Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare (Season of Mist)

The Devil made me do it...
Release Date: 
5 Jun 2014 - 11:30pm

I awake, covered in the blood of a thousand sacrificed kittens and surrounded by the shards of a thousand broken crucifixes; what just happened? The new Mayhem album, that's what...

When you consider that Mayhem have been around, in one form or another, for nigh on 30 years, it's nice to hear that these godfathers of black metal are still putting out shit to desecrate churches to. Another line-up change sees Teloch now on guitars and I must say I'm rather enamoured with his style, which he mixes up all over this album. One minute he's dragging screaming notes from his weapon of choice, another moment he's hanging back allowing the silence between the chords to say it all. He almost (dare I say it?!) gets a touch jazzy. Black metal jazz, how awesome is that?

Atilla busts out his screeching/throat singing to fine effect and opener Watcher holds nothing back - there's even a bit of spoken word at the end of it. Hellhammer's drums are blistering throughout (yet brilliantly restrained on Posthuman), and he beats the living shit out of them on Psywar. Atilla tears his own throat out on the altar of the metal noir - such is the raspy depth on this one - but then it all slows down and gets trippy as fuck - just as it does when His Satanic Majesty is conjured to visble form. These guys know their stuff. Time distorts and I'm almost overwhelmed. Drop in some of that throat singing/incantation style delivery and surely that's Satan appearing in the corner? There's riff and counter-riff galore and it's all marvellous. "Now I am become death" says the sample. Spooky shit, for real.

What I particularly love about this album is that each track has something that makes you go "Yes. Yes! YES!!!" - the sirens on Trinity, the pauses on Pandaemon or the hypnotic slow chug on MILAB. It's mesmerising and makes one ponder what evil Mayhem are slipping into your mind? Where certain tracks slow down or pause delicately, you anticipate the coming madness and you forget to breathe - such is the depth of anticipation. Necrobutcher's bass is there, occasionally getting a look in, but it's generally just keeping time. Some more evil bass would have been welcome. So where's the jazz? Posthuman whiffs of it, if you ask me...I can't help but picture the Mayhem fellows in full corpse-paint, turtleneck jumpers and berets, daddio...

I listened to this album in the bath and while going to sleep - how satanic is that? As a result, my dreams were particularly mental. The back end of the album is just as good as the front (closer Aion Suntalia is magnificent) and for me, Esoteric Warfare works on all levels, re-establishing Mayhem as kings of the black metal genre. Ave Satanas...