The Rickety Old Shack

Mayhem — Grand Declaration Of War (2018 Reissue)

album cover

When it was announced that Mayhem were going to remaster and reissue their 2000 album, Grand Declaration Of War, my curiosity was piqued right away. Usually black metal bands don't do reissues, but the album in question was an intriguing one to choose. The group's first album since Varg Vikerenes had stabbed Euronymous to death in 1993, it was a controversial release at the time. Eventually, I ended up preferring Grand Declaration Of War over the band's other albums, but it was not a conclusion I arrived at quickly. This remastering project serves as a good reason to revisit a very interesting entry in Mayhem's discography.

On this remastered version, the difference in sound quality is noticeable immediately. The whole LP sounds fuller and richer, with the drums getting a lot of treatment to correct the excessively clicky, triggered sound they had. It's not like triggered drums went away, but modern technology makes them sound so much better and this mix adds significant depth and presence to the drums. The bass is also much more noticeable in the mix. The only tracks that seem virtually the same as on the original Grand Declaration Of War are Maniac's vocals, everything else received a really tasteful touch-up. And this, to some, may be the whole problem...

A great deal of the reception to these new mixes has been the defensive assertion that Grand Declaration Of War sounded the way it did on purpose. That's a bit of circular reasoning, as Mayhem didn't accidentally record, mix and release the album — of course everyting was done on purpose. But who knows what the album would have sounded like if better technology had been available? Furthermore, who cares; the old copies do not cease to exist upon an album's reissue — if the old production job is truly that important then you have options. Personally, I'm a big fan of the remastered tracks and have zero problem with the changes.

This isn't a kvlt classic record, Grand Declaration Of War is a very progressive and artistically nuanced album. In the 7 years since De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the band had expanded their sound and influences, and this album showed Mayhem was willing to experiment with the genre they helped define. The inclusion of synths and programmed drums — such as can be heard on "A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun (Part II Of II)" — surely must have irked the genre purists at the time. From the title track onward, Grand Declaration Of War sets a pace of long, slow-paced builds into flurries of black and thrash metal riffing. You get a number of short instrumental passages, both as individual tracks, like "View From Nihil (Part II Of II)" and within some of the others as well — like the nearly 10-minute "Completion In Science Of Agony (Part II Of II)".

Not everything on Grand Declaration Of War is a hit, as I do find some of the material is spread out a bit too much. The second part of "A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun" didn't need to be over 3 minutes. The remastering process fixed any audio gripes I had with the original, namely the drums and overall thin sound. I'm always very skeptical of remastered albums, but the treatment this ambitious Mayhem album got is first rate. The material still feels the same as the original, only richer and clearer. If you're a fan of the original, and not constrained by the tenets of low-fi, kvlt black metal, then I think this remastered version is worth your time. Likewise, if you're not familiar with Mayhem at all then there's no reason not to give Grand Declaration Of War a shot.

Summary

Mayhem remix and remaster their incredibly diverse and ambitious 2000 album Grand Declaration Of War. The spirit of the record remain intact, but the band's progressive, sprawling effort sounds better than ever. This album marked the band's progression from the black metal genre they helped build, incorporating more melody and nuance into their song writing. Over the years, the weirdness and overall creativity of Grand Declaration Of War won me over and I've appreciated the album a lot more. This reissue breathes new life into an obscure classic, making this a release for the long-time Mayhem fan and the uninitiated alike.

Album Information

Release date: December 7th, 2018
Record label: Season Of Mist

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

Track Listing

  1. A Grand Declaration Of War
  2. In The Lies Where Upon You Lay
  3. A Time To Die
  4. View From Nihil (Part I Of II)
  5. View From Nihil (Part II Of II)
  6. A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun (Part I Of II)
  7. A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun (Part II Of II)
  8. Crystalized Pain In Deconstruction
  9. Completion In Science Of Agony (Part I Of II)
  10. To Daimonion (Part I Of III)
  11. To Daimonion (Part II Of III)
  12. To Daimonion (Part III Of III)
  13. Completion In Science Of Agony (Part I Of II)

Link: shopusa.season-of-mist.com

—by Derek

Published: January 8th, 2019.