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BlackenedSally, March 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Icarus Music

An even blend of their last album ¨Ordo Ad Chao¨ and ¨Chimera¨ in that it combines the rawness and conceptuality of one and the more technical style of the other; Mayhem hits us on the head with their new release, the first in 7 years.

First and foremost, no two Mayhem albums are alike. They may share some common elements like the 3 last ones, but there are no shared patterns between them. The style varies enormously, and they don't care about it, or whether the punters will dig it and massively buy their records. They can afford that luxury because they are not in it for the money, and a Mayhem fan will buy anything released by the band anyway, without even knowing what is inside. They are that good, plus, they enjoy ¨kvlt¨status.

The lineup is classic Mayhem minus fantastic guitarist Blasphemer, a loss from which they will never fully recover. BUT, they replaced him with two ultra competent axemen; live Gorgoroth's axeman Teloch, and some Ghul guy, and made them write the music TWICE, because they didn't like what they had written the first time around. The result is fairly good, a mixture of the trademark open-chord power riffing -albeit twangier- with some more conventional BM tremolo-picked parts. It works, just do not expect your jaw to drop; this guy is filling the biggest shoes in the history of BM.

This album deals with the subjects of the cold war and mind control (roughly) but that's only the tip of the iceberg; their singer and lyricist, Attila , implies lots of underlying concepts and lets the listener connect the dots between what's evident and what's not so. But he is mainly obsessed with the concept of freedom of thought.

Sonically the first half of the album sounds muffled, making guitars, snares and cymbals lifeless. I equalized it parametrically from 5 kHz up to a great result. The bottom end is not as powerful as on previous albums, but is way clearer, plus, you get to clearly hear the bass guitar, especially on the last tracks of the album. On tracks 6 to 10 the sonic veil is lifted and everything starts sounding flawlessly. Some reviewers say Mayhem overused slower parts and that made the album ¨drag¨. Well , not in my opinion. Even when it does feature slower parts that are, in my opinion, essential to the atmosphere, they quickly give way to violent, brutal sections, sometimes in such an abrupt manner they startled me in horror-movie fashion. The last 2 tracks are bass guitar-dominated (surprise-surprise !) ¨slow¨ songs (well for Mayhem standards at least)

Depending upon whether you buy the standard cd, the Japanese edition or the vinyl that includes the ¨Psywar¨ B-side single, you will find two bonus tracks from the Budapest recording sessions, ¨Beyond The Event Horizon ¨ and ¨Into The Lifeless¨. Most punters will tell you these are not good songs and bear no cohesiveness with those on the album, but I liked them way more than any on the CD; go figure.

In my humble opinion, this is my least favorite Mayhem album to date, and yet a hell of a good album.

The True Mayhem is Dead - 75%

Vortic, April 4th, 2018

Mayhem has always been the band that was more talked about than actually listened to. The story behind the whole Norwegian scene is intriguing and makes you think what goes through the artists' minds while writing music. We can all agree this band was in fact the central figure in the circle. The True Mayhem, the one where the guitarist took pictures of the vocalist's corpse and the bassist killed him afterwards, the one which set the standard for the second wave of black metal, is dead. In its place are nothing more than ashes, but a new fire is burning in the same fireplace, one that uses modern fuel to burn, although not as brightly as the one before.

Euronymous was a very talented guitarist, as much as I don't like the guy for his personality (he was an absolute drama queen when it came to "evil" stuff) I absolutely aknowledge his musicianship. But the songwriting on Esoteric Warfare has nothing, and I mean NOTHING to do with the way Øystein sounded. Perhaps the only thing Teloch and Euronymous have in common is the very fast tremolo, but that's all. Teloch deviates a lot from traditional metal composing. His work is very dissonant, almost headache inducing. And while it may not be as dynamic as the stuff Gorguts put out it is genuinely atonal. Instead of relying on downtuning to bass frequencies to achieve an eerie sound the guy focused on very intricate, but not technical, fretting. The nightmare of every BM elitist. But I have to say I am very disappointed with Necrobutcher. The bass doesn't stand out anywhere on this record. Actually, Necrobutcher never did anything notable with his instrument, perhaps only on Deathcrush but even then his contribution was limited to simple, distorted bass passages. But what do you expect from a BM record, eh? On the other hand, Hellhammer is as amazing as he has always been, solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest drummers in the scene, able to keep inhumanly fast blast beats in time and for prolonged periods. And he shows that age never managed to lay a finger on him, his double bass here is primarily 32nd notes, compared to the common 16th notes used in extreme metal, a concert for this guy is equal to a whole marathon. And what is the case with Attila? Well, from the moment I heard his performance on DMDS some two years ago I immediately knew this is far from your average black metal vocalist. His techniques are for the most part uncommon, but there is a good amount of death growls on this record that are worth noting. His squeals resemble those of pigs being butchered alive and that is just part of all the things he does on this album. His traditional throat singing is also present, adding some sense of nostalgia. And all of these elements are mixed professionally and leave not even a memory of the lo-fi kvlt band Mayhem once were.

The song structures here are also very uncommon. I can even say there are some ambient passages here and there that contrast the very up-tempo ones. So there is some sense of diversity and while the record can in no way be called "progressive" it is far more meticulously crafted than other works from the genre. The drums and guitars don't interfere with each-other and the vocals aren't just ''thrown in there" as with most lo-fi mixes. But one major complaint I have to make is that, while the album clearly has a direction, the songs are way too repetitive for my liking. It's the 21'st century, pretty much anything is done on guitar in metal, you really have to think outside the box to achieve something, and while Teloch did think outside "the" box he kept his head in a different one. Ironic but in no way fatal, because at least the guy had the courage to do something different than just mimicking his idols. The same goes for the other members, except for Necro, with whom I expressed my problems.

And what advice do I give to the listener? Well, if you're particularly fond of old-school lo-fi BM then there's a very big chance you won't like this. If you're a dissonant maniac, listening to Gorguts and Arnold Schoenberg on a regular basis, you are going to fall in love with this record, but if you're like me, who enjoys basically everything, this will be a worthwhile experience but don't expect anything spectacular. Take your time, you might need 7-8 listens to comprehend it. And as I stated, the True Mayhem is dead, it has long been dead, ever since a particular somebody did something to somebody some day in 1993. What you are experiencing here is a bunch of musicians that present themselves as the brand "Mayhem", sell their merch, tell their story, but have absolutely nothing to do with that legacy. And it is better that way, the metal scene needs to go new directions, otherwise it is no different than pop music.

A bog-standard black metal album, Mayhem's worst - 10%

SROCeallaigh, October 1st, 2016

I really tried to like this album. Deathcrush was good for what it was and is fun but there isn't much to it; every other Mayhem release however has been experimental, cryptic and mindblowing, and fresh each time. This, however, despite my trying to get into it and initial belief that I was somehow missing something and that this is actually another work of genius like Ordo Ad Chao eventually proved to be, is Mayhem's worst release yet, and the only one I have been disappointed with. They have even failed to provide an adequate if not brilliant album after a near-ten year studio absence. I understand that both Euronymous and Blasphemer raised the bar really high, so an "ok" Mayhem album would have done just fine.

