Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mayhem - Out from the Dark (1996)

By early 1991, Black Metal had gone very deep underground. Bands such as Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer / Celtic Frost had all moved on to different types of music and, though there were a good number of obscure demo bands, only a small handful were able to record actual albums. Groups such as Sabbat, Master's Hammer, Samael, Blasphemy and Root were all doing their part to keep the black flame burning; however, in the bitter cold north the task fell to but one band: Mayhem. Euronymous and his cohorts had been toiling away in the shadows for many years, but one thing after another prevented them from making a proper debut album. They had been surviving on the momentum created by the Pure Fucking Armageddon demo, as well as the Deathcrush E.P. More than that, they maintained some level of visibility due to the interviews and live performances that displayed a true understanding of what Black Metal was supposed to be about. In the process of carrying on the old tradition, they managed to influence many others around them and soon helped to spawn an entire movement. All the while, they were continuing to work on the material that would go on to become the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, constantly rehearsing or putting on memorable live shows. One such rehearsal caught the absolute darkness and evil of this band, released some years later as Out from the Dark.

This is one of the strongest recordings ever made by the classic line-up of Mayhem. It features the guitar-work of Euronymous, Necrobutcher on bass, the percussive skills of Hellhammer and the possessed vocals of Dead. This rehearsal includes seven songs, of which three are from the upcoming L.P. The old songs go as expected, showing minor alterations from the official versions, but retaining the raw black essence that gave birth to them in the first place. Dead vomits forth blasphemies and morbid incantations, bringing these tunes to a new level. Nonetheless, the real highlights are the new songs. "Funeral Fog", "Freezing Moon" and "Buried By Time and Dust" showcase the band's evolution into a much darker musical entity.

The sound is really good for a rehearsal, allowing the guitar melodies to be heard quite well, along with the impassioned vocal performance. Chances are that this is not exactly what Dead would have sounded like, had he survived long enough to make the album. Listening to his efforts on Morbid's December Moon demo, it is easy to see that he was very versatile and would likely have added a lot of subtle touches rather than going all-out as he often did in a live setting. The newer tracks abandon the overt violence and savagery of the old material, opting instead to focus on creating a dark and morbid atmosphere. Each riff has been written with a specific goal in mind, as countless others were tossed aside for not being evil enough. One listen to "Freezing Moon" is evidence enough that Euronymous was striving for nothing less than utter perfection. The cold and deathly aura seeps into your bones and brings physical and spiritual decay from within. Like the black plague, the haunting melodies infect you and bring about the death of what you once were, prior to hearing this. The true highlight of the release is "Buried By Time and Dust", much like the renditions found on "Live in Leipzig" or "Dawn of the Black Hearts". Not only does the absolute morbidity of Dead's voice reach epic levels, but the riffs are pure evil and in a form not found on the studio version. As the final words escape Dead's soon-to-be-rotting corpse, one cannot help but to succumb to the eerie and chilling feeling.

"No one knows my grave
Buried by time and dust"

Out from the Dark is an essential release for anyone that has the slightest interest in Black Metal. This is what Mayhem was all about, and recordings such as this one were instrumental in bringing about the Second Wave of Black Metal. Forget whatever trendy garbage that you have been force-fed and conditioned to accept. This is the pure essence of Black Metal. Seek this out at all costs.