As black metal slowly shaped into its current form over the last couple of decades, Mayhem’s course obliqued into a space not very aligned with the genre. Considering how black metal was indebted to Mayhem’s early developments, not everyone was accepting of what Mayhem became after ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, adding to the events that shook the scene at the time. Never wanting to sound the same, Mayhem dove headfirst into the path of experimentation, first with more technically complex approaches to writing, then with production sounds, and they took their time with the releases. Five years after ‘Esoteric Warfare’, Mayhem returns to with the creation of a symbolic embodiment of their existence.
‘Daemon’ is Mayhem’s act of self-evocation. It is the act of Mayhem standing on the pile of dead and undead ideas, as it watches without assistance, the struggle of ideas that want to crawl back up. Daemon was conceptualized amidst Mayhem’s DMDS tours, and the influence is pretty apparent. In some sort, it is close to completion of the circle. The music is stripped down naked, off the experiments, and reincarnates as a primal force of a timeless era. It’s aggressive, sinister, and remorseless. It is piecewise primitive, but as a unity it shows intelligence, like and unlike how a seemingly natural structure becomes complex upon deconstruction, providing a new way to comprehend the structure.
The album starts off with a very classic Mayhem sounding banger, “The Dying False King”. Something about this track, but also a lot of sections of this album in general, to notice is that it brings to the forefront the quality that existed in Mayhem that inspired a good amount of modern ‘orthodox black metal’ bands, and somehow this quality has passed through the best of filters to meet its old incarnation again, in an unholy reunion. Attila’s vocals rule, as expected. There’s not just the rebirth of the essence of old Mayhem, but also in parts a regrouping of the sounds of other classic bands of that era, like Emperor to name one.
The singles “Worthless Abominations Destroyed” and “Of Worms and Ruins” are fast-paced bludgeoning tracks that do not necessarily indicate the variations of the album very well. Hellhammer absolutely destroys in almost every track here, and honestly, that’s not a surprise at all. Production is tight and very well balanced as well, thanks to Tore Stjerna of Necromorbus Studio. The album art was a conception of Italian designer Daniele Valeriani taking in an abstraction of what the band was going for with the sound.
With ‘Daemon’, Mayhem conjures up their greatest creation of this century. This is not just a return-to-roots album though. It is in a way a graceful acceptance of layers of causality initially triggered by themselves, and redirection of this kinetic energy. It is the known diabolical entity, that has gone through a reformation to strength. The iniquity is alive!