Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Almost as perfect as Deathcrush - 100%

Demiror_Moritur, July 28th, 2018

Historical band controversy and cryptic track titles aside, this EP is back to back one of the most legendary ones alongside Deathcrush in the genre of black metal for a multitude of reasons regarding the music alone. There's a logical explanation as to why this is pointed out as one of the best releases the band put out after Euronymous' passing and Blasphemer's arrival.

Wolf's Lair Abyss is an almost 25 minute long piece of fierce, relentless, unstoppable black metal executed in the most flawless, intricate, professional way possible, leaving no doubt to anyone who knows how to accurately and appropriately value this type of music about the band being more than just alive and well even after the untimely death of their leader and mastermind. As many other bands would've taken the easy way out and would have gone the easy route by simply quitting after releasing something as good as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and blame their discontinuity on an event that escaped their power while laying back and enjoying their legendary cult status and fame off of the surrounding controversy and popularity, Mayhem did exactly the opposite by unapologetically (and somewhat unexpectedly as well) releasing this thing. They surely and thoroughly provoked anyone who might have thought they were done for and over with to try and test their worth by unleashing a powerful, angry, mean-spirited, violent black metal attack like it had never been witnessed before by adepts of the genre and challenging their contemporaneous creators with more than enough credit to do just that.

Keeping in mind how time has treated this and considering a release of around this length nowadays could easily be considered as a lazy full-length by modern black metal bands, it's noteworthy how dedicated enough they were to have the decency to not label this as a full album, but just as a small taste-bite of what was to come and what anyone who would follow the ride along had waiting for them (and they certainly didn't disappoint).

The sound of Wolf's Lair Abyss is extremely sharp, razor-edge, metallic, and heavy, while still sophisticated, measured, smart, and always stable. The guitars, controversially handled by then-newcomer to the band's lineup Blasphemer, are played extremely and almost (to a certain extent) soullessly well, something which might come as a surprise or even slight turnoff for certain type of listeners, yet it honestly does the opposite for me, as it allows the rest of the instruments and the vocals to shine through even more while giving the riffs total protagonism and not leaving any room whatsoever for any kind of sloppy playing or silly amateurish mistakes that would otherwise do nothing but take much useful and needed space in the overall general mix of sound. The bass is of course well played by legendary and founding member of the band Necrobutcher, and one can only wonder what his contribution on their debut album would've sounded like by admiring his work on this following EP. The drums are played restlessly and mindbogglingly fast by Hellhammer, undoubtedly one of the best drummers in metal, and it's crazy to see how well and perfectly he adapts to each and every tempo, be it slow or quite the contrary, without the bat of an eye. His playing is forceful and mighty while still being clean and sober, and there's not a single moment where any otherwise understandable human defects shine through in the slightest, borderline sounding like a programmed drum-machine at times.

There's not much one can say about Maniac's insane and inhuman vocal delivery throughout this release, since probably any attempt at labeling or describing it would run short, and one must listen to it to truly comprehend how his animal fury displayed on all tracks couldn't have been matched by anyone else taking his spot, effectively making him the ideal individual for this job.

All in all, as much as some would criticize Wolf's Lair Abyss for it representing the opening of a new chapter in Mayhem both lineup and style wise, I happen to believe this is quite the perfect outing, and I have no complaints about it or wouldn't want it to be different in any way, so this is one of those very few pieces I would label as perfect black metal.

A Good Entry in Mayhem’s Discography - 86%

Krasherr67, June 28th, 2016

This EP seems to be the cause of some controversy among both fans of Mayhem (like myself), and fans of black metal in general (also like myself). This, from what I can gather, is due to the debate of whether or not Mayhem should have reformed after the notorious death of Euronymous (who was the former lead guitarist), among other factors such as the quality of the vocals. I mention this controversy only because it cannot be dismissed, especially in a critique of this particular EP.

