Hey ho, let’s mysteriis dom Sathanas

MAYHEM: Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando

Release year: 2021
Label: Century Media

Norwegian legend Mayhem‘s 2019 album Daemon (reviewed here) was a surprisinly strong album after several that at best were fair to middlin’ quality for almost two decades. Looking back, nothing since Grand Declaration Of War (2000) has amounted to much. Daemon was a fine return to form as far as quality goes, but sadly not ambition; where albums such as Esoteric Warfare (2014) could definitely not be accused of doing the same old, same old, Daemon did just that. It was basically Mayhem reverting to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas mode, doing an album of pure fan service to the old guard.

Well, I guess you can accept that at face value and be happy for a good album – or be a bit disappointed in Mayhem pandering to nostalgia. Whichever you choose, the fact remains: Daemon was a solid album. And, now in retrospect, at least for me personally, that weighs more. At first I was a bit disappointed with what felt like a cheap change of direction, but in time that disappointment has dwindled away.

Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando, then. This is a two-part EP, I suppose you could say. The first part consists of three tracks from the Daemon sessions, including two which were released on some of the special versions of said album. Kommando, on the other hand, is something quite freaky for Mayhem: a rather light-hearted sounding bunch of punk covers. Definitely out of character for Mayhem!

Dealing with these in order, Atavistic Black Disorder is a decent compilation of tracks but, if you own for example the digibook version of Daemon (as I do), ultimately futile. Black Glass Communion (with its obvious nods towards Pagan Fears) and Everlasting Dying Flame aren’t actually new, and Voces Ab Alta, the single entirely new track, isn’t worth the price of admission alone. But, if you don’t own a version of Daemon with these tracks then, definitely: if you liked the album, you’ll like these tracks. They’re pretty much on par qualitywise, and in the same vein stylistically.

The Kommando part. Mayhem hammering away covers by Dead Kennedys, Discharge, Ramones and Rudimentary Peni… you think that sounds like a good idea? No, I didn’t think so. And guess what? It isn’t. Even though they’ve invited some old friends to the studio – Maniac on Hellworld by the Kennedys and Messiah on the Discharge cover In Defense Of Our Future – the end result is trite at best. This part of the EP is entirely pointless, irrelevant and uninteresting. Mayhem manage to find no new perspective on the original tracks, nor do they manage to improve on them. Perhaps these were fun to play and record, but listening to them sure isn’t. Maybe worth one quick spin just for the heck of it, but beyond that, the Kommando-part is just about the most pointless stuff Mayhem has ever released officially. Even European Legions was less futile – and that one was pretty futile!

So, the end verdict? As a whole, this EP leans heavily towards the pointless and redundant. I would honestly rather have heard demo or live versions of album tracks from Daemon rather than these half-assed punk rock covers.

I guess there is one redeeming factor to Kommando: if you thought Daemon sounded middle-aged, then in comparison to Kommando, it is full of vigour and vitality. Kommando sounds like your average middle-aged cover band trying – and failing – to recapture the excitement of the songs of their youth.

Summary: Don’t bother with the Kommando part, get this one if you’re missing the three original songs and feel like you absolutely need them.

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