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Blasphemer's masterpiece - 95%

SROCeallaigh, October 2nd, 2016

I only give this 95% because it is a hard album to get into, and I can see why it has divided Mayhem fans so much. Even by Mayhem's standards this is an obscure and cryptic release. Bear with it, though, as it is very rewarding in the end.

Firstly I must praise the overall structure of this. After the really solid but more "straight black metal" Chimera release they seemed to consciously return to more cryptic and experimental territory like they did on Grand Declaration of War, only this time the music is solely composed by Blasphemer. This album just flows really well, I think this is largely down to the perfect production, a sound so magical, distinct and perfect for the album on the same level as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. This album just sounds pitch black, it's like being dragged into a black hole, and it has a muddier almost death-metal production sound a little reminiscent of Immolation almost (from Close to a World Below onward at least). Handling the bass as well, Blasphemer brilliantly utilised this in the mix, driving forward the exhilarating Wall of Water and punctuating the more dynamic and sparse tracks like Illuminati Eliminate and Psychic Horns. My only possible issue in terms of sound might be Hellhammer's drums, he performs well as always but I am just not sure about the production, apparently they weren't equalised, at times they sound almost distorted, but they still do the job.

This may be to many the best Mayhem lineup ever, with both Blasphemer and Attila united for the only release they did together sadly, and Attila brought with him along with his idiosyncratic and otherworldly vocals a focus on Illuminati and Masonic themes, which fits Mayhem perfectly. The lyrics are as obscure as the music, as to be expected from Mayhem.

Given their recent output and sub-par guitarists nothing would make me happier than Blasphemer returning to Mayhem, and he certainly went out on a glorious high note with this album, his guitar-work is flawless and awe-inspiring, the riffs outright weird, dissonant, eerie...There are so many magical moments on this album that just make it more rewarding with each listen. It is hard at first, and you do need to be in the right mood to just sit down and listen to it in its entirety, but once you "get it", it's up there as one of their best yet.