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MAYHEM Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando EP

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, July 9, 2021 @ 11:53 AM


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MAYHEM
Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando

Century Media Records




Norwegian black metal horde MAYHEM were just building up a full head of touring steam after a trek through Europe on behalf of the stellar sixth album Daemon when the pandemic stopped everything in its tracks. That meant no Decibel Magazine Tour co-headline run through the states with ABBATH in the spring of 2020, then no summer festival shows and yada, yada yada, here we are nearly a year and a half later and folks are just getting now getting back out there.

So with no place to go and nowhere to play, MAYHEM faced the same choices as so many bands whose livelihoods got put on hold by COVID: kick back and try to wait out what became wave after wave of lockdowns, experiment with streaming shows that could conveniently be turned into live albums, start writing new music even though Daemon still had plenty of legs left or rifle through the basement for rare or unreleased tracks that could be repackaged as a holdover release until the band could get back on the road to give Daemon its proper due.

But for the quintet, the answer was rather obvious. MAYHEM had a couple bonus tracks already in the can from the CD versions of Daemon - “Everlasting Dying Flame” and “Black Glass Communion”. And because Hellhammer finished recording his drum tracks for Daemon sooner than expecting, leaving extra studio time, the band bashed out a bunch of old school punk rock covers that were then conveniently lying around – three other thrash/death/black metal covers were included as part of a Daemon vinyl bonus disc. Tack on the previously unreleased original tune “Voces Ab Alta” and viola!, you’ve got a ready-made EP that shows two distinctly different sides of MAYHEM, with one that may surprise or even shock longtime fans.

We’ll get to the punk rock songs in due course, but since Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando kicks off by showcasing MAYHEM in its unorthodox black metal element, first things first. “Voces Ab Alta” is a fierce, malevolent rager that takes momentarily odd turns as frontman Attila Csihar contrasts his sinister rasp with operatic warble and anguished wails. But that has been typical of MAYHEM since the enigmatic Csihar returned to the band’s ranks in 2004, a decade after singing on the notorious debut De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

The digital promo for Daemon, and which I reviewed in these very pages, as it were, in October 2019, included the aforementioned CD bonus tracks “Everlasting Dying Flame” and “Black Glass Communion”. So I’ll repeat now what I wrote then about them: “"Everlasting Dying Flame" sounds like a holdover from the De Mysteriis days, especially with Csihar’s chilling vocals … while “Black Glass Communion” echoes some of Esoteric Warfare's eccentricities, but in a more pleasing manner.” As odds and ends go, the original material here is really top notch.

The punk rock covers, as might be expected, are something of a mixed bag. The band’s takes on DISCHARGE’s “In Defense Of Our Nations” and RAMONES’ “Commando” are utterly ferocious, with one-time/short-time frontman Eirik “Messiah” Nordheim delivering the “Commando” vocals with burly gusto. Longer-term ex-vocalist Maniac, who swapped spots coming and going with Csihar, chimes in on DEAD KENNEDYS’ “Hellnation” and gives a pretty respectable facsimile of Jello Biafra’s yowling and yammering over Hellhammer’s clattering drums.

Although it’s the shortest track, the rendition of RUDIMENTARY PENI’s “Only Death” offers more melody and melancholia but less crunch and vigor, capturing the morbid sentiments of the lyrics, such as they are: “There is only death. no god, no love, no joy, only death, and the fear of it.” Oddly, Csihar’s phlegmy caterwaul here is actually less abrasive than Nick Blinko’s nails-across-a-chalkboard vocals on the original.

Once the scowling, corpse-painted face of “true Norwegian black metal” purity, thanks to the dictates of band leader/mouthpiece Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth way back in the day, MAYHEM has shown no fear of experimentation since regrouping in 1994 following his well-documented murder. From the progressive/electronic aspirations of Grand Declaration Of War to the low-fi murk of Ordo Ad Chao and the convulsive weirdness of Esoteric Warfare, the band has taken its black metal all over the sonic map.

Yet with the Kommando portion of the EP anyway, it ventures into largely uncharted waters. But it’s cool to hear the still generally stoic and crotchety MAYHEM kicking back and cutting loose here. Indeed, dare I say, it almost sounds likes like the band might be having a bit of fun.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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