MAYHEM
"Daemon"

(Century Media)

01. The Dying False King
02. Agenda Ignis
03. Bad Blood
04. Malum
05. Falsified and Hated
06. Aeon Daemonium
07. Worthless Abomination Destroyed
08. Daemon Spawn
09. Of Worms and Ruins
10. Invoke the Oath

RATING: 9/10

If you're a (black) metalhead who passes time by cvlting on social media, there's a 99 percent likelihood that you've stumbled across at least half dozen "I was on my way to kill Euronymous, too" memes over the course of the last month. These memes of course stem from the recent claims of MAYHEM bassist Necrobutcher — ones that are at complete odds with his previous statements — that he was on his way to kill his bandmate and friend Euronymous prior to BURZUM's Varg Vikernes doing exactly that. Are his recent statements nothing more than a publicity stunt that's designed to spur attention for MAYHEM's latest album, "Daemon"? Does a fat kid like chocolate cake?

Considering how ridiculously good the album is, no one in MAYHEM needed to make such outrageous, over-the-top claims. Then again, such pro-wrestling caliber hyperbole is par for the course in the realm of black metal and certainly with regard to MAYHEM, historically speaking. The one-upmanship that was originally plastered across the tattered and torn pages of fanzines in the eighties has clawed its way onto the silver screen. Indeed, the hype train for "Daemon" has been flying off the tracks since the recent "LORDS OF CHAOS" film that documented the band and Norwegian black metal scene's collective descent into church-burning, homicidal madness.

Relatively recent line-up stability largely explains why the nefarious act is so lockstep in movement and delivery. The five musicians have been together for seven years now, and "Daemon" is actually MAYHEM's first album that was written by the exact same line-up as its predecessor. Teloch penned a considerable amount of 2014's cold, mind-bumbling tech-inclined black metal affair that was "Esoteric Warfare". "Daemon", on the other hand, was more of a group effort.

The similarities between the new album and the unit's magnum opus, 1994's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", make sense considering the recent, relentless touring involved in celebration of the anniversary of that album, which is now a quarter century old. Both releases share distinct esoteric, mysterious and majestic qualities. But the new album is anything but a cash-grab. "Daemon" isn't a recycling nor regurgitation of "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". Sure, it emulates the crushing atmosphere and spirit, but while the debut was distant and surreal, "Daemon" is more sinister, bloodthirsty and aggressive.

With "Daemon" the progenitors of second-wave black metal have arguably produced one of the genre's best albums this millennium by culling the essence of the band's early days whilst simultaneously plumbing the depths of top-tier contemporary dark metal. MAYHEM isn't referencing a current who's who list of underground leading lights so much as they are benefiting from its own relatively newer and younger blood: guitarists Teloch and Ghul. As mentioned before, Teloch — whose resume includes ORCUSTUS and NIDINGR — has been a key writer for the band on its previous album already. Ghul, previously of CRADLE OF FILTH and IMPERIAL VENGEANCE, contributes his proficient songwriting and playing on one of the album's highlights: The dynamic blackened thrash track "Of Worms and Ruins". The guitarists play off one another tastefully and effectively throughout "Daemon".

Hellhammer continues to provide evidence that he is one of the best drummers in extreme metal history on a blistering track like "The Dying False King". And while Necrobutcher isn't quite the virtuoso as Hellhammer is, to say the least, his minimalist playing style does stand out because of his ominous bass tone and eerie punctuations. Attila Csihar, meanwhile, augment's MAYHEM's approach that is already out in left field with his bizarre and impressive vocal stylings. "Worthless Abomination Destroyed" is an absolute maelstrom of metallic rage beneath which Attila spits out his robust, operatic baritone that is just as impressive as his shrill screams and cavernous howls and growls.

If we cut through the dramatic lore, MAYHEM has always been a fascinating and captivating band based upon what matters the most: The music. Yours truly can attest to the fact that the band members truly are the maniacs one would expect them to be. The authenticity of the madness behind the masks and corpse paint lends itself to equally genuine dark musical expression. In spite of (or because of?) recent outlandish statements and the arguable publicity stunt, "Daemon" provides sufficient proof that the gentlemen of MAYHEM are the kings of black metal.

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