Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month - Mayhem
Black metal is a genre of music shrouded in controversy and perhaps nowhere is controversy more prominent in the field, than in Mayhem. The group was formed in 1984 by guitarist/vocalist Øystein Aarseth (aka Euronymous,) along with bassist Jørn Stubberud (aka Necrobutcher) and drummer Kjetil Manheim (aka Manheim). They initially were influenced by the more extreme metal music at the time, particularly proto-black metal bands such as Venom and Celtic Frost and released their debut demo tape, "Pure Fucking Armageddon" in 1986 before Euronymous decided to concentrate on solely on playing guitar, first replacing himself in the vocal department by a singer named Eirik Nordheim (Messiah), then Sven Erik Kristiansen (aka Maniac,) with whom the group recorded and released their first EP, "Deathcrush," which was distributed by Euronymous himself through his own Posercorpse Music label. Maniac left the band soon afterwards however, along with drummer Manheim. Taking their places would be Swedish vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin (aka Dead) and local drummer Jan Axel Blomberg (aka Hellhammer,) setting in place the beginning of the most infamous chapter in the history of Mayhem.
Dead helped attract a lot of attention to the band, delivering notorious and in some cases, baffling performances on stage which included self mutilation and burying his clothes days before a show, so that he really would look like a corpse. The members moved into a house in the middle of a forest to begin work on their album, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" but were soon to deal with a major blow when Dead lived up to his name and committed suicide. He was found inside the house by Euronymous with slit wrists and a shotgun wound to the head, along with a note which merely apologized for firing the weapon indoors along with the now infamous caption, "Excuse all the blood." What followed was just as macabre, as Euronymous decided that instead of calling the police, he would venture into town to purchase a disposable camera, with which he took photographs of the corpse along with rumours that he made necklaces out of pieces of Deads skull and even that he made a stew with parts of the brain, though this has never been confirmed. The death of Dead would prove to be hard for Necrobutcher to handle and he decided to leave the band soon afterwards, leaving Mayhem to find both a new vocalist and a new bass player, which they did in Tormentor frontman Attila Csihar and Burzum mastermind, Varg Vikernes. This lineup would prove to be the one that would record, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" but the members were far from friendly and the controversy wasn’t yet finished with, nor was the deaths.
On the night of August 10th 1993, Vikernes and Thorns guitarist Snorre Ruch travelled to Oslo to meet with Euronymous. Vikernes claims that he went there merely to hand him a contract and "tell him to fuck off" but the confrontation soon turned violent and by the end, Euronymous was dead, having been found with twenty three cut wounds, sixteen of which were in the back. Whether or not Euronymous attacked first and most of his wounds were a result of broken glass as Vikernes claims remains unproven, but Varg was arrested a few days later where he was sentenced to Norways maximum term of twenty one years for murder and three counts of arson, though he still claims he is innocent of the latter charge. With their guitarist dead and their bassist incarcerated, Mayhem effectively ceased to exist, though "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was released in 1994, complete with Vikernes’ bass tracks, despite Hellhammers promise to the parents of Euronymous that he would re-record the bass parts himself.
Hellhammer did bring Mayhem back in 1995 however, recruiting former members Maniac and Necrobutcher along with guitarist Blasphemer and the group released an EP in 1997 entitled, "Wolf’s Lair Abyss" before a second full length album, "Grand Declaration Of War" was released in 2000. The latter record was despised by some fans and members of the press, who in some cases went as far as to call it pretentious for its lack of black metal style and avant garde and electronic influence, while others praised it for being a bold new step. A third album was released four years later in the guise of, "Chimera" which saw Mayhem return to their black metal roots but they would soon fire Maniac from the band due to his alcoholism, which culminated, according to Necrobutcher, with Blasphemer kicking the singer down a flight of stairs. He was replaced by "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" vocalist Attila Csihar.
A fourth album was eventually released under the title, "Ordo ad Chao" in 2007 and actually saw the band reach as high as number twelve on the Norwgian album charts upon release, as well as a Spellemannprisen award for Best Metal Album of 2007. The following year, Blasphemer announced that he was leaving the band, despriving Mayhem of their principal songwriter in the process. He was replaced by Norwegian musician Morfeus the same year, with a second guitarist being added in 2011 in the form of French born Silmaeth, who himself was replaced by Norwegian guitarist Teloch. Since the departure of Blasphemer, the band have focused mainly on touring activities, with no sign of a new album in sight. Whether they do or do not record another album is one thing, but regardless, they remain one of the most infamous bands in the history of their field, possibly in all of metal.
Mayhem - "Welcome To Hell"
Mayhem - "DeathCrush"
Mayhem - "Pure Fucking Armageddon"
Mayhem - "Freezing Moon"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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