There is so much potential for Mayhem as a band; recently they have been reunited with both Maniac and Snorre Ruch on tours, and as much as Maniac can fail to deliver live it would really make my day to hear both him and Snorre return to their studio releases, if only in guest roles. Likewise, for years this band was joined by Limbonic Art's Morfeus following Blasphemer's departure, which did give me some hope that this band still knows what they're doing and chose a similarly talented and ambitious guitarist to fill the role. After he left though, what are we left with? Teloch from an ok-but-nothing-special black metal band Nidingr and the guitarist from Imperial Vengeance (who?...). That Mayhem needed two studio guitarists for the first time in their history is not a good sign.

The album starts off, like much of this album I would argue, being driven forward by the as always strong rhythm section. Necrobutcher is Necrobutcher as usual, Hellhammer never disappoints, but the guitar is so mediocre, generic and uninspiring this is all that interested me, and to add insult to injury this has a horrible, modern, compressed sound as well. Nothing compared to Blasphemer's pitch dark, muddy production of Ordo Ad Chao that was almost reminiscent of Immolation's muddy, evil production sound in some ways.

Psywar did make me anticipate this album, it's not too bad, but again nothing special. Another problem here is that as with other potentially promising songs on the album, I find Attila just isn't the otherworldly, eccentric vocalist he once was. His performances on both De Mysteriis dom Sathanas and Ordo Ad Chao were unnerving, timeless and almost operatic in places. In comparison here he seems really one dimensional, it sounds sloppy. Maybe guesting with overhyped drone bores Sunn O))) and being in a terrible US supergroup cliche, he has got lazy and uninterested in recent years.

Some parts of this album can only be described as noise, messy compress tuneless garbage with Attila's sub-par screeches over the top. Just everything about this pales in comparison to everything that came before. With Burzum going out on a fairly high note in the metal department, Darkthrone returning to a more serious form with Arctic Thunder and even Satyricon regaining some dignity with their last album, it really is tragic to see Mayhem end up like this. I love and respect the guys in this band (from the classic lineup at least), bit I hope they ditch the useless guitarists and aim for something more worthy of the Mayhem name next time...

Directionless - 15%

Kveldulfr, August 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist

This is currently the latest Mayhem album, which shows that they simply don't know what they are doing, besides milking the hype and the kvlt factor of the band's history and fame.

Generally speaking, this is the usual Mayhem's post Wolf's Lair Abyss in terms of riffing, with the incessant blasting that plagued the aforementioned EP. Most of the songs sound really the same and since the band decided to use almost the same tempo throughout the album, it gets boring REALLY fast, thus the replay value is near zero. Also, the album is way too long for this style of black metal, clocking around 51 minutes of the same thing. Wolf's Lair Abyss was around 24 minutes and it's already sonically tiring, just imagine going through this album in just one listening session.

Hellhammer is playing blastbeats/fast double bass patters 90% of the time in mostly the same tempo, which is one of the main reasons this album gets tiring fast. The drum production is really dry and lacks dynamics, which only accentuates the impression of HH playing the same beats over and over again. His playing is tight, as expected, but not really inspired, giving the impression he recorded his parts without much thinking of the drum arrangements, trying to get rid of the recording process as quick as possible.

The riffing is also quite monotonous and it comes in basically two ways: is either a fast palm muted chug on the E string or it's a dissonant arpeggiated chord (which is almost the same one over and over). Bass can be heard but it does nothing really outstanding besides keeps the low end. Taking all these elements into account, the songs in terms of structure, sound and feel are VERY interchangeable and vapid, which ultimately means that there is near 0% of memorability in the whole album. The only way to distinguish a track from another is the placement of an odd clean guitar break, which can be found either in the middle or at the end of a certain song. Those clean sections are comprised by Teloch strumming one or two dissonant chords that are totally unrelated to the heavier parts. Those dissonant chords are really similar to the ones used by Satyr in his band since the Rebel Extravaganza days. The heavier riffs are also more akin to death metal than black metal.

The artistic merit of this album seems to be also near zero. EW brings nothing new to the table and all what you can hear here has been already done in better ways (even by themselves like in GDOW and some portions of Chimera). Attila is the only one who seems to care about delivering something worthwhile, since his vocals sound passionate enough. The rest of the band is just going through the motions: Teloch performing riffs with the same tired cacophonies in tremolo speed, while HH blasts just for the sake of recording something fast that will probably please and/or fool some Dead and Euro fans. Attila should find another band or return to Aborym.

My recommendation is to skip this one entirely, forget the logo pasted on the cover and give your time and money to something way more worthy out there.

..................... - 55%

GuntherTheUndying, October 14th, 2014

We know the Mayhem soap opera by now. The band’s albums beyond “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” are ambitious, but have mostly been overshadowed by the days of the Varg and Dead circus. Chalk up “Grand Declaration of War” as the most underrated album in all the quadrants, methinks, and “Chimera” as rock-hard solid. “Ordo ad Chao,” a strange brew of odd rhythms and uncharacteristic black metal structures, sounded welcoming with the return of Attila Csihar, although the record’s strange dynamics make it difficult to appreciate. I find myself polarized when listening to it—amazed yet uninterested, beholden but confused. “Esoteric Warfare” has much in common with “Ordo ad Chao” despite having its own code. While somewhat different structurally, Mayhem’s ability to create a rift remains its lone truth. The dudes clearly have no interest in rehashing any of their prior works, much to the disappointment of the demo-lauding goons, or settling in to a safe niche.

“Esoteric Warfare” is in its own little world—one owned by Mayhem, of course. The big elephant in the room is the departure of Blasphemer, who proved to be an integral part in the band’s creative avenues during his tenor. “Esoteric Warfare” shows no drastic modification from Blasphemer’s exit from the fold, however; little has changed, and it’s clear the newcomers are mostly following his work. Mayhem did not abandon the off-kilter chords and straightforward death/black metal riffs on which latter-day Mayhem thrives, although I will note the biggest issue I have with this is the play-it-safe mentality. Yeah, it’s Mayhem, and yeah, they’re bonkers, but these death/black metal riffs sound like the average squad clocking in at nine and punching out at five. It doesn’t help that Hellhammer, a proficient drummer, spends most of the album ticking away on digitized blasts. Odd sections aside, “Esoteric Warfare” is inoffensively monotonous.

It’s not as hysterically random and incongruously structured as “Ordo ad Chao,” but it has its moments of inharmonious sensations teetering between the remarkable and the ludicrous. Songs not layered in constant grinding happen to make an impressive mark compared to numbers like “Trinity,” which end up sounding undistinguished. At least “MILAB” and “Posthuman,” the album’s longer anthems featuring medial-paced sections, save the record from becoming an intolerable feat, and while I have no quarrel with the blast-laden parts, they are overused ad nauseam. Necrobutcher’s bass riffs hold a prominent spot in the chaos, but his interesting parts are mostly covered by the huge production, unfortunately. I guess “Esoteric Warfare” feels like a nexus of the ideas of modern Mayhem carved into stone, be it bedlam or the obscured.