Now the actual music on this EP, you know, the thing a review is supposed to address, is very good. Starting with what is, in my opinion, an evolution of the songwriting seen on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. DMDS was fast, but it wasn’t what I would call technical. This is not a bad thing, it’s just an observation. The songwriting on Wolf’s Lair Abyss, however, IS what I would call technical. This is reflected in the intense, multifaceted riffs, and even faster drumming than before. I really enjoyed this, and thanks to this EP, I’m going to further explore Mayhem’s later discography.

Now onto the vocals… they’re decent. Not the abominable ridiculousness that certain people claim it to be, nor is it to be put on a pedestal as the standard of prime black metal vocals in my opinion. They swing between being genuinely scary, and kind of funny. They’re memorable, I’ll say that much. If I were to criticize this EP further, I would say that the production is rather inconsistent from track to track. It never stuck out as being a bad thing, it is just something to take note of. It feels as if each track was recorded in a different session. However it is of consistently high quality, so that’s a plus.

Overall, I think this EP is a good entry in Mayhem’s discography. Not quite as an introduction to Mayhem, but as an additional entry in a fan’s collection. With memorable, technically proficient songwriting and riffs, vocals that work and are never distracting, and production that somehow manages to sound different from track to track, yet remains of high quality throughout, I think this has, and will please(d) its fair share of Mayhem fans.

For what is humanity, if not forlorn - 68%

autothrall, November 22nd, 2011

Wolf's Lair Abyss was the first 'major' piece of new studio material to be released by Mayhem after the murder of Euronymous by fellow artisan of extremity Varg Vikernes, and thus it's no surprise that it is welcome with only a bittersweet reception. There exists a faction of the black metal underground which likely rues the continued output of this franchise, just as there would be with any act whose celebrity core had its candle snuffed out. Imagine INXS without Michael Hutchence. Or The Doors without Jim Morrison. Oh, wait, they both actually did that. So is it really a surprise that Mayhem would plow forward, and was it the right decision? The only one, in my estimation, who could answer that, would be Euronymous himself.

But regardless of where emotions run on this matter, Wolf's Lair Abyss exists. The band has never ceased the churning of its creative gears, as few and far between as their studio outings might have seemed for a while. This EP happened, and so did the three ensuing full-lengths that have arrived between the late 90s and today. So it's got to be judged on its merits alone, rather than on some subversive vengeance for the fallen who may or may not be aggrieved as to its actual contents and presentation. Some of the other core personalities remain in the rhythm section. Bassist Necrobutcher returned for this, and Hellhammer stayed in his drum seat. Mayhem introduced the young Rune Eriksen to the fold, who would remain through the release of Ordo Ad Chao in 2007. From a technical view, I'd say he does a decent job here, perhaps a more intensified version of the very style Euronymous was producing. His acquisition feels seamless.

Perhaps the bigger surprise here was that the band reconnected with Maniac, who had provided some sick ass vocals on the band's legendary Deathcrush EP. He sounds as wretched as ever, even though I did not necessarily find the harried, blasting pace of these tracks as good a match to his suffocating rasp as the slower, earlier material. On some tunes, though, like the "Fall of Seraphs", both his gnarled and cleaner tones prevail. And did I mention the blasting? Because one of the most prominent characteristics of Wolf's Lair Abyss is just how much Hellhammer beats the everliving fuck out of his drum set. Seriously, his snare, bass and cymbals all tried to appeal to the local Union for their mistreatment, but there was sadly no clause for inanimate objects. That they're dialed up in the mix is one thing, but the sheer punishment this guy is meting out on "I Am Thy Labyrinth" and "Fall of Seraphs" is admittedly intimidating.

