“Deathcrush” is one of those items which hold a godly status among the underground Metal adepts. Most times this blindly worshipping feedback appears to be determined by totally non-musical factors, yet Mayhem’s first “proper” release stands high on the top of its unquestionable historical significance.
The year was 1987, and when anyone mentioned “extreme Metal”, everybody would think “Reign In Blood”, of course. At the same time, however, the forefathers of Black Metal were busy pushing the insane aggression of Thrash to new extremes, a courageous attitude which would ultimately give birth to two genres: Death Metal and Black Metal. “Deathcrush” is one of the most significative documents of this evolution. It’s a short, hit-and-run, less than twently minutes slab of pure aggression, where classic elements of Thrash are defiled by what could be described as the seeds of Black/Death by today’s standards, but out by a bunch of not excessively skilled musicians who definitely knew what they wanted. At the time, this sounded like pure insanity, and today, the effect still refuses to wear off.
Oddly enough, the album opens with a kind of “melodic” drum machine track named “Silvester Anfang”, composed for the band by Conrad Schnitzer. Mayhem have always been weirdos, no doubt about it. But then the title track kicks in, and it’s compromiseless Metal insanity. The first riff is actualy pretty interesting (and, most importantly, just plain cool) with its odd tempo; Euronymous basic guitar buzz is well backed by Necrobutcher’s distorted bass sound, the result being a harsh bu rather thick sound. The drums, despite Manheim’s rather sloppy playing (well, nobody in the band really shines at this stage), have a clear and strong sound, which has just one drawback: it tends to drown out the guitars and bass… Maniac’s vocals, finally, are full of reverb in true eraly Black Metal tradition, sound (thankfully) nothing like the gibberish puking he’s been spewing out since the band’s reunion; he uses a very high pitched and insane shrieking (think of Varg Vikernes on heavy drugs), which fits the mood of the songs pretty well. Anyway, the song soon turns into a very fast blasting fest, with none in the band strictly following a precise tempo, but the effect is dang shattering anyway… I wonder how people did react to this at the time.
“Chainsaw Gut—-” opens with a slow distorted bass riff, soon joined by drums and guitars; this song is the slowest of the lot, and is built on an interestingly tempoed riff similar to the one used on the opening riff in “Deathcrush”. Original and effective – who needs technical perfection when we have these qualities?
“Witching Hour” is a Venom cover which best exemplifies how Mayhem crafted their unique sound by enhancing the madness found in their sources of inspiration… more in depth, the rendition of this song is FAST (just compare it with the original and see for yourself… and keep in mind that the year was 1987). Original session vocalist Messiah appears as a guest on this one, and unlike on the “Pure F——- Armageddon” demo, we can hear his vocals, which aren’t that special (a kind of low and rather breathy spoken voice) but make a nice contrast with Maniac’s banshee-like screams (don’t miss that chilling “Witching hoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrr!!!!” at the end!).
“Necrolust”… this song alone pioneered a whole new style of playing. It opens with a little neat mid-paced, palm muted riff (Celtic Frost was the band’s main inspiration along with Venom), but soon turns into a relentless assault of insanely fast riff. Ceaseless beats and razor sharp picking, and unearthly screams to top the whole thing – isn’t it a bit the formula of modern raw Black Metal?
“(Weird) Manheim” is a short and indeed weird “distorted piano” (at least it sounds like that) interlude which leads into the epitome of aggression… “Pure F——- Armageddon”. This song is just what the title says: after a short and great thrashy beginning, noise begins (of course not the terrible kind of noise). Definitely one of the (if not the) 100% compromise free slabs of Metal ever put together. Vocalist Messiah handles this one by himself, as he already did on the demo of the same title… it’s ok, vocals wouldn’t really change the result here. And the year was 1987. Can you say “unbelievable”?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is “Deathcrush”, and if you want to dig deep to the roots of extreme music, this is more than mandatory.