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Mayhem

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slušao sam ja njih davno, najviše 100% Hell, ali nisam album koji je pomenuo Miloš

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Odličan review za Pure Fucking Armageddon:

 

 

Pure Fucking Armageddon -- Side Telemarketers (Phoned In)

0. Mood-setting intro

 

Word of advice: if you're new to Mayhem, do not start with Pure Fucking Armageddon (PFA). In fact, unless you're reviewing Mayhem's discography to go along with a funny image you found on the internet, don't even listen to PFA, your time is more valuable than that. Go enjoy yourself more productively: prepare a healthy meal, examine a tree... I just realized that those activities can be done while listening to PFA, well don't do it! If those don't satisfy you, shoot, I've even compiled a searchable alphabetical list of activities that you could be doing instead of listening to this mess. I made it for you specifically. Dear reader. Yeah. So if you're not going to Kerr electro-optic effect for your own sake, then at least wavelength-division-multiplexing for mine, you don't want to worry me about how you spend your time, right? The most I gained from listening to PFA was concluding that running through Mayhem's discography in chronological order might be an inadvisable idea, and you don't want to be like me and realize you've just wasted half an hour of your life on such a small circular epiphany. I'll definitely talk about exactly why it's an inadvisable idea in a moment, but really that's not a very interesting subject, so I'll first describe PFA and explain what about it doesn't work, juggle some opinions that show up, and then at the end of the review, when all other topics have been addressed, I'll discuss the inadvisable idea at you. But yeah, before that, this EP.

 

1. This EP

 

So the first question someone uninitiated to this EP would have is, well, what does it sound like? Allow me to describe to you the feeling of exposing yourself to PFA for the first time with an overlong analogy. First Side Fuck, then Side Off, since that's how you're most likely to experience it unless you actually bought the tape, in which case it really doesn't matter to you what I think about the subject and also you're a sucker. So here goes. By the way I'm just setting some things up for the future here, if you don't feel like being thrown a brick of text then it's enough to know that the production is BAD, you can skip straight to 1.3. Anyway here goes, for real this time.

 

1.1. Side Fuck (Studio Quality)

 

Picture the hardcore punk band from next door playing at a pool party. Seeing as they brought a band along to this party you can immediately tell that it's somewhat of a big event, but in case you weren't so good with circumstancial evidence you'd still be able to tell that it's a pretty big event by the dozens of 16-to-18-year-olds in swimwear ahead of you whichever direction you look. Except to the left. That's where the pool is, and there they're all below you, because the pool -- hey yeah, that pool is, like, suspiciously deep, something like 5 metres or so, leaves you wondering what the owners need all that extra depth for -- so yeah, the pool's deep and people are therefore unable to stand on it and they're therefore below waist-level for you over on that side. Anyway, everyone at the party assumes that you're someone's older brother who is also bald and weird and wears a suit all the time, and they assume that you're there because somehow none of these kids had fake IDs they could use. But really you're just there to asssassinate the children of Kotokoli regent Uro Eso Souleymane Ayeva, who are in the US under pseudonyms precisely to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them, and you're going to do it by drowning them in the suspiciously deep pool. There's five of them in total at this party, one for each meter of pool depth. Don't ask me how that works. And as each of them dives in sequence, you dive along with them, soaking your pristine suit further into unsalvageability each time. From what you can tell, the laughably weak cocktails have prevented anyone from correlating your entries into the pool with the lack of exits out of the pool courtesy the Ayeva family -- in fact they haven't even noticed their absence at all, maybe they just don't like them -- but after the deed is done there's still something about it that prevents you from just moving on like you always do. Something about it still bugs you. And as you look into the half-opaque pink drink, hardcore punk with tinges of thrash metal blaring in between small applauses, you realize what it is that's been bugging you the whole time you were underwater: being underwater, grabbing hold of each Ayeva and dragging them down as the music bounced off the surface but penetrated a little into the volume of liquid so as to leave just hints of what it originally sounded like, hearing the Ayevas' grunts as they struggled to survive next to your right ear... all that together sounded exactly like some music you've heard at some point. What was it called again? Boards of Canaduuuuuuuuh? No, it was called Pure Fucking Armageddon. It was by Mayhem! More specifically the first five songs off of that EP, released in 1986. That's what they sounded like! The four remaining four songs off of that EP were also released in 1986, on Pure Fucking -- Fucking Armageddon. Written and directed by Mayhem. Haha, Varg barking commands over a speaker cone. Yeeeah, maybe these drinks aren't so laughably weak after all, I hope they don't think I'm a designated driver. They'd be piiiisssssed. Actually in british english they already ARE pissed. They need someone who isn't. Haha, don't look at me, I guess...

