Reviewed: August 2021
Released: 2021, Century Media
Reviewer: Graeme Smith
Mayhem are one of those bands many may have heard of but never got around to listening to. This is my first exposure to them so I thought I would venture into their past to find out about the band. To say their history has been eventful is an understatement. The band is 37 years young (which surprised me) and their line up has changed many times. Throw in self mutilation on stage, burying the stage outfits after every gig only to dig them up for the next one, sheep and pig heads impaled on stakes on stage, Nazi flags, band stabbings, and to top all that, a suicide by the lead vocalist ‘Dead’. Another band member found the body, promptly photographed it, made a stew from bits of the dead body and also used the picture on the cover of one of their bootleg albums. Oh sorry I forgot about the disagreement within the band cumulating with a murder of another band member.
After reading that I’m a little apprehensive of what I would find on this EP. There are 3 original songs and 4 covers versions they selected individually to play on here. The sound is sinister and primordial from the get go on ‘Voces Ab Alta’. Growling vocals and frenetic music drag you straight to pits of Hell. It’s uncompromising and resolute in its purpose. There is a strange section in the middle which is a little disorientating with different vocals. It’s hard to explain without comparing it to Monty Python overdubbed words. Make no mistake however, this is no laughing matter. It’s all extremely serious.
The band are extremely adept on their instruments. Hellhammer is suitably dangerous on the drums aided by the twin guitarists Teloch and Ghul. The hammering bassline from Necrobutcher ensures the pace is unrelenting. Throughout ‘Black Glass Communion’ the sound is possibly the most apocalyptic and black hearted that I’ve ever heard. Attila’s vocals are ominous, corrupt and threatening offering the perfect match to the music.
‘Everlasting Dying Flames’ completes the 3 original pieces and there is no change in the commitment to making you feel you are deep in a bottomless pit surrounded by fire and brimstone. I feel suitably tormented.
Then come the cover versions which are all short punk classics. There is a link between punk rock and hardcore which brought black metal to life. However much that I like the cover versions (particularly Hellnation), I don’t see the correlation between the original material and the 4 tracks added on after. It doesn’t sit well with me as after being dragged through Hades on the band’s own tunes, the feeling on the following tracks is completely different and if anything it detracts from whole overall effect of the short EP. Clearly the band set out to have some fun but the tracks just don’t fit together on the same record. Whether or not any of these tunes will see the light of day in a live environment remains to be seen. I get a feeling that they won’t as this would change the atmosphere from a theatrical production to something much lighter and it would lose the desired effect. Mosh pit would turn into a pogoing fest and I’m not sure that’s them.
Undoubtedly my first outing with Mayhem was a volatile but interesting one which started in the pits of hell and finished in purgatory. Whether this was the desired effect remains to be seen but there is nothing dull about this band. Total mayhem?….not really, but certainly a bit chaotic.