Some Brief Thoughts : Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

After having built up a legacy for over a quarter of a century, it seems fitting to briefly revisit a few thoughts on the genre-defining De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

It should be taken for granted that basically everyone reading this is already familiar with this album, the story behind it, and the quality of the music; all of which has been discussed to death and analyzed with more eloquence and detail than the present author could attempt at the moment. Instead, only some select, subtle elements shall be hinted at relating to the singular uniqueness of this record. Or to sum up with one sentence the main idea this article is attempting to point to:

Despite being the album that most fully embodies the popular conception of the “archetypal” Black Metal sound, absolutely nothing else actually sounds anything like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

While perhaps everyone experienced with Black Metal subconsciously knows this on some level, it is actually a rather peculiar fact to contemplate when consciously brought to attention. Credit is given to infamous reviewer Noktorn for initially verbalizing this fact. (Or at least being the first to indirectly bring it to the present author’s attention).

Indeed no other album actually sounds anything like this one – not from the time, before or after. The “second-wave” flowing mystical tremolo-driven style developed by the classic Norwegian bands in general and embodied by Mayhem in particular have become synonymous with the general public perception of what “pure” Black Metal sounds like, almost to the point of revisionism*. But yet, why has no one even attempted to sound like this specific album, when all the other Norwegian classics have been shamelessly imitated to incalculable degrees? Sure there are trillions of bands which blatantly rip off Burzum and Darkthrone… yet where is a DMDS copy? I guess it would appear that not even Mayhem themselves have managed to re-create anything like this album, but it is still quite unusual just how subtly distinctive of a record this truly is.

* [As an aside, some Nowadays people actually have the audacity to claim that BATHORY, of all bands, was “not really Black Metal”… while simultaneously imagining themselves to be superior to “millennial hipsters” that “don’t truly understand Black Metal because they discovered it through Vice documentaries and only know the big Norwegian bands”]

While this does seem like one of the most stylistically “pure” embodiments of the second wave sound, there is something very unique to the subtly potent style of guitar playing and composition that is so “intuitive” yet so uncanny that it is difficult to even describe with words. Unlike the shadowy, distorted abstract reverie of contemporaries Burzum or Darkthrone, DMDS-era Mayhem is “fluidly solid” and crystalline … yet simultaneously exudes a subtly horrifying cryptic essence through its’ melodic clarity. Almost like an incomprehensible esoteric force being paradoxically hidden through its’ blatant revelation in plain sight. While he was indeed one of the most supposedly “influential” developers of the archetypal tremolo BM styling – who actually writes riffs that sound anything like Euronymous? There is a genuinely ineffable, hard-to-pin-down quality to this whole affair, and this is arguably one of the few Metal albums that actually has a truly “evil” aura.

Perhaps, as Attila hints in interviews, there is indeed something genuinely unworldly and darkly mystical connected to this record.

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11 thoughts on “Some Brief Thoughts : Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

  1. Cynical says:

    “But yet, why has no one even attempted to sound like this specific album, when all the other Norwegian classics have been shamelessly imitated to incalculable degrees?”

    Ofermod “Mysterion Tes Anomias” and Watain “Casus Luciferi” are both pretty clearly attempts at being “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” part 2. Neither are as good, of course, but not for lack of trying to sound like DMDS.

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      Hm. I’m never listened to Ofermod before but you are actually kind of right in regards to that Watain album. Don’t know why that slipped my mind when writing this article.

      The only interesting thing that struck me about “Casus Luciferi” is that it clearly sounds like it’s trying to rip off 90’s Dissection at the same time as trying to rip off DMDS – mainly because one would not usually think of a connection between those two styles. At any rate I guess that means it’s not a pure “DMDS” worship since it also brings in diverse rip-off elements.

      At any rate, in addition to being crap, that Watain album doesn’t actually manage to achieve the iconic purity or genuine sense of inimitable uncanny atmosphere so the main point of this article still stands.

  2. Chrised says:

    Sounds like cheap, boring early nineties sound engineering via great song writing. Shut the fuck up.

    1. Death Metal Mall says:

      Str8 off the Sunlight Studios factory line, yo!

