Review Summary: THE TRUE Mayhem.
Have you ever wondered what Mayhem would have been like if Per "Dead" Ohlin or even Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous) was still around? It is a question that will never be answered, but the more important question to ask is, what does the band have to show for the few years that they were together in their classic line-up?
When the ideal line-up was somewhat intact, they had only released two significant albums, which were the Deathcrush EP (released in 1987) and their first studio album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (released in 1993). Each release had a major impact on the black metal world and influenced it greatly. Deathcrush was important because it was where Mayhem truly established themselves as being one of the pioneers of the second wave of black metal and being one of the first, if not the first, Norwegian black metal band to come into existence. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was a breakthrough because it was technically their first studio album and it was influential to the whole genre. There is only one problem with these two albums: someone was missing. That was Per "Dead" Ohlin. Without "Dead," the line-up was incomplete. But during the years when "Dead" was in the band, what do they have to give to the public other than insane stage acts and "Dead" himself being a little insane? Particularly in terms of recordings, they only produced a couple of demos and live sessions during those six years between the genre-defining albums. That is where people forget about one release: the Out from the Dark compilation that was recorded in 1991 but released in 1996. Despite being a compilation, Out from the Dark is, arguably, the best album that Mayhem has recorded and released in their whole career.
It had the complete classic Mayhem line-up: "Dead" on vocals (no offense to Maniac or Attila Csihar), Euronymous on guitar, Necrobutcher on bass, and Hellhammer on drums. Also, it is allegedly the last rehearsal recorded before "Dead" committed suicide not long after, which makes it more significant in that it leaves people with music to remember him for rather than just his bizarre personality. For a rehearsal, the production quality is actually quite good (meaning bad, of course - even for black metal). It is clear enough, at least, to where all the instruments can be relatively picked out and heard, particularly "Dead's" superb vocal performances. In the well-known "Freezing Moon," Hellhammer really shines by a playing a more defined and heavier variation of the De Mysteriis... version of the song. Also, Euronymous plays an excellent guitar solo, which is a rarity in black metal. "Pure ***ing Armageddon" starts with a menacing black metal groove riff and then descends into pure chaos. It shows the more aggressive side that Mayhem is known for. If you were to imagine the type of Armageddon that is portrayed in this song, it would be devastating. Other songs present a wide array of gut-wrenching riffs; pounding basslines, courtesy of Necrobutcher (especially on "Chainsaw Guts***"); and "Dead's" signature death shrieks. All of these elements converge to a point of musical mastery that truly sets them apart from the hundreds of other black metal bands at the time.
There are only a couple of negatives to this compilation. The production quality is both a double-edged sword. It can be criticized because of all the instruments being relatively heard, meaning that there are occasional times during the compilation when the drums are drowned out or when "Dead's" vocals are drowned out as well. However, it is what makes it black metal. The only other criticism is that the definitive song “Carnage” from the Pure ***ing Armageddon EP should have been included to make this compilation complete. Other than those issues, this compilation is close to perfect.
This compilation is what (The True) Mayhem was supposed to look like for many years to come until tragedy struck the band. The main highlight of this release is "Dead" on vocals, but this is still a tribute to the whole band at its peak. Any big fan of Mayhem (or at least of the old Mayhem) should hear and buy this compilation if possible. It is by far the best and most underrated recording that has been released by the band.