I saw Mayhem play De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the only album of theirs that actually counts of course, last week at the Howard Theater in Washington, DC so I wanted to tell my fellow Death Metal Underground readers what’s happening inside the ANUS of this tour. That was surely an ironic choice of venue the band made there. Playing a black theater in a historically black city was strange for a band whose drummer, Hellhammer, is a badass drummer who hits like a fucking beast like a German in a tank trying to conquer Africa back from his historic racial enemies, the Polish and the Africans and Hellhammer is Greek or something so how can these losers with nothing better to do claim he’s even racist you know? Also practicing under their swastika banners and shit like that they shouldve brought out to steam roll all the drunk hipsters instead of comic book covers to hide behind onstage. I had to check this shit out to see if some shit would go down. I wanted to see if the gig would rule or if any crazy shit from hipsters, communists, or any other idiot life forms that could come out of a UFO or something would be real you know and prevent Mayhem from pounding my face in you know.
Mayhem are touring North America with a setlist composed of their De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album in its entirely. Mayhem are playing larger venues in many cities (probably due to the publicity from Necrobutcher’s recent book) so this might be a good opportunity for headbangers to see them play some of their only material worth caring out. Maybe Mayhem will throw in a few tracks from Deathcrush as an encore? Maybe Hellhammer won’t bring out that transparent MIDI kit?
Mayhem recently announced that they would be headlining Temples 2016 in Bristol, England. Perhaps more interesting is that this is going to be the first time that any lineup of the band has performed De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety. Since the current lineup of Mayhem relies on Attila Csihar for its vocals and contains two other musicians from the band’s early ’90s lineups (Necrobutcher and Hellhammer), odds are this is going to sound pretty close to the studio version of DMDS. Regardless of your preferences for Mayhem vocalists (I very much value Attila’s contributions to the album) and recordings, bootlegs, whatever, the band’s performance at Temples is probably a better novelty than the band’s recent studio albums.
I guess Peaceville really doesn’t know when to quit with the compilations and reissues (or that at least they’re a viable way to make more money off known famous works), since they’re also rereleasing Mayhem’s Live in Leipzig. This is specifically the 25th anniversary of the concert documented, as opposed to when it was first ‘officially’ pressed and sold to a mass audience some years afterwards. The CD version of this rerelease also contains a contemporary recording of the band in Zeitz, Germany. See Peaceville’s site for more details.
Whether Live in Leipzig is at all worth your time depends, perhaps, on how you value the various ‘eras’ of Mayhem. It is likely the easiest way to experience the band’s ‘classic’ lineup, featuring both tracks that would eventually make it onto De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas as well as somewhat revamped older tracks from the band’s early, proto-death metal days. As a listener, I find the most value in the polished studio work of Mayhem’s formal debut (because I value Atilla Csihar’s contributions), but the looser intrepretations here are worth at least a few spins.
Black metal band reformed as nu-metal powerhouse Mayhem released their latest album Esoteric Warfare on June 6, 2014. Much like late-career albums from Triptykon and Massacra, the latest Mayhem shows that as a metal band ages the probability of it becoming Pantera or Southern Fried rock approaches one.
Although the album communicates little to no artistry or depth, it offers a strong example of how to successfully appeal to one’s commercial audience by being both digestible and using lots of hard and heavy sounds the audience recognizes as dangerous… if they came in any other form than a commercial product. Esoteric Warfare creates a blueprint for success by appropriating nu-metal’s populist simplification of the speed metal style of mono-dimensional lower-string muted riffing and sprinkling it with the pixie dust of commercial black metal aesthetics..
The band thus builds its appeal entirely from catchy central riffs which are so reduced in complexity that one is capable of comprehending them on first listen. The rest is garnish: the introductions, acoustic breaks, spoken word sections, black metal fireworks, seemingly random caesuras and even some death metal technique that randomly flares in the midst of the thudding rhythmic hook. This album belongs more to the exoteric, or easily and equally grasped at first contact, than the esoteric like older black metal, which deepened in revelation the more the listener devoted his or her consciousness to exploring it.
