Mayhem were among the pioneers of Scandinavian black metal.
Formed in the mid 1980s by guitarist Oystien "Euronymous" Aarseth and bassist Jorn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud, they released the raw EPs Pure Fucking Armageddon (1986) and
Deathcrush (1987), debuting vocalist Sven-Erik "Maniac" Kristiansen.
New vocalist Per-Yngve "Dead" Ohlin committed suicide in 1991 (replaced by
Stubberud left the band, which began to indulge in pseudo-nazi postures.
Aarseth was murdered in 1993 by new bassist
Christian "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, who played on
the furious De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994).
Before the murder,
Grishnackh had already recorded his new project Burzum (1991).
The debut album
contains lengthy super-distorted nightmares such as
Feeble Screams From Forests Unknown,
A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit and
My Journey To The Stars.
Burzum/Aske (Back On Black, 2005) reissues the first album and the first EP.
While in prison, Grishnackh continued to record Burzum albums, that
progressively shifted towards a more electronic/ambient sound.
Daudi Baldrs (1997 - Back On Black, 2005) was the first album recorded in prison (although released only several years later) and arranged with keyboards only.
Burzum's suspenseful and otherwordly Det Som Engang (1993 - Back On Black, 2005)
unleashed the epics of En Ring Til aa Herske (seven minutes),
with its repetition of dull heavy riffs over a layer of catacomb-tinged murmurs,
and Snu Mikrokosmos Tegn (nine minutes), with its three minutes of death-scream and frantic grindcore beat followed by a cold five-minutes wind of
guitar distortion and macabre vocals before a stately melody finally surfaces.
The agonizing hymn of Key To The Gate, imbued with horror spirituality,
is screamed over a carpet of slowly-burning guitar tones and is emotionally
ripped apart by a soaring romantic solo.
Its counterpart is the relatively "lively" Lost Wisdom, thanks to an almost danceable beat and a more melodic bass line.
The glacially surreal instrumental soundscapes of
Han Som Reiste (a slow-paced sonata for keyboards) and
Nar Himmelen Klarner (mostly a drum-less guitar solo) are cryptic
footnotes to this obscure treatise.
Besides providing the demonic vocals, Grishnackh played all the instruments,
layered the instruments in a suffocating manner, and set the music to a demented rhythm that subverted the accepted rules of black metal.
This album de facto closed the purely metal stage of Burzum's career.
A compositional leap forward,
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994) contains only four massively droning glacial
pieces and features electronic arrangements.
After a brief keyboard-dominated overture, Det Som En Gang Var (14:21)
sets about its business of anthemic extended distortion over steady drumming,
accompanied by a nostalgic electronic melody. After seven minutes the guitar's
tone becomes louder, sharper and sideral. The vocals finally enter after nine
minutes: it's a terrible scream that dialogues with the stately keyboard
theme, while the guitar takes the back seat.
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (8:05) pushes the boundaries of Burzum's noise.
After a brief introduction of loud and dense instrumental chaos, the guitar
intones a majestic melody although smothered into a layer of relentless
distortion, while the screams get more and more desperate. Eventually the music
returns to the original furious chaos.
For the pummeling rhythm of Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen (7:52) the
guitar and the drums seem to compete in hysteria. The vocals do little to
restore order, but suddenly a new guitar line emerges that is basically
a modulated drone. This grows and establishes an actual melodic theme.
A feeble electronic line opens Tomhet (14:12), that for eleven minutes
has absolutely no drumming. It is basically a quiet electronic sonata that
could have been conceived for a new-age meditation session.
Burzum tried ever different avenues to pack its psychic force into sound,
and, ultimately, conveyed a sense not so much of desperation as of angry
Burzum's music can achieve a Wagner-ian intensity by simply repeating a slightly modulated distortion.
Burzum's technical masterpiece was
Filosofem (1996), containing five pieces in the seven-eight minute range
and one colossal suite.
Erblicket Die Toechter Des Firmaments/ Beholding The Daughters Of The Firmament
has the steady, sinister pace of a voodoo dance. This time the burning
distortion sets the stage for the counterpoint between the
monk's choir in the background and Grishnackh's moribund lament.
In Dunkelheit/ Burzum guitar and keyboards intone a macabre litany over
the massively distorted droning. The tense vocals that compete with them are
reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails.
The search for an atmospheric sound (or at least an atmospheric structure)
leads to the protracted unfinished suspense Gebrechlichkeit/ Decrepitude I.
And the instrumental
Gebrechlichkeit/ Decrepitude II is born at the intersection of
casual electronic noises and a crescendo of guitar distortion.
Frenzy, on the other hand, can be a meaning (and a means) in itself.
The galloping Jesu Dod/ Jesus' Tod does little to inject life into
a virtually infinite loop of epileptic fits.
Burzum's music is a frantically twitching carcass.
The 25-minute instrumental monolith
Rundtgaing Av Den Transcendentale Egenbetens Stotte/ Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitaet
returns to the drum-less riff-less drone-less format of Tomhet,
just a sparse electronic soundscape.
Indeed a philosophical ending to a brainy album.
This phase ended with
the mini-album Hlidskjalf (1999 - Back On Black, 2005), the ideal end
of the loop, again an all-keyboards work.
Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis, 2000) marked a new beginning,
shifting the center of mass towards spoken vocals and keyboards.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Vitelli) |
I Mayhem sono stai fra i pionieri del black metal scandinavo. Formatisi
nella met… degli anni 80 dal chitarrista Oystien "Euronymus" Aarseth e dal
bassista Jorn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud, realizzarono i rozzi ep PURE FUCKING
ARMAGEDDON (1986) e DEATHCRUSH (1987), con il vocalist debuttante Sven-Erik
"Maniac" Kristiansen. Il successivo cantante Per-Yngve "Dead" Ohlin si
suicido` nel 1991 e Stubberud lasci• la band, che comincio` ad indulgere in
pose pseudo-naziste. Aarseth venne assassinato nel 1993 dal nuovo bassista
Christian "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, che suon• su DE MYSTERIIS DOM
Prima dell'uccisione, Grishnackh aveva gi… cominciato il suo progetto BURZUM
(1991), che conteneva lunghi incubi come Feeble screams from forests
unknown, A Lost forgotten sad spirit, e my journey to the stars, e ha
continuato a registrare album mentre era in prigione, muovendosi verso un
sound pi— electronic/ambient: DET SOM ENGANG VAR (1993), album pieno di
suspence, che aggiunge le epiche di En Ring Till aa Herske e Suu Mikrokosmos
Tegn e i surreali passaggi sonori di Han Som Reiste e Naar Himmelen Klarne,
HVIS LYSET TAR OSS (1994), contiene solo quattro tracce, i.e. Det Som Engang
Var (14:21), Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (8:05), Inn I Slottet Fra Droemmen (7:52) e
Tomhet (14:12), FILOSOFEM (1996) contiene cinque canzoni pi— il monolite da
25 minuti Rundtgaing Av Den Trascendentale Egenhetens Stotte. Questa fase si
conclude con i mini albums DAULDI BALDRS (1997), arrangiato con il solo uso
di tastiere, e HLIDSKJAFF (1999). GRAND DECLARATION OF WAR (2000) segna una
nuova partenza, spostando il centro sul massiccio uso di vocals parlate e