October 21, 2019 Mayhem – Daemon (Album Review)
When certain artists release new music, it elicits a certain response from fans and critics alike. When that band is The True Mayhem, the effect can be quite strong. On October 25th, 2019, via Century Media Records, the Norwegian entity will bestow its sixth full-length studio album upon the world. Entitled Daemon, the original purveyors of aural terrorism that once frightened a nation certainly stir up attention every time they make a move. Enjoying a period of stability that has seen them focus much more so on music than sensationalism, will Mayhem silence the cynical among us who feel their music should remain buried by time and dust?
It should be noted that one of the things that makes Mayhem so provocative and unpredictable is their utter lack of musical predictability. Something that gets lost amidst all the stories of murder, arson, and self-harm that has colored their history is that Mayhem writes the music that Mayhem wants. After spearheading second wave Black Metal with the unrivaled 1994 release De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the band then boldly explored ultramodern territory, scything cold inhuman sounds that divided their fanbase. Yet, all things go in cycles, and after 2014’s Esoteric Warfare no one could have predicted what Daemon would sound like.
Esoteric Warfare, an album that received a lukewarm response from many circles, was highly reminiscent of their colleague and former collaborator Snorre Ruch in Thorns. It was a strong album, arguably, and saw an increased role from Teloch (Nidingr, ex-Myrkur) in the guitar and songwriting department. Which brings us to Daemon, an album written following a period of intense touring of the aforementioned De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. In keeping with the spontaneous and eruptive feeling of that album, the first thing that springs to mind when spinning Daemon is the feeling of relation to that most classic of masterworks.
Even better, it does not feel like a simple rehash or grab at past glories. The rolling menace of “Black Glass Communion” features the tortured rasp of Attila Csihar married to the subterranean snare sound of the almighty Hellhammer on drums. Apocalyptic clean choruses, like orations from a mausoleum, highlight this standout track. Indeed, the album resonates in this fashion throughout its length. “Aeon Daemonium” rolls onto the field like a tank, martial drums and demonic vocals conflating into a nice, arrogant, evil-as-f**k first verse. It is good to see Mayhem let down their hair, in a sense, and just play dark Black Metal with a Heavy Metal heart. This is not to say the Hellhammer does not serenade the listener with his signature roll and blast, the rumbling motor of Necrobutcher’s bass turning the bottom end into the sludge that lines the floors in hell.
Another throwback to that old feeling is “Malum.” A bit of Tormentor is conjured here, with Attila’s vocal taking center stage over some open-chord goodness. The riffs and timing are eerie, with some of the off-beat vocal choices helping to establish a haunted atmosphere.
At fifty minutes in length, Daemon maintains its ardor and keeps the intensity up, and does not digress into any sort of ambient or off-script territory. This is a pure Black Metal album made by a legacy band, but it does not feel at all unmotivated. “The Dying False King,” with its active basslines, wanders across varied tempos, dynamically and with fearless aplomb. “Falsified and Hated” does its talking through blast beats and the throat theatrics that only Attila can provide. When they ratchet it down to low growls and Necrobutcher’s ropey basslines, then bring it back dirty and mean, again the feeling that Mayhem is making music they themselves enjoy comes to mind. It is here we even get some well-placed keys interspersed into the song, bringing some weirdness into the wickedness.
The black energy of Daemon is no better articulated then in “Worthless Abominations Destroyed” and “Of Worms and Ruins,” the two songs selected for early release. There are stronger moments on the album, but these songs incorporate the frigid speed, gnarly inhuman voice, and controlled chaos that Mayhem is once more harnessing. No mere retread, Daemon is Mayhem pushing forward by looking back. For that reason, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.