Review Summary: Mayhems best release since De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and a fantastic display of creepy progressive black metal
Mayhem. The name is synonymous with the second wave of black metal in Norway, their history is often the topic of conversation when black metal comes up, from the suicide of Dead to the murder of Euronymous. Now, thirty years since its humble and dark beginnings in Oslo, the band are releasing their fifth album, entitled 'Esoteric Warfare'
Fans of the bands last release 'Ordo Ad Chao'
will enjoy this album, as it continues with the direction that was undertaken in that album, that of a more progressive black metal direction. Whilst not as prevalent as on that last album, it is still a large part of the song writing on this album, and part of what makes this album as spectacular as it is, the writing creates a unique atmosphere, one that is eerie, chilling and yet draws you in and is immensely addictive. The guitars, bass, drums and vocals all combine to create an immense sound wall that hits the listener all at once and continues till the albums end.
The guitar part on this is fantastically crafted, new guitarist Teloch does a great job of filling in the massive shoes of Blasphemer. His lines are all at once atmospheric and aggressive, doing a great job of balancing the progressive side with the black metal, moving from dissonant chordal progressions to fast tremolo picked lines, whilst never sacrificing the atmosphere or sounding like a forced change, everything evolves perfectly, the songs develop and flow brilliantly, as seen on 'Psywar'
. The shame here is the lack of solos, it would be great to hear Teloch let loose some solos, but the songs don't suffer without this. The drums, handled by the immensely talented Hellhammer are fantastic, going between the typical black metal double bass battery to complex technical drum patterns, the man seems like a machine, never tiring, never missing a beat, very impressive display of drumming on this album. The bass doesn't have much high time on the album, but it has moments where it shines, but tends to be amongst the mix.
The highlight of the album though is Attila's vocals, he's known for making a variety of different sounds and vocal displays on Mayhem albums, but on this album, he takes it to a new level, utilising more typical black metal screams alongside eerie growls, whispers, high shrieks, gurgles and clean chanting, listen to 'Corpse of Care'
for a good display of this. His voice compliments the music, just as the music compliments his voice, combining to make this album head and shoulders above what it would be with any other vocalist, the voice creates eerie atmospheres and makes the album the atmospheric masterpiece it is. The lyrics in this album mainly focus around mind control and its use in warfare, a good topic that differs from the stereotypical black metal themes.
This album is a fantastic display of progressive black metal, in my opinion, the second best Mayhem album after De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, any one whose a fan of Mayhems last album, or black metal in general should definitely add this to their listening list.