MAYHEM-De-Mysteriis-Dom-SathanasEvery once in a while the metal scene collectively heaps too much praise on a band or record and someone needs to step up and announce that the Emperor has no clothing. We normally don’t spend a lot of time attacking beloved records, but sometimes genuinely overrated records get far too much love from the metal sheeples and that calls for a professional contrarian to set things right! If ever there were professional contrarians, they would be us at AMG.

I have a confession to make. Like many teenagers growing up in the 1990s, my exposure to heavy metal was limited to MTV and the occasional underground magazine (I miss you, Metal Maniacs!!! *sniffle*). During this time, a landmark black metal album was released that would presumably envelope the world in utter darkness. Creating a world where no mosh, trends, fun, or cure would be found. A world where a killer would record an album alongside his unfortunate victim. That world was De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas by Norwegian black metal godfathers, Mayhem. And that world bored me to tears.

20 years later, long graduated from both high school and college, being exposed to various genres and sub-genres of metal, and finding some really bleak, dissonant, and absolutely fucking evil black metal, I decided to give De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas another trip around the freezing moon with fresh ears and an open mind. Maybe my youthful innocence and shallow mind wasn’t able to process the evil contained within that 46 minute epic. Maybe I was blind to the ingenuity of the tremolo-picked riffs, the insane blasts, the frog-like croaks. Or maybe, truth be told, this is just not that good of an album.

euronymousSure, you have classics like “Funeral Fog,” with Attila Csihar’s insane frog-croaks and Hellhammer’s now-legendary blasts, as well as the dreary atmosphere brought on by “Freezing Moon” and “From the Dark Past.” Just on those three songs alone, De Mysteriis is often regarded as the pinnacle of Norwegian black metal, a benchmark that is seen as the ultimate in second-wave black metal.

The first problem is that the quality of songwriting isn’t that good. Hellhammer would go on to become a force to be reckoned with on drums, Csihar would return to Mayhem years later to further his screaming and chanting abilities, as well as lend his voice to SunnO)) and Aborym, and Mayhem‘s replacement guitarists would run circles around both Euronymous and Blackthorn in terms of riffing and atmosphere.

The bigger problem however is that, unlike their contemporaries, the hype surrounding this record far surpassed the quality of the actual recorded material. There’s a book dedicated to what happened behind the scenes in the making of this record, but the absolutely fucked up events that took place behind the curtain of this album’s construction far outlived the record’s output. Where else are you going to find an album where the main songwriter (Oystein “Euronymous” Aarseth) was playing alongside his murderer (Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes) and his accomplice (Snorre “Blackthorn” Ruch), using the lyrics of their late vocalist (Per Yngve “Dead” Ohlin), who took his own life via shotgun? Right.

I wanted to come into listening to Dom Mysteriis again with a fresh perspective and an eagle’s eye for perspective, and this record doesn’t do anything for me. Truth be told, I was more of a fan of Grand Declaration of War and its willingness to buck trends and fuck with the blackened status quo. For as legendary as this record is to most people, this doesn’t do a damn thing for me, not then or now.

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  • Anthony

    Agreed 100%.

  • Grymm

    Damn… I must have had an IPA or twelve too many, as the link to Csihar’s name was supposed to go to the infamous Sancho scene from the epic cinematic masterpiece, Orgazmo.

    Ah well. My point still stands.

    • And now it does. Go easy on the IPAs, kid.

      • Grymm

        Muchos gracias, amigo!

  • Weirwolfe

    Yeah you’re probably right. However one man’s St Anger can be another man’s Reign in Blood. It’s all a matter of opinion. I happen to think that Ordo Ad Chao is excellent and its had plenty of negative reviews. I’m looking forward to Esoteric Warfare and the new one from Lord Mantis.

    • basenjibrian

      Love Ordo Ad Chao! Probably my favorite, actually!

  • I think the music here is great, but I hate Attila. Never quite understood the appeal.

  • Rich Schwiing Bendall

    Some great riffs on the album and atmosphere is unparalleled. I still think that the vocals are dogshit though.

  • redrohX

    Agreed and also agreed about Grand Declaration…

  • kaaleppi

    First time I removed this site from my bookmarks was the slaughter of the soul joke review and now I will remove it again. Complete bullshit to write this kinda ‘review’. 0/5

    • You’ll be back.

      • basenjibrian

        Oh nooooooooo. You have been removed from an internet commenter’s bookmarks. Suicide is your ONLY option.

      • marco o

        LOL! :)

  • KevinOfTheMonolith

    Generally agreed. DMDS is pretty overrated as an album, and I say this as a dedicated black metal fan. Aside from one or two good songs, nothing jumps out at me. I’d go as far to say Mayhem in general is really overrated in black metal, with their legacy and early controversy driving them as the newer fans get into it and want stuff that is “edgy” and “out there”

    • Here’s Johnny

      wrong on every level.

  • Alan Smithee

    Any tips for someone that is wanting to get into black metal, but doesn’t know where to start?

    • KevinOfTheMonolith

      Depends on what you’re looking for. I got into black metal through bands like Enslaved and Summoning, and then getting into Bathory, Emperor, Graveland, and Fen, but I tend to go towards more atmospheric stuff.

