Resurrectors of Black metal they with Bathory evolved the style from oldstyle power-chord carping (Venom, Celtic Frost) to newly nihilistic and feral styles of simplicity and oblivion while not yet shaking the pervasive heavy metal influence of older bands. In the beginning clumsy while later rhythmic and violent, the music of Mayhem introduced complexity and a far-reaching aesthetic and conceptual vision to early black metal and created a foundation for much black metal to follow.


Production: A four track muddle in an apartment recording studio.

Review: Simplistic plodding music evidencing the inability of its players, their compositional limitations being entirely finite and physical in that moment, this release builds upon the foundation of Venom and Hellhammer with similarly toneless, rhythmic, violent songs to which Mayhem add abstraction and the begins of a more literate conceptual basis. Essentially verse chorus songwriting altered with random riffs, the fundamental and noisy combinations colliding in these unfocused songs exhibit a naturalistic and barbaric atmosphere but little more.

Clumsy fusions of undefined heavy metal ideas mixed with the hardcore and industrial concepts of dissonant entropy, these songs are riffs first and as development form that simple concepts of violence. Chords trudge and crash, often dissonantly through unsteady fretting of the harmonic shape, and often erode almost linearly into conclusions, but through this unsteady presentation a necrotic sense of vengeance and morbidity fills these songs.


1. Silvester Anfang (1:56)
2. Deathcrush (3:33)
3. Chainsaw Gutsfuck (3:33)
4. Witching Hour (1:50)
5. Necrolust (3:37)
6. (Weird) Manheim/Pure Fucking Armageddon (2:58)
Length: 17:19

Copyright © 1987/1993 Deathlike Silence

A true underground classic...almost immaculately meaningless yet jarringly alienated, violent, its aspirations obscure and mostly unfound like an adolescence in an empty external world which the protagonists expect to be significant. Yet somehow it reaches a semi-articulate expression of its angst in the trudging conclusions of minimized songs that after a while start to sound surprisingly like an "industrial"-ized version of Venom.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Deathlike Silence

Production: Reproduction of instruments captures tone and rhythm with precision in a live styled setting.

Review: To create metal more extreme than the previous generation of simple and savage black metal, Mayhem at first built crude and incoherent songs but developed an aesthetic of primitive, ugly, mechanical riffs shaped from basic and masticatory musical antitheses. Their relentless, chaotic, and masterfully rhythmic collection of riffs support a cast of simple songs which use the tradition verse-chorus dichotomy of simple heavy metal - black metal as a polarized backdrop upon which oppositional rhythm and symmetric complements of phrase can counterplay.


1. Funeral Fog (5:47)
2. Freezing Moon (6:23)
3. Cursed in Eternity (5:10)
4. Pagan Fears (4:20)
5. Life Eternal (6:57)
6. From the Dark Past (5:27)
7. Buried by Time and Dust (3:34)
8. De Mysteriis dom Sathanas (6:22)
Length: 46:03

Copyright © 1994 Deathlike Silence

Where Mayhem shine is in tendency of these riffs which reveals a hardcore derivation to much of this: disconclusive, anti-symmetric riffing which follows ambient simplicity to author multiple combinations in the same overall rhythmic support. Their songs tear into musical wounds as elemental as the pieces of a scale and leave them more ambiguous than before, creating in this darkened haze of composition an opening for the nihilistic mechanism and romantic melody of the highest level of artistic opposition.

The studied reduction of songs from collection of these riffs to expressive structures with individual centering principles, however, is where Mayhem create their masterpiece and underline their fundamental concept of violent beauty and power in death. Where their contributions can be acknowledge it is to Dead for conceptual and lyrical guidance, and to Euronymous for slowly shaping rough and chromatic riffing into heavy metal with a neoclassical sense of melody less shown off than quietly pervading compositions of an otherwise blues-based nature, suggesting a partial break from the past of Venom/Hellhammer and an aspiration toward a new style within the aesthetic of rippling tremelo fluidity and melodic resonance.

Although melodramatic and overextended by the hilariously violent and strikingly operatic vocals of Tormentor throatman Attilla, these songs are as savage as with the inhuman torrential scream of Dead, previous vocalist and celebrated suicide, and in this more controlled recording highlight the percussion of Hellhammer, simple rock-grindcore fusion blasting with the fastidious surgical precision of a serial murderer. Periodically Euronymous inserts by-now classic pentatonic and atonal lead guitar, wandering through tempos and tones like a lost spirit obssessed with the night; consistently the attraction of this band however is his deadset wrist rhythm guitar, which varies from fast rippling blast-riffs to grating, intimidating, recursive doom minimalism.

Lyrics from previous vocalist Dead accompany the morbid processional of seemingly random but strikingly integrated power chord riffs, emphasizing the beauty and distinction of the abstract state of the unliving mind. Emphasis on concept in deathlike appearance, relentless violent energy and the staging of poetic idea to each song in dynamic construction and presentation of nearly ambient "scenes" formed of repeated parts of each song. Without advancing beyond the first generation of black metal except in gestures of future musicality, Mayhem innovated a style which inspired many others and their primary contributions of rhythm guitar remain unmatched today for severity and concussive resolution.

