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Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare

Esoteric Warfare
by Erika Kuenstler at 04 June 2014, 7:52 PM

It has been seven years since the release of “Ordo ad Chao”, and the wait is finally almost over, with MAYHEM’s sixth full length album “Esoteric Warfare” scheduled to be unleashed in the upcoming week, in time for MAYHEM’s 30th anniversary. With the recent single “Psywar” having provided a tasty morsel of what delicacies await fans of one of the most influential bands in the history of Black Metal, there has already been much debate on what to expect. Although the release date was recently postponed due to delays in the completion of the artwork, this has only served to heighten the anticipation for this highly awaited album. The limited edition box set, which is restricted to just 1000 copies, is also something highly delectable for collectors, with a different artwork accompanying each song, with the artwork being done by renowned Polish architect Zbigniew Bielak. Although if vinyl is more your thing, there are also some stunning and even more limited presses available.

With the departure of Blasphemer shortly after the release of “Ordo ad Chao”, MAYHEM lost their song writer, leaving many fans wondering how Teloch would fare in filling in this enormous role. The short answer is that he has done exceptionally well in capturing the essence of all that is MAYHEM, whilst simultaneously adding a more ferocious air through flurries of tremolo picking that can also be seen in his work with former bands, such as 1349. On this release, Hellhammer once again shows why he is one of the most hailed drummers in Black Metal, whilst Attila’s vocals take on a more primordial feeling that oozes misanthropy and hate, coupled with ungodly shrieking that make the hairs on your nape stand up. Necrobutcher and Ghul also do well in bringing their instruments to shine, adding to the overall atmosphere of the album.

“Esoteric Warfare” in many ways is a murkier and rawer production that previous work, and seems to even take a step back towards MAYHEM’s earlier sound whilst still vaguely continuing in a similar direction to that taken in their “Ordo ad Chao” album. This album is also nicely varied, containing everything from relentless and furious riffage that will melt your face to slower passages overlaid with sinister and possessed sounding vocals, and all topped off with unexpected twists that keep you on the edge of your seat. The album seems to be split into almost two sections: the first one being mean, upfront, and aggressive, whilst the second half is more experimental and more in a similar vein to “Ordo ad Chao”. There does seem to be a slight dip towards the middle of “Esoteric Warfare” which seems to drag on slightly after the sheer sonic warfare that was waged on your auditory senses in the first half of the album, but this is soon forgotten once the final portion of the album is reached, circa “Throne of Time”. Nevertheless, even on first listen, the sepulchre attractiveness is apparent, and with each subsequent listen, you lose yourself more and more. Make no mistake though, this release has by no means become more accessible or listener-friendly; it still exudes pure malignant evilness that will plunge you into the abyss of depravity.

Overall, “Esoteric Warfare” is proof that MAYHEM has not lost their edge, although this album will most likely receive just as disparate reactions as most of its predecessors. In the words of Attila in a recent interview I did with him: “We were cool with it, and that was the most important thing. We thought it was good enough; whether people like it or not, we will see.”

4 Star Rating

1. Watchers
2. PsyWar
3. Trinity
4. Pandaemon
6. VI.Sec.
7. Throne of Time
8. Corpse of Care
9. Posthuman
10. Aion Suntelia
Attila – Vocals
Necrobutcher – Bass
Hellhammer – Drums
Teloch – Guitars
Ghul – Live Guitars
Record Label: Season Of Mist


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Edited 28 March 2023

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