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De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Review by Frost on December 28, 2021.
One of the things I like to do is think about is the prospect of time travel. I understand that it probably won't ever happen in real life and will remain relegated to the pages of fiction for all time. Some things just will never be real, let's face it. For the sake of argument, though, let's say it was real. Imagine being able to use a time machine and prevent the murder of John Lennon; the assassination of John F. Kennedy; preventing Adolf Hitler from achieving ultimate power in Germany; averting 9/11; stopping the genocide of the indigenous Native Americans. How about going back to 1984 to warn Euronymous about his own murder a decade later? Would black metal be bigger today if he wasn't murdered? Would Euronymous have Mayhem stay a "trve kvlt" band? Would Deathlike Silence Productions gain traction and become the biggest underground label in black metal history? Would Euronymous kill Varg first preemptively or stay on good terms with him?
I really don't like alternative versions of history, but everything about this album and Mayhem's sordid past makes me think those things. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is such an overrated album crafted by a man who had some really twisted ideas at the end of the day. It's a good album, don't get me wrong -- a really good album, but I believe this album isn't as forward thinking or as innovative as some tout. Euronymous was a great guitarist who is credited with being involved in three significant pieces of black metal's early history, but the greatness of this particular album is overstated, in my opinion. Let's talk about it.
Firstly, this album is a little too late to the party to be considered groundbreaking to black metal. This thing came out in the middle of 1994. Early, yes, and the official sound of what we recognize as black metal (second-wave black metal) was largely solidified thanks to this album. By that time, though, Burzum, Darkthrone, and Immortal had already beaten these guys to the punch many times over with albums that were superior to this. "Det Som Engang Var" showcased a real, forward thinking style of black metal and more with the follow-up, Immortal's first two albums are better and much more memorable, and well, does Darkthrone really need an explanation? Mayhem released a demo, one really good EP, a live album, this album, then nothing after that for a while. And, no, the bootleg doesn't count, as controversial as it is.
Secondly, some of the songs on here aren't that great. A good example for me would be 'Funeral Fog'. The first minute and a half of this song is unbearable. I feel it's unnecessary and adds padding to the song that could've been improved if they would've shortened the intro by a good minute. Honestly, the whole song is paced horribly from beginning to end. It's not a good way to start this "legendary" album off. 'Pagan Fears', on the other hand, isn't necessarily a bad song. It just goes on a little too long for what's packed inside and it just doesn't have anything that stands out except for Varg's bass. On top of some of the songs being less than spectacular, they're just way too long. Or at least they're performed in such a fashion that makes them feel like they're way longer than they should be. 'Buried By Time And Dust' is the one and only song that doesn't sit at the five or six minute mark. Lots of these songs are great, but I will be damned if I don't point out that a few of them need to be trimmed by a few minutes. Some parts just drag on way longer than they have any right to be, making them feel like they're twice as long than the time they actually go on for.
Going back to Burzum, Burzum has plenty of songs that are twice as the songs on De Mysteriis, yet they don't feel nearly as long as these five and six minute long songs. That's because Varg knows what pacing is, he knows what variety is, and how important both of those things are to utilize when writing songs, especially long ones. Same applies with Immortal, Emperor, Bathory, etc. I don't know how Mayhem did it, but they succeeded in making songs feel longer than they really are, and that's crazy to me because they play as such breakneck speed the entire time. I don't think too highly of Darkthone or Exodus because, as great as they are, both bands suffer from the exact same problem to me. Well, one still does, and the other doesn't anymore. Fill in the blanks yourselves there, if you want.
The rest of the album does slant upwards in terms of quality after that, though, and is pretty awesome. 'Freezing Moon' and 'Life Eternal' are staples of the band's live sets with the latter being my favorite Mayhem song ever written. It's just such a good song with a great solid mid-paced tempo, top notch riffs, depressing lyrics from the late Dead, creepy vocals, and amazing drum work. There's one thing I will say about Mayhem and this album, and that no one will ever top Hellhammer's performance, especially on this album. He's right up there with big wigs like Frost and Faust as far as speed and technical ability go. He is ferocious and just has an impeccable sense of timing, rhythm, and control. Listen to the drum break halfway through 'From The Dark Past' and you'll hear just what I mean. Or listen to the manic energy as he steamrolls over the title track. Or listen to the flawless fills he provides on 'Buried By Time And Dust'. There's even a jazzy break in 'Life Eternal' that's fucking gorgeous! A one-trick pony this is not.
