Black Metal: (n) a subgenre of heavy metal music that uses screamed Satanic lyrics, fast guitar playing and drumming, and heavily distorted music with a focus on satanic imagery and occult themes.
For some, the above definition is redundant. Some of you reading this review are already familiar with Mayhem and their, shall we say, tumultuous history. For the rest, a brief summation: Macabre even by genre standards, Mayhem was once one of the most notorious groups ever to play extreme music but has, in recent years become a shadow of their former selves. Those familiar with the band may think this last statement a tad harsh, but take a listen to the band's 2004 effort Chimera. There's an underlying complacency there that may have signaled a band too rushed to put out a new product, regardless of quality or maybe it was just a band that had run its course with its current leader.
Regardless, when your singer blows his head off with a shotgun and the guitarist upon discovering the body collects some skull fragments as a souvenir only to be murdered shortly thereafter by a former bassist/now rival musician who in later years escapes prison and is recaptured days after - wellÃ¢â¬Â¦.that's just a tough act to follow, now isn't it? With that kind of past, you best believe your reputation will precede you. Maybe that's why fans have been forgiving the band for seemingly resting on their laurels for the past few years. See, the thing that seems to have been forgotten in all the blood of the early nineties is that Mayhem was just a great fucking band. They had an absolutely brutal, raw intensity that at times bordered on consensual aural molestation but after the first couple of releases and a few years after the murder/suicides, the band fell into a slump of sorts. Granted, an "alright" Mayhem album is still better than the best the majority of their peers can muster, so the band has managed to stay relevant over these seventeen or so years.
It's not often I say this, but over the past couple of albums in particular, the music has suffered from too much production value. But this album brings a rebirth of sorts. This is the first album since 1993's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas to feature vocalist Attila Csihar, who was the unlucky/lucky bastard to replace lead singer, Dead. For the uninitiated, no, that's not a syntax error. That was his name.
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was a truly great album, an album that showed a band that will become legend for their music as well as their lifestyle choices. Csihar was around only for the one album, replaced by original vocalist Maniac, the group's first frontman and who remained with the band until 2005. There'll be a quiz later.
So now you know the history. The current news is that Mayhem's latest, Ordo Ad Chao, is without a doubt, the band's best album since 1993. The music once again sounds as if it were recorded in the hollow of a tree and with Csihar back behind the mic, the band sound more ferocious than they have in almost their entire career. Blastbeats to beat the band abound courtesy of Mayhem mainstay, Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Von Blomberg, providing a career best. On tracks like "Illuminate Eliminate" and "Deconsecrate", the band sets right all the wrongs of Chimera. It's almost twenty years in, and I daresay the band has never sounded more evil. Guitarist Rune "Blasphemer" Erickson lays it out like a man possessed (no pun intended) and damn, Csihar's return is a welcome change. The man can go from guttural moan to lunatic shriek like Maniac never could. While not necessarily more popular, extreme music has been creeping into the public consciousness a little more with every passing year and those willing to experiment with the dark side would do well to make Ordo Ad Chao the first album of their new world order.