20 winters had passed since a tormented 16 year old soul called Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous) created MAYHEM. A lot of water had passed under the bridge in this long time, his murder in 1993 being the strongest moment on the group’s history. The band, one of the greatest referents in the Black Metal scene and on its best moment after the recording of the extraordinary “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, was suddenly beheaded, without its musical and ideological leader and lacking a clear conviction about the path to follow. There were only two options: leaving all behind or taking the difficult road, continuing the project and defying the thousands of die-hard Black Metallers that wouldn’t accept so easily to follow them without Euronymous as guide and brain.
Fortunately, MAYHEM decided to restructure and follow ahead, against the strong opposition and prejudice of most of the Black Metal legionaries. And that option was not an easy one. Actually, it was extremely difficult to take and specially to make it successful: in the 12 years passed since those gloomy times, only 2 full lengths had been released: (the highly underrated) “Grand Declaration Of War” (2000) and “Chimera” (2004), plus a great number of EPs, demos and live albums that never got so much attention.
All these years had meant that MAYHEM strongly tried to recover their identity gone with Euronymous, experimenting with the sound of older times, electronics and even industrial elements and I have to say that, even under the weight of all that shit that had been thrown to them, the results had been always amazing and original. This band just seems to be unable to do something bad, getting maturity and remaining loyal, at the same time, to their deepest roots. Before passing to “Chimera”, I would like to make a last observation: MAYHEM can be so dark, powerful and wicked, that it represents everything Black Metal should be and sometimes I have the feeling that anything else made under this style is just a satellite that limits itself to round around this sinister black star.
The recording of “Chimera” was made in a portable studio up in the Norwegian mountains and everything on it represents the purest nostalgia. Rawness and darkness in this album are present with strength both in musical and aesthetical senses and Mayhem seems to have adopted the idea that everything must be rudimentary and not so depurated. This album was recorded in a rustic manner and so rustic is the sound, but what can I say… I love it. I love it because it simply gives it an awesome doomy ambient. Long instrumental parts that seem to melt and confuse in a dark and agonic fusion, different shades of intensity and rawness and at last, the eternal whisper of death and nihilism create the soul of “Chimera” and it seems that MAYHEM had found, once again, the real essence of Black Metal; you can call it nostalgic and regressive, but I prefer it that way. After all, this genre, created on its moment by this same band, was never thought as a very wide concept or susceptible of evolution.
Let’s go right now to the music. It is just necessary to listen to the extremely violent “Whore”, the introductory song, to picture what are we dealing with. This track is a true declaration of principles and throws us in the face a discharge of anger and desperation, which is exactly what we will find as a general concept. Not all the disc will be as fast and direct as this piece, but is surely a demonstration of what kind of passions MAYHEM is going to exploit.
Maybe the point that makes “Chimera” richer, is that instead of being just fury and anger unleashed, without taking care of structures and songwriting, is an incredibly well constructed album, really complex and subtle at the same time, which makes it much more enjoyable and stronger are the feelings given. A great example of this is the guitar work, which in general consists in long and monotonous riffs, but, without stopping being simple, Blasphemer is able to take independence sometimes of the rest of the instrumentation, to create gloomy melodies by his own, over a corrosive sea of doom. By its side, Maniac gives what is by far his best vocal performance ‘til this moment, playing with the voices from thrilling spoken parts to deep growls and furious screams.
The violence on this album is managed by an extraordinary Hellhammer, who uses all his resources to construct real drumstorms that will blow your head, electrifying the atmosphere with infernal blasts. Nevertheless, aside the drums, the instrumentation is characterized for being incredibly subtle and without many variations.
In terms of intensity, this is a really varied disc. From the doomy depressive ambient in “My Death”, “Impious Devious Leper Lord” or “Chimera” to the discharges of fury in “Whore” or “Slaughter Of Dreams”, violence will move along a wide range, in which the only element that will be always present, is an extremely nihilist atmosphere. All efforts are made to make wither your stronger passions and I would dare to say that one of the most violent metal sensations I had ever felt had been playing this album very loud in a dark room.
Ok, this album is nostalgic from the past and a musical regression of more than one decade, but if the objective was to recover the lost essence of Black Metal and to find the bliss of this style on its purest form, the results can be summarized in only one word: OUTSTANDING. (Online June 22, 2005)