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Weird atmospheric direction - 71%

gasmask_colostomy, February 16th, 2018

An introduction to Mayhem is not really needed for anyone with curiosity and the Internet available to them, so let's just say that the band's early career is much more famous and celebrated than anything that was produced while Blasphemer was the guitarist. Unlike with obvious black metal milestone De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, this 2007 release is both not an obvious black metal album nor classic in the least, shying away from praise and bold statements as much as possible. It has taken me around five years of owning this album to even contemplate reviewing it, so that should be quite an indicator that it isn't an immediate effort, nor one that draws an instinctive reaction.

Having just had a quick blast of the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo, I can say that the production on this album is certainly not as poor as there, although this is only a little above general demo quality, using a lot of the sound to push forward distorted bass, the vocals, and the higher parts of the kit, which is fairly weird and unsettling, two words that were definitely on Mayhem's wishlist for 'A Wise Birthgiver', which opens Ordo Ad Chao with hulking ambience (and uncredited keyboards) that speak of nightmares to come. The other songs offer more in the way of proper black metal fare, but some of it sounds like it's been filtered through the minds of weirdos like Striborg or Moloch, going off on odd diversions into rhythmic suspense and twanging guitars. Everything remains very murky, guitars buried down with Hellhammer's kicks and toms, the blastbeats that erupt in 'Wall of Water' and 'Key to the Storms' coming across as though the drummer were trying to scrabble his way out through the bottom of a coffin and into the mud, from which the over-distorted bass booms like a blind mole attempting to surface.

The songs don't make any more sense than all that, Blasphemer tying the band up in knots as he pushes onwards with convoluted structures, turning back on himself after many of the fast riffs with deliberately awkward sections, those in the likes of 'Deconsecrate' stalling the song before making another attempt to push off, while others slip forward with apparently no effort. This makes for an idiosyncratic album, one which draws the presence of Attila Csihar deeper into the songs and supports his troubling performance in all its bestial mind-fuckery. The lyrics might be something other than what the band was using before Ordo Ad Chao but you won't be able to pay much attention to them, seeing as Csihar rarely pronounces a phrase audibly and he certainly sings nothing in a style that you'll be able to imitate afterwards. The growls and haggard moanings are really quite distinctive, worrying the listener through the slow early parts of 'Illuminate Eliminate', though it is the creature from the abyss that he becomes at the start of 'Deconsecrate' and late on in 'Great Work of Ages' that morphs those songs into jagged shards from a shattered psyche and pulls the listener through the gap of the odd production.

As such, what Ordo Ad Chao does successfully is to ensure that Mayhem's music remains extreme and without parallel, though that is at the loss of much of their previous imperial power and majesty, which returns at moments during the closing 'Anti' and 'Great Work of Ages', both of which are more traditional than the rest of the music presented here. Even after many listens to the album, you are very unlikely to learn all the twists and turns of its brief 40 minute length, nor would it be advisable to get to know it too intimately, since I feel that doing so would ruin the experience. That edge that some of these songs have - an edge of unpredictability, if we're going to put a name on it - is the all-important factor in making this a marginal success, although it's undeniable that the longer songs 'Psychic Horns' and 'Illuminate Eliminate' don't work all that well for their duration, while 'A Wise Birthgiver' proves a mere atmospheric intro, though one that does its job very well. Those busier songs like 'Wall of Water' and 'Key to the Storms' - with its bizarre ride cymbal fills - are more diverting, even if taking the album as a whole is the only way to go. Whatever the case, this is certainly a unique effort in the Mayhem catalogue and a bold step in a different direction for the band.