Friday, March 20, 2009

Mayhem - Deathcrush (1987)

After a handful of demos, Mayhem released the now legendary Deathcrush E.P. in August 1987. This was years before the band would be consumed with controversy. Back then, Mayhem was simply the most extreme band in Norway. In fact, they were the first Norwegian Black Metal band, though their sound owed much more to Venom in those days. Deathcrush fits in well with releases like Sarcofago's INRI more so than old Bathory.

My first exposure to Mayhem came from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, so I was quite surprised when I heard Deathcrush, some months later. The music was uglier and more barbaric, while also being very primitive and unrestrained, as opposed to the precision that is found on their debut L.P. I was initially put off by Maniac's vocals, though they grew on me with time. It's too bad Dead hadn't joined the band by this point, as the live versions done during his tenure with the band had a nice feel to them.

The E.P. begins with an odd intro, "Silvester Anfang", composed for the band by Conrad Schnitzer. It doesn't possess a very evil atmosphere, at all, but it is strange and that may be the effect that they were striving for. It kind of has the feel of a nightmarish war march.

This leads in to the first proper song, "Deathcrush". The opening riff sounds like something inspired by early Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. The vocals are made up of indecipherable screams, though it doesn't really matter as they simply become like another instrument, adding to the overall feeling. As the song speeds up, everything has kind of a sloppy feel but it works well enough within the context of this mini-album. There are brief glimpses into what would come on their L.P.

"Chainsaw Gutsfuck" is the next song, beginning with a very slow doom riff. It slowly builds up, creating a sense of dread, before the riff changes. This mid-paced song is actually pretty catchy for brutal, maniacal Norwegian Black Metal. Perhaps Venom's rock tendencies are shining through, here. Maniac's shrieks sound very desperate as the fuzzy guitars rumble beneath.

The next song is a pretty horrible cover of Venom's "Witching Hour". Messiah's vocals are more fitting for this song, but the fact that it is sped up so much kind of takes away from the feeling and it is over far too quickly. It's not bad, but it could have been executed better.

"Necrolust" is next and it features more doom riffs from Euronymous, as well as Necrobutcher's rumbling bass. The opening riffs are similar in feel to the early moments of "Deathcrush" and "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", though the song does speed up. This song is filled with raw energy and goes straight for the throat, tearing it open and reveling in the fresh spray of blood. Maniac's anguished wailing is like a precursor to what Varg Vikernes would do on the Burzum albums.

"(Weird) Manheim" is an unsettling and eerie instrumental that creates a dark and obscure atmosphere. It is all too brief, however, and is overpowered by the thrashing Hell that is "Pure Fucking Armageddon". This song features Messiah on vocals, once more, and it is a raging and relentless display of high-speed mass destruction via insanely distorted guitars and schizophrenic drumming.

Deathcrush has its flaws, like anything else, but it is a solid E.P. of 80s Black Metal and can easily be enjoyed on its own merit, regardless of the hype that later surrounded Mayhem and the whole Norwegian scene. Many may only pick this up just to have it in their collection because of its historical significance, but if you are letting it sit on a shelf and collect dust then, not only are you a horrible poser, but you're cheating yourself out of something that is well worth listening to.