 The Freezing Moon, written by DEAD (RIP) in '88
 Everything here is so cold
 Everything here is so dark
 I remember it as from a dream
 In the corner of this time
 Diabolic Shapes float by
 Out from the dark
 I remember it was here I died
 By following the freezing moon
 It's night again, night you beautiful
 I please my hunger on living humans
 Night of hunger, follow it's call
 Follow the freezing moon
 Darkness is growing, the eternity opens
 The cemetary lights up again
 As in ancient times
 Fallen souls, die behind my steps
 by following the freezing moon

A Tribute to the Black Emperors
Land of the Rising Sun

Production: Glorified wash of noise through plasticine silken layer of transfer erosion. Numerous peaks in mix abuse your speakers. Most of Mayhem comes through in pretty good quality nevertheless, including extra-twisted and ugly-sounding guitar solos.

Review: Morbid is standard death metal played like slow and ear-friendly speed metal with necrotic vocals lunging over rock n roll style riffs; it is in the Swedish style of the death metal explosion before the development of that scene initially past its rock origins and mixes darkly convergent melodies with chromatic and pentatonic speed riffing.

Mayhem has four of their classics represented on this CD with the savage vocals of Dead and the bizarre and random guitar meanderings of Euronymous illuminating the focused, most effective lineup for this band yet. Similar to performances on other recordings of this era, these songs are slightly faster and in the process of rearrangement and refinement to become the whirling speed inferno that was "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas."


1. my dark subconscious (4:29)
2. winds of funera (3:47)
3. from the dark (6:00)
4. disgusting semla (3:22)
5. the freezing moon (6:18)
6. deathcrush (3:40)
7. necrolust (6:19)
8. funeral fog (3:47)
Length: 37:44

Copyright © 1995 Land of the Rising Sun

Dawn of the Black Hearts

Production: There are two segments of this disk, a live recording from Sarpsbourg in 1990 and a live in Lillehammer 1986. The first portion is halfway represented by the sound with savage atmospherics from cheap amplification and abused instruments, while the Lillehammer recording is like playing Mayhem on a desktop stereo in a wind tunnel.

Review: Mayhem execute in classic style a reasonable estimate of the songs expected on a hypothetical compilation of their early career, haloed by a blazing obscurity of distortion and guitar wash, with on the second appearance some surprises from their origins in tribute to the influences of this band. A favorite recording of many for its feral versions of these songs, this disc contains the essential summary of the Mayhem discography.


Live in Sarpsborg 1990
1. deathcrush (3:36)
2. necrolust (4:19)
3. funeral fog (6:38)
4. freezing moon (6:06)
5. carnage (4:18)
6. buried by time and dust (5:46)
7. chainsaw gutsfuck (3:59)
8. pure fucking armageddon (3:15)
Live in Lillehammer 1986
9. dance macabre/black metal (4:10)
10. procreation of the wicked (2:40)
11. welcome to hell (3:46)
Length: 48:35

Copyright © 1995 Mayhem/Unknown

Wolf's Lair Abyss

Production: Classically mirror-flat and still refulgent black metal production emphasizes the melodic tendency of notes through atmosphere but fails to provide anything other than a surface to otherwise rather dryly but reasonably represented music.

Review: Making black metal to top a legacy enforces plenty of pressures, and on this album the resemblance to the illness of listening too much to random bits of data, rather than understanding a data structure based on conclusions about the context of each datum; Mayhem has put everything into this there is to be good, in terms of current black metal, but it lacks one tenth the personality of their previous more structure material, despite having much more diversity and technical intensity.

Based upon the drumming of hairy monster Hellhammer the songwriting on this album (an EP of four tracks) layers blasts inside larger beat structures but never succeeds in exceeding the method of staggering oppositional motives against each other in theatrical manipulation of aping for listener attention; the guitar, while rolling out successively inconclusive phrases of black metal canon with its own style and élan of percussion, achieves less than a voice and ends up churning through politely masked clichés in a confusion of having no soul.


1. The Vortex Void of Inhumanity (2:20)
2. I am thy labyrinth (5:26)
3. Fall of Seraphs (6:02)
4. Ancient Skin (5:28)
5. Symbols of Bloodswords (5:24)
Length: 24:44

Copyright © 1997 Misanthropy

Melodic simplicity, blasting rocklike maul beats, Dissection-style retro Bach rock epic turnarounds, and chaotic one-chord shred riffs all make appearances; instruments are played well but none harmonize any major thematic work in a song, leaving the listener with an impression of a "nice" black metal effort in the vein of Dark Funeral with nods to old Mayhem but letting them realize the importance of the thematic hierarchies to their art, and the absence of a chaotic unification to unite their languages condemns this EP to being a less than inspiring release.

BLACK   |   DEATH   |   HEAVY   |   SPEED   |   THRASH   |   GRINDCORE

Copyright © 1988-2004 the Dark Legions Archive