Unfortunately, as fresh and violent as this music is, which feels like a steady flow of bitter effluvia after a stubborn stretch of creative constipation, it's not all that memorable. The bass is loud and atrocious, the vocals injected with the heroin heights of Maniac's personality, and it's appreciably 'extreme' enough to outpace even it's full-length predecessor. But aside from its belligerent, beatdown sheen, I did not exact much from its content. The noise/ambient intro "The Vortex Void of Inhumanity" with its horns and vocal samples was an interesting experiment, but not really conducive to the ensuing eruption of "I Am Thy Labyrinth". Almost all the riffs here seem rather predictable and uninspired, merely projected along the same course as the drumming.

There are some thrashing breaks in the material ("Fall of Seraphs"), and a few psychedelic, haunting streams of notation ("Symbols of Bloodswords"), but all in all, I've always felt like I was listening to an eerie vocal trip, a drumming tour de force, and not much else aside from guitars which feel functional at best. So, as explosive a proclamation as Wolf's Lair Abyss might seem upon initial contact, it's simply not enduring as their earlier works, nor as experimentally curious as their later full-length efforts like Grand Declaration of War. A rush of night, surely, but not one I could ever remember after the inevitable morning crash.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Wolf's Lair Abyss - 58%

Noctir, September 17th, 2011

Following the murder of Euronymous, it seemed as if Mayhem would cease to exist. The main creative force behind the band was now in his grave, and following the delayed release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (which was recorded prior to his death), it would appear that Mayhem would rot there with him. This is as it should have been, for despite all of the wasted potential that now rested beneath the earth, there was simply no way for a band to continue without the one person who had given it birth and kept it alive for so many years; the one from whose mind the very concept of the musical movement had spawned. So, for a short time, Mayhem was no more. That is, until a certain greedy drummer realized how much money could be made by cashing in on the notoriety that the band had attained.

Having embraced his Hebrew bloodline, Cashhammer embarked on a mission to revive this dead entity and to breathe life into it once more. He recruited former members, Necrobutcher and Maniac, in order to lend some air of credibility to this scheme. They then picked up a kid by the name of Blasphemer, to try filling the void left behind by Euronymous. Of course, he would never be able to live up to the expectations that many had of him. After a few rehearsals to "see if it felt right", the not-so-true Mayhem began working on new material. After about two years, they finally managed to come up with enough for an E.P. This was even after using some old riffs that were laying around from years past. Quite pathetic, really. So it was in 1997 that Wolf's Lair Abyss was vomited forth.

So what of the music? After a worthless intro that has no place near anything even remotely Black Metal, the song "I Am Thy Labyrinth" uses a riff that was already ripped off once that year (by Emperor), and not even utilized half as well, sad to say. Right away, the production becomes very annoying as the drumming is far too high in the mix. Hellhammer must have gotten a big head and figured that people cared to hear his efforts moreso than even the guitar riffs. As far as the guitars go, the sound is not as cold and crisp as on the debut L.P. Then again, even an identical sound would not have saved this material. The concept was forever lost and now the band existed solely to make whatever money they could from the hard work and glorified corpses of their former bandmates.

By the time "Fall of Seraphs" begins, the listener is already drained from the overwhelming sense of disappointment and the tedious songwriting. While the music is not so bad, during the slower parts, Maniac's vocals completely ruin the atmosphere and one cannot help but laugh at his feeble attempt to emulate Attila. Remembering interviews with Euronymous that made mention of trashing many guitar riffs because they weren't dark enough, one can see that the new version of Mayhem would not be hindered by such integrity and would merely toss on anything that came to mind.

"Ancient Skin" is the most straightforward Black Metal song on here, and is the most enjoyable as a result. It maintains a rather fast pace, and does not fall into any traps of experimentation. The drumming gets a little overdone, but it is not enough to really detract from the song. The vocals are still pretty awful, but less comical. All in all, it's a shame that they utilized the type of production that they did, as this track probably could have sounded even better with more of a cold feeling.

By the time the final song begins, the entire experience seems more than a little tiring. "Symbols of Bloodswords" is composed of a mixture of generic riffs as well as some more thought-out ideas. Unfortunately, the piece could have used a bit more refinement. It's not bad and, by this point, the listener has most likely gotten used to the various defects in the album. Still, the band needed to end on a very high note to salvage the impression given by this E.P.

