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Stream Mayhem’s ‘Esoteric Warfare’ In Full Exclusively With Terrorizer
Mayhem are all set to release their intense new album ‘Esoteric Warfare’ next week, but if you just can’t wait that long then we’ve got you covered; Terrorizer is proud to present an exclusive premiere of the album in full (alongside Tom Dare’s review from Terrorizer #249, which is in stores now)…
SEASON OF MIST
Mayhem’s last album, 2007’s ‘Ordo Ad Chao’, was so mind-ruining, you struggle to imagine how they could possibly do something more extreme to follow it. So it’s to their benefit that they haven’t tried. ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is not ‘Ordo Ad Chao Mk. II’ in any way. But, lest you imagine they’ve somehow gone soft or sane, rest assured that the fifth Mayhem record is still positively terrifying and fucked up – it’s just that this time, there’s a vague chance you might wrap your brain around it before album six.
Extreme metal’s shift into the horrifyingly esoteric – be it in the shape of Deathspell Omega’s monument to the insane of ‘Paracletus’, or Portal opening gateways to the beyond with ‘Vexovoid’ – is not advanced by ‘Esoteric Warfare’. Mayhem have, at this point, nothing left to prove. What they have done instead is focus and hone that chaotic, malevolent sound into something resembling memorable songs. Teloch – the Nidingr guitarist who came in after Blasphemer moved on, and wrote most of this record – deserves a huge amount of credit for managing to craft a record that simultaneously screws with your perceptions but that sticks in your mind afterwards.
Opening with a uniquely Mayhem-sounding twisted riff, ‘Watchers’ quickly sparks off the conflagration thanks to everything that has made this band survive Euronymous’ death; claustrophobic, twisted riffage, Attila Csihar’s maniacal shrieks and the inferno-like drumming of Hellhammer (who, blessedly, has toned down the over-triggering of his kit). The latter – appropriately – reaches its peak with ‘Trinity’, which opens with the famous recording of Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad-Gita.
The first four tracks are a fairly relentlessly abrasive procession of horror. But then, with the sinister ‘MYLAB’, the pace temporarily drops to allow moments of oppressive silence, and for the true menace of Attila’s voice to come across more. And it is moments like this that stay with you the most. Mayhem’s greatest strength, what set them apart from their second-wave contemporaries, was their ability to be scary as hell but in a fashion that incorporated actual songs based around memorable riffs (‘Freezing Moon’, anyone?). This is out in triumphant force here, and it is why ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is a far more accomplished affair than anything Mayhem have done since that album in 1994.
‘Esoteric Warfare’ will flay flesh from bone with the best of them. But there is more to it than that. It may not be subtle (who wants subtle from Mayhem anyway?) but there is a tangibility to the chaos that allows your brain to go with it rather than run into a corner and hide, rocking itself until the terror passes.
There is a slight parallel here between Celtic Frost’s final act and the beginning of Triptykon, and Mayhem here. If ‘Ordo Ad Chao’ was ‘Monotheist’ – brilliant, honest, gut-wrenchingly bleak and a clear indication that the old guard can compete with the young guns in the fucked-up stakes – then ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is ‘Eparistera Daimones’. It’s complex, twisted, dark, evil and never an easy listen, but there is a sense that you can (just about) cope with the extremity – and you’ll come back for more with less trepidation. Palpable, but survivable, terror.
 TOM DARE
You can find Mayhem on Facebook.
Terrorizer #249 is available online here.