    2. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:


      When making the point that “nothing sounds like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” I was clearly primarily referring to the composition/song-writing (which you yourself concede is “great”) as opposed to the production/engineering (which still does actually sound somewhat unique compared to the other Norwegian contemporaries in its own right. While “cheap”, I don’t think it sounds “boring” at all. Something like this which makes every instrument and what they are playing perfectly clear, while still having a very raw “real” sound is the perfect sound for an album like this.)

      1. Chrised says:

        Oh you fella buddy, I’m afraid you mistake my statement for sarcasm or disgust. I’m quite fond of this record but it sounds like cheap boring 90’s production. Nice huh?
        Fuck off I love you!!

  3. Matthias says:

    Interesting point here.

    Part of the reason there are so many different techniques on this alubm is because there are so many different composers. Varg, Necrobutcher, Blackthorn, and even Dead contributed riffs that were distinctly different. Even the evolution of Euronymous’s technique matured greatly from the dissonant atonal power chord riffs of Pagan Fears to the melodic majesty of the tirle track. Many of the techniques, such as the two riffs in the beginning of From the Dark Past, are completely overlooked by 99% of black metal riffers who only focus on the power chords and arpeggiate speedpicking. This is also true with the atonal dissonance in many of the In the Noghtside Eclipse riffings.

    Songwriting that spans across almost 8 years in a developing style is going to cover a lot if ground. Add Atilla’s incredibly experimental Avant-garde vocal style and you have a vast complexity of layers that is almost impossible to emmulate.

    With that said, maybe a stylistic reproduction wpuld be worth attempting… challange accepted!

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      “Part of the reason there are so many different techniques…”

      An astute analysis! Maybe you should write an article

      “Songwriting that spans across almost 8 years in a developing style is going to cover a lot [of] ground.”

      Indeed. As Euronymous himself said:

      “We have finished the recordings of ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ now, and we only have to mix it, and that will happen in a couple of days. We have worked on this album for six years, and it’s full of brand new ideas. We could have put out a lot of shit like for example Cannibal Corpse are doing, but we have taken our time because we want this album to be the BEST! People don’t know what they are talking about, but they will see. And if we need five years to make the next album, we’ll take the time we need. Listen to the album and will understand what I mean. This is NOT a typical mass release, we have worked HARD on it and have thrown away most of the riffs, and only the perfect are saved”.

      “With that said, maybe a stylistic reproduction wpuld be worth attempting… challange accepted!”

      Nah. Take whatever influence you can but try to find your own unique style (to whatever extent that’s possible in this late era of Metal)

  4. 9-5 Baby Mama says:

    How does DMU feel about Triumph, Genus? Despite their LP coming out on the record label equivalent of a dollar/bargain store (Iron Bonehead), I found it to be some of the most engaging black metal of the past decade. Definitely more influenced by Mayhem than your typical black metal band with the unique Czech voice.

  5. 6jhajsiowjdi says:

    We’re praising that nokturn sperg now? Calling Dead a “generic BM vocalist” is such a basic bitch opinion. Attila’s fine, but he was copying Dead’s slow singsongy vocal patterns wholesale (compare DMDS to his Tormentor vocals–night and day!), he’s just adding a silly accent and some pseudo-operatics.

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:


      “We” are not “praising” Noktorn.

      I am simply crediting that the main idea for this article indirectly came into my head when I read that specific review of his.

      That does not necessarily mean I agree (or disagree) with every (or any) opinion he posted in that review or in his many reviews in general; let alone that any of the other various writers and personalities of this site necessarily share every single opinion that I may have on any given subject musical or otherwise (they most certainly do not)

      That said, I personally do like Noktorn’s general writing style/approach to reviewing music even I don’t necessarily share all his opinions. (Are there any two people that actually share the exact same opinions when it comes to music? Is that even necessary?)

      As to the subject of Dead vs Attila, you are correct (even though, again, I never actually stated this was my opinion myself) that characterizing him as a “generic BM vocalist” is not fair, especially since even if this was true Dead would have basically been the originator of such a so-called “generic” style.

      Interesting claim you make that Attila changed his voice to copy Dead. I can’t currently comment either way on that, since it’s been a long time since I last properly listened to Tormentor (although I do distinctly remember they were quite good).

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