3 August 2014
Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare
Some names in metal music instantly bring a shiver down your spine, perhaps the names that bring that chill the most are connected with the Scandinavian Black Metal scene of the early 1990's. Names such as Burzum, Immortal and others have a veil of mystery which still exists for some people to this day. However, one of the names which has always drawn the most controversy (apart from maybe Burzum, but they go hand in hand) is Mayhem. Formed in 1984, they are one of the oldest Black Metal bands as well. This release is actually only their fifth studio album, but considering the murders, church burnings, break ups, getting back together, suicides and other distractions; it is easy to see why they have had such a slow studio output. This is the first album to be released without Blasphemer (who had been the main song writer in the last three albums), but even with this change in personnel I am not expecting an album of acoustic covers. I am also not expecting much deviation from the original Black Metal blueprint; they tried it once and it failed spectacularly (the album in question was 'Grand Declaration of War'). But now I have to comment of the album cover, it looks like some sort of ancient text with their logo on top of it. Now let’s see what they have released onto the world here....
Starting the album is "Watchers"; this is exactly what you were expecting from this band. Haunting guitars, a machine for a drummer, death screams, spiky riffs that will act like whips on the souls of the damned and no forgiveness what so ever. It is a decent opening, but it is not exactly something I have not heard from the band before. So far, so predictable it is then. The second track from the album was also the first single from the album as well. "Psywar" is more frantic riff hammering, explosions instead of drums and the screams from Attila that will have weaker mortals pissing in their seats - but it is too familiar for its own good. As exciting it is to listen to this song, I am not hearing something that I have not heard in a different form before. Point in case is when the next song "Trinity" starts I thought it was still the same song, there is no point in these song not being released as one number as it is all the same at this point. "Pandæmon" for me is the most interesting track on here, sounding like the fall from heaven into the abyss it is easily one of the highlights of the album. Yet it is still not quite essential as their earlier work when it sounded as if you might be murdered by the album whilst listening to it.
"MIALB" is a slow and evil number, with a sinister and menacing beginning; it starts off as an interesting number but once it breaks down to the usual Black Metal territory of massive riffs and drums that will break most drummers it loses its appeal. They were on the start of something different and bottled it. After this is "VI Sec." which is something that never really gets going one way or another; it is very much a stop/start song and yet again I find myself getting angrier with the song as it went on. Again it is not original and I am not expecting them to change a formula which works; but something better than this would have been preferable. "Throne Of Time" does a little better, but for pioneers of the scene it does sound an awful lot like Dimmu Borgir and that is not something that sits very well with me. They are not supposed to be the band who takes directions and sound like others, they are supposed to be the innovators. "Corpse Of Care" is not helping matters either, it is just more of the same old stuff and it does not make me think this is dangerous; in fact it sounds rather safe and that is a bad sign for any Mayhem release.
"Posthuman" is a decent effort from the band, once again going for the slow/stop/start song; once again it is played very well by the band and once again I cannot say that it is a good song. It is average and just run of the mill from this band. Ending the album proper is "Aion Suntelia" which follows the same formula that has been the pattern of this album all the way through and once it is over I am not even slightly inclined to start the record again. As a bonus track the band has a live session recording of "Into the Lifeless" which was recorded in Budapest. This has a little fuzzy feeling which actually would have been really good if it was placed on the album and it just shows that the band can still cut it when performing live.
What we have here is a band that has stopped reinventing themselves and has rested for too long; this is only their fifth album in a career that has stretched over three decades and it sounds like they are going through the motions. Nothing here is new, essential or above vaguely interesting. I am not expecting them to do something dynamic and some band like by not changing (see AC/DC & Motorhead), but this is something that Mayhem should not have done. One of my friends has always said that once a death metal band has done its first album, the band should go their separate ways as they never seem to beat that early extreme effort. This may be the point in case here for Mayhem. I cannot fault to technical work on offer here, it is played extremely well; but there is no excitement and drive to this record. I hope that the band can release something that makes the world stop and stand to attention, I don't want them to be remembered for their early work alone; but you can listen to better work than this record from Mayhem. File under frustrating....
4 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top track - Into The Lifeless
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Mayhem website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
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