Its one of Norwegian Black Metal's most iconic records from the heart of the music scene which had exploded in the revelations of the arson and murder that surrounded key members of the "black circle". Mayhem's founder and lead guitarist Euronymous had pioneered much of the scenes ideas and principles, running a record store and forming the band back in 84 it was a long journey to this record but the bands name is steeped in its inspiration. "Mayhem" is taken from a Venom song, the band who coined the term "Black Metal". It was Euronymous and his cronies who took the evil and satanic imagery from cheese to reality as their actions mirrored the depths of darkness the music would reach. With the suicide of original vocalist "Dead" in 91, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was the subject of many setbacks and delays. Further so when Euronymous was murdered by bassist at the time, Varg Vikerness of Burzum, who's basslines remain on the record, despite drummer Hellhammer stating they were re-recorded as requested by the guitarists parents. It was finally released after the band had officially disbanded in the wake of Euronymous's departure.
Controversies aside the record has remained as a staple in the genres history more so for the quality of the music which undoubtedly is a brilliant execution of a vision so cold, bleak and anti-life it will make you shiver in the wake of its eternal darkness. The records production is merit to amplifying the chemistry the instruments share, dense tonal freezing guitars shred over lurking basslines while Hellhammer's restless drumming gripes blast beats and ceaseless fills sounding like cascading mountings collapsing in a cavernous reverb. His pedals thud and snare rattles in a muted setting fit for the grunt work and the toms, crash cymbals for fills burst open with deep dense reverbs that almost feel like an additional instrument. His tireless pace and constant shuffling of the beats gives every song a rich expansiveness, as if opening another dimension for the music. He's a supremely talented drummer and in this moment his contribution elevates the art to places difficult to measure.
The guitar work is given a helping hand from Hellhammer's constant expanse as Euronymous toys with the dark, grim and bleak. Much of his guitar work could of been a little dull against bland drumming as the droning, colorless tone of the guitar amplifies the darkness in a minimalist nature. They stare into the abyss, with unforgiving tunes to conjure the gravest of images. The iconic "Freezing Moon" shreds the open strings of a guitar between a power chord with the same notes Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" is played with. The distortion style gives in a chilling vibe fitting of the songs name. Strangely enough the guitars tone has always reminded me of "Ride The Lightning". Maybe it too was recorded through marshal amps. Either way Euronymous vision for the guitar has shaped much of Black Metal to follow and steered into the darkness with a tasteful sense of Metal that makes for many a moshable, head banger riff between its unforgiving moments. His individual riffs are strong but perhaps the best charm comes from their linear arrangement that sees many of the songs continually progressing without much conventional structure.
At the forefront singer Attila Csihar's puts on an operatic marvel of disgust, a tormented performance which will polarize many listeners. For me it clicked from day one, Attila does not sing with convention but twists his voice like a performance art piece. He growls and groans, strains and slurs as the words are drawn from a rhythm into sprawls of forceful feeling spouting from his mouth, performed with gristle and glare. Between its ongoing exploration of vocal range Attila find moment's for convention and occasionally he hits the goosebumps with the sounds of twisted souls escaping torment through his voice. Its stunning in its moments but isn't always a commandeer for your attention. The lyrics, written by Dead who would of performed them in a very different style, are buried deep in nihilism, misanthropy and a view of life drowned in pessimism. Taken too seriously you might find yourself in a rather bleak state of mind.
The record plays through its eight tracks with each providing a spark of magic. The stunning "Life Eternal" walks us through a rather warm bass and guitar melody into a timeless stereo guitar solo that barely cuts through the mix before plunging us into complete darkness with the albums killer mosh riff. "From The Dark Past" has an inspired moment where the second key riff is dissected by abstract guitar noises, the way it holds over the mood for its second play is stunning. "Cursed In Eternity" gives me shivers every time it suddenly bursts into a pummeling blast beat and ferocious guitar riff at its ending. Then there's "Burried By Time And Dust" with its ceaseless blast beat which hammers down through almost the entire song. Lastly "Freezing Moon" has its unnerving lyrics leading into a form of breakdown that hammers a slow a simple two chord riff to eternity. Hellhammer's lively intro to the riff breaks sublimely for Attila to come in over the song.
Time has served this record well. Over twenty years on it sounds fantastic as ever, setting a benchmark that few other record have peaked where imitations have arisen. Although the sound of Black Metal has progressed forwards, records like this were so visionary you can still attribute a lot to them. Although released in 94 when the scene was expanding given the exposure, its music dates back a few years marking it alongside the most significant releases of that era that bridged the gap between its primitive take on evil. For me personally its a deep nostalgic dive into a cold, unforgiving place that is rather exhilarating to visit. A record that demands to be listened to year after year. On a final note, a piece of trivia for you. Varg and Euronymous actually had plans to blow up the same church featured on the album cover the day of the albums original planned release, instead it seems they got into a fatal fight.