18:33 min • Posercorpse Records • August 16, 1987
This was the first official release from the notorious Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. In around eighteen minutes, this group of then four musicians destroyed the burgeoning death metal scene in Northern Europe and ushered in the era of Norwegian Black Metal, one of the most infamous scenes in heavy metal history.
The opening track ‘Silvester Anfang’ starts off the record with a strange vibe, a series of pounding drum rhythms that hypnotize the listener. This is a cover of a song written by Conrad Schnitzler, a German experimental musician, most known for his time with Tangerine Dream. By using such a “non-metal” influence, Mayhem set the stage for future experimentation by black metal bands.
‘Deathcrush’ is the real starter of this album, a three and a half minute fury of drums, shredding guitar and high-pitched, nearly squealing vocals. Despite the sonic fury, this isn’t full out speed yet, this is a mostly mid-paced number, with a rhythm structure more akin to power metal than the black metal this band would be known for.
‘Chainsaw Gutsfuck’ comes up next and it has proven to be a watershed for black metal bands everywhere; the gory atmosphere, raw sounds and speed-driven guitar work courtesy of Euronymous, inspired countless metal bands to try it themselves. This track ranks amongst the most covered songs in metal history, with well over 100 different versions out there. This is the ‘Louie Louie’ for black metal bands.
Showing their respect for the founding fathers of the black metal genre, Venom, Mayhem does a blinding cover of their song ‘Witching Hour’, cutting the three and a half minute original into a minute and forty seconds of audio blasphemy. I think this shows where black metal was heading – if Venom’s original had shocked audiences, Mayhem blew their listeners away with this cover.
‘Necrolust’ is the next original on the record and like ‘Chainsaw Gutsfuck’ it became a staple in the band’s sound. Granted the lyrics are still the bloody, gory juvenilia of death metal, but the sound is more chaotic and darker, once again, giving a glimpse of things to come.
The band still shows their taste for the odd with the brief instrumental ‘(Weird) Manheim’, a lo-fi, haunting piano dirge of around a minute. It’s a good break from the metallic noise and adds a much creepier, “black” atmosphere to the record.
‘Pure Fucking Armageddon’ is the bloody, frantic sound Mayhem became known for. This track is the closest thing on the record to the sound that would fully form into black metal; it’s fast, lo-fi and high pitched. It almost sheds off its death metal roots, ready to emerge as a new musical beast.
The ‘Outro’ has to be heard to be believed; a minute a cappella of the band off-key and seemingly drunkenly singing repeatedly,
All the little flowers are singing,
All the little birds are too.
They are very happy,
And we hope you are too.
and then ending with a last burst of death growls. It’s a moment of humor rarely heard in black metal.
Up until the release of this EP, Norwegian black metal was largely unknown. The scene at the time was very much death metal and many of its most famous bands started out as death metal bands, including not only Mayhem, but Darkthrone and Old Funeral. Mayhem’s Deathcrush, while still very much influenced by death metal, ushered in this new sound that would come to be fully fleshed out five years later with the release of Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky LP.
Mayhem and in particular guitarist Euronymous proved to be very influential, turning many of their friends and fellow musicians onto this new emerging style of metal. Bands such as Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer and Mercyful Fate certainly laid the groundwork for black metal, but it was Mayhem who made the new sound into something tangible.
This EP proved influential not only at the time of release, but remains so to this day with several songs such as ‘Chainsaw Gutsfuck’, ‘Necrolust’ and ‘Pure Fucking Armageddon’ remaining as staples in Mayhem’s live set, even twenty-five years after their release.
The only member of the band from this record still playing with Mayhem is the bassist Necrobutcher. The other members have faded into obscurity and key member Euronymous would be murdered in 1993 by fellow musician Varg Vikernes (of Burzum). But even if Necrobutcher is the only one from these sessions still in the band, the sound they laid out remains immortal and essential to anyone interested in the origins of the Norwegian black metal sound.
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