When you listen to “Worthless Abominations Destroyed,” the new “single” from Mayhem’s forthcoming album Daemon, you’re supposed to feel what Teloch, the band’s guitarist and songwriter for this cheery ray of sunshine, calls an “all is lost and hopeless” feeling. That’s considered a virtue in black metal, the extremely extreme subgenre the Norwegian group helped resuscitate in the early Nineties. Their breakthrough LP, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas — released after their bassist murdered their guitarist — felt especially gloomy (there was “none more bleak,” to pun off a line in Spinal Tap), and the group has been attempting to tap back into that feeling ever since.
Recent years have found Mayhem going fully avant-garde, recording the sort of wild, chaotic soundscapes Diamanda Galás might make if she were a maximalist, but “Worthless Abominations Destroyed” is a bit more traditional, save for some experimental touches by frontman Attila Csihar. He whispers, he hums low throat-singing drones, and he sings with operatic bombast. Meanwhile, Teloch, who also plays guitar, leads the group in undulating riffs that heave with the sound of skull-rattling drums and one notable bomb blast. It all dovetails into his apocalyptic vision, which Csihar sings terrifyingly: “Preparing for war/Against the gods/Ultimate blasphemy/Captured and imprisoned.”
The song evokes a feeling that goes back to heavy metal’s roots. When Black Sabbath took their name from a Boris Karloff movie, it’s because they were scared shitless by the horror of it and they thought other people would want to feel that way, too. In 2019, it’s a lot harder to shock and frighten people. But if you immerse yourself in Mayhem’s dark mood, if you suspend your disbelief and give into Teloch’s “all is lost and hopeless” world outlook, you might feel a sense of excitement you forgot long ago.
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