lineal structured compositions well. It underlines different qualities of the music, which produce correspondingly variable moods. In any case the moods are mostly dark, with an occult vibe, but often they develop to more solemn ones, as it has already been pointed out in the description of "Malum".

All in all, "Daemon" is a very impressive work. It's holistic, what is noticed so well, because it creates a contrast to the couple of preceding albums with its integrity. With recording "Daemon" Mayhem did the thing, which was the least anticipated. Let's be honest, only naive people could expect "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 2.0" after the last Mayhem albums. On the other hand, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive" tour could give a hint to that. Anyway, the most interesting is the fact, that the current songwriters of Mayhem weren't a part of the band in the 90s, yet they were able to reconstruct the classical sound of Mayhem. Eventually "Daemon" becomes a derivative of 1994 in a wrapping of the time that passed since that year. "Daemon" is a truly dark and sinister piece of black metal with a convincing mysterious atmosphere.