Mayhem is arguably the genesis of the modern black metal sound and movement. Formed in 1984 in Langhus, south of the capital city of Norway, Mayhem rose out of the ashes of Musta. The band’s name was inspired by the Venom song mayhem With Mercy. While Necrobutcher and early drummer Manheim were Musta members, it was Euronymous who was the leader and pallbearer of the new underground phenomenon. An early singer was called Truls. At this time, the band’s logo featured a superscript declaring this Mayhem to be ‘the true’ one given the existence of a US band with the same name.
The young band issued an infamous demo in 1986 called Pure Fucking Armageddon. Euronymous sang and played guitar. Manheim played drums, while Necrobutcher occupied the bass guitar position. The group next spread a rehearsal tape throughout the underground. This was 1987. Maniac, a Swedish former Morbid member, had now joined the group. The band’s first proper release came in the summer of 1987. The Deathcrush EP was rough and ready, but has been hailed by many underground mavens since. It was issued on the band’s own Posercorpse label. The album’s intro Silvester Anfang (Christmas’ Beginning) was composed by New age musician Conrad Schnitzler of Tangerine Dream. It reflected Euronymous’ love for electronica. At the same time, Euronymous was spreading his tentacles throughout the underground. He was developing his contact throughout the underground metal scene with furor. He made inroads for the band behind the iron curtain where metal was limited. Euronymous even managed to gain a show in East Germany and recruit a singer later from Hungary. Euronymous would collect the flags of the world; open a metal shop in Oslo, called Helvete (‘Hell’), with Occultus as a partner. Moreover, he collected the flags of the world and declared his allegiance to Communist International and the eradication of moshing and crossover music. He was also the heralded leader of an exaggerated group of fans and musicians labeled as The Inner Circle or The Black Metal Mafia. Last, but not least, Euronymous became the founder of the Deathlike Silence Productions record label, whose name was inspired by a Sodom song. The label would operate out of Øystein’s store. The company would work with bands like Sigh, Merciless and Burzum. The last name would be his undoing. With his reputation growing Euronymous would become a black metal icon. When Candlelight Records was searching for black metal bands to sign the label would call the Norwegian man. His recommendations, at one point, included Emperor and Enslaved. Unfortunately, working against the underground, Euronymous was also a tacit rip-off.
Mayhem traveled to East Germany for a unique black metal concert in November of 1990. This was unprecedented behind the iron curtain at the time. The recording became the band’s first full-length LP in 1993. The gig was, by all accounts, an orgy of filth and blood with Dead, in particular, outdoing himself with cuts to himself and blameless animals. Dead committed suicide in 1991 by using a shotgun and shooting himself in the mouth. Legend has it that upon discovering the corpse Euronymous made beads out of the bone shards. Photographs were taken and one was used as the cover for Dawn Of The Black Hearts LP. Dead was replaced for a short while with Occultus (a.k.a. Stian Johansen) a former singer of Abhorrent/Thyabhorrent. The 1996 Out From The Dark sampler featured Dead on vocals. Necrobutcher left Mayhem following Dead’s suicide. Dead was a member of Morbid, which had also included LG and Ulf of Nihilist/Entombed.
Having earlier released the Burzum debut on his label Euronymous and Burzum man Christian (a.k.a Varg or Count Grishnackh) had grown to dislike and later hate each other. In what became a seminal underground event Varg Vikernes murdered Euronymous on August 10th, 1993 in the latter’s apartment. Mayhem guitarist Blackthorn (Snorre W. Ruch) acted as an accomplice. Apparently, Varg was eager to be out of his contract with Deathlike Silence Productions. Varg had traveled to the UK and met with Earache Records. Varg would also note that DSP owed him money. Ironically, Varg had just recorded bass for Mayhem’s upcoming album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (‘Of Lord Satan’s Mysteries’). This album was issued by DSP, but later picked up and made mainstream by Century Media’s Century Black imprint. The album’s cover depicted the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, central Norway. Apparently, Euronymous and Varg had planned on blowing up this edifice. The Century Media biography for the album calls Dead’s death a ‘Suicide’ (in quotation marks) in an apparent effort to emphasize the controversial nature of the death. It also omits the name of Varg ‘Count Grishnackh’ as the bassist emphasizing (many say inaccurately) that his bass lines were deleted and rerecorded by Hellhammer. With Euronymous’ demise, and Varg’s incarceration, Mayhem was put to rest. Naturally, labels like Black Metal, Misanthropy and many others issued EPs and bootlegs galore. Ironically, Misanthropy Records was home to Burzum at this time. The Nordic Metal compilation of 1996 paid tribute to Euronymous. A 1998 video was called Live In Bischofswerda.