 

1.2. Side Off (Unmixed)

 

It sounds like the same band doing their sound check and the vocalist is late. Huh? What? No! They're above water.

 

1.3. Skip to here if you want

 

Alright, so that's the production job covered. Side Off is the clear winner in that department. But if there's anything that I can give Side Fuck's production credit for, it's for instilling dread at the transition from Side Fuck to Side Off on your first listen. As the song "Pure Fucking Armageddon" reaches the end, your heart starts beating a tiny bit faster as you remember that "wait a minute, this is the studio quality side!". Do you even want to know what "unmixed" is like? You could be unearthing lovecraftian levels of shoddy production! Are you sure you can handle it? Then "Mayhem (unmixed)" doesn't do anything to soothe your fears. It's literally just Mayhem. The band. And they're playing yyoooou. It's them just screwing around for two minutes as you stay uneasy about what awaits. It's not representative of what Side Off is going to sound like once all the instruments come in, that much is obvious. Once "Ghoul (unmixed)" starts it's all fine and you relax, but if those two minutes of uncertainty aren't mildly tense, I don't know what is. It sort of leaves you wondering, though, why Side Off would be called "unmixed" if it sounds undoubtedly better than the alleged "studio quality" recording. Were they intentionally worsening it? I mean, they are black metal, it could be. There is a reason for this that I'll go over, but I want you to squirm a bit before we get there, so now we'll look at the tracks themselves, outside of the production they've been cursed with. By the way, don't leave this paragraph with the impression that the production on Side Off is good. It's still muddy, overcompressed and overall rehearsal-quality, but at least this time it sounds like the mike could have been in the same room as the band. Right, so onto this EP, the songs themselves this time.

 

2. This EP, The Songs Themselves This Time

 

The consensus seems to be that this EP would have been pretty good had it not been for the horrid production. Many people claim that it hints at the greatness that Mayhem would eventually achieve, by way of songs like "Carnage" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon" showing up, displaying ferocious intensity and fantastic riffing, not to mention that both are staples of Mayhem's shows to this day, allegedly. That's what I've read, at least, but some of that information is over a decade old, so I wouldn't trust it too much. Well, regarding PFA's supposed hidden majesty, I dunno. To me it sounds like people are using the production as a scapegoat so as to not break the illusion that old-school Mayhem could do no wrong. From what I discerned, these songs are pretty bland. Hell, a lot of the time it sounds like the band have no idea what they're doing. Lemme explain by way of dissecting the song "Carnage", because it's the one that displays Mayhem's problems at this time most prominently.

 

2.1. Dissecting "Carnage" in order to make a point about all of PFA in the next subsection

 

I recommend you to have heard "Carnage" at least once before diving into this section so that you know what I'm talking about. I know I told you not to listen to PFA earlier, but here I'm afraid you're sorta going to have to. Anyway it's just one song, plus it's a learning experience. It's productive, c'mon! It's true that there are far superior versions of it on the Studio Tracks demo and on Live in Leipzig that you might be tempted to check out as a substitute, but those are distinct enough songwriting-wise from the two versions here that they're no longer representative of the "Carnage" we have on PFA. So stick to the PFA versions. Also, I'm afraid you're gonna have to go for the Side Fuck one, despite its truly awful production, because there you can get an idea of where the vocals are supposed to go, which in turn helps convey the structure and dynamics of the song. If you want, you can then listen to the Side Off version to clear up any questions you may have about the riffing afterwards, but naturally that's stretching the whole "not listening to PFA" concept really thin.

