November 22, 2019 Conversing With The Daemon – A Glimpse Into Mayhem
It isn’t easy being a legacy band. Legacy means expectations, and even when a musical entity has spent a great deal of time doing the opposite of what everyone expects, fans and media can still be quite unforgiving. When the band being discussed is Mayhem – the True Mayhem – and that legacy is built upon the feral violence and spite of Norwegian Black Metal, opinions can and will be vastly polarized.
On October 25th of 2019, the genre received another kick to the guts in the form of Daemon, the sixth full-length album from the band about whom the recent Lords of Chaos film was based. Seems many are still hungry for more of the tumult of the band’s origins, meanwhile the band themselves just want to move forward and make new music.
The founding musicians of Mayhem, entrenched since day one, may bear the brunt of this public scrutiny over past misdeeds and the relevance of new music. Yet, for more recent additions to the lineup, such as that of Guitarist Morten Iversen, aka Teloch, entering the fray could add its own set of unique pressures. Yet, when asked if joining such a notorious and talked-about band such as Mayhem was difficult, Teloch downplayed any such notions saying, “When I joined Mayhem in 2011, I had been committed to both Gorgoroth and God Seed, but I felt it was a good time to join and that things would be creative. I did not feel any pressure; it was a totally natural transition.”
When the sensationalism is gone, when a world shrunk by the internet and made cynical by the sanctimonious masses strips a band of dangerous trappings, it can either destroy that band or it can give them new life. Teloch not only stepped into the band, he more or less directly replaced Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen, the fourteen year veteran six-stringer so synonymous with Mayhem. Yet there is absolutely no question that he was the right man for the job. Having piloted his own unique Black Metal creation, Nidingr, since 1996, Teloch does not mince words when asked who he looked up to the most during his formative years, stating, “For me, the reason I began playing guitar was Metallica.”
It is not a stretch to imagine a Norwegian adolescent hearing 1986’s Master of Puppets for the first time and then immediately picking up a guitar. Instead of following Metallica into the Frat-Rock commercialism into which they plunged in the 1990s, Teloch knew his path lay down darker and heavier roads, and so he followed his instincts.
This is not to suggest that his adherence to extreme music would wind up equating to any sort of creative stagnation. Teloch’s serpentine riffing and blade-sharp technique has been well-suited for where Mayhem has gone since he joined their ranks. Following a quite experimental period, followed by a stripped-down foray back to form, as it were, the band still seems to be questing and reaching for something. Teloch has truly helped them in this endeavor.
What’s interesting to note about Mayhem is the sheer speed at which all the arson, suicide, murder, prison sentences, and negative press actually outpaced their creative output. Known primarily for one of Black Metal’s most complete and massive albums, 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas vaulted Mayhem into Black Metal immortality faster than you could say church-burning.
Daemon possesses the same barely-contained aggression and spontaneity of their classic monumental LP. Considering Mayhem has just finished playing DMDS in its entirety to fortunate audiences the world over, it is not surprising there is a definite sonic connection between the two works of art. When it was suggested that Daemon could have been the follow-up to DMDS, Teloch was quick to agree saying “I think yes, the album (Daemon) could have been a follow-up to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. We had been playing it a lot so there have been some influences, but we definitely did not try to copy that album. We do not wish to copy ourselves because that would be boring.”
As the saying goes, ‘you’ve come to the right place.’ Mayhem has never repeated themselves, which is yet another reason the marriage between Teloch and the band has been a productive one. Anyone who absorbed the Trip-Hop tinged, off-the-rails departure (and genius) that was 2000’s Grand Declaration of War, the warped menace of the 1997 Wolf’s Lair Abyss EP or the purified laceration of 2004’s Chimera knows that Mayhem marches to their own beat.
Daemon sounds like Mayhem is enjoying themselves, nodding at their legacy but not rehashing it for the sake of putting out an album. And where 2014’s Esoteric Warfare bore a passing resemblance to the work of former collaborator Snorre Ruch (Thorns), this new album references no one but themselves. It feels cohesive and almost familial. Teloch concurs. “Everyone contributed. We were trying not to repeat ourselves, because Mayhem has always been about making music for ourselves first.”
Fans who savor the echoing thickness and hammering intensity of Daemon can rejoice. “I have an extra 90 minutes of material left over. It was a long process to distill everything down to the songs of the album” states Teloch, who could be brimming with the outline of songs for yet another Mayhem album of superb quality. Time will tell.
This is not to say that this stable and mature iteration of the world’s most dangerous Black Metal band is pure harmony. “There is always tension within the band,” Teloch adds, “and without that, we probably would not feel the same level of creativity. Mayhem needs that tension to thrive.”
Black Metal has always been about unrest, misanthropy, and a crimson splash of malice. That Mayhem still feels those things, in all likelihood, adds to the stygian cocktail of hatred their music demands. Teloch will soon have a decade in this band under his belt, and with songs like these flying off of his fingertips, the future of Mayhem is in good hands.