MAYHEM (1985–PRESENT). Messiah (vocals, replaced by Dead, then Attila Csihar, Maniac, then Attila Csihar), Euronymous (guitar/vocals, replaced by Blasphemer), Nerobutcher (bass, replaced by Varg Vikernes, then Nerobutcher), Manheim (drums, later Maniac, then Hellhammer).
Mayhem are a notorious black metal band from Norway who are better known for the controversy and death that has surrounded the band rather than for their music. The band originally started in 1985 as a trio with a lineup of Euronymous (Oyestein Aarseth) on vocals and guitar, Nerobutcher on bass, and Manheim (Sven Kristiansen) on drums, before hiring full-time vocalist Messiah (Erik Norheim) and lead vocalist Dead, who committed suicide in 1991. Depressed by the death of
Dead, Nerobutcher briefly left the band and was replaced by Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grisnackh (a name taken from the name of an Orc in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy), who was the creator of the ominous black metal project Burzum,
along with new vocalist Atilla Csihar. This lineup resumed recording the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas record. However, in an even more disturbing series of events, Mayhem made themselves the focus of the metal world’s attention when, on August 13, 1993, Varg Vikernes traveled seven hours from Bergen to Oslo, to Euronymous’s apartment, where he killed the guitarist. Although Vikernes claimed it was self-defense, he was convicted of murder, and under Norway’s progressive penal system, was only sentenced to twenty-one years in prison as well as for the burning of three irreplaceable Stave churches in Norway. In prison, he soon became a white supremacist and recorded music for his Burzum project. In 2003 Vikernes escaped while on a prison furlough and was discovered in a stolen car with numerous weapons, after which he was sentenced to an additional thirteen months in prison, where he continues to write and espouse his nihilistic, propagan/ proaryan pride philosophy (Moynihan and Soderlind 1998, 122).
With Mayhem in ruins, Hellhammer decided to reform the band with new guitarist Blasphemer Rune Erickson, along with Nerobutcher on bass and old drummer Maniac on vocals. After a few successful tours and the Chimera album being acclaimed by some black metal fans and denounced by others for being insufficient evil, the band returned to form and continued their notorious tours where the band performed with pigs’ heads on stakes as macabre stage props. After a fight with Blasphemer, Maniac was kicked out of Mayhem, and Attila Csihar resumed lead vocal duties, leading Mayhem in a more experimental direction, with longer, more atmospheric songs. The band continues to produce music and tour to this day with drummer Hellhammer and bassist Nerobutcher as the only long-lasting members of the band, and as of summer 2008, guitarist Blasphemer has left the band, leaving it without a guitarist. While most fans pay attention to Mayhem as a black metal train wreck, there is dark and horrible beauty to the band’s music; if one can put aside the horrific lifestyles of many members of Mayhem, their music is experimental and in some ways more accessible than some other black metal bands.
Discography: Pure Fucking Armageddon (Unknown, 1986); De Mysteriis Dom Sathanus (Century Media, 1995); Live in Leipzig (Century Media, 1997); Wolf’s Alit Abyss (Misanthropy, 1998); Mediolanum Capta Est (Avant Garde, 1999); Grand Declaration of War (Season of Mist, 2000); US Legions (Renegade, 2001); Freezing Moon Carnage/Jihad (Supernal Music, 2003); Legions of War (Seasons of Mist America, 2003); Chimera (Season of Mist, 2004); European Legions (Season of Mist, 2005); Buried Alive (US Metal, 2005); Ordo Ad Chao (Seasons of Mist, 2007).