With the latest generation, the rock-metal hybrid that industry has always wanted rears its ugly head here. The new innovation is this tendency to break up the monotony with garnish, which allows the monotonic lower register riffs to drone on with strategic breaks to remind the listener that the entirety of an album does not necessarily need to sound indistinguishable however much the band may be seemingly trying to lead it in that direction. Complete sonic pointlessness does not dissolve, but rather mutates into a more friendly and funky exterior, thus allowing the listener an escape from a complete degradation of metal as an art form into a complete degradation of jazz as an art form. Whether that constitutes progress will be left to the view of the reader.
Former black metal, now modern metal band Mayhem have announced further details about their upcoming album via Season of Mist. Entitled Esoteric Warfare, the track list can be viewed below:
- Six Seconds
- Throne of Time
- Corpse of Care
- Aion Suntalia
The album is set to be released on May 23, with a US release date on May 27. It will be available for pre-order next Wednesday, March 26.
Additionally, the band has planned a European tour to support the album’s release, with two festival dates currently scheduled later in the year:
- 14 May 14 Hamburg (DE) Markthalle
- 16 May 14 Bochum (DE) Matrix
- 17 May 14 Köln (DE) Essigfabrik
- 18 May 14 Eindhoven (NL) Effenaar
- 20 May 14 Bruxelles (BE) AB
- 21 May 14 London (GB) Electric Ballroom
- 22 May 14 Paris (FR) Le Divan du Monde
- 23 May 14 Winterthur (CH) Gaswerk
- 24 May 14 Milan (IT) Factory
- 26 May 14 Bratislava (SK) Randal
- 27 May 14 München (DE) Backstage Club
- 28 May 14 Berlin (DE) C-Club
- 29 May 14 Warsaw (PL) Proxima
- 30 May 14 Plzen (CZ) Metalfest Open Air Festival
- 31 May 14 København (DK) Pumpehuset
- 28 Jun 14 Lausanne (CH) Les Docks (Inferno Festival)
- 08 Aug 14 Øya (NO) Tøyenparken (Øya Festival)
The album’s first single, entitled Psywar is scheduled for release on April 26. It contains of an alternate mastering of the titular track (our review can be found here), in addition to a track entitled “From Beyond the Event Horizon”, taken from the scrapped 2012 Budapest Sessions.
Norwegian black metal band Mayhem have released the first side of their upcoming single, entitled “Psywar.” At 3.5 minutes it shows the band continuing their foray into modern extreme metal aesthetics.
The track starts out with palm-muted tremolo picking, which shares more with simplistic death metal than the band’s history of black metal. The verse begins with shouted vocals, with the guitar riff beginning to incorporate modern black metal’s ambiguous arpeggiated aesthetics; which then over-take the track in a short breakdown section, consisting of needling treble notes and “profound” whispered vocals. The track then goes back into action with rather standard modern black metal minor chord strumming, before a short homage back to basic death metal which concludes the track. In short, formulaic and predictable, though it is put together well and probably will garner the band financial reward.
Mayhem was noteworthy for its foundational role in shaping the Norwegian black metal scene. Although a few other bands may have had a more prodigious output, the role provided by the band in organizing the metal scene and the strength of its De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album cemented the band’s legendary status.
“Christian metal,” Led Zeppelin the person, lack of good tour packages, and Benjie’s top 10 EPs. We talk about upcoming possible interviews, lots of gas, and lonely old Benjie after Sawyer graduates. We talk giant bruises, phone attacks during the show, and our upcoming Halloween special. Enjoy this little nugget until we return on Oct. 27th. Keep it METAL!
