Mayhem
Grand Declaration of War


4.0
excellent

Review

by KriegdemKriege USER (17 Reviews)
October 20th, 2013 | 19 replies | 1,099 views


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Black metal purists can go to hell; this is Mayhem's best.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

Mayhem, as whole, is a vastly overrated black metal band. They have always contributed more to their genre through notoriety than through the actual substance of their music. Perhaps as a result of this notoriety, they were also incredibly disorganized and slow at getting their material released. By 1994, the year of the release of their oft-praised opus De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the band had gone through four singers, two drummers, and a bassist. In addition to this, their two primary songwriters were dead. From the period of 1987 to 1994, Mayhem had managed to release only a single and a live album, featuring mostly the music that would later appear on De Mysteriis. By comparison, we can look at the timeline of their Norwegian black metal contemporaries Darkthrone. In the period from 1990 to 1994 Darkthrone had written, recorded, and released four albums, recorded demos for a fifth, undergone a radical change in genre, and shown no sign of slowing down.

One wonders if there would have been a follow-up to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas at all if Euronymous had not been murdered, and if there was, how long it would have taken the band to get it released. Even with the reformed Mayhem that replaced Euronymous with Blasphemer and brought back previous members Maniac and Necrobutcher, it took the band another six years to release another full-length studio album. It turned out to be well worth the wait, for the band’s 2000 release, Grand Declaration of War, stands as Mayhem’s triumph, their best work and an essential listen for any black metal fan with an open mind.

The title of the album essentially says it all. This is Mayhem’s formally announced war on Christianity, led by the lunatic general with the appropriate name of Maniac. On Grand Declaration of War, Maniac expertly leads his troops through a 45-minute battle of furious tremolo picking and triggered drums, addressing his warriors in myriad tones. Maniac really shines as vocalist on this album, showcasing his diversity with a variety of strong vocalizations. The styles featured on this album include a reptilian rasp, sections of eerie whispering, the vocalist’s classic “vomiting into the microphone” style that had been featured on 1997’s Wolf’s Lair Abyss, and an interesting clean shouting style present on a majority of the album’s tracks. Surprisingly, the most effective method of vocalization on this album is the last style mentioned. With the clean vocals, Maniac is able to create a powerful mood for the album, a mood that would not have materialized with harsh vocals alone. On the album’s second track, “In the Lies Where upon You Lay”, Maniac declares to his victim triumphantly “all your life is DEAD, priest!” The clarity of the vocals in these sections contributes greatly to the atmosphere of the album, and when combined with the retching vocals, makes for a truly engaging listen.

While the vocals are the key element to this album, there is some brilliant musicianship present as well. Blasphemer manages to create a dark, militant atmosphere perfect for the album with his tremolo-picked tritone melodies and minor triads played in his precise style. Hellhammer is as strong as ever, contributing to the chaos with his impeccable triggered blast beats. Interesting to note on this release is that although the production for this release is crystal clear, Necrobutcher’s bass is almost completely inaudible, just as it had been on previous releases. Guitars are clearly the musical focus of this album, with bass given little to no attention.

One of the album’s standout pieces, “A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun”, shows Mayhem at their most experimental. The arrangement begins with a spoken word introduction featuring dark lyrics, leading into a slow groove for the rest of the piece, a groove dominated by synthesizers, processed vocals, and electronic drums. The song serves to give the listener an interesting break from the black metal chaos that starts the record.

Atmosphere really is a central aspect of this release. The band (minus Necrobutcher, as he can’t be heard) works well together to present their message clearly, to give a sense of the hatred the band feels towards all things religious. Mayhem presents their declaration of war to a wide audience in the metal world, given the album’s crisp production. It is also clear that every track on this album was given a large amount of attention and painstakingly perfected down to the last detail. Every aspect of the album serves a purpose, including the five minutes of silence present toward the end of the album. The silence gives the listener time to reflect on what they have listened to, and sets the mood for the two minute outro that completes the album.

All in all, this is a fantastic album, and the only truly essential Mayhem release. It’s a shame that they were never really able to follow this up, with 2004’s Chimera being decidedly mediocre and the inexcusably awful Ordo ad Chao in 2008 serving to destroy what little credibility the band had left by that time. I urge anyone who is interested in Mayhem to start with this release, and then give De Mysteriis Dom Satahans a listen. De Mysteriis is a certainly an important album historically, but Grand Declaration of War is unquestionably the group’s creative peak.

Album highlights: “In the Lies Where upon You Lay”, “A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun”, “View from Nihil”



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user ratings (255)
Chart.
3.1
good
other reviews of this album
lostforwords (4.5)
...

adhoc (2)
A poor black metal effort that should have never been released at all....

psycho888999 (2.5)
Mayhem's experiment goes awry....

pilumneer (2)
Bleh, this is annoying and weird, don't bother....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 20th 2013



5921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Criminally underrated album in sputnik.

Summary says it all.

Digging: Essence Beyond - Carnivalism

MosesMalone
October 20th 2013



1831 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Dude are you retarded? Ordo ad Chao is awesome.

BigPleb
October 20th 2013



34328 Comments


Here we go again with this band...

Digging: Opeth - Pale Communion

KriegdemKriege
October 20th 2013



974 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ordo ad Chao was so forced. I am not a fan.

Even if we ignore the intentionally terrible production (from a band that can afford professional production), Illuminate Eliminate is the only decent song on the album.

Just my opinion!

trainofconsequence
October 20th 2013



1422 Comments


Good album yeah

MosesMalone
October 20th 2013



1831 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I dunno, it was weird and freaky and seemed to perfectly compliment the strangeness of Atilla's voice. Beyond that, I'm just a
sucker for black metal albums that don't feel the need to be insanely homogenous (barring this album, hah).

sideburndude
October 20th 2013



2782 Comments


nah

Spec
October 20th 2013



27062 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This one isn't terrible. I don't see it as anything special though.

TheSpirit
October 20th 2013



17209 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

agree so hard with that first sentence

Digging: vhmnt / blsphm - vhmnt / blsphm

demigod!
October 20th 2013



43891 Comments


By 1994, the year of the release of their oft-praised opus De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, they had gone through four singers, two drummers, a bassist, and the band’s two primary songwriters were dead.


m/

Digging: Black Flag - My War

DrHouseSchuldiner
October 21st 2013



5643 Comments


damn need to check this one!

trainofconsequence
October 21st 2013



1422 Comments


Shame this doesnt have Attila's drunken priest mumbling

YUJOS
October 21st 2013



915 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good rev man. And Ordo ad Chao is awesome [2]

Digging: Misery Index - The Killing Gods

Wizard
October 22nd 2013



19248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Criminally underrated album in sputnik.

This and Chimera.

Digging: Nachtmystium - The World We Left Behind

trainofconsequence
October 22nd 2013



1422 Comments


Chimera sucked

KriegdemKriege
October 22nd 2013



974 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Chimera wasn't as awful as Ordo ad Chao, but it wasn't very good. It was a huge letdown after Grand Declaration of War.

Maniac's vocals were uninspired on Chimera. He got it right on this album.

Wizard
October 22nd 2013



19248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You guys are wrong about Chimera : p Whatever, I'm always the odd one out around here.

KriegdemKriege
October 22nd 2013



974 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dark Night of the Soul is a pretty rad song, if that makes you feel any better.

Wizard
October 23rd 2013



19248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hahahahaha I can stop crying now! Props again for loving mid era Mayhem!



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