Mayhem
Wolfs Lair Abyss


3.5
great

Review

by Kyle Ward STAFF
December 24th, 2007 | 24 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A surprisingly good comeback from utter tragedy.

The year is 1993. In the city of Oslo, Norway, it is the dead of night as a car drives up to an apartment building. In the car are two men, one of them is Blackthorn (a.k.a. Snorre Westvold) of the black metal band Thorns. The other man, with long black hair and all black clothes, exits the car and heads toward the apartment building. Burzum frontman Varg Vikernes then proceeds up to the apartment of former band mate Oystein Aarseth, better known as Euronymous. The rest of the story is history.

Fast forward two years. After the murder of Mayhem mastermind Euronymous, the band was thrown into limbo as many people questioned whether the band would even continue to exist. However, in 1995 drummer Hellhammer decided to reform Mayhem and continue on the path they had already begun to pave, making furious old-school Black Metal. The resulting reform brought in two previous members and one new one. Former bassist Necrobutcher and former vocalist Maniac were brought together with Hellhammer and new guitarist Blasphemer (Rune Erickson) to try and re-establish Mayhem’s name in the black metal scene, even after all of the tragedy the band had suffered in the previous years.

With 1997 rolling around, Mayhem released their first EP since their reformation. Entitled Wolf’s Lair Abyss, it brought with it some definite qualities of classic Mayhem material along with some newer touches, undoubtedly influenced by the increasing technical aspects of the genre. Aside from the intro, each track is certainly full of raw, unforgiving black metal played at an almost inhuman pace at some points. Also, though, there is some variance in terms of some backing vocals and slower breaks from the chaos. While Mayhem had previously been full throttle black metal for the entire runtime of the album, their newer material was certainly a bit more laid back, although still heavy as heavy can be.

Their innovation as a band is notable right as the album begins, with the strange intro “The Vortex Void Of Inhumanity”. Certainly not a good song by any means, it does sort of set the tone of bleakness and harshness which is present in everything from the drums to the vocals. Filled with strange electronics and distortion, it is awkward and mesmerizing at the same time. There are some vocals, which aren’t necessarily coherent, but they are present nonetheless to sort of drag you into the album. From that point on though, you are thrust into a wall of unyielding black metal which Mayhem is so widely known for.

With more melody and flow in this album then their previous attempts, it adds much more order and structure while still maintaining the “Pure Norwegian Black Metal” aspect of the music. However, Mayhem does have some tricks which they pull off to their advantage. As soon as the first vocals enter in “I Am Thy Labyrinth” you will notice the awesome screeches of Maniac along with some drawn out singing in the background, something which certainly wasn’t present before this EP was conceived. Also with the vocals, there is a bit of clean singing at the beginning of the last track “Symbols Of Bloodswords”, which is as refreshing as it is surprising. It gives the listener a break from the extremely cold screeching which makes up the rest of the vocals.You can also count on the instruments to lay down some downright heavy sections throughout the album. On more than one occasion during each track the instruments speed up to an almost insane pace, with the cymbals and drums absolutely slamming down in the background while the guitars, bass and vocals frantically attempt to keep up. It’s the stuff like this which reminds me of the Mayhem you will hear on Deathcrush and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The guitars usually are there to make an interesting, albeit heavy and not too melodic, riff which drives the songs forward in an impromptu structure and order. The vocals are reminiscent of Wrest from the U.S. black metal band Leviathan in terms of their pitch and overall eeriness, and I absolutely love them.

There isn’t much that Mayhem really missed on this EP, and I wouldn’t say it’s really that bad at all. I wish it was a bit longer, but seeing as this is an EP I wouldn’t expect it to be over 30 minutes. The production on this album, very surprisingly, is extremely good for the genre and for an EP, something which absolutely shocked me considering the horrible production on their earlier material such as Deathcrush. Some may not like the new things which Mayhem has added, like the bizarre effects in the intro, the new vocalist, the clean singing, but that’s something I’m willing to embrace.

Given the extremely good quality of this EP, I was surprised to see that Mayhem’s following albums Grand Declaration Of War, Chimera, and Ordo Ab Chao were of such low quality and filled with songs which were so utterly disappointing. Maybe if Mayhem had continued to embrace their roots as a band, and go back to the sound which made them good in the first place, they could take those newer influences and slowly work their way in. For now, however, Mayhem still seems to be lost in that limbo they were in when Euronymous was killed.



