Mayhem, the Norwegian black metal band surrounded by more chilling rumours and stories than any other are set to return to the UK in late December.
The history of the band makes Mayhem a true and tragic incarnation of the destructive turmoil their music bespeaks. The name stands for something stark and sincere and primal; something that embarrasses every feebly contrived band in their genre. The original Mayhem was formed in 1983 and became defining of the genre Black Metal. In the ensuing decade the band was haunted by death, murder and tragedy, and Mayhem became symbols of unredeemed blackness. Mayhem seized to exist with the purging of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the early 90s –after one Mayhem member murdered another and set fire to a few churches. But in 95 the band was resurrected and since then they have enjoyed the status as the most uncompromising band in their genre (which pretty much makes them the most uncompromising musical entity around at all). Unwilling to reveal anything about their extra-musical selves and always enigmatically, and convincingly, referring to Black Metal as a phenomenon beyond common sense or understanding, Mayhem sustain a aura of menacing sincerity and uncanny dedication.
The music: one could imagine mounting a huge Gatling gun on stage and letting its full rotation rage constitute the locus and spine of a chilling choir of frantic guitars and a voice insane with blackness; a presence reminiscent of Lovecraft’s “Thing at the threshold”.
The band stays true to their expression after a long list of releases. Although members come and go, Mayhem remains the band that manifests the blackness of black metal: the incomprehensible and secretive immersion in a darkness from which little else than torturous music emerges: no relativizing or contextualizing aspects and little information. There is thus always in place this factor of alienation and their fans around the world are kept in the dark, literally. When Mayhem appear on stage, and when new records are made available it is therefore a matter of the utmost gravity. The darkness descends -or should we say that it awakens and emerges from nooks and crannies, until the it has claimed the sky.
The 18th of December sees Mayhem playing the Terrorizer Black Mass at the London O2 Academy in Islington. More info here.
Mayhem on Spotify
Mayhem’s My Space site
When it comes to the definitive history of black metal, only one name has survived all the sensationalism. Through the church burnings, murder, imprisonments and myopic teenage nationalism, only MAYHEM has been able to channel the circus like atmosphere, which surrounded a core of fanatical bands, into a sustained musical career, in the studio and more importantly, on stage.
In '84 in the cold darkness of sunless winters, MAYHEM was born! The unholy trinity of Euronymous (guitar/vox), Manheim (drums) and Necrobutcher (bass/vox) perfected their black art away from prying eyes of metal scrutiny. In '86, after a single demo, the modestly entitled "Pure Fucking Armageddon", the band enlisted Maniac as a full time vocalist. His debut was a re-working of the demo material, christened "Deathcrush".
What should have been a triumphant time, directly after that first recording as a quartet, turned into a dark chapter, not only for the band, but for the burgeoning underground scene as well. A series of events from which many have never completely recovered. Following the release, Manheim and Maniac left the band, to be replaced by Dead on vocals and the band's current drum deity, Hellhammer. While that line-up could only muster a pair of studio compilations, Dead does appear on "Live in Leipzig", regarded by many as the first live black metal recording ever. It heralded something of a new era, as many of the fledging Norwegian artists disdained live performances, let alone an actual tour outside the homeland. After the tour Dead commits suicide.
As a twosome, Euronymous and Hellhammer recruited the infamous Count Grishnackh (Burzum) to play bass and Atilla to handle the tortured vocals on the debut, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", which was unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 1993.
After the murder of Euronymous and the subsequent arrest of Count Grishnackh, the details of which remain sketchy to this day, Hellhammer decided to continue MAYHEM. Both Necrobutcher and Maniac rejoin the band, and Blasphemer was chosen as the new guitarist. After several years of silence, a follow-up studio album was finally recorded. In 1997 the five tracks "Wolf Lair Abyss" hits the market. The MCD was the answer to "Deathcrush", Raw, Brutal and Evil. In 1999, "Mediolanum Capta Est", the second live CD, albeit the first with the new and current line-up, was released.
While "De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas" is seen as an album that set new standards in the world of metal, unlike many contemporaries, MAYHEM weren't content to rest on their laurels. The band sought to usher in the new millennium with a bold step, "Grand Declaration of War". The album picks up where "Wolf's Lair Abyss" left off, hence it starts with the paradoxically entitled, "Part II." The destruction continues through the fifth track. Thereafter, the recreation of MAYHEM, if not the entire black metal genre, takes off, devoid of instruments, like the emptiness of a battlefield without warriors.
2001 sees the release of the third live platter entitled "Legions". ("European Legions" in Europe and "U.S. Legions" in the States) The two CDs feature slightly different track listings and both feature raw studio tracks and outtakes from the GDOW sessions. These records and a subsequent DVD (recorded in SOM's homeland of Marseille, France) is a whirlwind of psychotic energy and punishing rhythms, MAYHEM live is a special sight and the DVD bears witness to that.
2004’s Chimera was a more conventional affair, although it still incorporates progressive elements on tracks like “Slaughter of Dreams.” It was embraced by many of the fans who denounced Grand Declaration of War. After Chimera was released, Maniac was fired from the band. His replacement was Attila Csihar.
The band completed work on Ordo ad Chao, its fourth album, in early 2007. Ordo ad Chao featured a much rawer and more traditional black metal sound than the rest of the band’s releases. Nonetheless, it continued the band’s exploration of more progressive songwriting, with “Illuminate Eliminate” being the band’s second longest track ever at 9’40”. Ordo ad Chao was exceptionally well-received both commercially and critically, and was the band’s first album to reach the charts (in Norway and elsewhere).
Blasphemer left the group in 2008, to focus on his other project, Ava Inferi, which led to the recruitment of guitarists Morfeus and Silmaeth as live musicians. Mayhem will continue to evolve as a 5 piece band for the foreseeing future. sd
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