Mayhem Discography Review – Part I

You can tell Mayhem worships Satan because of the way they hold flashlights.

Time for something a little different.  Welcome to part one of a two-part Mayhem discography review.  Shorter little reviews of most of the Norwegian black metal titans’ works, with a little bit of trivia sprinkled throughout.  Anyone that knows the story of Mayhem knows it is not a pretty one.  I’m going to concentrate mostly on the music, but some of the murder and suicide will make its way in because it directly effects lineup changes and such.  So, for a tiny bit of back story, first.  Mayhem was one of the leaders in the second wave of black metal, which is basically what solidified the sound and aesthetic of that genre.  Mayhem was led by guitar player Euronymous.  That’s it though, you get two sentences of back story.  Deal with it.

Death Crush – 1987

First up, bitches, Death Crush.  The debut EP.  This little sexually-charged blast of music rapes your ears from start to finish.  The lineup – Euronymous on guitar, Necrobutcher on bass, Manheim on drums, and the first of 1000 Mayhem vocalists, Maniac.  Oh yeah, there is this thing in black metal where the dudes give themselves super evil nicknames to show how evil they are.  The EP opens with a short instrumental track titled “Silvester Anfang” composed by Conrad Schnitzler who did some work with Tangerine Dream.  It’s basically all snare drum and has a very military march feel to it. It sets the mood quite well.  As soon as it ends your cock will explode with the opening riff of the title track  It is here where the listeners first experience what an incoherent sloppy mess this EP is going to sound like.  It is poorly recorded,  Manheim never really sounds like he is playing with the rest of the group, and Maniac’s vocals consist of high, inaudible shrieks that sound like his face is being rubbed into broken glass.  Yet, it is fucking awesome.  The song’s lyrics lean way more towards death metal (gore and violence) than black metal (forests and Pagan shit).  Following the title track is probably the most popular song on the EP, Chainsaw Gutsfuck.  The buzz of the guitars, followed by the pounding drums, ands the satirical lyrics like “maggots crawling in her cunt” all add up to a fun, extreme metal anthem.  Overall, this EP is fuzzy and sloppy but one hell of an entertaining listen if you’re into extreme metal.  If not, stay away because it’s not going to pull you to our (the better) side.

Live In Leipzig – 1993

Next is skankalicious release, Live In Leipzig.  Euronymous, Mayhem’s fearless leader and bassist Necrobutcher are back.  However, the drummer is now Hellhammer.  Hellhammer is an excellent drummer: precise, in-time, fast, and capable.  Exit Maniac, and enter Dead on vocals.  Dead was the former vocalist for death metal band Morbid.  This live album was recorded in 1990 but not released until ’93.  It features songs from the band’s first demo, the Death Crush EP, and songs that would end up on the bands next LP.  This album is quite infamous because of the show that was put on by the band.  Rotten meat thrown into the audience, pig heads on spikes, and Dead cutting himself on stage.  Theatrics aside, how is the album?  Quite good.  The vocals by Dead are a huge improvement over Maniac.  He keeps the gruff metal sound, but the lyrics are audible.  The recording itself, overall isn’t half-bad.  The guitar, bass, and vocals are all distinguishable from each other.  The only instrument that suffers from the recording is the drums, which is unfortunate because I think Hellhammer is the only seriously talented musician in the band.  The highlight of the live album for me is hearing the transition in sound.  The songs that would later end up on the next album are very different then what is on Deathcrush.  The gore themes are gone and replaced by songs about nature.  I’ll get into a little more detail on those songs on the next album, but the change towards a more atmospheric approach is there.  This is a fun live album that belongs in every metal head’s collection.

Bullet Belts = Satan

Sadly in 1991, before the live album was released Dead committed suicide.  He, Euronymous, and Hellhammer were living in a house together.  He shot himself in the head with a shotgun when no one was home.  Eurnymous found the body, and, of course, took pictures with a disposable camera before he called the police.  One of those pictures would end up on the infamous Dawn of The Blackhearts bootleg live album.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas – 1994

Finally, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas —  the black metal classic.  If someone were to ask what black metal sounded like, this album would be the perfect answer.  Bassist Necrobutcher would leave after the death of Dead, not wanting to be involved anymore.  Varg Vikernes (of one-man band Burzum) would be recruited to take up bass playing duties.  And with Dead gone, Eurnymous invited Atilla Csihar of Tormentor to take vocal reign.  Now we get to hear the studio recordings of those new songs from Live in Leipzig.  The album explodes with a bang, jumping right into the chaos with “Funeral Fog.”  We get a speedy guitar riff and Hellhammer smashing our nuts with a delicious blast beat.  Being able to hear his speed and accuracy in a studio recording is wonderful.  A little more than a minute in, Atilla’s vocals appear.  Right off the bat, one can hear how he has a much more theatrical approach to his delivery.  This is something that he has been criticized for, but I, for one, enjoy immensely.  I think it only adds to the dark, cold woods atmosphere that is present in the music.  The next song, “Freezing Moon,” starts off with a much slower guitar riff.  Fear not, for it will pick up and stomp your b-hole with its metal.  The build up in this track is so goddamn sexy.  Everyone shines on this track.  Eurnymous’s guitar leads are nothing technically amazing, but he just knew how to craft a heavy song with some strong atmosphere.  Again, Atilla’s vocals really fit the sound exceptionally well.  My personal favorite on the album is “Pagan Fears.”  The main riff of the song is fast and as catchy as syphilis.  This is the album I would recommend trying if you are thinking of giving some heavier music a go.  Everything just works.  Euronymous’ musical vision finally became clear with this release.  Unfortunately, before it was released, he was stabbed to death by Varg Vikernes.

 

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