Wolf's Lair Abyss is probably the most competent release of post-Euronymous Mayhem, yet it still falls short in many ways. The songwriting seemed to fail in every respect to capture the same type of feeling and atmosphere that was present on the L.P. Though it was important to establish that they were not out to simply copy themselves, the previous line-up set a high standard, one which these guys failed to meet. In particular, due to the circumstances that befell the band and the expectations that their fans had for them, they owed it to everyone involved to put forth the extra effort to make something truly special and in that regard they failed. This E.P. is decent enough, on its own, but does not deserve to be labeled as a Mayhem release.

Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com

Don't treat this like an EP! - 85%

PillarofModern, June 19th, 2011

The beginning song, The Vortex Void of Inhumanity reminds me of a King Diamond intro to an album. A collection of weird, bizarre noises, from lasers to trumpets, with the nefarious line "Militant men in peaceful times attack themselves!" However, you should forget this, this has nothing to do with the EP. This is just a prelude to the great things to come!

"I am thy labyrinth" is my favorite song on this EP. The amazing drum fill in the beginning sets off a amazing tempo, forcing you to bang your head (I prefer windmill). Simple, menacing axe work, (The cliche E to F, to E to E flat) somehow creates a atmosphere that demands respect, and gives goosebumps. Maniac's vocals are insane, rasping and gargling like one who has been cut in the throat! The drummer (he must be ripped) pumps inhuman double-bassing and blast beats, adding further to the evil feeling. What really impresses me is the poignant, lyrics. They explore the concept of life, and try to comprehend many things ordinary mortals cannot. If there was no music, then one might have confused the lyrics as a article from a philosopher's book! The bridge is stunning, with a voice-over as Maniac screams the same shit along with the narrator.

"Fall of Seraphs." Again, intelligent lyrics impress me. Much more complicated riffs, but still an awesome atmosphere compel me totally! Maniac's voice here reminds me of Harry Potter using that stupid snake-language crap, but it still sounds insane! The song structure is more organized and complex, and Maniac is screaming his heart out, while using his creepy narrator voice again in utter agony. The drums really shine in this particular work. Another perfect song.

"Ancient Skin." Woohoo, more cryptic lyrics to contemplate and ponder about! By now, you should have realized that this EP is not something you can easily digest. It is not a guitar album, it isn't a drums album, it isn't even a lyrics album, it was just meant to head-bang until your wimpy head falls off. The entire work is meant to show the band's talent as a whole, forcing you to take in the amount of awesomeness all at once, that you might overlook some minor details such as a cool drum fill or solo there, but if you aren't head-banging, something is wrong with you.

"Symbols of Blood Swords." For the last time, amazing, awesome lyrics! The crushing drums, the decapitating guitar and bass, and Maniac make this a essential record to listen to. EP? Forget that simple term. Treat this 5-track masterpiece as a album, because it has all of the qualities of a kick ass magnus opus.

The next step from DMDS - 92%

Black_Horizons, May 28th, 2008

The title pretty much sums up the album - the next logical step for Mayhem to take after their masterpiece, which, mind you, is now a quite different band due to Blasphemer being the major songwriter here. Everything has been increased since their fist LP: the aggression, the heaviness, the brutality, the intensity, the technicality and the dark atmosphere. What you have here is 20 minutes of uncompromising black metal that takes no survivors.

The album begins with an electronic intro - a omen of things to come in GDoW - which, frankly, isn't that interesting and could be a minute or so shorter. After it finishes (or you press the skip button) you get the beginning drum roll of "I am thy Labyrinth" and the insane riffing starts hitting you mercilessly in the head. By the time the album finishes with the last chilling riff of "Symbols of Bloodswords", your neck will be begging for mercy.