      • Hulksteraus

        Yeah, +1 for me regards Enslaved and Summoning and also them leading me into Bathory, Emperor, Mayhem, etc. However I guess I am a passing Black Metal enthusiast. I enjoy it, but not really my favourite genre. Enslaved and Summoning remain my two favourite bands (even if they really aren’t technically Black Metal). Tend towards the atmospheric and progressive with my metal (with heapings of Doom, Power, Thrash and old school). Seek out Bathory :)

  • basenjibrian

    Agree. Much prefer Grand Declaration!

    • Here’s Johnny


      • Grymm


  • Eddy Ferreira

    100% in total agreement. I don’t get the appeal of this album, i like there Demo Deathcrush a lot more, I also agree on liking Grand Declaration.

  • sweetooth0

    No. Just No.

    De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is easily the pinnacle of Mayhem’s career and possibly the best 2nd wave Black Metal album of all time (although Transilvanian Hunger is very neck and neck for me).

    • Patrick Meredith

      Ugh, no. You like boring black metal. Anything by Gorgoroth in the 90s is better second wave.

  • Here’s Johnny

    nice trolling on this album. slagging off this and slaughter of the soul recently. whats next master of puppets and rust in peace?

  • Max

    I’ve given up ever trying to explain the appeal of Mayhem to people who just don’t get them, and I’m NOT trying to be a black metal elitist by saying that. Truth be told, I got rid of most of my ’90s Scandinavian black metal records a few years after amassing them – even the majority of my Darkthrone and Burzum CDs went to the pawn shop. Honestly, I’ve always felt that second- and third-division black metal is of overall less quality on average than second- and third-division death or thrash metal.

    But Mayhem are something else, they really are. I don’t think De Mysteriis is a record that anybody would be guaranteed enjoying unless they heard it around the time of its release, and even then you’d have to be in a receptive frame of mind. I saw some unfavourable reviews of it back then, and even the sympathetic black metal fanzines didn’t give unqualified favour – most of them lamented that Dead hadn’t survived long enough to handle the vocal duties.

    That’s a lamentation I share. All of the issues I have with the record could basically be summed up by saying that I’d prefer for it to sound like Live in Leipzig but in stereo and a touch cleaner. Live in Leipzig is my all time favourite black metal record and I prefer all of those (live) versions of the songs that are featured on both, over the studio ones.

    But none of that can take away from what this record accomplished at the time of release – or the impact it had on me. I don’t think Atilla’s vocal approach always worked, but it was a very, very unique and courageous technique to employ in that (or any) scene. And Hellhammer’s drumming had already progressed to the point where he’d become one of extreme metal’s finest.

    Pretty much everything brilliant about this album to me can be summed up in the closing title track. I hadn’t yet heard a death or black metal song that went at blasting pace for pretty much all of six straight minutes, and the hypnotic riffing combined with Atilla actually sort of singing over it was a revelation of the directions that extreme metal could take that has never left me. Before then, most death metal bands had restricted their blast beat usage to whatever their drummers could endure, alternating them with half-tempo skank sections and breakdowns to give the drummer time to regain energy.

    But Mayhem were one of the first to blow that all away; with blast beat sections that were so lengthy and also nuanced in execution that you almost forgot to listen to the song to marvel at the speed and got into the ambient feel of it instead – in fact, it’s the difference between that and the technique-for-its-own-sake approach of American death metal that really distinguishes black metal from the other, way more so than any oft-cited tropes about “raw production” or “corpse-painted satanism” etc.

    I acknowledge that it didn’t have the same impact on you. The best music can’t appeal to everyone in the same way. All I can really say is – you had to be there, man. Peace out.

  • Forest Father

    I was there when the album came out – I was already into black metal – and I can easily say there were and are way better albums out there; there were better releases before and after DMDS. Now, the album is so highly regarded for mainly 3 things that were well observed back in the day but for kvlt purposes no one calls:

    Mayhem was the first black metal band from Norway and both guitar players of DMDS were the main influence for spawing the style within their country – almost every norwegian black metal musician back in the day was introduced/influenced to try this musical style by Euro (and Snorre in terms of songwriting) So most of those successful musicians and comrades own Euro a thing in their eyes; they would obviously praise Mayhem to no end and that they have made to this day in endless tributes, covers, compilations, interviews, etc.

    Euro spent entire years promoting his band across the world and building a cult image of himself. Even here in southamerica we had news about this Mayhem band, mainly by mailings and tradings. Euro was very active contacting musicians from every corner of Earth and let them know they were playing black metal (even if the TFA demo was pure horseshit and Deathcrush was barely less terrible).

    The whole controversy around the band, the church burnings, the death of Euro, Dead’s suicide among other things made the band a notorious act. The fact DMDS was released posthumously made it even more mordibly attractive; the last release of the ‘godfather of black metal’ was something that was guaranteed to sell well and as I said in the previous point, the rest of Euro’s comrades made sure DMDS was something legendary (they also went to gain much of this publicity).

    The band currently lives off that legendary status more than the quality of their music, even Necrobutcher admited it.

  • delicate white.

    This album is a classic. That Attila’s vocals suck makes no difference.

  • Dork

    I dont see any argument here. Just saying there was a hype accounts for little–Although I share the opinion that De Mysteriis isn’t all that interesting

  • Jason

    I miss Metal Maniacs, too. Fortunately, it seems like Decibel might be MM reincarnated.