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Not perfect, but still amazing - 90%

Slater922, June 7th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Century Black

This review is going to be a special one, since this is the 100th review I've written on this site, and I've came a long way in my music tastes since I joined here just a year ago. So for this 100th review special, why not talk about a band that was also the first band I reviewed? So much has been said about Mayhem at this point, I don't think I can add anything new into the Mayhem conversation. So instead, this review on their magnum opus "De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas" is gonna be more of a retrospective look on the album, as well as a bit of its influence on the controversy black metal was going through in the early 90s.

First off, the instruments. Mayhem's previous releases have varied in quality, from the rawness of their early demos to the death metal-influenced "Deathcrush" EP, and the aggression and darkness of "Live in Leipzig". With DMDS, however, the band had decided to take on a different sound for their debut studio album. The guitars are more clearer than in previous releases, and the riffs have less aggression and more coldness in them. The drums also beat in fast patterns, but they feel more controlled and have a more consistent sound than in previous releases. The bass is present, but it's mainly muffled, so it doesn't exactly do a lot in the mix. These instruments are combined to give the tracks a more cold and mysterious atmosphere, and it works well. One of the best examples of this would be with the "Enter Sandman" of black metal "Freezing Moon". While I personally prefer previous variants of this song, especially the ones in the "Studio Tracks" demo and "Live in Leipzig" album, the DMDS version is still amazing. The track goes for a more epic style, and it works well with the sincere riffs and the technical drum beats. Other great tracks on this album include "Funeral Fog", "Life Eternal", and the criminally underrated "From the Dark Past". DMDS goes for a more cleaner and ghastly tone than in the previous releases, and while some prefer the more raw production of their earlier works, I personally think the instruments sound great.

But one of the more controversial aspects of this album would be the vocals. Dead was originally going to do the vocals for DMDS, but after his unexpected (or expected) suicide, Euronymous recruited Attila Csihar for the main vocals. While Dead's vocals sounded angry and corpse-like, Attila's vocals sound slower and more haunting. A great example of this would be in "Cursed in Eternity". Here, Attila's vocals croaks his voice, and he mixes them with some agonizing screams and chants. This may sound bad on paper, but he gives his voice a grand personality on the track, and his usage of dragging out the syllables makes the vocals feel more powerful. Not only that, but Attila's vocals also flow very well on the instruments. The track goes for a more faster and chaotic sound, and Attila's terrifying vocals gives the instruments a more scary tone. For many people, Attila's vocals either sound good or sound terrible, and I'd say that they sound very good.

So far, I've covered the best aspects of this project, but as you'll see in a bit, it isn't perfect. Coming back to the vocals, there are a couple of times where Attila's croaking vocals can be a bit much, especially in "Pagan Fears". The track itself is fine, but Attila sounds more quiet, and his overuse of the croaks and grunts make him sound like he's mumbling. Another thing about the album is that "De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas" is the weakest song off the album. It's not terrible or anything, but the guitar riffs feel a bit too similar to the other tracks on this album, and the drumming can be tedious at times. It feels more like a different band is playing DMDS instead of Mayhem. And lastly, I wished they put some of the songs off of the "Deathcrush" EP on here, like "Deathcrush" or "Chainsaw Gutsfuck". While it may feel out of place in the overall sound of the album, it would be interesting to see a more slower and atmospheric version of those songs.

Now I'm not going to pretend that this record is flawless by any means, as it does have a couple of issues. However, it is still great most of the time. The unique take on the instrumentals works well, Attila has an amazing vocal performance overall (even if they sound poor a couple of times), and the lyrics are just as dark and mysterious as ever. DMDS would be the last hoorah for the classic-era of Mayhem, as Euronymous was murdered a year earlier and the controversies of black metal peaking during this time. While new Mayhem is still great, it still cannot compete to the greatness that is "De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas".