Record Label: Deathlike Silence Productions
Rating: 10/10 (∞)
When talking about Black Metal and its explosion to the world the first thing that comes to mind is Norway. A country that has provided us with a never-ending number of great bands that shaped the whole genre. Norway’s 90’s Black Metal scene is by far the most notorious and historic one to ever emerge, both for musical and other reasons. Mayhem are the epicenter that everything revolved around. The first band that almost everyone will stumble upon when digging into Black Metal, and the band with the most defying story behind it.
“De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas”, the band’s debut, is arguably the best Black Metal album ever created and it’s no mystery why when considering all the personalities that took part in the creating process. Material for the album was written from 1987 to 1991, up until 1992 when it was finally recorded, after delays due to all the stuff happening around that time. Euronymous and Snorre were responsible for the guitar compositions, with Aarseth revolutionizing the way Black Metal riffs where being played. Signature of the way he played was the use of the entire neck and bar instead of individual notes, thus creating a fuller sound with an ice-cold feeling, due to the clinging of the eerie notes from the sound of the higher ones piercing through the mist of the lower ones. The bass lines are courtesy of Necrobutcher and Varg Vikernes. Varg provided some grooviness in the mix, with his bass lines at times isolating from the guitar riffs, playing at their own pace, and creating an aggressive feeling. Hellhammer put on a drumming masterclass with lengthy blast beats and an unforgiving double bass, solidifying his place as the best drummer in the scene. However, Attila’s vocals are probably the most controversial thing. Straying away from the typical Black Metal style with the charismatic use of falsettos, operatic vocals and chants reminiscing of Tibetian monks, to create the epitome of atmosphere. Dead also had his share in the album by providing lyrics that paint pictures of death and grimness.
This album is the embodiment of darkness with the feeling of decay. The band combined both assaulting and atmospheric parts to showcase their multi-dimensional talent. From the very beginning with an explosion signaling the start of the ritual, “Funeral Fog”, crushes in with a high-speed rush. Sweeping riffs that freeze everything at their path make life seem grimmer as death makes its appearance. The dense guitar sound complements Attila’s mystical vocals that offer an occult feeling. Following right after is probably the most recognizable track in all Black Metal. “Freezing Moon” is a hymn to the coldness of the night and the psychotic thoughts of suicide that the full moon can create. The main riff, despite being simplistic, is iconic, incorporating a mesmerizing use of a triad that’s known as “The Devil’s Interval”. “Cursed in Eternity” contains lumbering parts with a self-contemplating approach, that will make your inner self seem like a suffocating enclosure. “Pagan Fears” is one of the fan favorites with a nostalgic feeling for the past. It revives both the picture of Dead, as well as a long-lost past that’s at a decomposing state. “From the Dark Past” and “Buried by Time and Dust” prove that the guitars are the focal point of the album. Euronymous and Snorre combine like puppet masters moving the strings of the abyss like maestros at an orchestra. A menacing barrage of riffs creates hypnotic bridges that will leave you with no choice but to hear this album on repeat. “De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas” marks the album’s epilogue and is in my opinion the greatest Black Metal track ever written. A satanic black mass, terrifying to the bone, that can make hell freeze. Attila’s Latin singing, ominous riffs and blistering drums lift the track to a league of its own.
Every single track is a masterpiece of its own that makes the album pass by in an instant. The production is on point, offering a natural feeling, and even though the bass was lowered down in the mixing you can hear it clearly roaming through your flesh. The lyrics from Dead and Snorre, despite concerning stereotypical Black Metal themes, carry extra weight because of who wrote them. The cover art is a photo of the east side of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. It is depicted as a place of darkness and corruption, as the Christian filth, it represents, with rumors at the time concerning an imminent arson of this church that was never carried out. The creation of this masterpiece took all the darkest parts of the human soul. From the suicidal Dead and the psychotic personality of Euronymous, to his murderer Varg and a handful of arsons. Victim and killer combined to reach the pinnacle of Black Metal excellence, with Hellhammer allowing us to hear it despite promising Aarseth’s mother to remove the parts of Vikernes.
Mayhem provided us with the crown jewel of Black Metal that nearly brought them to extinction. A very influential album for every generation of bands to this day, that was years ahead of its time. This album is an essential listen for every metal fan and the tour that brought this album back to life a few years ago is forever to be cherished. Thankfully after the death of Euronymous, Necrobutcher and Hellhammer kept the band alive so that we can still witness history up to this day.
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 1994 [Full Album]