Nb: This review features in issue 088, however, some numpty managed to use the wrong image to accompany the text. It is shown here with the correct imagery.
Before 1988, Euronymous and Necrobutcher had steered Mayhem from playing covers through to the instrumental Pure Fucking Armageddon demo and the excellent Deathcrush in 1987. But it was the following year, with the arrival of vocalist Dead and drummer Hellhammer that one of the band’s more significant eras, in terms of infamy and musical heritage, coalesced. Cursed In Eternity commemorates this era in lavish fashion.
A vinyl box set, it comprises six picture discs – a mixture of rehearsal sessions and live recordings – a comprehensive book, a DVD and a couple of posters. It looks fantastic, particularly the LPs, each of which features a vintage photographic portrait of the members of Mayhem, in a knowing nod / tribute to the Kiss solo albums of ‘78. Much of this material will have been heard before, mostly in bootleg form, but some in an official capacity, too. The Live In Leipzig set, recorded in November 1990, is the one with which we’re most familiar, having been released by Peaceville 25 years ago. This is the iteration of this era of Mayhem with which we’re most familiar, and throughout we hear just how caustic and ‘other’ Dead was as a frontman. Live In Zeitz was recorded two days before the better known Leipzig show. The bootleg versions which have been kicking about of this gig have suffered from being poor quality, and even the official version which was included as a bonus with the anniversary reissue of …Leipzig was based on those same versions. But here a newly discovered audio source has been used for the first time – it’s brighter, more cavernous, although Dead’s vocals are buried a little too deeply in the mix.
Live In Sarpsborg is better known as the recording presented in the Dawn Of The Black Hearts bootleg; here the cover art of the infamous post-mortem photograph of Dead has been replaced by an image of Necrobutcher. The highlight of the live recordings, though, is the audio of Mayhem’s show in Jessheim in early 1990, again using an original sound source. The final two discs are rehearsals from 1989. Both are well-known – the Henhouse and the Out From The Dark sessions – but the inclusion of bits of chat between the band members adds a new dimension to the recordings. The DVD is fantastic: there’s excellent quality footage of the aforementioned Jessheim show, and a significantly improved version of the Sarpsborg gig (to date, the only version available had been pitch black). The accompanying book is comprehensive, full of archive photographs, posters and interviews with key players and band members. It is exceptionally high quality, and the interviews with some of the more overlooked people in the Mayhem story and the associated scene are insightful.
Mayhem’s discography is, admittedly, full of relics, but never before have they been presented so completely and to such a high standard. And that’s what makes this set so important.
Calum Harvie 5.5/6