Attila sounds like Attila: he gurgles, spits, laughs, shrieks, pukes, growls, does that weird half-moan narrative thing he does, and so much more. As expected, the best part of the album is his performance; his vocal styles, outstanding as usual, end up intermingling with the musical abstractions absurdly well, together forming a kind of dissonance that makes “Esoteric Warfare” nonfigurative, yet tangible. Chances aren’t good critics of his usual recitals won’t find themselves getting bugged shitless by hearing him croon and wail, but hey, do his eccentricities not parallel the world of “Esoteric Warfare” itself? Who else could come remotely close to enriching this band by fronting it, or even challenge the dominance he presents as Mayhem’s vocalist? Not a grenade the run-of-the-mill banshee would jump on.

I know my tone seems to lean more towards the negative side of the spectrum, but that’s because “Esoteric Warfare,” though somewhat acceptable, is too scatterbrained and comes off sounding aimless. I prefer the parts that break up the wearisome blasting sections—the discordant riff in the middle of “Psywar,” the industrial-grade parts of “Corpse of Care,” and the mid-paced “MILAB” come to mind. Well, at the end of the day, Mayhem is doing what Mayhem wants to; the ability to polarize is all that remains. Do I like this? I don’t know. There is much to like, much to dislike, and much that falls to some unknown destination within the huge, abstruse void of “Esoteric Warfare.”

This review was written for:

The New (True) Mayhem - 88%

OrbitalGait, July 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Season of Mist (Bandcamp)

Not for one moment does this album consider to give you any rest. It's a non-stop wall of furious guitars ripping through the insane and unstable drumming, mixed over Attila Csihar's quite literally guttural vocals.

Opening with a sanity-ceasing track, 'Watchers', it proceeds and progresses into crazier sounds of the songs 'PsyWar' and 'Posthuman', leaving you lost in the said 'wall of sound'. The guitars are technical in terms of black metal with chords scattered around the place, creating dissonance and an evil atmosphere suitable for the genre and the band's original sound.

Atilla's vocals are worrying. Any second you feel like his lungs will burst in the middle of a song for the amount of effort he puts into them is horrific, exploring random techniques to create the most odd and eerie, yet original sound, and is one of the things that really makes this album this memorable. Another feature of this record that doesn't make it too easy to forget is some of the most insane drumming you will ever hear on a black metal record. Hellhammer's double kick is restless. Ripping in batch series or even constantly maintained for minutes, it's guaranteed that it will be one of the first things you'll pick up on in this album.

It surprises me how Mayhem manage to re-invent themselves within each record, yet remain close to their roots in one way or another. They re-invent themselves image-wise and music-wise and so far, other than 'Chimera', this is their best attempt at taking a risk by stepping in a different direction as a whole. This is a record you don't want to miss out on if you're looking into the more gimmick-ridden, extremely aggressive parts of black metal or even if you're simply looking into the genre itself.

Undeniable Radioactive Sickness - 90%

Daemonlord, July 16th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak, Booksleeve)

7 long years have passed since Mayhem’s last full length sweep of decrepit blackened murk ‘Ordo ad Chao’ hit our speakers, covering listeners in a filthy napalm-like phlegm which ate deeply into the beings of those who were willing to let its dark expanses take hold. Twisted and drenched in its own filth, it was a large step away from the cleanly produced sterility of ‘Chimera’ before it, the return of Attila to the fold not only allowing his darkly toasted croaks to take the forefront once more, but also seemingly bringing back the unpleasantness in measurements of cubic fuckton.

It was a huge blow that so soon after what was widely considered to be one of Mayhem's best releases that guitarist Blasphemer decided to step down, some going so far as to begin questioning the bands future (let us not forget that although not part of the ‘classic’ line up, he was actually a member of Mayhem longer than Euronymous). Upon the announcement that Teloch was the man chosen to fill some of the largest shoes in extreme metal, I had a good feeling that Mayhem’s future was in the right hands (as Nidingr, his other band, released one of my favourite albums of recent years with ‘Sorrow Infinite and Darkness’).

The announcement came that the new album ‘Esoteric Warfare’ was due to drop in 2014, with the 2nd track ‘PsyWar’ being served up as an aperitif to sate the years worth of hunger for new material. It was a promising beginning, a great song – but nothing was to prepare me for the sheer brilliance that this album contains. The foggy, sick miasma still pervades like a reoccurring nightmare from ‘Ordo ad Chao’, but the songs that make up this album seem somehow heartier, thicker and hard hitting in comparison. Perhaps it’s the sheer factor of time working on this album, with every ounce of each members creativity being crystallized into its purist form, with titrated spite, coldness and bile having been fermented and concentrated into an explosion of jagged chords, foaming guitars and inhuman vocals, all bound by an ever shifting and unpredictable human metronome behind the drum kit.

Opening with ‘Watcher’, you instantly recognise the insignia that is the Mayhem sound, starting with gentle sweeping chords that build quickly into a full battalion of thunderous passages which brim with noxious poison – it’s remarkable quite how much chaotic Deathspell Omega styled churn there is in Mayhem’s tumultuous musical breadth these days, adding further ugliness to their already turbulent outlook. The album crackles with a foreboding energy, feeding an ever threatening swarm of guitars and drumming into your psyche, punctured only by swathes of melody which colourfully sweep across the monochromatic landscape with vigor. The songwriting pulsates with venomous glee, writhing to its own rhythms. Twisting passages weave serpentine spells, blurring and focusing in turn to confound and disorientate.

‘Trinity’ opens with the infamous Oppenheimer quote of “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, pounding with a martial refrains, machine gun fire and air raid sirens, it highlights the fact that this is in fact a concept album about esoteric nuclear warfare, and it fits the soundscapes like a bayonet in the face. One of the most noteworthy of things with this album is Attila. His vocals have always been primal, inhuman at times – but he has truly outdone himself on this release. His vitriol is ever present, barely concealed even in ‘MILAB’, a track which takes a eerie turn to slower territories and sees his voice seething with a controlled simmer early on, before breaking every chain with some of the most inhuman shrieks and squawks I’ve heard committed to plastic.

‘Throne of Time’ reminds very much of ‘Wolf’s Lair Abyss’, pumping the chill factor up with shimmering discordance and exorcism-born vocals, chiming and ringing to carpet bombed drumming and finger shredding grimy bass work. ‘Corpse of Care’ and ‘Posthuman’ continue the tone with a slow churning aura, breaking into sporadic bursts of speed, irrepressibly schizophrenic and unyielding. All this leads into album closer ‘Aion Suntelia’, packed as it is with spooky alien synth, agitated rhythms and ever disciplined songwriting, building to a satisfactory (albeit, slightly anticlimactic) finish.

