Season of Mist
Mayhem‘s Esoteric Warfare is probably one of the most highly anticipated black metal releases for this year. With the band already showing the extreme metal underground a sneak preview of the album with their Psywar single and the potential for Mayhem to once again go back to a more traditional black metal sound after the avant-garde and experimental Ordo Ad Chao, fans are understandably excited in finally listening to Esoteric Warfare in its entirety.
For those who have already checked out Psywar, one would already know what to expect on Esoteric Warfare. The album kicks off with the energetic Watcher, and while elements of what made Mayhem so influential with releases such as De Mysteriis are immediately obvious, with the riffs of Teloch creating a cold and uneasy atmosphere on the record. Yet like what we have already heard on Psywar, the experimental side of the band that made Ordo Ad Chao an album that stands out in the band’s discography are still heavily present, with the band often switching tempos and including dissonant riffs to create that sense of unease on the listener.
The theatrical side of the band is still highly audible, with Attila helping to provide much of the bone-chilling elements to the Esoteric Warfare experience through the usage of different vocal stylings throughout the album, from the crazed whispers that leaves one with an image of lurking shadows, to the chants that reinforce the ritualism that Mayhem has incorporated into their songwriting. There are even the quieter moments on MILAB, but even on moments such as these the sense of unease is not reduced at all, and instead the contrast between the calmness at the background and Attila’s tortured growls becomes more obvious. All these are backed by the relentless and tireless (and almost mechanical-sounding) drumming of Hellhammer, who once again proves his stamina and precision behind the drum kit.
Unfortunately, through all of these, Mayhem‘s endeavours on Esoteric Warfare has failed to really capture my attention, and I often find myself wondering where the band is headed towards. While the Psywar single in itself proved to be rather charming, the entire album ended up sounding rather same-ish to me as it progressed. Perhaps Esoteric Warfare would be an album that would be better appreciated by those who prefer a more occult, trance-inducing style of black metal.