 

So now that we both know what the song sounds like, let's break down what we heard. The song has four riffs, which we can call A, B, C and D. The structure chosen to encapsulate these riffs is ABACD, where the A's serve as verses and B is an instrumental bridge with a solo playing over it. What role the other two riffs play structurally in this song is something that I want to address later, because it's important for the point I'm trying to make. Finally, regarding transitions, "Carnage" only uses the clunkiest ones commonly employed in metal. That's actually the main thing that made me suspect that Mayhem have no idea what they're doing at this point in their career, and it's also something they greatly improved in later recordings of the same song, which is why I don't want you to listen to them. So that you better know what I'm referring to, the transitions are either complete stops after holding the fundamental note or devolving into free improv, or they're those where all instruments stop except the guitar, which is left to play the riff on its own before all the other instruments gradually join in while still trying to convey an air of intensity.

 

Usually I'd aim my guns straight at the structure, dynamics and transitions and disregard the riffs, because riffs tend to be something that bands have got pretty much figured out, but this time around I can't even do that. The problems start at that low a level. I'm now going to try and convince you that that's the case. To do that, I'll first describe the four riffs in words. Using that we'll then see how they stack up to each other, hopefully giving you insight into why I opted for this method in the process. After that we'll segue into how the choice of riffs and the way they've been joined together is detrimental to them, that part mostly with empirical arguments. So here are the riffs:

 

A -> very simple four note hardcore punk / thrash metal riff

B-> slightly different four note riff conveying the same vibe, but with prolonged notes

C -> very rhythmic thrash riff

D -> death metal-like tremolo riff

 

It's probably worth quickly talking about the mindset with which I'm doing this analysis before diving into really subjective territory. Understand that I'm not claiming with my approach that if music follows a strict set of rules then it's good and that if it deviates from them it's bad. Instead, what happened was that when I listened to the song I found it unengaging, and what I'm going to be doing here is speculating on why that might be the case. So what you'll see below is the reverse: I'll be saying that it isn't good because it does XYZ, and not the other way around, I won't be saying that because it does XYZ then it's not good. I mean, the latter would be dogmatic, and if that attitude were reasonable then we could expect no new music to be made beyond some point in the past because afterwards it would be redundant. By the way, when I say the song is unengaging, i mean that I'm literally unable to pay attention to it after the solo starts. It took me a herculean effort to list what the structure and transitions were below, not because they're complex or hard to discern, but simply because I'd get distracted every time.

 

Ok, so where were we? Oh, right, I was going to explain why the choice of riffs is hamfisted and amateurish. For that purpose I want to double down on the fact that I'd get distracted after the solo starts. Because that's the result of the kinds of riffs that A and B are. Due to their simplicity they convey very little information other than the tempo of the section and what the fundamental note is currently. You don't get any cycles of tension and resolution, and therefore no dynamics get conveyed. These riffs are like the austrolopithecuses of metal. But just because they're primitive doesn't mean they're bad, they can be put to good use. If you insist on these kinds of riffs, and make the song intentionally repetitive and predictable, they slowly become more imposing, as if they were bulldozing through your ear canal and taking residence in your brain so that you hear them forever, but then also kept bulldozing further because really they don't give a shit what you think, they'll just keep existing as normal. It's a method commonly used in ambient and drone music to convey a larger-than-life atmosphere. Another effect of using this method is that it makes small changes become salient, but that's not super important here. So what I've observed to typically happen with this kind of riffs is that they quickly become background noise but then over time your attention to them will ebb and flow, allowing whoever's making the music to then double down on that sensation in whichever way they like. However, like I said, this happens slowly. It's a process that takes time and either several exact repetitions or an incremental evolution on themes in order to pull off. Otherwise it'll just seem boring or uninspired because it appears to lack intent. There are likely thousands of examples of this technique being used effectively in black metal, but since I don't know the genre all that well, I can only really point to Summoning as an example of repetition and predictability being put to good use. Now what happens when we cut that process short? Well, we get what happens in "Carnage". The AB cycles did not have enough time to get them atmosphere juices flowin' and the transition into riff C happens to coincide with an ebb of engagement with the track. I'll go back to this point in a bit, but now I want to examine riffs C and D and compare them to A and B without yet loooking at the sequence they follow.