Another good thing about this album is riffs, riffs, and more riffs. This album has riffs a'plenty. Really fast, breakneck tremolo picking and memorable riffs that'll always stick with me. Some of the riffs really remind me of Bathory's albums ala "The Return..." or "Blood Fire Death", just evil and nasty as hell. Thanks Snore "Blackthorn" Rush of Thorns fame for providing some of those awesome riffs you fell in love with the first time you heard this thing. The vocals are a mixed bag, but Attila certainly stands out. Although he wasn't the first to use cleans in black metal, he may have been the first to use uniquely ghostly operatic cleans because the end of the title track is without a doubt the most standout moment on this album with Atilla. I'd argue that if you're not fully accustomed to this kind of music, it will make you feel incredibly frightened. His style makes some of the songs feel significantly more evil than they do with Dead (no disrespect for the dead. Get it? Bad wordplay! MWAHAHA!), like on the title track or 'Buried By Time And Dust', where he sounds absolutely fucking nuts. Sometimes, they're just frustrating and obnoxious like on 'Funeral Fog' where you can barely hear the guy, or on 'Cursed In Eternity' where for most of the song, he doesn't deviate too heavily from this monotone drone-like croak, which just gets annoying as hell to listen to after a while. Like I said, mixed, but leaning more towards being okay in the end.
I won't comment long on the aesthetics of the production, but I will say that it's produced great. I love the treble in there that's just enough to make it loud enough, but not too loud to the point that it drowns out the low end. I love that Varg's bass is in full display, and I love how it sounds mysterious and otherworldly, like a foggy mist is rolling around you as you're listening to it. I'm not quite in love with how the drums sound, though I don't know why I feel like this, but it's not a big deal to complain about, honestly.
In my honest opinion, this album is far from perfect. There were better albums released before this, and there were better albums released after this. However, I can't discredit this album for helping to bring black metal into the spotlight. This and albums like "Pure Holocaust", "In The Nightside Eclipse", "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", and "Dark Medieval Times" were just what the scene needed to expand and get out of the very dark, grim, and "kvlt" corner that Euronymous was trying to keep everybody in. It's a very historic release and Mayhem overall are a very historic band. Now I'd like to return to the question I posed in the beginning and expand upon it. Euronymous never got to see how big his band would become. How would he react to seeing Mayhem on the international stage in front of his own eyes? It's hard to say because he was such a divisive figure with extreme ideas that divided a lot of people and created lots of controversy. We'll never know for certain where he would've taken Mayhem after this if it wasn't yanked from his hands.
I will say this, though. We definitely wouldn't have gotten Grand Declaration Of War the way it is now.
I like that album, by the way....
Rating: 7.8 out of 10489
Review by Felix on October 25, 2019.
The suicide of Dead had several consequences. First of all, it was a tragic for his relatives. Additionally, it was a good opportunity for Euronymous to demonstrate his mental derangement. To make pictures of the corpse and to ship the particles of the brain all around the world is, sorry for being so bourgeois, definitely sick. Finally, and now I come to the crucial point, the suicidal action of Dead opened the door for Attila to join Mayhem. And it was exactly the vocalist from the origin of Countess Bathory, who made De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas so unbelievably perfect. His ingenious style combined all characteristics that "normal" singers try to avoid.
Attila sounds sick, dangerous and tortured. Equipped with an enormous charisma, he manages every challenge and creates fascinating vocal lines in abundance. But that's not all. Attila also adds a solemn note in view of several parts where he delivers the strangest melodies that were ever spawned by a black metal vocalist. These are the moments when he reaches the maximum of infamy, perfidy and viciousness. To sound "only" evil is one thing, but to mix religious servility and pure blackness in an operetta-esque manner is something different. It is not hyperbolic to say that the vocal performance provided De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas with a unique selling point.
Among other things, Attila's contribution shapes the grim title track. Of course, there are different forms of black metal and one cannot compare this monument with, for example, the mesmerizing "Det som engang var" (the song) or the symphonic sounds of the late Dimmu Borgir (and here is not the place for the debate whether this is black metal at all). The title track can also not be compared with Darkthrone's crude sounds on "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" and their following albums, because at that time, Fenriz was focused on creating a repulsive sound in order to shock the audience with this self-made ugliness. By contrast, Mayhem wanted the best possible mix for their artistically valuable output. In other words, Darkthrone intended to be the first in the face of the mainstream, while Mayhem made a serious offer to everybody who wanted to dive into their cosmos of absolutely negative spirituality. However, what I want to say is that we have to be aware of the many faces of the genre. Nevertheless, in terms of extreme, furious, fierce, sophisticated and reckless black metal, the title track is the "Angel of Death" of this sub-genre. A horrible atmosphere is combined with murderous guitar lines and the pretty unconventional song pattern invites the listener on a trip to the flaming pits of hell and back. Some Latin words, may they be grammatically correct or not, also strengthen the spooky scenario and the entire piece develops an unstoppable power. This song contributes the excellent and unique culmination of a masterpiece that has become essential for everybody who wants his voice to be heard in a discussion about black metal.
