Mayhem – Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997)

Wolf’s Lair Abyss was the first new proposition by the remaining Mayhem line up after De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and all the personal drama and loss that it signified.  Needless to say, the pressure upon the band on the musical level- especially of music as a dark art, as Euronymous would have it- was quite high.  Expectations after an Immortal album of far and wide reach were not at all encouraging.  The remainder of the band had to find a way in which they could work from the solid basis of the past towards a unique development that did not come off as an insult or a betrayal to all that had been accomplished.  The solution found by the band here was almost perfect, but it ultimately was only a transition whose eventual development would show if the full potential for growth would be adeptly exploited.  Still, there is much to be said about the unique identity of this brief but memorable foray into chaos.

We can easily compare this release to the sound that a budding Antaeus would display not long after.  In concert with the past, we see a similitude in terms of melodic notions, brevity of phrase and rhythmic pulsations.  In contrast to the past, Mayhem now becomes completely relentless, driving forth rather than conceding breathing spaces to what amounted to be the catchier and more distinctive moments in their 1994 masterpiece.  Not to say it is without triplet feels and midpaced interludes, but they are shorter and used as bridges between slaughter drama. The bass is more audible than in the past, while the sound of the guitar is made thin, to an interesting, piercing effect.

As the music becomes more obscured by streamlined expertise, it becomes harder to grasp at the allusions that could be had from this, a thinner-sounding, faster exposition of the Mayhemic personality. One cannot help but wonder if with the death of Euronymous, a sense of balance and heavier personality was lost, even if that was originally produced by more overtly populoid pseudo-symphonic moments.  The atmosphere here is colder than before, death is ever-present, and cruelty is imminent rather than premonitioned, as it was in De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.  Ghosts, empty shells haunt it, and occasionally rupture through the veil by way of the vocalist, who wisely limits his intrusions.  Undetectable by the untrained ear, there are also touches of progressive metal woven deeply into these compositions in the form of odd time signatures and very technical guitar and drum fills.  These tenancies would ultimately reveal themselves in this album’s successor; the motif of which is this work’s closing riff.

Here, Mayhem showcases a perfect form of aggressive black metal, while hiding excessive displays of ego.  For the study of black metal as a concise but effective form, this is a most formidable album.  While somewhat lacking in personality, Wolf’s Lair Abyss provides fans of the black metal genre an opportunity to relish in a great example of musicianship and concentrated black metal writing.  The experience provided by this album is somewhat limited but it is also penetrating and powerful enough to take the imaginative listener far away, propelled by notions both musical and lyrical.

Clocking in around thirty minutes, the greatest sin committed here is that the format of the music calls for more content, in order to balance out the length of individual ideas, and the center around which these are developed: allusional riffs and rhythmic pulsation, rather than strong themes.  We are left with the unanswerable doubt of what could the remaining Mayhem personnel have accomplished had they stayed their course rather than dissolving into the banal whirlwind of un-musical illusions that ended up swallowing them?

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9 thoughts on “Mayhem – Wolf’s Lair Abyss (1997)”

  1. Hereweald’s social worker says:

    In concert with the past, we see a similitude in terms of melodic notions, brevity of phrase and rhythmic pulsations.

    Not to say it is without triplet feels

    As the music becomes more obscured by streamlined expertise, it becomes harder to grasp at the allusions that could be had from this

    One cannot help but wonder if with the death of Euronymous, a sense of balance and heavier personality was lost, even if that was originally produced by more overtly populoid pseudo-symphonic moments.

    The atmosphere here is colder than before, death is ever-present, and cruelty is imminent rather than preminitioned

    the greatest sin committed here is that the format of the music calls for more content, in order to balance out the length of individual ideas, and the center around which these are developed: allusional riffs and rhythmic pulsation, rather than strong themes.

    ——

    I’m not even sure YOU know what you mean in passaged like these…

    1. Death Metal Gear Solid says:

      The 3rd and 4th paragraphs are unclear in their intent. Perhaps the author’s expertise has streamlined his allusions to the point of obfuscation?

      Here is my attempted translation of the rest:

      “Like the last album this one is full of short riffs played over d-beats, though the riffs aren’t always structured rigidly in unison with the four-on-the-floor drum patterns. The atmosphere describes a more immediate terror rather than a lurking fear. Though the individual riffs are good, they work more as stand-alone phrases rather than chapters in a larger story.”

  2. cornrose says:

    Like, omg like what a bunch of bullshit. Metallica’s black album was better. And ofermod

  3. Ryan says:

    This is Rosales, yes?

    1. I AM THE BLACK COCKS says:

      I don’t think so. Rosales’s writing was a bit more lucid. Not necessarily a knock on the present writer; i enjoyed the article even though you can smell the charras.

  4. Marc Defranco says:

    Although I’d rather have CD this is more important… Seance reissue. Hopefully black mark treats this one right.

    https://shop.season-of-mist.com/seance-fornever-laid-to-rest-lp

  5. Gladius et Scutum says:

    Damn, I had almost forgotten about this album. Pulled out my copy and gave it a spin after reading this. I wouldn’t say the bass is more audible than in De Mysteriis… it is just different. On DMDS the bass was plenty audible because I think it had more mid-range tones and thus cut through the guitars fairly clearly as Varg played some nice melody/counter melody parts. In WLA the bass is audible in the more traditional pop/rock music role of filling out the bottom end of the sound palette mostly playing a retarded roots and 5ths version of what the guitar is doing; less mids and highs so it comes across as more recognizable bass guitar playing.

    Am I wrong in thinking Maniac is not such a good vocalist? His rasping is annoying, and his ‘clean’ vocals are reminiscent of a homeless guy with a distended belly bellowing nonsense at passers-by.

  6. Svmmoned says:

    Wolf’s Lair Abyss is a bare statement, a direct explanation of black metal philosophy but in a form of quick recapitulation made from a perspective. Musically it is already entirely spent.

  7. Rainer Weikusat says:

    This is not really bad. But it’s not really good, either. Feels like a ‘drumming technique’ demo at times. The vocalist vocals something, the stringed instruments string and the hellhammer automaton blasts away in the background at its own pace and without immediate relation to anything.

    OTOH, it’s not Attila-The-Hungarian. This alone is a huge improvement.

    Nevertheless, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=durteAk6r-c

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