Legendary Norwegian black metal act Mayhem just keeps rolling along, Esoteric Warfare being their fifth studio release (as well as numerous EPs & live albums) in a career that spans back to the early 1990s. You might say that's pretty sparse, but seeing as the band has had many line-up changes over the years, we are lucky to have gotten this many albums out of them. If anything, you can easily say that they have never overstayed their welcome and made each release count. The current line-up of Mayhem includes longtime members Necrobutcher (bass), Hellhammer (drums), and Attila Csihar (vocals), along with guitarists Teloch & Ghul. It's been seven years since their last platter of 'mayhem', the very strong Ordo ad Chao, and the band have not lost a step during this long break, as Esoteric Warfare is another thrilling release sure to please any black metal fan.
Opener "Watcher" is a furious, lethal slice of extreme metal, with Attila's venomous shrieks stabbing through a mix of cold, ravaged guitar riffs and Hellhammer's non-stop blasting. It doesn't let up on "PsyWar" either, though "Trinity" tosses in some galloping rhythms amidst crunchier riffs and Attlia's tortured growling. The band adds in a doom element on "MILAB", something we saw pop up on their last album a few times, and it's one of Esoteric Warfare's more intriguing tunes, long on textures, atmosphere, and bleakness. "VI Sec" brings a little of that style to the table yet again, but also doesn't fail to add in some typical black metal blasting, with Hellhammer's drum work impressive at every turn. If you just can't get enough of old school, maniacal black metal (and truth be told, that's probably what most Mayhem fans listen to the band for, as they pretty much created this style), then be sure to check out "Throne of Time" and "Corpse of Care", each one chock full of savage riffing and pulverizing rhythms. "Posthuman" throws some avant-garde elements into the mix (again, something the band dipped into on Ordo ad Chao) before reaching the climax with "Aion Suntelia", a thunderous piece that sees Attlia screaming and growling like a banshee. This one is not for the faint of heart.
No doubt still a band to be reckoned with, Mayhem once again live up to their legendary status here with Esoteric Warfare. This is just as brutal as black metal gets, but the band keep it interesting by blending in some doom & avant-garde elements. Well done.
7. Throne of Time
8. Corpse of Care
10. Aion Suntelia