Mayhem - Daemon
Century Media
Black Metal
10 songs (49:24)
Release year: 2019
Mayhem, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Given Mayhem's reputation in black metal circles as originator of the true, Norwegian sound on such classic releases as Deathcrush and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and technical innovators on the likes of Grand Declaration of War and Ordo ad Chao, each new release from the legends is something of a pleasant surprise even if it doesn't always work. Grand Declaration of War, for example, is a likeable and interesting listen despite being a failed experiment, while Ordo ad Chao remains a remarkably dark and intense experience with huge personal relevance for at least this reviewer given his mental state when it was released. They've not released a boring album to date, with even the likes of Chimera and Esoteric Warfare having much to recommend them, although they're hardly what you'd call as consistent or refined as countrymen Enslaved, for example. With a line-up as individually talented as it is the Mayhemic output is always at least listenable and Daemon follows suit although it is surprisingly unexperimental given the band's recent discography. In many ways it's a return to the De Mysteriis / Wolf's Lair Abyss style, black metal channelled into aural assault with less of the technical nature of the band's later style in favour of the cold, dark, void. And, oddly, that makes it a little hard to engage with on initial listens, to the point where it felt like perhaps the one true Mayhem have made a boring album. A competent, intense, dark album, sure, but one much less interesting than past efforts?

Grant the Norwegians their due, however, and time spent with Daemon reveals riches. The band, comprising usual trio of Necrobutcher on bass, Hellhammer on drums, and Attila Csihar on vocals together with guitarist duo Teloch (also of the fabulous Nidingr) and token Brit Charles 'Ghul' Hedger (ex-Cradle of Filth, live for Shining) have settled into their post-Blasphemer existence in a more confident way that makes for more subtle tinkering such as the looser, bassier structure of Agenda Ignis. Yet don't expect any of the experimentation of the last few albums from the band as this is almost obtusely straightforward in places, driven by galloping drums and spinechilling riffs with Attila's usual marvellous shrieks and howls atop - even indulging in metal moments like the bass interlude on the Bad Blood (sadly not a Taylor Swift cover). The likes of Malum could have come from twenty-five years ago, a gripping crawl back through De Mysteriis territory that shifts tempos effectively and makes full usage of Attila's talents whether (relatively) clean or harsh. The man is a legend, and proves it anew here with a tremendous performance. He truly comes into his own on one highlight of many Falsified and Hated where his spews are as inhuman as ever, grunts and gasps hugely creepy atop the blackened torrent, enhanced by some ironically Burzumic keyboard plinks.

It's an effective reminder of the band's power unmasked by overly-modern distractions such as Esoteric Warfare's experiments; black metal is, after all, a genre that thrives on tradition and is often at its most powerful when most traditional. So the moments that truly engage here are the vicious savagery of Aeon Daemonium, blasting and violent with riffs galore and plenty of diverse vocal emissions, or the speedy intensity of Worthless Abominations Destroyed, and much of the album is made up of these so despite being 'safe' for Mayhem the results are compelling and often downright thrilling for your average black metalhead. We'd all like to hear bands continuing to make albums along the lines of classics and although the restraint in not doing so often keeps said classics in their hallowed halls, indulging yourself once in a while is never a bad thing, and this feels like an acceptable indulgence from Mayhem. Fan service, even? In any case, you can tell the band are enjoying themselves and it's hard not to find Daemon a thrilling experience if you are a fan of De Mysteriis or, indeed, of old-school black metal as a whole. It's a solid addition to the Mayhem pantheon and an album that will last a long time on any extremist's playlist, and even the bonus tracks on the ubiquitous special edition are fun and frantic bursts of bleak blackness. The original, as ever, remains the best.

Killing Songs :
Malum, Falsified and Hated, Worthless Abominations Destroyed, Of Worms and Ruins
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Mayhem that we have reviewed:
Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Mayhem - Wolf's Lair Abyss reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao reviewed by Goat and quoted 96 / 100
Mayhem - Deathcrush reviewed by Cody and quoted CLASSIC
Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas reviewed by Aaron and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 9 reviews click here
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