What is notable at first listen is the different production sound: the guitars are much more sharp and chilling, the drums are (badly, of course) triggered to hell and back, the bass has a more ballsy sound and generally, it sounds more cold than DMDS. Unfortunately, it does sound somewhat mechanical due to the drums, but it's not that big of a fault.

Starting from the first moment, you get some aggressive riffing pounding on your face. The death metal influence is apparent here, especially in "Fall of Seraphs", which gives this album a quite vicious and brutal edge, while not losing its black metal roots. What is remarkable here is that some of the riffs seem to be "borrowed" from Euronymous, but this fact makes no difference - it is actually better that his riffs were brought to us in an album, rather than die with him. The riffing is considerably more technical than DMDS, without becoming masturbation at the least, and it being pretty catchy is a major plus. The guitar tone is quite good, too - a chilling, overdistorted sound, perfect for black metal. The bass work by Necrobutcher is pretty good as well: check out the middle break in "Ancient Skin" and the outro riff of "Symbols of Bloodswords".

Hellhammer gives a stellar performance here, with great hi-hat/cymbal work accenting the blast beats, which predominate the album. Occasionaly he bursts into some nice double bass, but the downside is, the bass drums sound too clicky and do not have enough bass frequencies. The snare sounds ok and the general mix is good, but the bass drum sound is unacceptable, and detracts from the listening experience. Other than that, he shows a great mastery of the kit, playing parts that compliment every guitar riff, while keeping obnoxiousness to a minimum.

Everyone's beloved vocalist Maniac handles the vocals here, and he sounds nothing like he did in "Deathcrush". In this album, he started the anally violated feline vocals tradition. While his vocals are something that, with time, you get used to, the first listen might prove embarassing for some. Do not let him ruin the great riffing, though, and continue with listening the album. Here, he also starts showing signs of experimentation, featuring clean vocals (which, I have to admit, are very good) in every track, although nothing as obvious as GDoW. His lyrics are obviously influenced by Nietsche and are worth a read, too.

Overall, the songwriting is great, with the riffs flowing into each other and the songs being memorable and not boring at all. The exception is "Fall of Seraphs", which meanders a bit in the middle sections, but the great riffs featured more than make up for that. The production is also very good, with the mix perfectly balanced, and, while not being raw, it sounds very dark and cold.

If you are interested in black metal with a hateful feel, a brutal edge and a healthy dose of catchy riffing, here's the EP for you!

Mayhem - Wolf's Lair Abyss - 70%

mentalselfmutilation, April 3rd, 2008

Again, this was another release with huge shoes to fill. Hellhammer more or less single-handedly had to bring back together a lineup for the band following the death of guitarist/primary song writer Euronymous, a new bassist, and a vocalist which the band had been lacking. Hellhammer found Maniac who was last seen on Deathcrush, Necrobutcher from 80s Mayhem fame, and a new guitarist by the name of Blasphemer.

In all honesty with a lineup like that it would seem as if this EP had the potential to be another Deathcrush, but alas I was mistaken. Instead you have very standard generic black metal both in terms of musicianship and delivery as a whole. When I first heard Maniac's vocals on Deathcrush way back I thought they were some of the sickest vocals in extreme metal, especially for the time. I was really anticipating a similar approach, but instead his vocals aren't that impressive to begin with. The Musicianship itself is also nothing amazing. It's obviously no de mysteriis.

While many of the guitar parts were written by Euronymous previously, the band lacks direction and imagination with their sound, and this whole EP has a feeling of generic and uninspired right from the useless irrelevant intro which doesn't add much all the way to the final track. The songs basically follow a set standard of playing without even trying to expand the sound. On top of that the production of this recording is way too polished for black metal, not cold or harsh at all, it was only a sign of things to come, and a sign of wasted potential from this group of members who other than Euronymous seemed like a revival of Mayhem in its glory days of the late 80s like my expectations were, but I guess all good things will pass right.

That's not to completely disregard this release. It's your typical black metal album, and given the EP length rather than letting it drag on forever with the same generic sound (like another norwegian band out there) and as a whole the album itself is flawless black metal, which is more than many generic mayhem/darkthrone/burzum clones that come out of the woodwork on myspace these days can ever dream to sound like. So this isn't all too worthless, I just wouldn't listen to it with expectations of finding something as amazing as their previous works, but even then don't let that discourage you. It's worth at least one listen to check out this album, and won't disappoint any fans of the band who haven't listened to it yet!

Quite good - 78%

BurntOffering, November 29th, 2007

So this is the reunited Mayhem? Well, the line up is particularly different. Maniac coming back in the fold, along with Necrobutcher. New guitarist Blasphemer, who seems talked down upon because he isn't Euronymous. It is true he has big shoes to fill, and actually does quite good on this album, but he'd disgrace his performance here with the next musical abortion by this band. If they would have kept in this direction instead of opening a big jar of what the fuck on the next album it would have been great. The style is somewhat reminiscent of DMDS (which is no surprise since most of the riffs were Euronymous's anyway, but the delivery is a hell of a lot different. This is more sterile, and lacks an evil vibe, rather it is replaced with a more militaristic delivery. Mentioning that, Dead's lyrics are absent from here and Mayhem's lyrics are no longer "dark and mysterious", and have more to do with WWII than anything.

As said before this is much more sterile. Hellhammer's drums to be honest are overproduced, triggered, and well....kind of shitty. His performance is quite good, but the sound is too triggered for my tastes. Necrobutcher is nowhere as prominent in the mix as he once was, but you can still hear him. Maniac...wow, what a change. It takes some major adjusting to listen to him. A little different from the Deathcrush days. Sterile as it is, it almost works in the band's favor.

The intro is pointless and worthless annoying static that fails to create atmosphere and drones on way too long. As for songwriting ideas, that's the only bad thing I have to say. The rest is quite nice. Most of the Euronymous riffs, so you can expect greatness. The opening riff for "I Am Thy Labyrinth" is the same as the opening riff for Emperor's "Ye Entrancemperium". This was also written by Euronymous, respectively. The rest of the EP is pretty much just standard black metal. Maniac will often use somewhat clean vocals, and surprisingly they're not too bad. The rest is pretty much DMDS riffs with a different delivery. So there's not much since going on about it.

The highlight for me personally is "A Symbol of Bloodswords". Too bad this is the only thing they've done that was passable since they got back together. Sadly, they could only ride the riffs of a dead man for one EP, then decided to turn to complete dogshit. Oh well, Enjoy this one, it's not bad.

Not that Good in my Opinion - 48%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, October 4th, 2007

I’m not a big Mayhem fun. I always thought this band was far more famous for the facts that happened in the past (Euronymous murder and churches burnings) than for their music. The only album I love is “De Mysteriis DOM Sathanas” and this EP is far less good.

Let’s start from the incredible boring intro made of some cybernetic noises and so on…blah! Too boring and not even so obscure and evil…The first song is in my opinion the worst one here. Terrible.

The first thing you can hear is the crappy, noisy, screamed to excess Maniac’s voice. That makes no sense! You cannot understand anything!! I consider Attila the only good singer Mayhem had, and here I miss him a lot. Maniac’s voice is like a cry of a baby mixed with a mad who’s screaming something I don’t understand.

The drums are incredible artificial and martial their his sound. It’s not like in “De Mysteriis..” where there was the perfect black metal drums sound. Sometimes the drums parts are so boring with a production that exalt them, despite the only quite good thing here: the guitar sound.

Here the guitars are not so inspired like in the previous album (No Euronymous, No party!). There are only few riffs spread in the songs that are quite good (When they are not hidden behind those awesome screams from my ass and the pounding drums…!)

In my opinion the good period for Mayhem lasted only for few years (the ones used in the production of “De Mysteriis…”) and yet from here those good years are over.

Vicious reformation - 75%

Darkwinterdweller, March 18th, 2007

This EP was the first recording of new material by the reformed Mayhem, with earlier Mayhem members, Maniac (Vocals) and Necrobutcher (Bass), along with there newly appointed guitarist Blasphemer. This is often considered to be part one of Grand Declaration Of War by the band, but luckily, they have very little in common with each other. This recording is in my opinion, the most vicious of any of Mayhem's material, and seemed as though this new lineup had plenty of new ideas and surprises waiting for us in the future.

The music is about as close as one can get to death metal, while still being considered black metal. Maniac's vocals are absolutely brutal, although this of course does not mean everything. Maniac's vocals here do indeed sound like a raped cat as another reviewer put it. Some seem to like his style, but I personally do not. His voice in my opinion ruins some of the music from being great. It's too bad that Attila did not participate here, as I imagine this release would have been much better if he had. But regardless, the actual music here is quite good. Especially the songs Ancient Skin and I Am Thy Labyrinth. Blasphemer puts on a good performance here, some of the riffs sound very similar to thoses Euronymous would have written, especially on Ancient Skin. The drums are of course fast and decent overall, not much else to say about them. There is a small amount of experimentation if you want to call it that, there are background spoken vocals on one track by Maniac, nothing really that adds or subtracts from the music, but hints at what was ahead I suppose.

Not much else to truly comment on, due to the fact that there are only four actual tracks on here that clock out at less then twenty five minutes. I just believe this would have been infinitely better had Attila or someone new maybe took on vocals, Maniac's performance is the only aspect here that significantly lowers the score here. I would say it's worth the purchase and is the best of all the post De Mysteriis releases.

Mayhem's declaration of HATE - 100%

The_MOTH, December 13th, 2004

Did you ever made a declaration of love? How about a declaration of hate? A declaration of hate adressed to the whole humanity? Why am I saying this? Because this album is the most eloquent acoustic expression of hate, anger and misanthropy.Some of you are gonna tell me that I should look for the "most hatefull" album in discographies of bands like Napalm Death, Sepultura, Suffocation or Slayer.While, to those bands, the hate is the violent decomposure of violence, to Mayhem, it appears as a more intimate feeling. I was knocked down when I first listened to this album. The 4 songs are like a hurricane...maybe the only hurricane in black-metal.
I haven't sensed so much anger spitted in humanity's face than in that short interlude from Ancient Skin, when Maniac declares with profetic, clean voice "I've captured the moment given, I denied the sickening love, turned to the purity of anger" This sounds very Nietzsche-like ("humanity is sick with this unhealthy peace").
Al the 4 songs have an incredible weight, given by the intensity of the riffs and the heavy, very good drumming and a speed unexlored before, even by Mayhem. There is one song, Ancient Skin, in wich the band says "This is who we are". The song starts very fast, and a feeling of "deja-vu" takes place, but, after 1 minute, Hellhammer rises the tempo of the drumming, the speed reaches an unexpected high level, simultaneously with the transition to the very dense web of riffs (typical to this Wolf's Lair Abyss), preparing for Maniac's entrance. His part consist of the most violent vocals ever recorded on a black metal album.
This album fascinated me since the first audition. The intro - the breathing of a septic body and the trumpets annnouncing a new Era (in black metal), followed by the unleashing of high speed and immense brutallity and a very good instrumental technique.
This is the best black metal album ever made...

Insane - 87%

Vim_Fuego, August 8th, 2004

Mayhem are a band haunted by their past. Whatever they do, there will always be the debate as to whether or not they are the "true" Mayhem, should they play live, and are the current members even a shadow of ghosts long Dead?

Who knows. Who cares. The important thing should be: Is the music any good?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, Mayhem are an excellent raw black metal band on record.

This is nothing more than the merest sample of the hyper–speed insanity these possibly diseased minds are capable of. And the best part of the brevity of this disc is it leaves the listener craving more, nay, more than craving, physically addicted and needing more.

