Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Album Review: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive by Mayhem

Perhaps more so than any other album in any other sub-genre of music, Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is the quintessential album of black metal. You cannot be a fan of black metal and not own this album.  

I would even recommend any fan of metal in general obtain it, since it is entirely definitive of the notorious and still relevant black metal scene.  It is the bible of the genre, often imitated, never duplicated.  It may or may not be the best black metal album, but it is almost inarguably of great significance.  

It included most elements of the sounds which came before it and inexorably influenced all which came after.

It is an album famous almost as much for its creation as its content. Although work on the album began as early as 1987, the release was delayed until 1994 due to several headline grabbing events.  

The album first manifested as a series of demos and live recordings with a vocalist whose stage name was "Dead".  However, as musicians named Dead are wont to do, Dead died by suicide.   Upon discovering his singer Mayhem guitarist Euronymous photographed the suicide scene, which was later used as an album cover, and used Dead's shattered skull to make necklaces. Euronymous soon replaced the dead Dead with the amazingly talented Hungarian Attila Csihar.

Mayhem (photo courtesy of Mayhem Facebook.

Original bassist Necrobutcher, concerned over growing police scrutiny involving Norwegian church burnings linked to the band, left and was fatefully replaced by Count Grishnackh.

Shortly after recording the bass tracks, Grishnackh murdered the guitarist Euronymous (with album contributor Blackthorn accused as an accomplice), and was imprisoned for both the murder and his role in several church burnings.

There was even suspicion someone within the band was plotting to blow up the church pictured on the album cover to coincide with its release. 

Only drummer Hellhammer and Csihar remained to ensure the album, mired in violence and tragedy, saw the light of day.  These misadventures caused the album release to be delayed until the Spring of 1994.  

If you can get past the many extracurricular activities of the creators, it truly is a masterpiece of the art.

And now, over 20 years later, those who survived the chaos of the early nineties have reformed to perform the entire classic album live.  De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive is a recording of their first performance in Norrkoping, Sweden. It features Necrobutcher on bass, Hellhammer on drums, Csihar on vocals, with guitar duties being handled by newcomers Teloch and Ghul.
Mayhem (photo courtesy of Mayhem Facebook.

With a high level production, identical track listing, lack of audience interaction and only brief crowd reactions there is little to differentiate this live recording from the original version of the album.  

Still, it is a worthy buy, as it exhibits the band's ability to deliver these classic tunes with the same skill and devastation as they did decades ago.  Csihar's demonic growls are dark, brooding and among the most powerful in the entire history of extreme metal.  Hellhammer's blast beats are a furry of perfectly timed percussive madness.  

Necrobutcher brings the thumping low end with authority.  Teloch and Ghul have resurrected the mighty Euronymous with each flurry of tremolo laden riffs.  It is Mayhem at their most brutal best. 

De Mysteriis Alive reintroduces the world to the founding days of black metal, and serves notice the ancient masters are still here to deliver its dark majesty.  

Release: December 15, 2016
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Self Released

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