 

Contrasting A and B, which are slow burners, C and D are very in-your-face and in-the-moment. C especially sounds like a very final "this is the end of the song, motherfucker!" kind of riff, what with its pounding rhythm in an unusual metric. D sounds less so, which is especially weird considering that it's the end of the song and all, but again I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

So A and B need time and a gradual progression to work well, and meanwhile C and D need speed and immediacy. They naturally do not mingle all that well. The best possible outcome from such a combination would be for the track to feel like two different songs welded together arbitrarily (which is kind of what happens in "Ghoul", by the way). And boy oh boy are we not in best-possible-outcome-land.

 

Now let's ease ourselves into what I said earlier about the transition into C happening on an ebb of engagement with the track, by way of looking at how the riffs are joined together through transitions and what that means for the dynamics. Here's a spoiler, the problems only get more pronounced when we look at the song that way. In case you forgot, the song is structured as ABACD. Also lemme list the transitions real quick:

 

A-B -> stop

B-A -> stop, then guitar on its own

A-C -> suddenly guitar on its own

C-D -> fake ending, then guitar on its own

 

Basically my point here is something that I've talked about plenty of times before: if you're trying to keep building momentum as you move from one riff or one section to the next, an excess of transitions where most or all the instruments stop is not the way to go. I'll call these trans-kjavik after the words "transition" and "Reykjavik" from this point forward so as to convey how clunky they are and because previously I kept saying "these transitions" every other sentence in this paragraph and it was annoying. Reykjavik is a word I chose for two reasons: paired with "transition" it neatly conveys the stochasticity and injustice of nature and life, but mostly it's because these transitions give you no way to predict what's going to come next, more often than not to the detriment of the track they're in. Anyway, trans-kjavik are not the way to go for carrying momentum because what they are really good at is at announcing that there has been a sudden change in the track. That right there is immediately a discontinuous evolution of the momentum. What that is good for is for building anticipation, but you eventually need payoff, and if you instead keep repeating the cycle too frequently, the anticipation will saturate and cut off as people realize that nothing was actually being built up to and that the transitions really are inconsequential. It's sorta like you're creating a South Sea Bubble, except it's a lot less historically important. Speculation and false promises will only take you so far, even in proto black metal. Also, I got distracted with that analogy and forgot to mention that these transitions reduce audience participation by way of not giving any information about where the track is going. They're very disorienting, and not in an exciting Lynchian way of subverting your expectations, but in the frustrating way of the 90s point-and-click games whose ending gets documented for the first time ever on Ross's Game Dungeon. Returning to the topic at hand now: with an average of more than one trans-kjavik a minute, "Carnage" and PFA in general have an issue with the whole carrying momentum thing. Meanwhile an inability to carry momentum makes people stop paying attention, as with an inability to carry momentum comes also an inability to resolve themes on a high level. Consequently "Carnage", and PFA in general, are fucking boring! If there were a likely cause for what I mentioned earlier about it having been a herculean effort for me to list what the structure and transitions on "Carnage" were, that would be it. Two additional things to note about the transitions, though. Firstly, the transitions may all be clunky, but they're not identical, there seems to be a gradual shift in preference from stops to leaving the guitar playing on its own as the track progressed, as well as a wildcard with the fake ending. That will lead to some speculation later on my part. The second thing to note is that this version of the transitions is only present on PFA. All later versions of "Carnage" have far more finesse in that regard, and it's why I claimed that they weren't very representative of the song in the state we have it here. Other problems with the track, like the choice of riffs and how they don't gel, still remain for the most part, though, so it's not like I think that "Carnage" slowly evolved into a black metal classic or anything.

 

