Mayhem: War Ensemble.

16 September 2002 | 12:00 am | Craig New
Originally Appeared In

Methods Of Mayhem.

More Mayhem More Mayhem

Mayhem play the QUT Club, Gardens Point on Saturday.

The history and influence of Norway's Mayhem is a long, dark shadow that falls over any serious follower of modern extreme music. From their undoubted role as the forefathers of the second, brutal wave of black metal and all of it's ensuing chaos to the release of their latest album proper A Grand Declaration Of War, a record that extensively builds upon the musical framework previously established by Mayhem and takes it to new levels of grandeur and evil.

The true power of Mayhem's current work lies in the fact that black metal, a genre that not long ago was arguably the most extreme and threatening form of music being created, is in danger of being reduced to a parody of itself through the proliferation of bands worldwide rehashing it's most obvious traits and ideas ad nauseum. A movement whose strengths stemmed from the concepts of elitism and extremity cannot abide the burden of acceptance and imitation. Like all leaders, Mayhem have opted to not even play the game by stylistically destroying the sound they themselves once defined. Fusing elements of power electronics, prog rock, ambient, and black metal into a multi-tentacled attack, they remain many steps in front of those who would follow. And now they're coming at Australia. Guitarist and chief songwriter Blasphemer (whose fellow band members include Hellhammer on drums, Necrobutcher on bass, and Maniac performing vocals) was kind enough to speak to us via email on the eve of their first antipodean jaunt.

If one listens to the entire Mayhem back catalogue, there's been a radical progression in style between each album, but the distinct sound of the band is always there. Is this something you have to focus on specifically while writing, or is the progress simply natural?

"The progress itself is very natural of course. One has to remember that there are several years between each and every one of them, so the progression is noticeable. It would have been strange if it hadn`t. The sound itself is the sound of the true Mayhem. The howling of the beast!"

Did you ever imagine that a band as extreme as yourselves would receive the worldwide attention that you are now under?

"That is probably why we have that worldwide attention, because of our extremity. In both music and when it comes down to the core of existing (the individuals involved)"

Are there artists operating now that you think of as peers or equals? Or do you distance yourselves from being part of any scene?

"No, there are no equals. About the black metal scene? I don’t know. So many things have changed."

The title Grand Declaration Of War is an apt reflection of the music presented on the album. Have you declared war on anyone in particular? The entire world?

"The war is on many levels. It can be mentally or physically. Personal or the one of the humankind. It is also a symbolic title. Something had to be done. Everything was going in a wrong direction. We established with that one that we still are in charge of the black metal evolution."

The Mayhem sound on Wolf's Lair Abyss (released in 1997 and the first record to feature the present line-up of the band) and Grand Declaration has utilised a wide range of vocal styles to convey it's message, remaining true to the cold, shrieking delivery that is the trademark of most black metal, while also not hesitating to utilise operatic and spoken word tones for maximum effect. Does Maniac spend a great deal of time organising different arrangements and ideas for the final songs? The songwriting process for the band in general feels as though it's very meticulous, is it?

"The vocal arrangements are mostly done by me, since I do all the music. I get these visions of how everything must be. It takes a long time to finish a song. It’s like building or creating a human/monster (Frankenstein), it’s very easy to sew the parts together, but the real challenge is to make it breathe, in a way. To create a soul. I think all Mayhem songs are that way. They are created eternal."

Of course, anti-Christian sentiment has always been integral to the Mayhem philosophy, and while there is still a great deal of it in your latest works, I've also noticed a shift towards bigger, more apocalyptic topics. Is Christianity withering at such a rate that it's not worth wasting the time to attack it as virulently as you previously have?

"Well, the focus must be put on an inner change. The Christian philosophy is changing form. We have to be aware! And what about the HERA-SMA-TAUI? Clear the heavens for the new born sun, he-he."

And what does the near future hold for Mayhem?

 "Release Chimera during spring 2003. Then tour again (hopefully), even though we are tired of it."

And like that, he's gone. Preparing, no doubt, for the next wave of blackness to emanate from Norway's heart. A wave that will strike first at the shores of Australia. Now.