Mayhem – Wolf’s Lair Abyss – Review


Wolf’s Lair Abyss (Misanthropy)
by Paul Lee

Black metal doesn’t get any more brutal or soul-rending than Mayhem‘s newest EP, Wolf’s Lair Abyss. It’s so evil, it makes my body shudder and ache. Sure, there’s loads of bands out there that claim to be black metal, but for purists, the genre is defined by Mayhem and a handful of other brutal Scandinavian bands like Marduk and Darkthrone. In 1998, minus one original singer and guitarist, Mayhem forge on with their “pure” black metal (if you haven’t heard what made Mayhem so infamous, check out some back issues of Terrorizer). No symphonic keyboards or sweeping, melodic guitars here, Mayhem spit out their vile metal with no respite or subtlety.

It’s been some time since Mayhem’s exalted 1994 release,De Mysteris Dom 7/Sathanas, and they’ve come back with all blades bloodied, ready to eviscerate the competition. With the incredibly nasty, high-pitched wailing and screaming that throat-destroyer Maniac produces, Mayhem may just prove to be the most virulent of all BM bands. Maniac physically resembles Marilyn Manson, but compared to Mayhem, Manson is musical pap for new age squids. This is the real shit here. Imagine Metally Murdered-era Napalm Death melded with Venom and you might have some approximation of Mayhem’s sound. With so many bands trying to outdo each other with their musical extremities, Mayhem have actually succeeded with WLA.

With an eerie two-minute experimental noise intro, Mayhem launch into “I Am Thy Labyrinth,” which goes straight for the carotid artery. Hellhammer has his blast beats down to a science much like the great Mick Harris. New guitarist, Blasphemer, takes his guitar into a frenzied, minor chord roar surpassing the limited chord number of Mayhem’s Euronymous-era Deathcrush release. Original bassist Necrobutcher keeps right up with his cohorts making me wonder if he broke a few bass necks along the way. We’re also talking plenty of interesting time changes here as well. Unlike a more average, almost static release from the likes of Sweden’s The Abyss, Mayhem adds some diversity in between the blasts, even without the use of synths. They stand out from the throngs of black metal acts with their skillful and spiteful song-writing skills.

The other three tracks (the unnamed intro actually counts as a fifth track), “Fall of Seraphs,” “Ancient Skin,” and “Symbols of Bloodswords” continue Mayhem’s diabolical greatness. I almost feel guilty for being a fan of this disc, but that’s never stopped me from appreciating depraved music before. Even though I tend to like a bit of melody thrown into the brutal stew, Mayhem does the brutal black stuff better than anyone else in the genre these days. Lyrically, who the hell can tell what Maniac is singing, but it must be totally malevolent fare to keep up with the viciousness of the music.

It may be a while until Mayhem puts out a full-length album, but until then, we bloodthirsty fans will have to remain content with WLA. This ain’t such a bad thing, but that 25 minutes goes by fast. I’ve already played my copy at least 20 times this month alone. In the meantime, I’ll have to snag a copy of De Mysteriis… to hold me over. If you want to delve into the truly nasty side of the Norwegian black metal scene, procure a copy of WLA and join us.