In case it wasn't abundantly clear, the entire post about Howlin' Wolf was an April Fools joke. But this album here is no joke. The time has come to address the most infamous band in all of black metal. It's ironic, considering their influence on the scene and their presence in the media, how little music they've actually released, and how inconsistent in style and quality that music is. And yet, the very essence of the band is that they consider themselves to be the very definition of black metal. That's right, ladies and gentlement. It's time for Mayhem.

Mayhem - Deathcrush EP (Aug, 1987)

Black metal has finally come to Norway, and this is where it would fester and grow into an uncontrolable force. Mayhem, the brainchild of one Øystein Aarseth, better known as Euronymous, was, like the majority of the bands that came before them, a functional trio—one guitar, one bass, one drummer. But because none of the musicians in the band could perform vocals, Mayhem added a fourth member as a dedicated vocalist. Who this vocalist was would vary back and forth between Maniac and Messiah up until 1988, and so both singers appear on Deathcrush, with Maniac singing the majority of the tracks, and Messiah coming in on "Witching Hour" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon."

Oh, yeah, "Witching Hour." This is what it sounds like when a black metal band plays Venom. The song originally appeared on Venom's debut, Welcome to Hell, from which the name of the band was also derived ("Mayhem with Mercy"). Messiah's vocals are more shouty in the Teutonic thrash style than Maniac's, who howls completely out of control like a stuck pig, but neither of them are too comprehensible thanks to the warbly reverb effect on the vocals that Mayhem borrowed from Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty. Speaking of things borrowed from earlier bands, Necrobutcher's growling overdriven bass style is pure Celtic Frost. Manheim, the drummer, drew from Sepultura's frenetic blasting to form his own completely off-the-rails style. Like the bands before them, Mayhem included an intro track on their album, but unlike the stupid spoken word devil declarations of some of the other bands, Mayhem chose an eerie synth drum track. Nothing the band was doing was a simple carbon copy of anything that had been played before, but when you listen to all this music from Venom to Mayhem, you can hear the influences building up.

What is completely new, however, is Euronymous's guitar playing. While Deathcrush is obviously early in the development of his style (the main riff from "Chainsaw Gutsfuck" could have come from Hellhammer or the early Celtic Frost demos), he had begun a new style of playing riffs with pure, unmuted tremolo picking. His style was different from the thrash players of the time, from Slayer to Destruction, because he wasn't muting the strings to get a heavy, chunky sound. He was just letting them all go, making the guitar sound as out of control as Maniac's vocals.

To my ears and mind, Euronymous was Mayhem. Yes, Necrobutcher still refers to Mayhem as "my band," and Euronymous as "my guitarist," but that's just because Mayhem is and always was a band full of egomaniacs. I'll be talking a lot more about Euronymous and the black metal scene once we get into the 90s and the formation of Helvete and Deathlike Silence Productions. At this point, however, they've crystalized the black metal sound. After Deathcrush, crappy bands like Bulldozer aren't going to cut it anymore.The Teutonic bands will delve into full thrash (or even death/thrash). Quorthon will start exploring his Viking heritage. And a whole new breed of bands will arise. Get ready for it.

Final Verdict: 8/10 - Mayhem changed the game with Deathcrush. Between this and Under the Sign of the Black Mark, 1987 was the definitive year for black metal.

Now we know what black metal is supposed to sound like. It's still the late eighties, though, and the so-called "Second Wave" of black metal hasn't started yet. I'll explain my use of the term "so-called" when we actually get there. For now, we have a few more bands to cover as the scene slowly forms around Mayhem.