Much like the controversial finale of The Sopranos, the latest MAYHEM opus has left many Metalheads scratching their heads in bemusement. It has no discernible structure, flow or indeed any stand-out riffs. Instead what it offers is a harrowing and truly unsettling glimpse into pitch-black darkness, with its sound being one of murky riffs and feedback, unpredictable drum blasts, and Attila delivering his most ferocious, psychotic and varied vocal performance to date. Seriously, this is an insane album and one I definitely didn’t think these guys had in them especially considering their career have taken a gradual downward trajectory since the release of the cult “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”.
Yeah, this is one fucked up album and surely one that will divide the Black Metal “community” like none before. I, for one, love the reaction that “Ordo Ad Chao” has elicited in said “community”. See, it has become some sort of unwritten rule that “De Mysteriis…” is the definitive MAYHEM album and in order to be trve one must wax lyrically over said album and decry anything else as rubbish. This album provides quite the conundrum for all these Black Metal dwellers then, as it is better than “De Mysteriis…” in every regard. You’re not supposed to say that out loud, of course, but it’s true – and anyone who gives this album a listen will have to admit that to themselves at some point or another. Yeah, bash this new album for being “whacked out” or “incoherent”, all the while trying to remind everyone how ‘necro’ “Freezing Moon” and “Funeral Fog” is, but know this: you’re lying to yourself mate! Look, I love “De Mysteriis…” (as well as “Deathcrush”) but the fact remains that it is, in essence, too straightforward and conventional an album for it’s own good. The riffs are great and Hellhammer’s skin-bashing is (un)godly but at it’s core it is nothing more than a Thrashy Second-wave Black Metal album with passé song-structures and lyrical content. Had all the infamous events of the Black Circle not happened this album would not be so hyped up as it is today. The ‘idea’ of the album is great but for all its strengths it cannot conjure up the nasty vibe of “Pure Holocaust” or even “In The Nightside Eclipse”. Admit it… for once.
I’m not knocking “De Mysteriis”, I’m simply stating that it is an album limited by genre constraints and static songwriting. It had “rules” it had adhere to; “Ordo Ad Chao”, on the other hand, does not. Now here you have an album that is just a sprawling piece of Black art that can be as evil as it is bewildering. They haven’t written this one for the fans (especially not the elitists), they have simply set out to create their darkest and most unique album that they will ever put out. I’ve never quite heard an album like this. Like I said, there is no flow to the album and no real variation between the songs; its approach is liquid, with Attila’s growls, shrieks, sneers, laughing, crying and hissing layered over seemingly random drum flourishes, atonal riffs and eerie background ambience. Imagine the more intricate songwriting of “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” mixed with the unorthodox and somewhat muddy aesthetics of latter day BLUT AUS NORD and you have “Ordo Ad Chao”. A grim mindfuck of an album. Think GORGOROTH or SECRETS OF THE MOON are evil? They have nothing on “Ordo” people.
I’m not even going to go into different songs because this is an album that should be viewed and listened to in its entirety. The first five listens or so will definitely bewilder (read: disappoint) you, but soon thereafter you will get an inkling feeling that there is something really special going on here. Perhaps the single greatest aspect of this album is Attila’s insane vocal work – it is all over the place and constantly engaging. It, like pretty much every other aspect of this album, comes off as inhuman – this is the kind of shit you cannot plan, it just manifests itself through the channeling of the arcane and formless. Motherfucking possessed Black Metal this is. The same can be said of the production job that somehow makes everything sound muddy AND crisp at the same time. Damn.
Well, I feel like I’ve mouthed off enough for the purposes of this review. Suffice to say this is the quintessential MAYHEM album. Convention will dictate that “De Mysteriis” still be heralded as their magnum opus, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover otherwise. “De Mysteriis” is easy to copy; I invite anyone to try and recreate the vibe that MAYHEM captured on “Ordo”. Nobody will be able to because “Ordo Ad Chao” is peerless.
Hands down one of the most important Black Metal albums released in well over a decade and a career-highlight for a band that stopped following and started leading again.
(Online September 28, 2007)