I’ll be the first to admit that MAYHEM fucking sucks. “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” was and is overrated. The song structures were boring; the use of tremolo while at the time rather new, now seems tired, boring and uninspired. The riffs were muddy and played with inefficiency, even given the young age of the performers and the drumming was static and boorish. Then the controversy and subsequently the death began and all was lost for years. MAYHEM hadn’t released anything of any importance, quality or substance for over a decade. Everything, absolutely everything released by MAYHEM was reeking of pretentions, lacking in body and derived of structure. Don’t even get me started on “Grand Declaration Of War” and Maniac’s Black Metal/Broadway/Spoken Word style of vocal delivery and Hellhammer’s unabashed triggered and wanking drum playing.
I thought that this album was trash, worthless and pretentious trash from a band that hasn’t been relevant for a decade upon first listen. Hell, upon second and third listen it still escaped me why everyone was praising this album. I thought the new direction was just Hellhammer’s way of marketing towards the Drone/Hipster crowd and the sound itself to be ridiculously monotonous. However, I always found myself giving certain songs a try. I couldn’t keep myself away from this unfiltered garbage.
Call it the Principle of Beauty in Filth.
It wasn’t until I was driving home from my girlfriend’s house that I decided to put “Ordo…” in the player. It was 11:46 PM when I started listening and it was 12:07, in the middle of “Illuminate Eliminate” that brilliance hit. It hit me like a thunderbolt sending streams of painful electricity down my spine, paralyzing me and forcing me to choke on the smoke from my Pall Mall.
You see, “Ordo Ad Chao” is the sound that MAYHEM has been looking for the last 10 years of their existence. It is the all encapsulating sound of pure bleakness and a claustrophobic representation of what Black Metal can do when mixed with the right guff and worked on with care and articulation. Attila, while God awful on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is the perfect fit for an album like “Ordo Ad Chao”. His vocals are droning and deep and it fits the guitar sound quite nicely, and they themselves become an instrument of bleak nothingness. Attila utilizes growls and shrieks in a fashion that varies just enough to shake your core when you’ve been lulled into a false state of security amongst the walls of sound. Another aspect that has been fixed entirely is Hellhammer’s drumming. He’s still a wank, one who has an insanely difficult time controlling himself, but here his lack of self restraint results in brilliance, not pretention. The constant barrage of drums is not used to stay in line with the guitars but rather to add another level of drone to the chaos and sound like the perfect underline to the suffocation.
The guitars are distorted and mean, sound like dulled razors that could still cut through your heart just by their sheer numbers and size. While Blasphemer’s riffs aren’t the most original and varying thing on the planet they work well to convey the sense of urgent nothingness, which is more or less the best way to describe this album’s sound (more on that soon). His bass is used much like a Drone; it is there more or less to add a level of subtlety and control to such a raging beast.
The sound of the album is akin to a black hole. While on the whole it is raging and destroying everything in its path, it feels like it’s moving in slow motion, constantly dragging in all life forms to devour quickly and painfully. But when viewed from the outside and truly listened to, it is a slow lumbering beasts and it is only until it’s too late to escape that you understand how menacing and powerful it is. The songs themselves are not important, you cannot simply take one song from this album away from the whole, it will not have the same effect. I mention this because that is what I did. It is only when you devote time to the experience that is “Ordo Ad Chao” that you understand its ways.
“Ordo Ad Chao” is the perfect blend of Drone and Black Metal. It is the new sound of what bleakness is and an undeniable piece of art. I could not explain how this album becomes so huge, but it does and the headspace it leaves you floating in will devour you. I will not say this redeems MAYHEM’s past, but it does redeem their future. It was not ’94 that MAYHEM became significant but rather ’07 and this will be the album that will stand taller and mightier than “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and will probably overshadow their releases in the future but as for right now, we can bask in the genius that is “Ordo Ad Chao”.
(Online September 26, 2008)