Fairly recent visitors to our shores, the almighty Mayhem continue to commemorate their 30thanniversary with the highly anticipated release of their fifth studio album and first new material in seven years.
Esoteric Warfare is based on the concept of “esoteric experimentations” undertaken by the nuclear powers during the Cold War. Perfect and appropriate subject matter for aural destruction by Mayhem .
This is their first album with guitarist Morten “Teloch” Iversen as a permanent member (long term guitarist Blasphemer left in 2008) and he makes his presence known immediately with some fearless opening riffs on first song ‘Watcher’ which storms along at breakneck speed thanks to Hellhammer’s familiar blast beats and Attila’s always deranged vocals. First single ‘Psywar’ and ‘Trinity’ continue the unabated ferocity, the latter perfectly featuring a sample of Oppenheimer’s famous speech about the Trinity bomb testing. ‘Pandeamon’ has an intriguing, stop-start beginning but once started is absolutely relentless and features some of Hellhammer’s best work. An album highlight.
Unfortunately, we then reach the mid-point of the album and a song titled ‘Mylab’ which wears out its welcome immediately even with Attila’s fantastically evil, gurgling vocals. It’s a reminder of a feeling that struck me when I last saw them live, “Is this song REALLY still fucking going?!”. Definitely one to forget, even if it is a rare chance for a breather. ‘Posthhuman’ has a couple of interesting riffs but is another slow plodder and mostly forgettable. ‘Aion Suntalia’ or ‘Sultana’ as I originally misread it, is a half decent closer but ultimately is a mildly disappointing finish to a mostly underwhelming album.
It’s a little bit of fizzer to be honest. I really, really wanted to love it and I guess it’s pretty easy to put hate on anything Mayhem produces these days. Then again, maybe it’s a grower like all their recent albums and it might take a few more listens. If anything, this album just makes me appreciate the pure class, effortlessness and clinical drumming skills of Hellhammer even more than I already do. Hail!
6. Six Seconds
7. Throne of Time
8. Corpse of Care
10. Aion Suntalia