Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao
Season Of Mist
Black Metal, Doom
8 songs (40:46)
Release year: 2007
Mayhem, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the year

There’s a school of thought that runs as follows: in order to totally appreciate the bleak horror that lies at the depths of Doom and Black Metal, you have to experience an emotional or psychological event that truly affects you, that connects you and the relevant artist in suffering. Whether this is through the loss of someone close, a personal depression or addiction, or even a sudden change for the worse in lifestyle, the resultant skewed worldview means that the music is a mirror for your own feelings. Of course, anyone can enjoy music by treating it like a film – enjoying a decent horror film and listening to a good Black Metal album are quite similar experiences, after all – but the most potent effect comes when you immerse yourself in the piece in question, recognising what is being conveyed by the music, knowing that what the artist had in mind when they wrote it is what you have in mind when hearing it.

The luckiest will have no idea what that first paragraph was about, and for them Mayhem’s new album – only the band’s fourth – will be much like a particularly nasty horror film. They’ll feel changed, sullied by it during the listen and may even like the resulting effect, proclaiming it to be an album perfect for listening to for ‘that crushing feeling’, as it bears atmosphere in spades. However, their emotional response is created solely by the music. They themselves can quite capably go on with their lives, unchanged, staying in the light and not recognising the shadows that fall across their paths.

Another section of people, however hopefully the minority, will be shaken to their very core by Ordo Ad Chao. Speaking personally, there is something that seizes you when you stand atop a high place and prepare to step out into nothingness, to end it all. That terrified madness, that all-too-willing release, that chaotic calm runs through Ordo Ad Chao constantly. A cursory read of the lyrics and you’d think this was a science fiction story, aliens coming from space to destroy our planet. Not at all – the ominous tones of opening track A Wise Birthgiver set the scene, as a child is born, and assigned a place in existence, a set of rules to follow. You, I, we enter the world, ‘a primitive worker’ as Attila Csihar’s hushed snarl has it.

What follows is literally cataclysmic. Wall Of Water uses the metaphor of a colossal, planetary flood to describe the impact of the aforementioned event, the effect that it has upon its victim as great as if the world really did turn over, the poles exchange places, the sea drown the land. Their world has been destroyed, ruined, and thus the place assigned to them at birth is no more.

The driving force of this message is undoubtedly Attila. The man has his admirers and detractors, but never has he sounded so sinister, so full of rage, sadness, and everything between. He screams, he growls, he sings, he whispers, and rather than creating a theatrical montage akin to other infamously divisive Black Metal vocalist Dani Filth, he speaks directly to your soul. The backing music is not so much Black Metal as a violent ambient backdrop, riffs and drums patterns constantly shifting like the flood itself. It’s completely without structure, and so is utterly alien to initial listens. Despite this, if one has patience and stays with it, the music begins to take shape. Hellhammer’s drumming is fast and technical, in the background yet constant. Blasphemer and Necrobutcher’s respective guitar and bass merge into one drone, more Doom than Black, a constant mutated heartbeat at the centre of the experience.

The band opted for a murky production in the modern sense, meaning that although the instruments aren’t crystal clear you can still hear them perfectly, and the vocals are left to ride over the surface of the chaos beneath. Doubtless this change from the polish of 2004’s Chimera will cause much mud-flinging from the supposed fans, but music this dark doesn’t need studio shine to get the point across.

The nine minute plus of Sunn O)))-influenced Illuminate Eliminate continues the depressive theme: ‘Where I come from, I must return / No more, nothing left to do’. As a precursor to slit wrists and a warm bath it’s extraordinary, and would have given Dead himself pause before he pulled the trigger. Now isn’t the time or place to discuss the various band members’ neuroses, but reading it the lyrics it’s impossible to think that the author never wanted to end it all: ‘So many empty words been heard / So many meaningless thoughts been received / Whatever done equals zero times everything / No love, no hate, no faith, no memory’. The track closes on a slightly more epic and melodic note, and it’s so engrossing that you won’t believe that nine minutes have gone by.

If there’s one song on the album that will, guaranteed, bring you to your knees, it is the penultimate track Key To The Storms. Multiple breakdowns constantly shift and mutate, keeping you on edge, and then it happens – about halfway through, Attila breaks down in tears, weeping, switching between wailing and cackling laughter before choking in tears again. The first time I heard this I was practically traumatized, literally shocked speechless. Checking the lyrics again, it’s easy to see why – ‘The ways to wisdom are hidden / Shall the speaker silence / And the memories fade apart / Like the new attraction of outer space…’ The music builds into an insane rush, and Anti is upon us, the most violent track on the album. It describes the act of suicide itself, the violence of the music matched by Attila’s growls - ‘Detraction of outer space / Nemesis of genesis’ – as the protagonist ends his world.

Clearly, this is an interpretation of the album very much shaped by personal bias. If events in my life had been different, would Ordo Ad Chao have struck me in the same fashion? Perhaps, and perhaps not. What is beyond doubt, however, is that musically this is the greatest thing that Mayhem has produced since De Mysteriis, the murky riffs and challenging beats creating a monument to that most basic of human emotions: dread. As such, it has taken the band’s peers and wiped the floor with them. Burzum, for instance, may have conveyed misery, but Varg’s sadness was the mere pain of loneliness, teenage angst dressed in pagan clothes. Mayhem push an altogether different form of depression, that of being tired of life, of looking into the barrel of a gun, of staring down at the ground from a long way up, terrified of stepping off but being more afraid of continuing to live. And if you’ve felt that weariness, looked into that barrel, if you’ve stood in that spot and looked down, then Ordo Ad Chao will be a revelation to you. For everyone else, this is Black Metal with the ‘Black’ raised above all, the Doom elements twisted to provide an outpouring of darkness the likes of which comes but once a decade. The one true legend has proved its value and relevance yet again.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted 96 / 100
Other albums by Mayhem that we have reviewed:
Mayhem - Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Mayhem - Daemon reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Mayhem - Wolf's Lair Abyss reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Mayhem - Deathcrush reviewed by Cody and quoted CLASSIC
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