Yet the first piece of the album does not stand in the shadow of the title track. An explosion introduces "Funeral Fog" and its high-speed part at the beginning seems to be the unofficial intro of the album. Icy leads sweep across the dreary landscapes until a sudden break kicks off the main part of the song. The Hungarian devil starts his demonic articulation and despite the relentless, anti-ambient approach of the opener, the song does not lack of mysticism. In particular Attila's conjuring "Fuuuneeeraaal Fog!" adds an extra dose of occultism. The profound mix features the malignant guitars in an excellent manner and without any kind of chaotic elements, an extremely dense sound pattern supports the gloomy atmosphere of the compositions. "Life Eternal", for example, holds inter alia an almost soft, melodic and slow-moving part, but in spite of this fairly introvert section, the feeling of discomfort remains omnipresent. Nevertheless, the full-length is characterized by its unleashed high-speed assaults. This means, on the other hand, that ceremonial or restrained sections remain exceptional, although they unveil the band's talent for composing dark, sometimes moldy melodies. However, one thing is certain. All these different parts blend seamlessly into each other and the songs develop their attraction continuously. Even those parts which are almost killed by Hellhammer's blast beats depict the dark essence of the sub-genre, just lend an ear to "Buried by Time and Dust" in this context. It is almost too much of a good thing that the monolithic work also finds the right balance between homogeneity and variation. Mayhem avoid external influences without being caught in a self-made prison. Of course, the media hype, which was triggered by "satanic" crimes, was good publicity for each and every album of the scene, but this is not to say that the here reviewed work needed the mass hysteria. Due to its musical excellence, it stands on its own feet.
Last but not least, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas does not only celebrate a black mass. Let me quote a title of the Belgian black metal flagship Enthroned, Mayhem's album sounds "blacker than black". With regard to the numerous line-up changes, it is only logical that the band never reached this outstanding form again. Compared with De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the majority of the further releases of Mayhem sound like a wet fart. On the one hand, this is regrettable, on the other hand, this fact underlines the singularity of the here reviewed giant. It is not the rawest genre release of all times, but it tramples every other album into the grave in view of its immaculate illustration of devastating blackness. Finally, it lives up to its name while revealing one of the best hidden secrets of Satan. We now know his most favourite album.
Rating: 10 out of 10489
Review by Death8699 on October 25, 2019.
This black metal band I feel doesn't really need an introduction since they've been dishing out metal for this genre as far back as their founding in 1984. The album is a true classic among the black metal community. Anyone who doubts this synopsis can pretty much stuff it because this release was so well put together that it deserves an honorary mention. I'm not a huge black metal fan, but this album has me hooked. It's one of those albums that you can listen to repeatedly and never get sick of because it's so original, fast, furious, evil, eerie and Satanic. That sums up Mayhem on here.
The music is composed of guitar frenzies featuring fast tremolo picking chords, slower eerie pieces, bass guitar parts that are dark and dreary and drums that keep up with the music. Pretty much all of the songs are very memorable and unique. Attila's vocals are so evil and possessed. Both guitarists Euronymous (RIP 1993) and Blackthorn dish out some great riffs that stick to the mind eternally. The guitar sound is so unique and creative. It's fast like I said before, but very well played out. The chords are mostly picked with fury and anger. No letup on that front.
Even Count Grishnackh's bass guitar was audible here. The guitars aren't continuously playing fast, but they do have plenty of furious guitar work during most of the lengthy songs. Amazing what they put together I mean 8 tracks that clocks in around 46 minutes in length. They're really focus was I think on making the guitar the primary focal point of the album. It sets the tone for the dark vocals and Hellhammer's drum outputs. Really good tracks to download would be "Freezing Moon", "Pagan Fears" and "From The Dark Past".
The mixing and production are entirely solid on every aspect. You can hear the guitar melodies, bass guitar working, vocals well mixed in to augment the music, and the drums were very audible. There's nothing that went wrong here, everything was mixed in unison. There are no negative aspects to this release. It's one of the best black metal albums of all time. I say this because it's based on fact, not opinion. If you're a black metal fan and don't own this release, YouTube the songs that I mentioned and you'll want to pick it up right away.
In summary, here's a Mayhem album that stands out from all of the rest of them. It's their best album no doubt. Intensity was a huge factor here. But not every track like I said is extremely fast or extremely slow. There was one segment of the bass that was slow and played by itself without the guitars or drums, but it didn't last very long. Hellhammer blasts away here with great drum outputs that fit the music entirely. Attila's vocals were amazingly unique and dreary. It was perfect to have him on here to well fit the music. Own this album now!
Rating: 10 out of 10489