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user ratings (125)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
botb
December 24th 2007


9722 Comments


This band has the most hilarious band history ever. Black Metal is absolutely a goldmine for crazy backstories. Good review.

Digging: Solstafir - tta

Nostalgia
December 24th 2007


64 Comments


The year is 1993. In the city of Oslo, Norway, it is the dead of night as a car drives up to an apartment building. In the car are two men, one of them is Blackthorn (a.k.a. Snorre Westvold) of the black metal band Thorns. The other man, with long black hair and all black clothes, exits the car and heads toward the apartment building. Burzum frontman Varg Vikernes then proceeds up to the apartment of former band mate Oystein Aarseth, better known as Euronymous. The rest of the story, is history.

Get rid of that.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2007


16453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Why? It helps me transition to when Mayhem sort of dissolved then re-formed.

Digging: Swallowed - Lunarterial

BallsToTheWall
December 24th 2007


44714 Comments


I enjoy any time the Oslo incident is brought up. Another pretty good review, I haven't listened to Mayhem in so long, before I even joined this site for that matter. Should probaly give De Mysteriis a spin.

Digging: Reverend Bizarre - Return to the Rectory

Crimson
December 24th 2007


1935 Comments


I don't like the only Mayhem album I have, 'De Mysteriis...', I've only listened to it once and it bored me to hell.

rattlehead42147
December 24th 2007


1345 Comments


i dont mind the intro.

I love De Mysteriis.

LifeInABox
December 24th 2007


3709 Comments


Intro needs to go.

Tyler
Emeritus
December 24th 2007


7926 Comments


I think the intro is fine, barring that comma in the last sentence.

Nostalgia
December 24th 2007


64 Comments


Why?


Because I'd like to read one Mayhem or Burzum review where the incident isn't brought up.

LifeInABox
December 24th 2007


3709 Comments


It is very stereotypical of black metal. It's like using the main thing black metal gets attention from toget attention for the review, I guess.

Wizard
December 24th 2007


19556 Comments


Because I'd like to read one Mayhem or Burzum review where the incident isn't brought up.

I think that incident plays a crucial part into how these albums were created. If this murder had never happened, would these albums have been the same or for that matter, even existed? That is what Crysis, I think, is trying to get across. Great review by the way. I think I may pick this up if I ever stumble upon it. This Message Edited On 12.24.07

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2007


16453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think the intro is fine, barring that comma in the last sentence.


Thanks Cocaine, I think The_Wizard basically said all that needs to be said about why I put the intro in there.

botb
December 24th 2007


9722 Comments


Yeah, I think the intro is well-done being this is the album AFTER it happened. If it had just been a mayhem album and you put it in there it would have been pointless, but you used it with the right one.

Zoo
December 25th 2007


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've tried to listen to Mayhem on numerous occasions to no avail.

Willie
Moderator
December 27th 2007


16073 Comments


Given the extremely good quality of this EP, I was surprised to see that Mayhem’s following albums Grand Declaration Of War, Chimera, and Ordo Ab Chao were of such low quality and filled with songs which were so utterly disappointing.
I like this EP, but I thought that Grand Declaration of War actually built on it, and made it better (if only they could have left all the random moments of silence off of the album)... and Chimera was a step back to their roots, but still good. Ordo Ab Chao is bad, I'll agree there...
And of course the review is good, as usual.

Meatplow
November 30th 2009


5524 Comments


Yeah, I didn't mind this at all.

krig9412
July 22nd 2010


794 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wait, noob question. Was the Oslo incident where Eronymous was found with his brains blown out or was it when Varg and Blackthrone murdered him?

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2010


16453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Euronymous was murdered by Vikernes, Dead was the one who killed himself.

Ire
July 22nd 2010


41805 Comments


rules

MetalMartin
March 26th 2011


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think it's an interesting album. I always enjoy the drumming of Hellhammer on whatever album Mayhem put out. He's a hell of a drummer almost inhuman sometimes. The riffs on this EP are quite good and various. It's not like the riffs always repeat from start to finish on each song.

Even though there are clean vocals, the voice of Maniac on Symbols of Bloodswords is totally demoniac.

It's a typical norwegian black metal album with good production which is cool. Certainly worth several listens.

All in all with Mayhem I think it's either way: you like them or not. No compromise. Just like the band.



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