Mayhem will always have their detractors. Their influence on the Norwegian scene and the 2nd wave of black metal as a whole is as undeniable as the changes in line up and style are polarizing to their fan base old and new. One thing is for sure, ‘Esoteric Warfare’ exudes quality, and is unmistakably Mayhem. Stubborn and uncaring, yet filled with renewed strength and new beginnings, it embraces Mayhem of old, new and everything in between. Darkly arcane and rapt with a frigid non-indulgence, it marks their 30 years of existence with a monolithic exclamation point.

Originally written for

Mayhems best album since 'De Mysteriis'... - 97%

dragoth, July 8th, 2014

Mayhem. The name is synonymous with the second wave of black metal in Norway, their history is often the topic of conversation when black metal comes up, from the suicide of Dead to the murder of Euronymous. Now, thirty years since its humble and dark beginnings in Oslo, the band are releasing their fifth album, entitled 'Esoteric Warfare'.

Fans of the bands last release 'Ordo Ad Chao' will enjoy this album, as it continues with the direction that was undertaken in that album. The overall theme is one of a progressive black metal direction. Whilst not as prevalent as on that last album, it is still a large part of the song writing on this album, and part of what makes this album as spectacular as it is. The writing creates a unique atmosphere, one that is eerie, chilling and yet draws you in and is immensely addictive. The guitars, bass, drums and vocals all combine to create an immense sound wall that hits the listener all at once and continues till the albums end.

The guitar part on this is fantastically crafted, new guitarist Teloch does a great job of filling in the massive shoes of Blasphemer. His lines are all at once atmospheric and aggressive, doing a great job of balancing the progressive side with the black metal, moving from dissonant chordal progressions to fast tremolo picked lines, whilst never sacrificing the atmosphere. The progressions never sound like a forced change, everything evolves perfectly, the songs develop and flow brilliantly, as seen on 'Psywar'. The shame here is the lack of solos, it would be great to hear Teloch let loose some solos, but the songs don't suffer without this. The drums, handled by the immensely talented Hellhammer are fantastic, going between the typical black metal double bass batteries to complex technical drum patterns. The man seems like a machine, never tiring and never missing a beat. The bass doesn't have much high time on the album, but it has moments where it shines, but tends to be amongst the mix.

The highlight of the album though is Attila's vocals. He's known for making a variety of different sounds and vocal displays on Mayhem albums, but on this album he takes it to a new level, utilizing more typical black metal screams alongside eerie growls, whispers, high shrieks, gurgles and clean chanting. Listen to 'Corpse of Care' for a good display of this. His voice compliments the music, just as the music compliments his voice, combining to make this album head and shoulders above what it would be with any other vocalist. His voice creates eerie atmospheres and makes the album the atmospheric masterpiece it is. The lyrics in this album mainly focus around mind control and its use in warfare, a good topic that differs from the stereotypical black metal themes.

This album is a fantastic display of progressive black metal and in my opinion, the second best Mayhem album after De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Anyone who is a fan of Mayhem's last album, or black metal in general should definitely add this to their listening list.

Originally posted on:

How can anyone defend this carnival music? - 0%

bitterman, July 1st, 2014

The usurpers/copyright holders of the Mayhem brand are back again to further tarnish the legacy of the pre-focus groups and facebook era by shitting forth this latest abomination, entitled "Esoteric Warfare". After hearing the early 90's Tampa death metal riffing followed by the Sonic the Hedgehog level theme middle section from lead single Psywar, I was assured that there was going to be nothing esoteric or threatening about this release. Underneath the waves of clicking noises (drums) and tinny ceiling fan noise (guitars) over what I assume is Attila trying to pass a kidney stone in the background (vocals that are more obnoxious than previous performances), one can hear how inconsequential this release is in it's dearth of artistry or depth. This isn't Mayhem. This is "The True Mayhem™", a band more focused on posting backstage drinking antics to the mobile uploads folder of their facebook profile than they are on music.

While previous "The True Mayhem™" releases Wolf's Lair Abyss and Grand Declaration of War were vapid media products released under the Mayhem brand, they at least showed that the band had the aptitude to fit in with the then current crop of Moonfog commercial black metal vapidity peddlers like Satyricon or Dodheimsgard. Here, I don't know why the band even bothered with recording this album or what they are attempting to accomplish with it (other than make money). Pseudo-black metal of the needlessly discordant variety similar to the Thorns full-length, and by that I mean that it's mostly foot tapping (when not blasting) mechanical rhythm riffs (similar to death metal) given a black metal garnish in the form of those minor chords and "ringing arpeggios" people typically associate with the genre. Songs are arranged in no logical sequence, going from random riff to random riff in a random order with incongruous tempo breaks all throughout. No effort was put into making these songs work.

This album is one-dimensional in the sense that if you've heard the singles Psywar and MILAB, you basically heard the rest of the album. Constant unnecessary detours, fast/slow change ups (plodding boredom to blasting pseudo-black) and random song conclusions show that Mayhem had no idea where to take any one idea. So, they took basic rudimentary "extreme" metal riff forms and gave them a surface level makeover to sound "weird" (that minor chord/arpeggio trick they use at the end of 95% of the riffs), hoping people would think it was "different and unique". Lyrics that show a fraction of the imagination of even the late 90's Maniac fronted releases show further vacuity. Songs are more rooted in social/psychological musings in Marvel Comics meme form than anything esoteric and the easy to grasp imagery ensures that no one is left scratching their head (lowest common denominator is where the big bucks are it seems).

Listen to an early 90's Norwegian black metal release and support good music instead. Purchasing this rubbish will only show that this "The True Mayhem™" entity can further dumb down their music until even the new guy can afford spandex, fishnet mesh shirts, and trips to a beard stylist (look at the promo pics). Avoid this vapid trash at all cost.

The Manhattan Project, Corpse-Painted - 70%

autothrall, June 25th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist

Esoteric Warfare is an interesting amendment to the Mayhem canon, a valiant effort to bridge the suppressed atmospheres of its predecessor Ordo ad Chao with the razor hewn traditional Norse black metal riffing the band helped pioneer through seminal works like De Mysteriis dom Sathanas and Grand Declaration of War, or perhaps most accurately the Wolf's Lair Abyss EP that so many seem to forget about. To that extent, I would consider it a mission accomplished, only with the caveat that I ended up finding one half of the equation a lot more compelling than the other. This is very likely my least favorite of the band's full-length works, but it does what a Mayhem outing should: dowse you in its evil clutches and remind you exactly who your Daddy is. And that's fucking Satan, if you have to ask.