One last thing I want to do before making my move into the conclusion of this subsection of the review is to emphasize how bad the structure of the song is in terms of dynamics. Having the barely audible solo go in for a second round after a trans-kjavik within the section (I may have said that "Carnage" is ABACD, but you could have just as easily called it ABBACD) would have been acceptable as a small faux-pas or a good idea that fell victim to the production, but then C comes in after the second A without allowing B to repeat. Now that would be fine if B and C were somehow similar but as we've seen earlier they're really not. It's like B is a set up without a resolution, or a murder mystery where there are two guns at the victim's house, one modern one dropped on the floor but quickly discovered to have never been fired and a historical one on the mantelpiece that is actually a cigarette lighter, and then it turns out that the actual murder weapon was an AMT Hardballer Custom that the murderer had kept with them all along and we only get to see it at the big reveal with no prior setup. That leaves the second A in the very awkward position of both indicating that we're effectively at the start of the song again (usually on the second time around people will add some subtle differences to the section to indicate some evolution of themes, not Mayhem though, they don't play by earthly rules), and also having A take on the job of connecting the previous chunk of the track together with the following one, bearing its own arsenal of themes. But since there were no changes to the second A in relation to the first A, that suggests to the listener that B did not bring forth any change to the current situation and that therefore the listener might as well stop paying attention for a bit. Put simply, that means that the transition from A to C happens, like I said previously, on an ebb of engagement with the track. And as if all that weren't bad enough, C sounds really really final, like the song clearly has reached its peak of intensity and has nowhere to go from that point forward so it should probably just end. So the song was just starting to mellow out and now it's at a climactic ending? What? It's as if in that murder mystery the police were to arrest their lead suspect, our protagonist showed up at the station, looked at the guy, said "yeah, that's him", and the credits rolled after the main character's monologue about how he figured out who the killer was. It was using the same reasoning as the police. Go figure. So then the instruments gradually lose steam, so we assume that we got to the final stretch of the song, and then, what do you know, it was a fake ending! Now we have to slog through the *real* one, and at this point, I mean, pretty much all rules have been fed to the crocodiles, anything goes! And if that's the case, then why bother even listening to the music? You won't learn about any inner logic that dictates what happens when, the riffs are bunk and you can't make out the lyrics anyway. It's pointless! In case you're wondering what the lyrics are though, during this section we have Lucifer "singing" -- more like demanding -- command for you, blood, war, Hell and Satan. Now, I know what you're thinking: that means that Mayhem are of the school of thought that Satan and Lucifer are not the exact same thing, in stark opposition to movements such as the King James Only and others like it. But if that's the case, evidence still points to the relation between Lucifer and Satan being like that between Doduo and Dodrio, as in you first have one, and then the other. That being so, and since Lucifer is supposedly the single most powerful angel joining the whole "turning against God and doing their own thing" bandwagon, i.e. there's only one Lucifer, then in order to stay consistent that means that there will be only one Satan as well. Now I want to remind you here that it's Lucifer saying this, not Satan. Mayhem themselves have clearly established that. So in the timeline of "Carnage", Satan shouldn't even exist yet! I'd just say that that's kind of weird, but you could suggest that maybe Mayhem were using the other definition of Satan here, as in שָּׂטָן, the Hebrew word for "enemy", which is also pronounced "Satan". Now, I would have claimed that it's a strange and unnecessary artistic flourish but conceded that it's a possibility, if it weren't for this consequence of that interpretation: that would mean that Lucifer would then want command for you, blood, war, Hell, AND his own enemies. I mean, that's just inconsistent with his character, regardless of when Lucifer is making the demand Mayhem are documenting. If he's still an angel, then why would he want war and Hell? Hell, how is Hell even a thing at that point if Satan's not around yet? If we instead assume that Lucifer's singing this as he's in the process of evolving into Satan, then why would he wish anything good for his enemies? That's inconsistently unselfish of him. Oh, now the song has ended. Good.

 

You might argue, of course, that it could have been an artistic choice on Mayhem's part to make a song that deliberately subverts all expectations and conventions of songwriting, as a way of playing hard-to-get for the listener. Now that would be a reasonable theory if not for, first of all, no they fucking didn't, and second, Mayhem are probably reasonable enough people to not shotgun themselves in the foot without necessity. If you want to subvert expectations, you have to play by the rules first. How do you expect to subvert expectations when the listener doesn't have any yet?

 

