Review by Ben for Mayhem (NOR) - De mysteriis dom Sathanas (1994)
A classic album that epitomizes everything that is black metal. Damn essential!
Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album was and is much more than just another black metal album. This release (and the band behind it) has a history attached to it that makes for fascinating reading (including murder, suicide and church burnings) and probably more than any other album, epitomizes what black metal was truly meant to be. Now I'm not one of those guys that says black metal should remain "true" and should never venture out into more experimental realms. Personally, I think that all genres become stale unless they broaden their influences and become a little adventurous at some point. Nor am I someone that encourages anti-authoritarian or anti-religious actions (despite my skeptical nature). But right from the outset, this wonderful little genre we call black metal was designed to be evil, inaccessible and morbidly atmospheric. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is all of those things and has an incredible aura attached to it that's difficult to describe.
First and foremost, I think Euronymous was simply a genius when it comes to writing malevolent, cold, black metal riffs. Every track on this album has multiple cracking riffs and I wish so very much that he had been able to continue his musical vision and not been cowardly slain by Varg. Hellhammer's drumming is incredible to say the least and while every performance he has ever produced is worth listening to, I think this one is the one he will be remembered for. It's strange to read that Varg's bass lines were lowered in the mix after he murdered Euronymous as I can't say it had all that much effect. They are usually quite audible throughout the album and are certainly of a high quality. Which brings me to without doubt the most controversial aspect of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Attila Csihar! I'll be the first to admit that Attila's vocals are incredibly strange and at times just downright ugly. When I first heard the album way back in the mid 90s, I was put off so much by his performance that I couldn't listen to the album at all. But slowly over time I came to accept them and then somehow, to love them. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that the man has since performed for many other bands and it's just a matter of getting used them. Or perhaps they're just so spasmodically strange, that it takes quite a few listens to come to grips with. Either way, these days I can't imagine this classic album with any other vocalist and I truly think his creepy, chaotic style suits the backdrop perfectly.
There are no bad tracks to be found and it's difficult to pick out highlights, but I think my personal favourites would be Funeral Fog, Freezing Moon, Pagan Fears, Life Eternal, Buried by Time and Dust and the title track. As silly as it would be to call De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas underrated (it's considered a classic by thousands all over the world), I do think it is occasionally harshly judged due to the vocals. I highly encourage any black metal fans out there that haven't yet experienced this wonderful piece of history, to make sure they don't dismiss it too easily. It's slight inaccessibility (from a vocal point of view) only adds to the package and in my opinion, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is one of the very best albums extreme metal has to offer and a near perfect example of a style that makes my life so much more enjoyable!