But here, through Esoteric Warfare, the Norwegians channel the author of all sin through a curiously nuclear/dystopian theme which pervades the lyrics and artwork, like this unholy union of the Cold War and their creepy occult roots. It's hands down the most fascinating component of the record as a whole, followed by Attila Csihar's performance, in which he's whispering, mouth breathing, gargling, growling and otherwise sounding like his basic, decrepit, creaking-wooden-stairs self. Generally his more resonant and catchy lines come during segues from the faster action, and this is where I found a little disparity in the quality of what I was hearing. The muted, tremolo picked black/death patterns which drive the ferocity of the effort are sort of a bland strain of earlier Mayhem (Chimera, Wolf's Lair Abyss) with classic Morbid Angel, punctured and punctuated by slices of brighter, dissonant chords and partial arpeggios that were common fare for much of the Scandinavian black metal output of the mid through later 90s, or a faint few zipping, hypnotic lines cut through that remind me of the German band Endstille. Emperor and Satyricon also come to mind, but more directly these guitar progressions paired with the caustic, mechanical nature of the songwriting evoke Snorre W. Ruch of Thorns, Aborym, or Dodheimsgard's guitars in the techno-infused 666 International.

That's far from an unwelcome aesthetic, but unfortunately so many of the patterns just whip into the first frenzied patterns the guy can seemingly slide across on the fretboard, without much thought put into anything, and they become increasingly predictable as a footnote for an intense, agile Hellhammer performance which I found infinitely more interesting just on its own. Granted, the abbreviated leads and the higher range chords often sound efficaciously malevolent, and oftentimes clinical enough to match the album's lyrical style, but I'll be damned it there were more than a handful of fingers worth of rhythm guitars on the entire experience that I wasn't bored with. Most are just too predictable, and it gets to the point that even the primal, slow chugging in a tune like the unusual "MILAB" grows even more fresh on the ear. Speaking of which, that is one of my easiest favorites on the album, with its spidery bass lines, dissonant and disheveled architecture and really grasping the full range of Csihar's vile, filth smeared, unique presence, and ditto for "Posthuman", which captures an almost minimalist Voivodian atmosphere (not the only case here) until the noisy blast breaks; suitable for an album that many might describe as PostMayhem.

So I was really leaning towards these less structured moments on the album, and whenever they burst into another stock deathened black riff I just found myself phasing out. Maybe this was intentional, or maybe it's that the new guitarist Teloch was channeling a bit too much of his alma mater Nidingr, which has long thrived on this very same style of riffing, sometimes to its detriment. Either way, it gradually de-escalated my initial appreciation for the record's grimy intensity to levels of a more lukewarm reception. The production here is also pretty threadbare and dry sounding, which on the one hand makes much of the procession clear to the ear, but on the other doesn't exactly help give the rather averagely scripted rhythm guitars much meat or impact. I liked most of the lyrics (except perhaps "Pandaemon" which is just a shopping list/incantation of the names of various devils, demons and idols through religious mythology), and Csihar is just all over this, truly the Mike Patton of black metal. But apart from the themes and the potential of what Mayhem might have created within this wasteland of post-apocalyptic vision, I only ever found myself semi-satisfied. Never truly impressed.


Much better than expected. - 80%

Pratl1971, June 24th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak, Booksleeve)

From the first notes of that familiar guitar tone (sans Euronymous' unearthly presence), you just know Mayhem is somewhere in your earshot. While I personally was reluctant, even fearful of hearing the latest record Esoteric Warfare I was 'emotionally' drawn to it. I go back with Mayhem's music over 20-years, and since I'm one of the few people that wasn't horrified and offended by the band's last effort, Ordo ad Chao, I felt it was in the cards for me to at least be somewhat impressed with the latest one. At least that was my hope.

So how is this latest effort from Norway's once-feared sons? Well, it's a definite grower, and once sprouted you'll really love it if your mind is set to, that is. Citing the indelible notion that nothing on this planet or any other will ever surpass De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, it's reasonable to realize that the band that created that masterpiece is long gone and this new, revamped Mayhem is what's here to stay. By no means is this a detriment or a 'settle-for' entropy; the band is solid with Atilla back at the vocal helm, and his presence on the new release is welcome and as chaotic as I'd hoped. That familiar growling rasp in the single "Psywar" is a definitive piece to the Mayhem puzzle that was sorely missing during Maniac's mundane return. Atilla took a lot of unwarranted guff for his vocals back in 1994, and to this day I'll never understand that because, in my humble opinion, that performance and the Silencer Death, Pierce Me effort are two of the most horrifying performances committed to metal tape. That said, Atilla's undeniable and irreplaceable presence here makes this music as violent and tempestuous as it should be.

This is a less evil and dark Mayhem, an observance sure to bother and confuse the latecomers and hangers on, but the satanic spirit gives way to a larger focus on the assault on the mind and the lack of control the individual has in such matters. For me, this is a much more accessible topic than the 'evil-church-burning- post-mortem-picture-taking, murdered' image that the band has cultivated, willingly or unwillingly, over the last two decades. Dare I say that this Mayhem is widely more cerebral? This album is a jaunt through the horrors of the mind, the lack of control within those chambers, and the total submission of personal will to the grand designers pulling the strings of the sheep. The lyrics, teamed with Atilla's up-and-down vocal shrieks and monotone whispering, are the perfect vehicle for setting the stage for this truly cerebral undertaking. I don't believe I'm overstating the notion that fringe players, kiddies and general folks not versed in Mayhem's players will never truly embrace this album. It taps into the recesses of the mind in such a way that its perfection lay nestled in its simplistic delivery and complicated arrangement. There is a paradox of emotions and ideas all over this collective, and upon a third listen I am totally engulfed in the greatness of it all. When you hear Atilla whisper or issue that trademark low summoning, I feel the agony of an exhaustive tug-of-war, only to be forced back into a mental skirmish when his screams and wailing set the stage for more irrational and frightening entanglements. When Mayhem went into this record attempting to jolt the listener into thinking outside the comfortable self-fashioned bubble of ignorance, they fashioned a provocative gem, dull and dusty with fear and weakness.

Guitarist Teloch does a great job living up to the ghosts that surely follow him, and while that cherished period of Mayhem is long lost to arrogance and the whim of a narcissist he need not apologize to anyone, living or dead. The band does its job perfectly, creating a spacious chasm of wonder wrapped neatly in a crevice of despair and self-degradation that is always part and parcel with individual servitude. Esoteric Warfare is the album your heart and stomach find a perfect stimuli for your musical needs, while the mind delves deeper to its core and sees the horror of your personal subjugation. It's more of a musical blueprint for all that is uneven and amiss in your head.

For those able to ingest such depressing and diseased pictures, this album will no doubt complete your personal visuals. You may never be the same, and you can relish this thought while wondering who and what you are in the world.

(Originally written for

The Best Mayhem Album in Years - 95%

Occultcannibal, June 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist

Mayhem needs no introduction, they've been around for 30 years now and they've changed the face of metal with their releases over the years. And here we are with the newest Mayhem album "Esoteric Warfare", and holy shit is this one wild! Mayhem have become known (even infamous) for their constant experimentation with the black metal sound on each of their albums. Even the debut featured vocals that were very different from the usual black metal sound, and this one is no different.