One last last thing I want to do before making my move into the conclusion of this subsection of the review (see what I did there?) is to expand upon what I said about the riffs being bunk. Before that I hadn't explicitly said that they themselves are bad, I just said that they didn't gel well together. Well now I'm directly stating that the riffs on their own are bad, and that is because they are generic, and consequently uninteresting. Except for C. C is generic but alright, grievously misused as it may have been. But saying that A, B and D are generic can naturally spark some controversy. I want to look at where that controversy may come from first, and then from there explain my point. I think at the very least we've all already heard several extremely similar or even identical riffs to the ones presented on "Carnage" and on PFA in general. So if PFA were released today, then it would have been uncontestably generic. What makes this not be such an open and shut case is the time when PFA was released. One thing that has been often said in defense of PFA is that the riffing it features is the first of its kind, that nothing like it had come before. That being the case, Mayhem would be the pioneers, and only subsequent renditions of the same riffing style would have been generic. However, that argument relies on assuming that there is a cohesive riffing style on PFA, which there isn't. Moreover, I was able to roughly describe the riffing style earlier by just referring to genres that Mayhem clearly did not pioneer, so they're copying riffing styles that already existed since the early 80s (PFA's from 1986, as I said before), with no care to make sure that they meld together, and in addition to that they're doing it in such a way that you can still easily distinguish each of the genres they borrowed from. Even if Mayhem had been the first to ever borrow from that particular set of genres, they did not work enough on them for the result to sound original or distinct from their influences in any way. With that said, I think that PFA would have sounded as generic then as it does now.

 

Alright, so basically my opinion is that "Carnage" is a dull song because it consists of four generic riffs that don't go together, which are arranged in a sequence that makes them even less effective. And overall the way the song came out is consistent with the kind of very reckless and sloppy approach to composition someone would have as they are anxious to build a cache of original material, which is probably what actually happened. The fact that it's inconsistent, unfocused and unengaging is just a consequence of that attitude. If you don't agree with my assessment, I'm pretty curious to know why. Hit me up!

 

Okaaay, this subsection came out a lot longer than I expected, but we're practically at the finish line now. We just need to generalize what I said here to the rest of the EP.

 

2.2. Generalizing what I said above to the rest of the EP

 

The easiest way to do this is to first provide a quick description of each track, mostly just focusing on the aspects about them that differ from "Carnage". That way I can get the most mileage out of the absurdly long subsection dissecting it. Once I'm done with that, I'll turn my attention to making bold generalizations about all of PFA.

 

2.2.1. Quick descriptions of each track bouncing off of 2.1.

 

Just a little point on notation. I used A,B,C and D to identify the riffs on "Carnage" previously. In order to not convey the idea that there are riffs being transferred from track to track, I'll just keep using the rest of the alphabet for the other riffs in the EP. Don't worry, I won't be anywhere close to running out of letters. I'll also present the song structures here in far less detail than before, opting instead to expand a little on important points such as incremental evolutions in text instead. Also, now that I've familiarized you with the concept of trans-kjaviks, I'll indicate where they happen in PFA as the () symbol on the song structure descriptions.

 

2.2.1.1. "Voice of a Tortured Skull"

 

structure: E

 

It reminds me of an overcompressed Ramleh or Skullflower with maybe a bit more screaming. It's certainly the most "evil"-sounding track on the whole EP, and the vocals here are by far the best, but I think the track doesn't manage to create a particularly foreboding atmosphere because the performance and recording are too sloppy. It sounds less like you're entering a dimly-lit cavern in preparation to uncover the ghastly secrets within and more like a wet cat picking a fight.

 

2.2.1.2. "Carnage"

 

"Carnage" with vocals and godawful production. Otherwise see 2.1.

 

2.2.1.3. "Ghoul"

 

structure: FG()F()H

 

The songwriting on this one is easily the best out of any of Mayhem's originals on PFA. They stall on F pretty competently, with small changes every now and then, building up anticipation before seamlessly kicking into high gear with G. Then it mellows out a little, and returns to F, but since there was a pretty steep climb up until then a reset is welcome. All that is very nicely done. My problem with this track is one I had with the transition from the second A into C on "Carnage". It's a very sudden change of momentum in a track that was working very well with gradual incremental variations up until then, and it's really uncalled for. I guess it might have been added so that "Ghoul" would work better in a live setting, but having H work relies on you having lost attention to what you were listening to at some point, which seems a bit defeatist if you ask me. And even if you don't ask me, it still seems a bit defeatist. It's just a shame that Mayhem felt the need to tack H on there, I was finally getting down with one of the songs here.