(Fox, Episode 421, 4-16-09)
Covering metal as a setting presents a problem for television because it’s nearly impossible to reveal much about the genre from a mainstream perspective, especially since it’s not the topic of the show. On Bones, the topic is murder and the setting is an underground of black/death/nu-metal bands who use the corpse of a murder victim as a prop. Having followed Temperance Brennan in Dr. Kathy Reichs’ books for some years, I was glad to see the show clarified her character. In addition, this show obliquely tackles the issues at the core of death and black metal. Brennan represents science and rationalism; her counterpart, Seeley Booth, represents monism and aesthetics. The interplay of their characters reminds me of the interaction between Fitzwilliam Darcy (Bones) and Elizabeth Bennet (Booth) in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Much like people in modern society, they assume Rationalism as a basis of reality but find the details overwhelm them. In the course of the show, they explore a desire in parallel between the show and the metal bands represented — how to express the horror of a modern time in a way that makes you like it, and want to use it as a showdown between good and evil, especially evil disguised as good, and how Rationalism — linear, logical, discrete, symbolic thinking — can get in the way of understanding our task of understanding ourselves. Diehards will not be pleased that the genres get lumped together in the bands shown, but will be interested to see the show’s clinical psychologist analyze the difference between the two. However, since the show is not about metal, but murder with metal as the setting, the airtime given to these underground genres is generous and the depiction accurate albeit distant.
Blaspherian comes from Houston, Texas, and makes old school death metal with its own voice. Their music does not sound like any known band but is clearly influenced by the old school of booming, primitive, dark, introspective and alienated metal. Formed in 2004, Blaspherian arose from the collaboration of Wes Infernal — formerly of Infernal Dominion and Imprecation — and Desekrator, but rapidly branched out to include Matt Mayhem on drums and Apollyon on vocals and bass.
Since that time, through several releases culminating in Allegiance to the Will of Damnation, after which Joe Nekro replaced Apollyon, the band has been crawling its way to the top of the Texas death metal stack, and will release a new album, Infernal Warriors of Death, shortly. We were fortunate to get some moments to talk with members Wes Infernal (guitars) and Matt Mayhem (drums) about this raging force of death metal.
Is it hard for you to create new riffs, ideas, songs and a “voice” for yourselves in old school death metal, since so much of the genre was established before?
WES: Not at all. We’ve been at this for long enough that it comes quite naturally, although there are occasional “dry spells.” One thing that sticks out is out guitar sound… once you hear it, you know it’s us. That and the way I write creates an original “voice” for us, as I see it.
MATT: Wes and I continuously get better at writing together. I think both of our hearts are in death metal. That and our strict guideline of writing songs is what keeps the ideas flowing. The right part for the wrong song, the song as a whole, and most importantly to remain evil and heavy at all times.
BLASPHERIAN finally has a stable line-up. How did you (Matt and Wes) decide to form the band; what was the catalyst?
W: BLASPHERIAN was created by myself and Desekrator, the original vocalist. Matt joined a short time afterwards, when Desekrator and I decided to get a lineup together. We originally had the idea of starting a thrash band back in 2004, but then I realized for me it had to be Satanic death metal, as that’s my true unholy calling. I had been without a band for about a year, and had enough time off…it was time to create this sick unholy force known as BLASPHERIAN.
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
– William Blake, Songs of Experience (1794)
Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How, and what does it make you think?
W: The values have not changed for the diehards, for the true. But in the poseur world, of course their values change with every trend, with most of them eventually getting out of the scene altogether. To me, metal is a way of life, forever — until death. Long live the true metal warriors of death!
M: Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to experience the glory of the old days. I’m only 25, but the majority of the death metal I listen to is from the late 80s to early 90s. From what I see happening now, there are a lot of new killer bands coming out that keep that tradition alive. People are getting fed up with the bullshit that’s labeled “metal music” nowadays and rightfully so.
Wes Infernal has hosted the “From the Depths” radio show for a long time now. How long has it been, how has the show contributed to knowing metal, and has it showing you what is important to the listening audience influenced your approach to writing music?
W: I’ve done “From the Depths” since 2000, anno satanas. The show really hasn’t contributed to me knowing metal. I do the same things I’ve always done: buy CDs, collect records and magazines. The fun is turning all the listeners on to the stuff I get.