Maniac, Blasphemer, Necrobutcher and Hellhammer shockingly returned in 1997 and reformed Mayhem. The band, with no Euronymous, Signed with France’s Season Of Mist label in 1999 and issued an album called Grand Declaration Of War. The album was derided by some for its off course style. The album was issued in America through Necropolis Records. A 1997 EP was called Wolf’s Lair Abyss. The band played several secret gigs using this name. Bloodthorn's Under The Reign Of Terror in 2000 featured a guest appearance by Mayhem's Necrobutcher on the Mayhem cover song Deathcrush. The Mayhem/Meads Of Asphodel split 10” (featuring Dead’s vocals) was delayed in 2002 after the manufacturer sought reassurances from Supernal Music regarding the content. Maniac left in 2004. He had reportedly been an alcoholic and fought with the other band members. His replacement was none other than Attila. 2007’s Ordoa Ad Chao (‘Order To Chaos’) was again more basic black metal. The underground fanatics of yore now even received a Norwegian music award for Best Metal Album. After 23 years in the band Blasphemer left in 2008. He asserted that he would focus on Ava Inferi. The band is utilizing session guitarists nowadays. The band landed in the news again in November of 2009 for damaging a hotel room in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Mayhem’s Deconsecration Part II tour of the USA and Canada was cancelled in the winter of 2010 due to financial difficulties. Mayhem was booked for three shows in Japan for August of 2010. Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka would host the Norwegians.
Lithuanian metal music festival Devilstone Open Air 2010, which took place in the town of Anyksciai on from July 16th to 18th received criticism from the local religious community that summer. A group of local Catholics and the Dean of the local church publicly expressed their opposition towards the festival. They initiated a pre-trial investigation accusing the festival and participating band Mayhem of provoking religious disunion. Mayhem claimed that it used real human remains as part of its show in 2011 at Hellfest in France. The band was booked for Steelfest Open Air 2013, an extreme metal festival that would take place in Hyvinkää, Finland on May 24th and 25th, 2013 featuring, amongst others, Mayhem, Sodom, Destruction, Belphegor and Tsjuder. One-time singer Eirik "Messiah" Nordheim and drummer Kjetil "Manheim" Haraldsson banded together with original Cadaver members guitarist Anders "Neddo" Odden and bassist René Jansen in a new project called Order. That band had a rehearsal recording. Mayhem issued its first album in seven years, Esoteric Warfare, through Season Of Mist. Teloch was on guitar. Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem was joined by singer Sven Erik "Maniac" Kristensen for a show at 2016’s Sweden Rock Festival, which would take place June 8th-11th in Sölvesborg, Sweden. Mannheim, Messiah and Maniac were also part of the band at the Inferno Festival in Oslo, Norway on March 26th. The band was booked for Eindhoven Metal Meeting where it would perform a Demysteriis Dom Sathanas set.Mayhem also announced North American and European dates for winter and spring of 2017. The black metal band would follow the recent trend and embark on the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas tour performing its debut album in full. The current line-up of the band, which was playing the 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in full across Europe, would also release De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive independently on December 15th. The album was recorded live in Norrköping, Sweden the year before during the band’s show at the Black Christmass Festival. Former singer Sven Erik Kristiansen (a.k.a. Maniac) brought back his old 1980s fanzine Damage Inc. as of 2017. Peaceville release a 2018 boxed set covering the singer Dead era of Mayhem. Cursed In Eternity LP/DVD/book was out in November.
Despite Euronymous Communist proclamations the band has spoken against mixing races and even used Nazi imagery. Other bands often cover Mayhem.
MAYHEM - WOLF'S LAIR ABYSS - MISANTHROPY
Misanthropy Records: It is a source of amusement and wonder to see this
release on the same label as Burzum. Count Grishnackh of Burzum being
the murderer of Euronymous of Mayhem, one can easily see Euronymous'
corpse turn in its grave. Burzum being Misanthropy's bread and butter
it is not difficult to note that dividend from Burzum's sales is going
into Mayhem's comeback and promotion. It reminds me of the time six
years ago when Grischnackh mailed me a Mayhem T-shirt as a gift. The
Mayhem biography omits the above-mentioned connections.
The new Mayhem: Desperately trying to turn the page, there is no
of Euronymous to be found anywhere on or near the CD. It is as though
he never existed. There is no mention, no memorandum, no tribute,
nothing. Can you imagine Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger? How about
Deicide without Glen Benton?
The music: There are four songs of black metal the way Satan envisioned
it here. They are simple and putrid assaults of evil. Although the
monkish chants are a cold shower here. They are out of place. Still,
even if the guitars play coy this rips. - Ali "The Metallian"
MAYHEM - GRAND DECLARATION OF WAR - SEASON OF MIST/ NECROPOLIS
Mayhem without Euronymous (who it must be pointed out was a mere rip off himself) is like Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger, sky without blue or hell without Satan. - Ali "The Metallian"