One of my favorite things about "Esoteric Warfare" is it's ability to blend the styles of just about every Mayhem album out there, while still maintaining it's own unique sound that sets it apart from the rest of their discography. The first song off the album "Watcher" reminds me of a refined, even more evil and maniacal version of "Deathcrush", especially in the chorus (thanks in art to Attila's blood chilling screams and shrieks). Other songs throughout have this feeling as well ("Pandaemon", "PsyWar"), and other songs reflect on their other releases as well. Many songs remind me of "Ordo Ad Chao". This you can hear in every song on the album to some extent, usually VIA the bizarre and off kilter riffs, the atonal segments and the experimentation with song structures throughout. Hell, moments of the song "Corpse Of Care" remind me very heavily of the song "Deconsecrate" off "Ordo", especially the vocals in moments. But don't misunderstand, Mayhem manages to blend their uncanny ability to mix their discography in with these new, different sounds (almost certainly thanks to the addition of the badass new guitarist Teloch). You can hear this most notably in songs like "Vi Sec", "Milab" and "Posthuman", these songs seem to carry a very dissonant and atonal kind of doom vibe going on, it almost in a way reminds me of the slow sections on the first two Bethlehem albums, except far more evil sounding. It's a very interesting album, you can point out the influences from previous albums all over, and you can also point out the new influences brought in from Teloch and Atiila very easily and they're all blended together in a way where they sound very organic working and moving as a single piece of music.

I need to mention the band members contributions here, every member plays a very important role, each doing their part to make "Esoteric Warfare" one of Mayhem's all time best albums. Attila's vocals here are amazing! His vocals have a lot more of the old school black metal stylings reflected in them, his shrieks are fucking brilliant! They really add to this obscure, oppressive atmosphere that "Esoteric Warfare" seems to be drenched in. His range is remarkable too, he goes from the black metal shrieks to some awesome and crushing low vocals, to his abstract crooning (VIA De Mysteriis dom Sathanas) and some other bizarre hissing/croaking sounds that are pretty much something that can only come from Attila's mouth. Hellhammer really does an amazing job here too. He keeps changing up his style, it's really cool. His cymbal play is incredible, especially during the slower segments. Hs blastbeats are on point, not a single hit is ever behind or lacking in power, it's truly remarkable.

Necrobutcher really outdoes himself here too. "Posthuman" and "Milab" both feature really badass bass riffs, the it's very atmospheric and hearing how awesome the bass sounds on here really makes you wish that it were a little louder in the mix for the other songs. (which is legitimately the only reason why I don't feel comfortable giving it a 100) And finally I need to bring up Teloch the newest member of Mayhem. This is his first album with the band and I truly hope he's around for many, many more. Teloch's riffs are amazing, they're dissonant, they're evil, they're brooding and they create the most oppressive atmosphere i've ever heard in a Mayhem album. Strangely enough the atmosphere that is brought up by these riffs and songs remind me of the movie "Event Horizon" which I find to be really awesome (Event Horizon is one of my favorite big budget films). Hell even the band hints at that movies influence on the album by titling one of the bonus tracks "Into The Event Horizon", which leaves be with very little doubt as to whether or not it's an influence there. Whoops, went off on a bit of tangent there haha, sorry guys. Anyways, Teloch fits the band really well, his riffs are atonal, brooding and complex, all while stylistically sticking 100% to the black metal sound, which I think is amazing personally, his ability to link together these riffs is borderline uncanny, I do kind of wish he had included a solo or two in there, but you don't really see those very often in black metal either way so it's not a major disappointment or anything.

Now the greatest thing about this album by far is that fact that literally every song is fantastic, it's almost impossible for me to pick a favorite track, they all rival each other in their complexity, transitions and atmosphere. There is not a single wear track on here, even the bonus tracks stand out on their own merits. The bonus track on my copy of the album is "Into The Lifeless" which is a fucking great song, I feel like both that one and "Into The event Horizon" should've been left on as normal album tracks because they are really intense songs, especially for being bonus songs. "Into The Event Horizon" is (I think) a Japanese exclusive track, which sucks because I would love to own it on CD one day. It's probably one of the best songs in the album, with it's badass 2 minute buildup to a riff and blast beat frenzy that is chock full of that oppressive atmosphere Mayhem seems to have crafted specifically for this release. I'd personally recommend this album to anyone, people who love all eras of Mayhem, people who only listen to the demos, people who only listen to the last few records, every single type of Mayhem fan out there is 100% certainly going to find something to love off this record, and It's a damn shame that people are writing it off simply because "Mayhem are past their prime", because anyone who thinks that is a very, very bold moron.

Standout tracks to check out (just in case you're not 100% sold): "Watcher", "VI Sec", "Milab", "Posthuman" and "Into The Event Horizon"

Safe. Alright, but safe. - 68%

CF_Mono, June 19th, 2014

Mayhem, being the beacon and archetype of black metal in the 1990's, set a high standard for all of their releases to come. But after assigning such specific attributes to their brand of black metal, and attaining incredibly high expectations from their fans, they completely changed the game, and refused to write music in a way that would allow them to be measured by those standards. Every Mayhem album since 2000's Grand Deceleration of War has been met with ambiguous reception. Complaints went from being too experimental, to being too overproduced, to being too dissonant. While I've had a favoring attitude towards the last three Mayhem albums, I must finally admit to coming up with some honest criticism of Esoteric Warfare: it's too safe.

Safe is an unfortunate word to give a band that's been rapidly changing styles for so long. Because I had expectation of being taken aback, not only by the riffs, but the style of music being played, I was rather let down to hear for myself that the album sits happily in between the two prior releases, Chimera from 2004, and Ordo Ad Chao, from 2007. Now, I love both of these albums, to death, but perhaps living the best of both worlds wasn't in Mayhem's best interests. The thing is, Esoteric Warfare takes pointers from both of those albums, and tries to accommodate everything without pushing the envelope one any one direction. It lacks the brutally disjointed, but headbangable riffs from Chimera, and the dark meandering trails in the forsaken realms of Ordo Ad Chao. The composition style, drumming patterns, and...humanish noises haven't really developed at all since we last heard them. The best I can say about this album is that it's another Mayhem album...Mayhem never just puts out another album.

The other gripe I have with this Esoteric Warfare is its presentation. Some ideas in the album's artwork, song titles, and lyrics are clichéd. “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”...didn't we already hear that on an Aborym album? I don't know how much participation Attila had in deciding what went on Esoteric Warfare, but I'm inclined to believe that due to this sample, and a number of surprisingly industrial sounding lyrics and aesthetics, that his presence was felt here. And this shouldn't be a problem, because Attila has a legacy that matches the mystique of a band like Mayhem, but unfortunately, it really doesn't feel like a Mayhem album. Despite the drastic changes in sound and style over the years, the band still managed to take us emotionally into spaces of discomfort, and fear. With Satanism, mysticism, and hatred as typical themes, it's hard not to be awed by the attitude alone of a veteran black metal band. But since these concepts have been abandoned, they closely resemble most of the generic extreme metal bands putting out music today. And yes, I know that Satanism, mysticism, and hatred are already cliché ideas for black metal, but I'd rather hear an intense and dangerous hatred coming from a classic band than hear said band try and fit into some really new style. Had you taken off the Mayhem logo and presented this album to me as a debut from a new American black metal, I probably wouldn't have second guessed it.