M: Honestly, I think to the older generation “Sweet Nightmares” was more important. Especially from the late 80s through the 90s. I know from my own experience before meeting Wes, “From the Depths” was definitely a pivotal point as far as finding out about new music goes. Me and my friends would get together and drink every Sunday and listen to awesome music we had never heard before. It eventually became a game of sorts, guessing which band he was playing at the time as well as an opportunity to test your knowledge of the underground.
When the band HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” what do you think that meant?
W: To me, HELLHAMMER were one of the first metal bands to introduce death into their lyrical and visual themes. Life is short, death is eternal, therefore only death is real.
What were the early influences on your playing and songwriting, both individually and as a band?
W: Without a doubt, POSSESSED… and SLAYER. Which later developed into DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, etc.
M: In the beginning I think we were very influenced by INCANTATION, DEMIGOD, IMMOLATION, GRAVE, MORBID ANGEL and POSSESSED. I still try to incorporate those influences as much as possible, but I think that BLASPHERIAN has developed into its own beast by now! As far as drumming influences: Chris Reifert (AUTOPSY), Jim Roe (INCANTATION), and Craig Smilowski (IMMOLATION) are considered before all!
Does being fully metal conflict with having a career, family or non-metal friends? How do you all balance being in an occult death metal band with the needs of normal life?
W: Yes. It’s not easy, dealing with people that do not, and will not ever, understand the things I believe in or the things I do. You just have to go through life standing up for what you believe in. Try to explain, and most never get it. The few that do still think you’re crazy, which to me is hilarious. Explaining to a Christian how they are the embodiment of the herd mentality, and a slave in every way possible — I look forward to it sometimes.
When you write songs, do you start with a concept, or a riff, or something else?
W: It works either way. Sometimes a song title can trigger music, sometimes music will conjure a song title. But for the most part, at least so far, music gets written first.
How did you learn to play? Do you use music theory or another method? Did musical illiteracy help or hinder you in learning to make music that sounded the way you wanted it to?
W: I used to just jam along to SLAYER, METALLICA, and DARK ANGEL records. That was the foundation for me to learn everything I needed to learn. I know very little theory, really it’s more about pure feeling and emotion, each riff must mean something on a purely emotional level. So to me musically illiteracy has definitely helped, as strange as that may sound, because I would hate to have any kind of limitations, which is what theory is in my opinion.
I am not disclosing any trade secrets. In fact, the manager said afterwards that Mr. Kurtz’s methods had ruined the district. I have no opinion on that point, but I want you clearly to understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him — some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can’t say. I think the knowledge came to him at last — only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.
– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)
Starting with INCANTATION, occult death metal bands have a unique way of titling their songs, like “Enthroned in Blasphemous Triumph” that emphasizes an older, more complex, more formal way of speaking. Why do you think that is?
W: I’m not really sure. I just know I like titles like that — they are from the heart, that is the heart of pure darkness and evil — and to me that’s what it’s all about.
What are the differences between BLASPHERIAN and IMPRECATION, and how do these reflect what you’ve learned or thought in the intervening years?
W: The most obvious difference is that Phil and Ruben wrote most of the music in IMPRECATION, at least early on. In BLASPHERIAN, I write 99% of the music thus far. I will say that without IMPRECATION, there would be no BLASPHERIAN…plain and simple. Those guys showed me everything, 666 goat hails to those wonderful lads!
What distinguishes great music from bad? Can it be distilled into technique, or is it something less easily defined?
W: Lack of honesty, really. You know you hear something, and you know if it’s real; to me that’s the most important thing, moreso than sound quality or production…those things mean nothing. It’s what’s in the intent, the meaning behind the music, that matters, not production.
Your riffs sound to me like there’s a heavy MORPHEUS DESCENDS and ASPHYX influence. What are the pivotal bands for all old school death metal acts to know?
