Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare


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.

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14 thoughts on “Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

  1. shambler says:

    Carnival music.

    1. bete noire says:

      They should quit at this point.

      1. trystero says:

        They should have been shot years ago!

  2. Susa says:

    This is really bad.

  3. tiny midget says:

    in the Metal ARchives site, this album will reign supreme!
    i am the tallest man over there.
    this album is approved by Fred Durst.

    1. trystero says:

      Doing pretty good there at the moment, its just like it was with Surgical Steel.

    2. shambler says:

      I read a forum post recently on that website where someone argued that metal now is dead, saying:

      “people with ideas go away, everyone loses the plot and starts making `post` stuff. Like atonal classical music, who the fuck listens to this garbage (hint: no one, its just something you call `interesting` and `unique` at a party). Metal is kind of the same now. Sure its brutal, its technical w/e, but its not fucking MUSIC. Make good music motherfuckers! You know, that thing that stimulates that part of your brain that processes connections of musical intervals into an understandable form, a fucking melody (it doesnt have to be `nice`). For metal thats just a decent riff. But no, now we get `textures` and lord knows what else. Metal isn’t getting worse, its dead except for some amateur throwback bands and a handful of the old dudes.”

      This album solidifies that notion. A message from an embittered reviewer stated:

      “The funny thing is that this latest Mayhem alongside other needlessly discordant crap like Ulcerate, nu-Gorguts, and Deathspell Omega is not even metal at all. Aside from the surface of death or black metal in vocals and some instrumental techniques that are associated with those genres, this is Aphex Twin’s later material played on guitars with rasps or grunts overlaid to fool the ‘tumblr grimster’ demographic into buying the same thing that they’re ‘supposed to be against’.”

      I feel real bad for Jon Wild for having to endure this travesty of an album. Even when the truth is told, it will be mocked for marketing purposes like with Corrosion of Conformity. You’re right, this is Fred Durst level crap.

      1. You know, that thing that stimulates that part of your brain that processes connections of musical intervals into an understandable form, a fucking melody (it doesnt have to be `nice`). For metal thats just a decent riff.


        What metal has become now is what rushed into the void when other genres died.

        When punk died, there was emo.

        When jazz died, there was jazz fusion.

        When indie rock died, there was 90s indie.

        Add some nu-metal influences from rap, math-core like Dillinger Escape Plan and lots of post-hardcore elements, and you’ve got modern “metal.”

        1. Vulture says:

          Art, Music, etc. is about communication, right? Look outside at people in the world, they can’t communicate properly anymore. Text messaging, multicult with speaking different languages going on, people trying to show status when they speak by using 5 dollar words and sounding overly verbose instead of being clear when they speak. Metal came from a time that was before all of this, when sheeple couldn’t and didn’t want to get in, and now they are bringing their shit into it. Hell, this isn’t only happening to Metal…

          Society is breaking down, but is it only one highly visible fraction of society? Is there something else out there? The frontier that’s always talked about on here is right in front of your face, you just don’t want to see it…

  4. Mormegil says:

    Mayhem died with Euronymous.

  5. Kingdom_Gone says:

    Do Mayhem have any listenable albums from the last 20 years? Just curious cause I have none in my CD shelf.

  6. Mormegil says:

    Deathcrush (nihilistic barbarity), De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (one of the best metal albums ever made), and Dead stuff: Out from the Dark rehearsal, The Dawn of the Black Hearts and Live in Leipzig for the experience of live black metal ritual. The rest is redundant.

    1. I would confine your Mayhem purchases to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Live in Leipzig. The latter has the best songs from Deathcrush in the best form, and any other recordings are just variations on this theme.

    2. EDS says:

      Don’t forget the bootleg, From the Darkest Past. A pre-studio reherarsal for De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The Count’s basslines are so vivid and up front in the mix alongside Euronymous’ guitar lines. The Count playing right alongside Oystein… brings chills to me everytime during that legendary long mid section in Life Eternal.

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