Much has been said over the years of the ability of Hellhammer, Mayhem's inhumanly fast drummer. So he's fast, so what? So are lots of drummers. Few, however, are as fast and technically proficient at speed as this man, for such a sustained period. The four tracks (plus a spooky intro) all clock in at over five minutes long. This band just doesn't slow down.

The guitar sound here is total necro (or perhaps that should be the bass sound, since the bass player is called Necrobutcher), all fuzzy, buzzing mid range tones, with not a lot of bottom end. It is almost the perfect black metal sound, providing an unexpected clarity to the high velocity riffing, while retaining the raw, lo–fi power required for convincing black metal.

Maniac's vocals are almost totally indecipherable, his raspy screech losing most of it's human character, leaving just a bare demonic wail. A nice contrasting touch is a clearer melodic voice underlining some of the vocal lines, which introduces unexpected subtleties to the mix.

Forget the "true black metal" debate. Track this down, clear your mind, turn off the lights, and set "Wolf's Lair Abyss" on repeat.

They‘re still going strong - 75%

stickyshooZ, June 16th, 2004

Being that this is the first Mayhem album without Euronymous, this is a fairly interesting one. This is proof that even without Mayhem’s former “leader,“ they can still manage to pump out some blistering and worthy black metal. This isn’t as raw as Deathcrush or the legendary DMDS; the production is much more clean, dry and sharp. Maniac is back on vocals, and to say the least, his style is much different than it was on Deathcrush. Instead of his former Deathcrush style screams, he’s got more of a guttural and gritty shriek going on.

Many, and I mean many, will be put off by Maniac’s vocals. Maniac almost sounds like he’s got cicadas and beetles in his throat while he sings from his stomach. Some people may pick up on his singing right away, others may find it to be an acquired taste, and then the rest will despise his singing. At times Maniac’s singing reminds me of Smeagol from Lord of the Rings, but I still manage to enjoy it when I’m not thinking of those big bug eyes and that voice that calls out for his precious. Blasphemer puts on a satisfactory performance, but his guitar sounds a little rusty and anhydrous...but it does the job decently. Some of the material sounds rather DMDS-ish (Ancient Skin, I Am Thy Labyrinth).

The drumming is rather brisk, but it’s much more varied than what I expected from Mayhem - instead of the majority of just blast beats there is a lot more interchanging between double bass, snare, and cymbals. Of course this is Mayhem, so all of the songs with the exception of the opening instrumental are fast and tenacious. The opening track is a bit too long, using a clip in length of a minute or less would have done the job instead of almost two and a half minutes of thick swirling wind sounds accompanied by some static. Not only that, but this is far too short (I’ve seen the price on this album going for as much as a regular CD, which I find to be a tad ridiculous).

It’s a worthy purchase for sure, but I have my doubts about it being worth the amount of an album, which uses up all of the space available on the CD. Get it sometime, but don’t put it ahead of a kick ass full-length that you might be looking for.

The best Mayhem-release IMO... - 96%

DuskLord, May 18th, 2004

...and my opinion comes here.

Okay, it's a mini-album. But it's a lot better to release a "short" (+20min) mini-album with all great tracks, than a full-length with crap filler-songs. Maniac's vocals are a controversial topic for a lot, but I think his shreaks are well suited for Mayhem's new style.

The album is well-mixed to create a great black metal-atmosphere. Raw, dark, hatefilled, dirty and a bit fuzzy. All instruments are well audible, the riffs are great, overall the music is very fast-paced with some slower parts, but the drumming sounds a bit machine-like. I happen to like all the tracks on this mCD. This is Mayhem's best and rawest release IMO, as I said on the topic.

Noteworthy tracks : Ancient Skin, I Am Thy Labyrinth.

This would've deserved a full 100 points if the drumsound was a bit better. Once again, it's the best Mayhem-recording there is, and sadly they are going to a crap direction in their music nowadays; we won't be hearing Ancient Skin-like killer songs in the future.