Review Summary: pure rawness, no scab.
I got bored with the Mayhem story. The sordid Wikipedia-binge-inducing antics that is; there’s still something exciting about the broader idea of scattered circles and cliques, members feeding off each other in pursuit of some atypical, shared-yet-personal artistic vision. However, instead of dwelling on what Mayhem members did or what the band became, I want to talk about this demo, noise and the unrefined, ghoulish vein that this release was able to tap into.
I love the hiss of the tape. I know it's easy to fetishise these things in the Internet Era as symbolic of a particular context. That is to say, to feign nostalgia for a wild scene we could never be a part of, or maybe to indulge one’s own superior-'kvlt' fantasy. In this though, the underlying strands of unobtrusive, grainy sound play a functional role in stitching the ragged mess together. There's a thrilling dynamic as the jagged, discordant and abrasive musical elements lurch out of the noise. Occasionally they hint at becoming something almost catchy and familiar. At other times the noisiness allows the music to veer into indecipherable, abstract and alienating territory, playing with the listener's perceptions.
The official tracklist also has the - already rough - Voice Of A Tortured Skull
bootleg tracks proceeding (disintegrating, perhaps) into unmixed rehearsal recordings (Sides “Fuck” and “Off”, ha). The demo tracks are short enough that the repetition is not all that obnoxious and in this case it's genuinely well done - whether by design or not. It feels like there is a kind of a narrative (and not in a forced prog-like manner) of deconstruction and regression to a primal state. The music stutters briefly on “Mayhem”, with mutters, sporadic clashing and snarling - reinforcing the animalism and hinting at the performers becoming caught up in their personal “Pure Fuckin’ Armageddon”
. There is a skinning of Mayhem’s sound, peeling the obscuring (is superficial too provocative") qualities down to a quintessential ugliness. While 'raw' as a description is much devalued by seemingly every other insipid 'atmospheric' band - this particular rawness is confronting and genuinely affecting.