Sunday, February 19, 2012
I listened to "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" tonight for the first time ever
For whatever stupid reason I sorta skipped De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Transylvanian Hunger when I started getting into black metal... of course I heard songs from both albums, and figured they were cool, but neither sound seemed like what I was looking for at the time--generally speaking, stuff that sounded like super-early Emperor and stuff that sounded like punk (Under A Funeral Moon, etc). Plus, even to a neophyte those two Classics seemed so damn standard, and nerd/contrarian that I am, I wanted to find my own way. Thereafter, Mayhem languished on my list of "shit I really should get around to." Well, tonight I was jamming some Mysticum as I stalked through the warehouses on a cold, wet night, and when that finished I saw the "Mayhem" listing just above it on my iPod, and realized I had DMDS.
Holy fucking shit does that album rule. While I didn't have my mind blown in quite the same way I did when I first heard Hordanes Land, I was every bit as enthralled. When I got back to my place I had to leave the headphones on to finish it, uninterrupted. I have heard a TON of black metal and discovered a lot of brilliant albums over the last 5 years, but Mayhem's first one still sounds completely fresh. Is all other black metal basically a footnote to De Mysteriis? Not completely, but close enough.
Some things I noticed, that a lot of other people have probably noticed by now:
1. EURONYMOUS. Not just a classic black metal guitarist, but a genre-transcending guitarist. Not a virtuoso, bu a consummate musician. The solo on Freezing Moon is hands down the coolest solo I have ever heard (that isn't Led Zeppelin), and it's crazy how he created a specifically black metal, specifically Mayhemic style for his improvisation. I have never heard anything like this anywhere else. On the rhythm parts, he plays with effortless authority. He doesn't pick as fast as people later did, but that actually make the music seem faster, because you can pick up on the pace of the strumming and the way it syncs with (or strains against) the drums.
2. Many times you think you're going to hear a riff repeated, but you actually hear a really cool variation on it, with an unexpected harmony or extra chord. This means that the basic riff-units are two or four times as long for Mayhem as they are for most Mayhem-imitators.
3. Varg was a great bassist! And the parts truly add another dimension.
4. Punk as fuck. Here, Hellhammer's doing at least two different kinds of blasts, changing up the usual snare-kick with a kick-snare pattern that's basically a sped up hardcore beat. "Funeral Fog" riiiips out of the gate with that shit. Another reason this album feels so fast.
5. Breakdowns! Unlike almost every BM band after them, Mayhem weren't afraid of syncopation or backbeats. When they drop into half or quarter time, shit gets heavy as fuck. Deathlike Silence may have labeled their productions ANTI-MOSH, but from the thrashing fast sections to the lurching, grooving slow parts, Mayhem play black metal as body music.
6. Not as repetitive as you might think. It drones and pummels away, but there'll be subtle shifts in one of the guitar parts, or the bassline, or Hellhammer will start introducing staggered cymbal and snare stuff into the blasts. No neat little sections here, everything liquid.
7. Attila rules, and lends a real sense of tonality to his vocals. There are some melodies, and hooks!
This is just sublime. I am so glad I finally heard this. And I'm glad I waited too, because now I can hear how it utterly dwarfs the imitators. A new all-time favorite album, for sure.