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Mayhem - Grand Declaration of War (Reissue) Award winner

Grand Declaration of War (Reissue)
by Chris Hawkins at 24 December 2018, 4:29 PM

It seems ironic to be reviewing the reissue of MAYHEM’s “Grand Declaration of War” on Christmas Eve.  It is likely safe to assume that most if not all reading this are aware of the band’s storied past.  As leaders of the Second Wave of Black Metal, MAYHEM, whether stylistically or conceptually, were always pushing the envelope.  Truly, what is known as Black Metal today would sound far different were there no MAYHEM.  Originally released in May of 2000, “Grand Declaration of War” served as a left turn for the band.  Since I originally covered it eighteen years ago, I found it fitting to revisit now that it has been remixed and remastered.  As a band whose discography was comprised of mostly EPs and splits, this is actually the band’s second full-length released.  In another band’s catalog, it would fit in comfortably after about half a dozen full-lengths as it is such a marked departure, or better put, immersion in a vastly different sound.

Wisely, the band began the album with the title track for, like a classical symphony’s first movement, it serves as an exposition for the larger musical ideas to come.  What is at once noticeable, is the increased volume of Necrobutcher’s bass.  His tone is thick and booming providing a bottom bedrock of stability that is stylized all the same.  Hellhammer’s snare has the thump of military precision and is much more organic.  The album undoubtedly takes off with the second track, “In the Lies Where Upon You Lay”.  It is in the arpeggiated madness of Blasphemer’s riffs that the new production's work shines.  There is a thickness that beefs up the sound as well as clearing it up.  Like “Wolf’s Lair Abyss,” the challenging aspect to the band’s sound is the maneuvering of Hellhammer.  At the midpoint, some powerful distorted bass breaks things up with a sound akin to that of the mighty Peter Steele, massive and full of girth.  The juxtaposition of cleanly narrated parts and classic Black Metal shrieks by Maniac helps keep things interesting, still sounding cutting edge eighteen years later.  The fourth track, “View from Nihil; Pt 1,” is an absolutely mind-blowing track in its transitions and lay out.  The added warmth and clarity to Blasphemer’s guitar, helps drive home the intended feeling with a newfound ferocity.

The new production work can really be heard on the seventh track, “A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun; Pt. 2”.  This was by far the most daring track on the album, and now the more fully-developed bass sound aids in its success.  Protracted delays on the guitar add a spatial effect as the listener is taken on a personal spirit journey.  It is that dirty, raw, bloated bass sound, though, that brings focus to the track.  The eighth track, “Crystalized Pain in Deconstruction,” showcases a charismatic Maniac-led procession.  Syncopated rhythms over which the singer belts hyper-effected vocals add to the original feel.  Hellhammer’s drums sound so much more real, less processed, and the listener is thus able to appreciate the genius of his skill.  At fourteen seconds shy of ten minutes in length, ninth track, “Completion in Science of Agony; Pt. 1” is by far the longest song on the album.  It largely features a Doom type of feel with tempo regulated by the drums while the guitars drone out the same megalithic riffs.  The vocals actually diverge into singing here, a totally new concept for the band.  This is proof that all Metal bands are only so far removed from BLACK SABBATH.

In the grand scheme of Black Metal, where does “Grand Declaration of War” take the genre?  First, it showed that a band could inject elements of Avant Garde, Industrial and other seemingly disparate genres and remain true.  It is to the benefit of the scene in general that this is remixed, remastered, and re-released.  This album shows MAYHEM as a band ready to take risks and should redirect the general Metal public’s focus back to Black Metal as the side belonging to experimentation and reinvention.  This is especially true in today's climate of rehashing old school machinations.  The bottom line is that this re-released album is a fuller realization of the ingenuity behind a record showcasing originators willing to expand their sound for the sake of art.  This is a must-have for any fan of Extreme Metal.

Songwriting:  8
Originality:  9
Memorability:  8
Production:  9

4 Star Rating

1. Grand Declaration of War
2. In the Lies Where Upon You Lay
3. A Time to Die
4. View from Nihil; Pt. 1
5. View from Nihil; Pt. 2
6. A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun; Pt. 1
7. A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun; Pt. 2
8. Crystalized Pain in Deconstruction
9. Completion in Science of Agony; Pt. 1
10. To Daimonion; Pt. 1
11. To Daimonion; Pt. 2
12. To Daimonion; Pt. 3
13. Completion in Science of Agony; Pt. 2
Hellhammer - Drums
Blasphemer - Guitars
Necrobutcher - Bass
Maniac – Vocals
Record Label: Season of Mist


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Edited 03 February 2023

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