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Mayhem - Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando EP Award winner

Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando EP
by Chris Hawkins at 19 July 2021, 6:42 AM

MAYHEM may be an acquired taste to some but personally, the band’s sonorous legacy has been essential listening over the decades.  Like many others, my introduction to Black Metal came in the late ’90s; specifically, it was the Century Media “Firestarter” compilation (which I still own replete with accompanying match) that inundated me with myriad bands who I would later seek out in my musical journey.  Among those bands was MAYHEM supplying their legendary track, “Necrolust,” a bestial, voracious, primal scream of pent-up energy unlike any I had previously heard.  Their allure was animalistic, a complete opposite of bands like EMPEROR who I had become obsessed with.  Strangely, though, that temptation became too much to refuse and with “Wolf’s Lair Abyss,” released in 1997 as well, I was officially on board.

With that album being my penultimate from the band, it is not surprising that there are some periods my taste favors over others regarding their discography.  It must be said, though, that despite such natural predilections, their last album, “Daemon,” was a true triumph (here is a link to my review:  Mayhem Daemon review by Chris Hawkins).  2019 proved to be a most fortuitous year with that last full-length being a showcase for a full-stocked war machine of ravenous terror.

This brings us to today’s subject, the band’s new EP, “Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando,” a loose, hodge-podge of leftover tracks from the previous recording session containing three originals and four cover tracks.  Despite this seemingly haphazard assortment of material, what shines through the twenty-three minutes contained within is a new look for the band, a rawer side of MAYHEM to rally long-time and newer fans alike around the common bond of extremity in music.

The EP leads with a mission statement of sorts in the form of the first track, “Voces Ab Alta”.  For a MAYHEM song, it is more of a mid-paced affair yet not less impressive or aggressive.  The thought that continually resounded in my head while listening to this was that Attila has really become the vehicle of extreme expression in the band.  While the case can certainly be made that it was Euronymous’s darkly inspirational riffs which fueled the band’s rise, Attila’s unique contribution cannot be understated.  The point is that his voice is, unlike perhaps any others in the genre, a novel instrument in itself, capable of feats totally unrivalled or yet attempted.  In the simplest of terms, it is Attila’s voice that has now become the “scary factor” in MAYHEM be it with his hateful delivery, operatic exultations, or the myriad haunting effects issued forth from his vocal cords:  disturbing and frightening shrieks, howls, and grim utterances.  A perfect example of this is at the 4:22 mark of the song, a break of sorts where the maniacal maestro deftly leads the listener down a path of aural oblivion.  It is no less affecting on repeated listens as demonstrated by own preparations in writing this review.

The remaining original tracks that sequentially follow, “Black Glass Communion” and “Everlasting Dying Flame,” were bonuses from the “Daemon’ full-length and because of this will not be covered here.  What remains are the covers which open up a side of the band previous unheard.  This would be due to the fact that all four covers are Punk songs and while I have always maintained that the two genres are inexorably intertwined, at least foundationally and inspirationally, hearing the preeminent Black Metal band of the modern era perform music that would normally lay outside their operating parameters is a thankful, welcome surprise.  An intimacy of sorts is born from this relaxing of boundaries in which MAYHEM injects a previously unheard-of element into their vastly diverse catalog:  fun.  That primal foundation of Punk and Hardcore absolutely succeeds in this setting illustrated especially by the DISCHARGE cover, “In Defense of Our Future”.  The solo in this song absolutely smokes too!  One cannot help but smile at the RAMONES cover for the band definitely nail the emotion and drive of that extremely seminal classic.  Guest appearances from the likes of Maniac as well as co-former lead singer, Messiah, provide a comprehensive arch that perfectly sums up the history of the storied band.

Production-wise, the EP is on par with “Daemon” as can be expecting.  Hearing that previous offering, one expects a massively oppressively, strikingly somber, dystopian mélange of instrumentation, and that is precisely what is delivered.  It is the Punk tracks, though, where the tenacity with which the producer recorded the band is on full display.  That stripped-down, almost jam-session feel alone is worth the price of the EP.

After fully assessing this release, it becomes apparent that it is a link back to those early “Necrolust” days.  Not since that admittedly nostalgic yet clearly euphoric period has the band really tapped into that primordial well of luciferian vehemence.  For a band that is not into its fourth decade, MAYHEM does not seem so old at all.  In fact, it could be said that the band sounds fresher than ever as evidenced by this return to their roots that treats fans to a side of the band previously only inferred by its output.

Songwriting:         9
Originality:              9
Memorability:      9
Production:             9

4 Star Rating

1. Voces Ab Alta
2. Black Glass Communion
3. Everlasting Dying Flame
4. In Defense of Our Future
5. Hellnation
6. Only Death
7. Commando
Attila - Vocals
Necrobutcher – Bass
Teloch – Guitar
Ghul- Guitar
Hellhammer – Drums
Record Label: Century Media


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Edited 22 March 2023

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