What's good here is that Mayhem is still a bonafide black metal band. They're still heavy, they're as technical as ever, and they're still ripping through the tremolo picking and blast beats. But that's only a small part of the formula to success you see. An element of creativity must also exist, and I am both surprised and disappointed to say that Mayhem have finally missed the mark in this category.

Written for Papasfritasreviews

Cold, unforgiving, atomic music. - 85%

Ancient_Sorrow, June 17th, 2014

I can never quite decide where Mayhem fit into the grand scheme of my musical taste. Sometimes, I feel that my listening was saturated by their music all too soon, as I listened to them a lot when I was getting into black-metal. At other times, I look upon them as a band which I legitimately under-appreciate; I can't remember, for instance, the last time I really sat and listened to one of their classics; De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, namely - instead constantly leaning towards other albums by their peers, much in the way that I haven't listened to an album like Master of Puppets in years, despite its massive status. Nonetheless, I can certainly be considered interested when Mayhem announce a new album, and Esoteric Warfare, their first in seven years, is the first time that Mayhem have infiltrated the top-tier of my musical attention in quite a while.

The opening notes of the album set the tone for the rest very concisely. Dissonant, cataclysmic and oppressive - cold, inorganic, seeping unforgiving nihilism like so much radioactive waste. The artwork for the record genuinely paints a picture - pardon the pun - of the album's sound in this respect; it is black-metal infused with cold, metallic ominousness; music not of forests and mountains, but of bunkers, and the secluded work of nuclear armament. The record is immensely foreboding and hostile. Esoteric Warfare represents a progression of this style, which the band seem to have landed upon in its predecessor, Ordo Ad Chao. Despite being quite inspired, that album was a challenging listen owing to its production, which, deliberate or not, rendered the album a "well organised collection of rumbles" - the music demanded an almost exceptional amount of scrutiny and careful listening to glean pleasure from it. Esoteric Warfare retains the atmosphere for which Ordo Ad Chao was most praised, whilst having room to breathe; you can hear what's going on much more easily, which is a godsend. Granted, the murk remains, but much more carefully measured, and induced not by production, but by the musicianship itself, with a wall of harsh, mechanical noise punctuated by screeching, squealing guitar dissonance, like a tumble through the bowls of some vast industrial complex, made all the more harrowing and engaging by the records unapologetic quirky structure, with pauses and bursts of energy which jerk the music around ferociously, placed at times, where you don't expect them at all.

Over the top of this assault, Attila delivers a typically absorbing vocal-performance, roaring, screaming, and delivering his trademark low, growling chants. His vocal approach is one which very much suits the direction in which the record heads - a traditional black-metal vocalist would have felt out of place on this, which is, after all, certainly not a traditional black-metal record - Attila's style compliments it perfectly. Indeed, Esoteric Warfare is a prime example of the fact that Mayhem have never made the same record twice; even with its similarities to Ordo Ad Chao in mind, the record, in its uncoiling, reveals itself to be a very different beast. Granted, this ever changing style leaves Mayhem as a band who possess no sure "string" of classics in the way that many of their peers do - instead leaving each album as an island, but likewise, it's almost impossible to deny that, for better or worse, Mayhem have never created a record which wasn't interesting, and this one is no exception - in fact, it feels among their best formed and most sonically rewarding works in a long time. At the moment, I'm tempted to weigh-it-in as being their best work since De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, although I'm going to wait until the initial elevated mood of listening to a new album subsides before I call in such a judgement for good. Nevertheless, Esoteric Warfare is the first Mayhem album which has deeply impressed me upon discovering it, the only other being the Deathcrush EP - both of which I listened to and was impressed above and beyond the normal mental-hubbub of listening to a record.

Of course Mayhem haven't made "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas - Part II" - and I think for the most part hoping for such is naive, and even closed minded. Why should Mayhem create a record in the old style? A style which they helped to pioneer, but which has since, nonetheless, been adopted by a multitude of bands. It's worth remembering that at the time, Mayhem were creating something which very, very few were creating - and in this respect, this record harkens back to that; it is very different from their early work, musically, of course, but it is a return to the creation of music which very few others are creating, and it is within that sphere which the band seem to thrive. It's very clear, at this point, that Mayhem are a band who are creating the music which they want to create, and when records like Esoteric Warfare are delivered to us, we can be very glad of that indeed.

Originally posted on my reviews blog at

Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, June 16th, 2014

Everyone must surely know the Mayhem back story by now so I’m not going to try and outline it here but suffice to say for many reading this on it probably dwarfs their knowledge of the band’s music, even their über-classic “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. Given that somewhat difficult past “Esoteric Warfare” marks only their fifth full length in the 30-year career of Norway’s hugely controversial Mayhem and comes seven years after the strongly diverse “Ordo ad Chao”. The timespan between each record has allowed for each LP to retain a unique identity with the differences between each present through changing line-ups, production styles and song structures but throughout all Mayhem have never ceased to be a challenging black metal act true to the genre’s fiery birth.

“Esoteric Warfare” is for the most part a hyper-speed lo-fi album with little in the way of colour to mix the palette of highly strung layered guitars, Hellhammer’s bombastic clattering and Attila Chisar’s impressive range of vocal styles. The absence of guitarist Blasphemer, the writer of much of the band’s recent era material, is keenly felt in the lack of dynamics that stretch across the whole album as the mid-level tone of his replacement Teloch just doesn’t talk with the same vengeance as his predecessor. Add to this the riffs and patterns in the album’s construction: things get off to a flying start with “PsyWar” and “Trinity” which both hurtle off the line at an impressive rate of knots but without giving the impression that they are truly heading to the level of greatness the Mayhem rests upon. By no means are they bad, but I would like to hear a bit more ingenuity in their composition, even if they are being played at 100mph as is the case. In fairness to Teloch the flattened production values, which at times remind me of Death’s “Human” in the way all instruments are squeezed together with only the odd chord notation breaking out from the breaches, offers little help in exploding these songs out from my speakers as I’d like.

“Pandaemon” marks the first significant variation in rhythm as the choppy staccato tempos first truly enter the fray before they soon loom large across the landscape. It is all very impressive how the trio of Hellhammer, Teloch and Necrobutcher (bass) curtail their explosive performances with telescopic precision before realigning with the accuracy of a Swiss watch although I would be interested to hear how this works live. While the fast moments reveal the dominance of Hellhammer’s percussion in the mix, especially his very clicky double bass drum sound, the slower turns push Attila out front and too much over Teloch in “MILAB”. Attila’s display is, as usual, theatric - I can only think of Akercocke’s Jason Mendonça as a rival to the man’s mixture of throat singing, deep growls and punishing screams, often all within the same song, which always leave the listener guessing as to how he will adapt for each upcoming section.

