The Rickety Old Shack

Mayhem — Chimera

album cover

Never the most timely band, in terms of release schedule, Mayhem took 4 years — after the release of the very polarising Grand Declaration Of War — before dropping Chimera. The second album to be written under the Mayhem banner without founder Euronymous, this new iteration of the group had overcome the initial scepticism from fans, though it took time for full acceptance to come. For those hoping for a regression to the more raw, stripped down style of the band's earlier years, Chimera is an absolute disappointment. This new record continues the group's experimentation with longer, more intricate song-writing and features even better production values.

Like its predecessor, Chimera flows from one track to the next almost seamlessly. Each song is packed full of blistering drums, punishing riffs, but the material is broken up by numerous tempo changes so as to avoid becoming a monotonous wall of noise. "Slaughter Of Dreams," in particular, has a nice, bass-driven groove to it, alternating between tremolo picking backed by relentless double-kicks and low-end riffing that really catches the ear. Every Mayhem record has demonstrated significant improvements in musicianship, and Chimera is no different in that regard. This isn't a huge leap like from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas to Grand Declaration Of War, this album merely continues the natural progression from where they left off at the end of the last album.

This is still furious, nihilistic black metal, it's just composed and presented with more nuance and craft to it. Chimera is an incredibly aggressive record, further highlighted when the band opts to slow things down or inject the faintest hints of melody. Maniac turns in his strongest vocal performance to date, sticking with the traditional wretched style and avoiding any spoken-word monologues. The riffs are razor-sharp, distinct and flow perfectly from one passage to the next. The drums are still very obviously triggered, but the production is significantly better and it never sounds as robotic as some parts of Grand Declaration Of War did. Instrumentally, this is easily Mayhem's best effort to date; everyone sounds on point and the production and mixing showcases everything very well.

This was the last Mayhem album I listened to until 2014 or so. Where Grand Declaration Of War grew on me because of its inherent weirdness and unconventionality — given where Mayhem were, musically, at the time — whereas Chimera is a lot less of a surprise even though it's a very good album. This is a natural progression, demonstrating further maturation of the band and their approach to songwriting. The album runs just under 45 minutes and the time just blazes by, even with tracks running an average of 5-and-a-half minutes or more. This is a veteran group dishing out some top-shelf black metal for the era in which they're operating. This is anything but a throwback or dated record, Chimera shows that Mayhem had a lot left in the tank in the early 2000s. This is an album that I did not give much thought to when it first dropped, but it has proven its timelessness in the 15 years I've had it.

Summary

The second album in the "Blasphemer era," and the follow-up to the much debated and controversial Grand Declaration Of War. Mayhem dropped Chimera in 2004, an even more technical and progressive album — while still remaining well within the domain of black metal. The record features some of the band's most varied song-writing to date, and an array of strong musical performances from the whole line-up. Chimera, as of this article's writing, also remains the group's most well produced effort, as on later albums they would dial back some of the studio polish. For those intrigued by the sound and longer songs on Grand Declaration Of War but wanted something a little less melodramatic — especially with regards to the vocals — then Chimera will hit the spot. An excellent release from a legendary, veteran band.

Album Information

Release date: March 29th, 2004
Record label: Season Of Mist

Maniac — vocals
Blasphemer — guitar
Necrobutcher — bass
Hellhammer — drums

Track Listing

  1. Whore
  2. Dark Night Of The Soul
  3. Rape Humanity With Pride
  4. My Death
  5. You Must Fall
  6. Slaughter Of Dreams
  7. Impious Devious Leper Lord
  8. Chimera

Link: shopusa.season-of-mist.com

—by Derek

Published: January 29th, 2019.