 

2.2.1.4. "Black Metal (Total Death version) (Venom cover)"

 

structure: a bit too complex for my rudimentary notation

 

This is Venom's "Black Metal" played at about twice the speed with no vocalist. The only thing I noticed that was different songwriting-wise was that the chorus uses slightly different chords. That actually works out pretty well, the new chords give it a slightly more menacing vibe than the original, which is a welcome change. However that's basically the one alteration I liked. The lack of vocals makes the songwriting very "floaty". You know how a lot of UK Bass / Grime / Post-Industrial tracks have these long-ass silences all over the place for seemingly no reason, and then when the tracks transition from one section to the next it kiiinda makes sense, but not really? Well, yeah, "Black Metal (Total Death version)" is floaty like that. That is then exacerbated by the production and the sloppy playing. I'd rather have just listened to Venom's "Black Metal" at about twice the speed, frankly.

 

Fun little tangent: I actually didn't notice at first that this was a cover of the Venom song. Hell, I only found out through this track that I had never even heard the original in its entirety. What I was actually thinking of as being "Black Metal" was just Possessed's "Death Metal" but with the chorus of "Black Metuhhl" spliced in there and a few "lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll"s sprinkled throughout. It would be pretty funny if this kind of thing existed for all genres. As in, if they all had a fast-paced metal song from the early 80s named after them where the chorus was just the name of the genre repeated over and over again. Some genres are ripe for that treatment, like Witch House or Zeuhl. I mean, Witch House especially! You could just make a song about a house inhabited by witches. It's tongue-in-cheek, but it's not like "Black Metal" or "Death Metal" weren't, it's par for the course. But what I'm really interested in hearing is how bands manoeuver around genres that really don't go well with this concept at all, and going out of their way to give context to the chorus. Obviously anyone can just yell "Southeast Asian Classical Music" into a mic four times in a row occasionally, but it's not everyone that would go the extra mile to give us listeners a reason to chant "Electroacoustic Improvisation" along with them. That's the sort of determination I want to see. If anyone ever comes along and successfully pulls off such a concept, for all genres, my ass is theirs to keep, I won't be sitting any time soon after that one.

 

2.2.1.5. "Pure Fucking Armageddon"

 

structure: I()J()KL()KLJ()K

 

Oh boy, where do I start with this one? With the first half? Good thinking!

 

Oh boy, where do I start with that first half? It sounds like Mayhem were perpetually running out of ideas throughout composing this song. It sort of picks up a little towards the second half, with some subtle variation like the kind we saw in "Ghoul", but the beginning is just awful. It sounds like Mayhem are covering a part of a Doom speedrun. Somewhere in the middle of it, too. It just keeps starting and stopping for seemingly no reason. And then when it's done doing that it keeps cycling in and out of the same two note riff like it's the best shit ever. It's an okay riff. But only for the first 5 seconds. Then it's more like an alarm clock than anything. The transitions are clunky as always for the most part, and the vocals are somehow even worse than they were before. However the track is not entirely without merit. There is in it one thing that is deserving of recognition, and that, my friends, is the nothing solo we hear from 1:51 until 2:23. It may not sound like much, but I'll explain. It's been almost a decade since I first began developing an interest in metal, and over that time, fewer and fewer things have genuinely surprised me about it. That is doubly true for old-school metal,as the modern stuff constantly uses it as an influence. And then along comes this curveball: a solo. Played on. Absolutely nothing! I have never heard anything like it. I mean, they... They even point it out! They stop the rhythm guitar at 2:02 to let us hear the ether bring out the big guns! Just... how? I need to sit down. Thankfully I can for now.

 

Other than that, I'm assuming that later versions of "Pure Fucking Armageddon" are vastly different, because I can't imagine this hot garbage ever being considered a classic.

 

2.2.1.6. "Mayhem (Rehearsal)"

 

See 1.3.

 

I was trying to figure out what to compare the second half of this track to, and I think I got it now. It sounds like two Arnold Schwarzeneggers impersonating three Nicholas Cages trapped in a zoo exhibit.

 

2.2.1.7. "Ghoul (Rehearsal)"

 

See 2.2.1.2.

 

2.2.1.8. "Pure Fucking Armageddon (Rehearsal)"

 

Oh, it's a guitar solo. Otherwise see 2.2.1.5.

 

2.2.1.9. "Carnage (Rehearsal)"

 

"Carnage" without vocals and with less godawful production. Otherwise see 2.1.