In “VI.Sec.” Teloch pieces together some of his tightest moments across the record as the track marks a point in which progress takes more varied turns, leading into a bleak “Throne of Time” before “Corpse of Care” and notably “Posthuman” offer breathing space from the artillery barrage to step up on the discordance which has always been threatening to break through. As the record closes off with “Aion Suntalia”, notable for the minor psychedelic pattern interwoven with the leads and Attila’s strangled screams, and the nuclear-charged power of “Watchers”, the draw closes on another difficult, yet rewarding Mayhem experience. Only comparisons to “Ordo ah Chao” are valid within this discography and I miss the greater diversity in toning and handling of the slower sections which that record brings, although “Esoteric Warfare” offers plenty for black metal fans with a penchant for speed over the more subtle atmospheres I personally prefer. This is a grey dreary landscape of thunderbolt tempos and pulsating percussion designed to decimate through any barrier of the kind Mayhem have been serving up for decades: it’s good to have them back.

Originally written for

Mayhem Venturing Into War Politics - 98%

Maniac Blasphemer, June 8th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak, Booksleeve)

A couple of years ago I made a review about their previous effort which was their best ever since their debut album (screw Deathcrush). Since the release of Ordo ad Chao it has been...7 long years! I have to admit that not many bands spend so much time between albums. Anybody can give an example of a band that took a very long time before releasing a new offering, but then again Mayhem has always been the kind of group that would just tour heavily and record less. As such, this is the 5th album in...almost 30 years of existence? Yes, indeed!

Those who liked Ordo ad Chao (including myself) will be delighted to find out that this opus follows a similar line. There is a slight difference though and that is given by the new guitarist, Morten 'Teloch' Iversen, a name known in the metal realm for his contributions and performances in Nidingir, Gorgoroth, God Seed or 1349 (live performer or guest member). Another minor detail stands in regards of production quality. Esoteric Warfare is a better produced album, but the superior production quality does not undermine that sinister atmosphere that was present on Ordo ad Chao. I might also say that the band adopted some influences from Chimera and slightly from Snorre Ruch's band, Thorns. It gives an industrial aura from the beginning until the end, however, it is scarce and can barely be audible. The guitar play that Teloch employs is very dissonant and it manages to carry on the legacy left behind by Blasphemer to a certain degree.

Mayhem is one of those bands that no matter how long you wait for them to release new material you won't be disappointed and the same issue applies for Esoteric Warfare as well. They also seem to keep the tradition of not making the same album twice pretty much alive. I do not know if this is the product of the many line-up changes within the band, but I do believe that the overall creative department that this band possesses is just remarkable. This new offering, while it is built on the skeleton of the previous output, does try to be unique on its own and it does succeed.

Furthermore, while in terms of song-writing you just can't complain about a sort-of lack of professionalism from the band, I do have to admit that they perform pretty tight on this record. Especially Attila. With this record I do believe that Attila basically slapped hard the part of the fan-base that still misses Dead or even Maniac. He proves that if he wants to, he can sound like any other black metal vocalist while still retaining that part of his vocal range that gives an experimental aspect to every album he contributed. On Esoteric Warfare, Attila mostly uses shrieks and snarls rather than the droney vocals he used on the debut record or even on Ordo ad Chao. It is enough to listen to the opening track, "Watcher" or the follow-up, "Psywar" to be convinced that Attila means serious business this time. Check out the hellish screams throughout the track Watcher and you will be convinced that this guy is probably the most capable and unique vocalist the black metal scene ever gave.

As for the other members, you cannot end a review without talking a little bit about one of the best drummers the black metal scene ever gave, Jan Axel 'Hellhammer' Bloomberg. This guy remains the same drum machine as he was in the past. The drum machine comparison is not exaggerated at all. Check out "Trinity" to be convinced. Even though he is not in this 20s anymore, time does not seem to hinder Hellhammer at all. He also proves that when required, he can be technical too ("Throne of Time", "Aion Suntelia"). As for Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud, though I never really felt that this guy has an important contribution in this band, he remains the same subtle bassist he was in the past. You have to concentrate a little bit to hear his bass lines, but if you do catch a glimpse of them, you will realize that they do have their own role to play throughout this record.

To end this review, Mayhem is back in top form. 7 years of arduous wait surely brought a high degree of expectations as many viewed them as being a shadow of their former glory, especially after the driving force that contributed decisively on the past 3 records decided to leave in 2008 (yeah, talking about Blasphemer). Teloch though seems to be the right man, at the right time, at the right place. Probably the 7 years wait was not due to the lack of creativity or willingness to record, but was due the band trying to cement their playing style. The record is as evil and obscure as you can get and it caries that Mayhem signature sound that among the over-saturated and ever-changing black metal scene, still remains the most recognizable sound. Mayhem is not only the creator of black metal, but with the subsequent release it also proved that they aim to be an innovator as well.

Esoteric Warfare - 73%

vetlerattlehead, June 7th, 2014

A good deal has changed since 2007's offering Ordo Ad Chao. Most noticeably, Rune Blasphemer Eriksen parted ways with Mayhem in 2008. He wrote the music for the band, and in his place Mayhem have hired Morten Teloch Iversen from Nidingr. Other than that, the band is the same. Jørn Necrobutcher Stubberud on bass, Jan Axel Hellhammer Blomberg on drums, and Attila Csihar on vocals.

The record begins with recognizable dissonant chords, soon accompanied by machine gun drums. The whole band joins not long afterwards. Attila's vocals are here closer to typical black metal vocals than they've ever been, without that being a bad thing. He pulls it off very good. Actually, Attila's vocals is one of the records highlight. His vocal lines are intricate, and he utilizes many different styles. Inhales, exhales, drones, and he masters all of them quite well. The record plays on the same kind of "alien" song structure presented on Ordo Ad Chao, but in this instance it sounds rather more "solid". I was not a big fan of the last records' lack of something to grab onto musically, but here there's actually sections in which Mayhem downright groove. "Melodically", it's still the same dissonant overtones and intervals that you have to expect. Tritone isn't used terribly much, but chromatic intervals are in a vast abundance. As a result, the music can be predictable (even with its unorthodox, "random" structures).

In summary, Esoteric Warfare is a more accessible experience strictly musically speaking, and every member of the band is brilliant in their own right. I still have to drag my judgment slightly down, as I feel that Teloch writes better in Nidingr. Of course, I understand that he can't simply write a Nidingr-song for Mayhem, but I don't believe he's realized his full potential with Mayhem yet. (On the Psywar single is a song from the Budapest sessions in 2012; I actually think that song is better than some of the songs on display here.)

Highlights: Milab, Corpse of Care, Trinity, Aion Suntelia.