July 28, 2017

Mayhem - The Dawn Of The Black Hearts (1990)


Kurt Cobain's suicide wasn't the only notorious self-inflicted shotgun blast of the early 1990s; at least not in the metal world. One day, Mayhem's occultish lead singer, Dead, decided to kill himself alone in the band's home. Euronymous (the founding guitarist) came back and found the body; he decided it would be a good idea to buy a disposable camera and document the death scene for a potential promo image or album cover. The photo was later used in 1995 as the cover of this live bootleg. Truly one of the most ridiculously nihilistic things to ever occur in music history. If that's not a great example of exercising radical freedom then I'm not sure what is. Mayhem's bassist, Nercobutcher, was so appalled that he quit the band immediately. I don't know, but for a dude so obsessed with looking like--more like existing--as a corpse, I'm sure Dead was done a great final honor by Euronymous. When Eric Andre talks about wanting to kill himself on live television, I'm sure he's logging Dead and Euronymous as influences.

Legends aside, Dead was hands down the most influential and significant of Mayhem's three main vocalists (the others are Maniac and Attila). He wrote all of the songs that appeared on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, but died too early to be recorded in a proper studio. As such, the only recordings he did with Mayhem were all insanely raw live sets. The three I am familiar with are Live In Leipzig, Live In Jessheim, and Dawn Of The Black Hearts. Live In Leipzig has the cleanest sound quality by far and is the only of these three to be given an official release; the other two are bootlegs. Dawn Of The Black Hearts is as far as lo-fi can be pushed before turning into nothing but white noise. I remember somebody on RYM described Filth as the "musical equivalent to eating gravel". Well I guess that makes this the musical equivalent to snorting gravel mixed with shattered glass.

This era of Mayhem had two track sources: the Deathcrush songs and the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas songs--meaning these were all they played for every set in the early 90s. The tracklistings for all these performances are identical, so preference entirely comes down to which sound quality and performance energy you like. Black Hearts is more fiery than Leipzig; at least given that illusion by the harsher quality. If you're all about pure ferocity, then Black Hearts or Jessheim is going to be your cup of tea (it's not like Leipzig is weak shit by any means either). On the other hand, it's impossible to make out any Euronymous soloing or riff details in this album and Dead's vocals feel a lot less up close and personal. Still, some of you might like how the band feels a little distant in the 'mix'. This album features my favorite rendition of Freezing Moon, and if you skip this or dip out of this album early because of a little noise, then you're seriously missing out on one of the best takes in metal history. Infamous cover aside, this bootleg's music really does hold up and should be checked out by all Scandinavian metal fans. If you desire to ever hear sounds again, I recommend listening to Dawn Of The Black Hearts on low volume late at night. Fair warning that this album probably has the potential to damage audio equipment too.

Sample

The Dawn Of The Black Hearts