 

2.2.2 All together now

 

We can easily cut out five of the nine tracks as being either filler or unnecessary, and with a little less ease we can cut out another one: "Black Metal". Except for some small chord changes, that last one is basically the same as the original Venom version, except far sloppier. The core of the EP is "Carnage", "Ghoul" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon" and the rest is either decorations or redundancies. That's a lot of decorations or redundancies. In addition it obviously doesn't matter in what order you listen to the tracks because, well, first of all, both sides feature the three aforementioned tracks in different orders, and second, they don't incrementally show new sides to the band or evolve the sound, the tracks are just in some order. I guess Side Fuck was supposed to be front and backloaded with the good shit, with the less competent tracks occupying the middle, but your guess is good as mine here. The core of the EP largely consists of primitive riffs being misused, presented in an almost "slideshow"-like fashion. The production sounds like the reconstruction of an antelope's brain waves as it listens to a band rehearsal. In a few words, this EP is bad. Don't listen to this EP. Unless you can't avoid it, in which case do listen to this EP. I mean, it's not like it'll cause an arm to fall off...

 

What I said earlier about "Carnage" not being historically important as it's presented on PFA can be generalized to the whole EP, as it's all equally generic. Some songs are a bit more competent than others, but none of them really fares so much better than others as to warrant it being singled out as PFA's saving grave. In the next section I'll point out an extra argument as to why PFA is not historically important, but you might already have a hunch about what that is. Actually, one argument in favor of PFA's historical importance that is that it could have gained notoriety for being widespread. Well, the original release was limited to 100 copies, and the first re-release -- also limited to 100 copies -- was in 1991. Meanwhile Deathcrush entered circulation in 1987, and that EP is superior to PFA in practically every way. Now, obviously the limited number of copies doesn't mean much. People probably pirated the tapes, and if we assume that Mayhem's recognition spread by word of mouth, we could go so far as to estimate that to every 100 PFA tapes, only one were a legit one and all others were pirated. Or we could even assume that the tapes that were dstributed simply ended up in the best hands possible and went on to influence a whole movement of black metal music in Norway by way of who got them. The first scenario is possible, maybe even likely, but then it just means that the tape is important out of dumb luck. It wouldn't have been merit that placed PFA in the annals of music history, but just being in the right place at the right time. It's a spot that could have been occupied by anyone. It's sort of like Gavrilo Princip, a small cog that got a huge machine rolling. It's not the cog itself that is important, anyone could have assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand that day, it's the machine that matters. And what about the second scenario? Well, like we saw, PFA just splices a few influences together haphazardly, it doesn't feature a distinctive sound. Having been an influence to other musicians doesn't matter, PFA is redundant in that case regardless.

 

3. Summary

 

So that's PFA basically covered. It's bad, and it doesn't matter. Mind you, this may have been far more attentive listening than has ever been intended for this EP, I know that, but it was important to do to justify my point about how it really isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things. I guess I wanted to be the one who nails the coffin shut on this one once and for all, probably anyone would feel kind of vindictive after trekking through it like, what, 30 times?

 

Pure Fucking Armageddon, more like Substantially Below Reagent-Grade Fucking Armageddon.

 

4. Odds and Ends

 

4.1. Why Side Off sounds markedly better than Side Fuck

 

Because PFA is actually a collection of two rehearsal demos. Side Fuck is from a bootleg called either "Voice of a Tortured Skull" or "Voice of the Tortured Skull", depending on who you believe, and I'm assuming that the bootleg predates the EP. Side Off is another rehearsal, recorded specifically for this EP, I'm guessing. If my previous assumption is correct, then that would make the bootleg predate PFA by a bit, which would then reduce the historical relevance of PFA even further, as it no longer even has a claim to fame as being Mayhem's first release. Long story short let's not talk about PFA as being hot shit, please.

 

4.2. Why running through Mayhem's discography in chronological order might be an inadvisable idea

 

Because I'm not a huge fan of their sound at the start of their career, but I kind of like their later stuff.

 

4.3. Subsection where I remind you that the above review is my opinion and that I want to compare it with other people's opinions, so as to improve my own

 

I want to remind you that the above review is my opinion and I want to compare it with other people's opinions, so as to improve my own. So if you disagree with the points here, hit me up!

 

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Alright, so basically my opinion is that "Carnage" is a dull song because it consists of four generic riffs that don't go together

 

:haha: :haha:

 

fuck off

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