Metal Review: Mayhem: Esoteric Warfare (2014)

Mayhem Esoteric Warfare

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Oslo, Norway’s black metal legion, Mayhem, epitomizes the chaos and infamy of the 90’s Norwegian black metal scene. Between the church burnings and other unbelievable, non-musical related shenanigans on that time, Mayhem was normally near each outburst. With the suicide of vocalist Dead in 1991 and the murder of guitarist Euronymous by former band member Varg Vikernes (Burzum) in 1993, the band became a household name for all the wrong reasons.

Outside of the craziness that has always surrounded the band, they actually put out a few albums too, but with a 30-year history, it is surprising to most that their latest effort, “Esoteric Warfare,” is only the band’s fifth full-length release. Even with only that small output though, the band has been all over the map in terms of their style of music from classic Norwegian black metal to metalcore to anything else in between.

Mayhem’s classic releases are legendary. I was even a fan of their last album, 2007’s “Ordo Ad Chao,” not that many people would make that same claim. Regardless of the opinions on their most recent releases, it is not a stretch to say that any Mayhem release is an event.

As far as the ever-changing line-up of the band, Necrobutcher and Hellhammer are back with the band. Both were early members of the band. Vocalist Attila Cshihar is back with the band after his last album with the band being 1994’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” Guitarist Teloch (Gorgoroth, 1349) is a mainstay of the genre, but new to Mayhem. Oddly enough, Teloch, the newest member to the band, wrote the majority of the material for “Esoteric Warfare.” This is also the first album without Blasphemer.

While I have only had a handful of listens to this new album, I am very excited by its content. The opening track, Watchers, is simply astounding with its constant chaos and aggression. Its heaviness is unrivaled by just about any song that I have heard this year.

PsyWar starts off so heavy, breaks for some ambient madness and goes straight back into more ruthless aggression. Trinity is an evil track with hellish drums and great guitar licks throughout. The ending is absolutely heavy and horrific.

Pandaemon may be a brief track, but chick full of goodness. MILAB is pure evil with its groove during the verses and full of atmosphere throughout.

VI Sec is an ambient piece featuring shrieks and effects for the first half, then switching to a fast-paced assault on the ears. Posthuman is an atmospheric piece as is sung by Satan himself. It features such great slow, evil segments. It is also the longest track on the album clocking it at 6:28.

Overall, “Esoteric Warfare” may not make you forget about their classics, but it is layered with evil themes and sounds. For a band whose fanbase is completely divided and heavily opinionated on which Mayhem albums are great and which ones are worthless, their latest effort is about as strong of a release as I would have expected from them.

Mayhem: Esoteric Warfare Rating

7.5 Stars (7.5 / 10)

Esoteric Warfare Tracklisting

1. Watchers
2. PsyWar
3. Trinity
4. Pandaemon
6. VI Sec
7. Throne of Time
8. Corpse of Care
9. Posthuman
10. Aion Suntalia

Mayhem Line-up

Necrobutcher – Bass
Hellhammer – Drums
Attila Cshihar – Vocals
Teloch – Guitar