W: I love old MORPHEUS DESCENDS but it’s not like I listen to them all the time. More often, I listen to IMMOLATION, INCANTATION, old MORBID ANGEL, GOREAPHOBIA, and of course IMPRECATION. You mentioned ASPHYX; I would definitely throw them in there as well as old DEICIDE, PARALYSIS, CRUCIFIER… so many.
If you could re-live the underground years of 1988-1994, what would you do differently? Do you think that kind of era is coming back again for metal?
W: I’d collect more old records, go to more shows, collect more demos and posters. I’d keep all of my old stuff in better condition. Some of it got fucked up along the way. I hope the old era will come back. It seems to be going in that direction, at least on an underground level. A lot of the newer death metal bands are keeping the old spirit alive, like DEAD CONGREGATION, NECROS CHRISTOS, just to name a few. Hail to the old school, and hails to those that keep it alive.
Is metal a culture, like many other “subcultures” which are part of this one big culture we call modern society? If so, what are its values?
W: In a way, it is a subculture. Definitely a counter culture to the norms of modern society. Metal values — hmm — standing up for real metal, as well as keeping vinyl, spiked gauntlets, denim vests, patches, crushing poseurs, collecting metal, not following the herd mentality…fighting against the blind Christian fools… you know, the fun stuff in life.
Some have claimed that art is a warning to society; others say art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Where, if anywhere, do these views intersect?
M: Our goal is to spread as much negativity as possible. The music is most important to us, not recognition as artists or opinions of others. We create this music for ourselves but we also welcome those that enjoy what we do as well.
Now that you’ve got several shorter releases out, the most prominent being 2007’s Allegiance to the Will of Damnation, how are you going to expand your empire? Has your songwriting or approach changed?
W: We’re working on our debut full length, for one. As for changes, there are none really but I think the new songs are stronger. Better riffs, better arrangements… and more fast stuff. But unquestionably along the same lines.
Although your music is old school death metal, your songs seem to concentrate on creating an atmosphere of pervasive doom, then rushing back into energetic metal as if to imitate a camera panning away from a battlefield of devastation. What is the importance of this atmosphere in your music?
W: Contrast, kind of like a roller coaster ride. Not all fast, not all slow, a mixture to keep things interesting. At least, that’s what I shoot for.
Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?
W: Interesting question. I’ve never thought about it; I don’t see how others see. But if I had to guess I’d say no. I think for someone that feels exactly like me, their art could manifest itself completely differently. I mean, if you look at death metal, most bands sound different, but some may have the same hate and the same musical influences.
The CD version of Allegiance to the Will of Damnation has two additional tracks that the vinyl does not have. Were these recorded at the same time? What’s their story?
W: The first track we recorded as a band was “To Walk the Path of Unrighteousness” and it was for the split 7″ with Adumus. The other tracks were recorded at the same time. We used “Of Unholy Blood” for the split with Evil Incarnate. It’s been an honor to work with these bands, and with these labels…horns forever up!
I’m excited about how good this CD is and am looking forward to future output, live performances and presence in the genre from BLASPHERIAN. I think our readers are too.
M: Thank you Brett for the tons of support!
W: Thanks for the great interview, absolutely one of the best so far. Also thanks for the support, and thanks to all that support true death metal. We do this for ourselves, because we love to create heavy evil, Satanic music… it means a lot when others enjoy it as well. Look for our debut Infernal Warriors of Death soon. Hail!
We shall be able to gather, if not to create, this Life; to transmute it into other forms of force, as now we transmute heat to light. We shall be able to store it, to harness it, to guide it; to absorb its energy ourselves directly, without resorting to our present gross, inefficient, cumbrous and dangerous means of abstracting it from ores (if I may say so) mechanically, blindly, empirically, and with such toil and strife. Our journey–by such means of transit–is necessary and hateful; our travelling companions are our diseases, and the host to ease us at the end of the short, the weary day, is Death.
– Aleister Crowley, Liber CCCXLIII: AMRITA (1920)
Photos by AngelaTXDM