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The group Mayhem probably marks the darkest chapter in metal--nay, music--history.

Forming in the mid-1980s and taking their name from a song by the band Venom (who also coined the term Black Metal), the Norwegian band's original line-up consisted of guitarist Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth), bassist Necrobutcher[1] (Jørn Stubberud) and drummer Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg). When the group was originally formed, Euronymous also sang, before being replaced by Maniac (Sven Erik Kristiansen) on vocals (who was placed in a mental institution after the recording of the infamous Deathcrush EP)[2]. The band found a replacement in the Swedish Per Yngve Ohlin, nicknamed "Dead" (previously of obscure cult-act "Morbid"), for his love of, surprise, surprise, death: he would wear clothes people had been buried in months before, cut himself on stage (one point he cut himself so much on stage he had to be sent to the hospital in bad need of a transfusion), and kept a dead crow in a jar because he liked "the stench of death". Despite these amusing quirks, for some reason everyone who met him had ill feelings about him and always said that he looked like he hated being alive. These folks would ultimately be proven correct when one day, Euronymous entered the house that Dead was staying in and found him, appropriately enough, dead, a bullet wound in his head and his wrists cut open (Dead just wanted to be sure).

A suicide note was left that said "Excuse all the blood". Euronymous, doing what any of us might have done when faced with such a difficult situation, took a disposable camera, moved some objects around, and took a picture of the corpse, the photo eventually winding up on the cover of the infamous bootleg "Dawn of the Black Hearts". He was also said to have kept pieces of Dead's brain, which he used as ingredients in a stew, and some shards of his skull. which he sent as gifts to "worthy" bands within the Black Metal scene (kind of like the True Cross, but more brutal). Guitarist Morgan S. Hakansson of Sweden's Marduk is said to treasure one to this day. Euronymous admitted to taking shards of the skull, but not any of the brain (because that would just be sick), though he did say that he wanted to.

Following Dead's suicide, Dead was replaced by Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar, & Necrobutcher left the band and was temporarily replaced by Varg "Count Grishnakh" Vikernes, sole member of Bergen-based group Burzum. During the recording of the band's first full-length album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, tensions rose between Euronymous and Vikernes, which later resulted in Vikernes killing Euronymous, stabbing him a total of 21 times. Due to complaints from Euronymous's family, Hellhammer promised to remove Vikernes's basslines and record them himself, but this didn't happen. The explanation is either him feeling it was fitting that killer & victim should perform on the same album, or simply (and more likely) not having the time and money to go back and replace them, not to mention not knowing how to play bass.

During that time, they were associated with Gaahl, Gorgoroth's then-vocalist. While a cultured, soft-spoken and polite man who had a homosexual tryst with a Norwegian fashion stylist and modeling agent named Dan DeVero, Gaahl nonetheless had a long history of violence. Gaahl is still being held responsible for kidnapping and torturing a man who walked on his property uninvited, cutting him and making him bleed into a cup, and threatening to use him as a sacrifice. They take trespassing pretty seriously in the Black Metal community.

After the killing of Euronymous and Vikernes' incarceration (which has seen him moving away from metal and has recently come to an end) the remaining members decided to forge on and recruited new members. Euronymous was replaced by Blasphemer (Rune Eriksen), a far more technically skilled and experimental guitarist, while Maniac was re-recruited for the EP Wolf's Lair Abyss and the two albums that followed, Grand Declaration of War and Chimera, both of which have divided critical opinion among the band's fanbase.

Maniac was later fired due to his stage fright-related alcoholism (and has been involved in other projects, such as the doom band Skitliv) and replaced by Attila Csihar, who performed on the band's fourth album Ordo Ad Chao, their most critically regarded since the seminal De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which still has its fair share of detractors.

Blasphemer has since left the band, owing to his various other projects (such as Ava Inferi), and was replaced by a succession of live guitarists (among them Morfeus and Teloch).

Discography:

  • 1987 - Deathcrush (EP)
  • 1994 - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
  • 1997 - Wolf's Lair Abyss (EP)
  • 2000 - Grand Declaration of War
  • 2004 - Chimera
  • 2007 - Ordo Ad Chao
  • 2009 - Life Eternal (EP)

Mayhem exhibits the following tropes:

  • A Good Name for a Rock Band - As mentioned above, the band's name was taken from the Venom song "Mayhem with Mercy".
  • Black Metal
  • Book Ends - A more unconventional example. Grand Declaration of War is a sequel to their Wolf's Lair Abyss EP. The saga as a whole is divided into three sections: I (Wolf's Lair Abyss), II (the first half of Grand Declaration of War) and III (the second half). A riff appears at the very end of "Symbols of Bloodswords", the last track from Wolf's Lair Abyss, and the album fades out. "A Grand Declaration of War", the first track of part II of the saga fades in with the same riff shifted up a semitone. The riff appears for the third and final time at the start of the track "View from Nihil (Part II of II)", followed by some spoken word vocals and a sample of a nuclear bomb detonating. This concludes part II of the entire saga.
  • Contemptible Cover - Dawn of the Black Hearts. (NSFW)
  • Divide by Zero: A variant - the Arc Word phrase on Ordo Ad Chao is "Everything done equals zero times nothing", which is a Logic Bomb at the very least.
  • Driven to Suicide - Dead. Who'da thunk it?
  • Epic Rocking - A few of their songs are quite long. The longest is "Completion in Science of Agony (Part I of II)" from Grand Declaration of War, which is 9:44 in length.
  • Genre Popularizer - For black metal. Specifically speaking, Mayhem essentially started up second-wave black metal, but first-wave black metal covers a lot of bands that are totally dissimilar to Mayhem (Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate, for example), and the actual black metal genre didn't really have a proper definition until Mayhem and co. came along.
  • I'm a Humanitarian - Euronymous was rumored to have removed part of Dead's brain, and made a stew with it. He denied this, but he did remove several shards of his skull.
  • Kill All Humans - Virtually the entirety of Ordo Ad Chao consists of this.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - 10.
  • Name's the Same - On YouTube, you will find two different artists named Mayhem; this band, and one of the many, many alias of electronic musician Renard, represented by a shark girl dressed like a raver. The latter's videos have commentators confusing her for the former.
  • Real Men Eat Meat - Inverted in the case of Attila Csihar, a longtime vegetarian.
  • Refuge in Audacity - Their live shows.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Large portions of Grand Declaration of War. Fans were less than pleased.
  • Stage Names: For the most part, although Attila Csihar's is an aversion - that's his real name.
  • Trope Codifier - Mayhem did more than any other band to shape the form that the black metal genre took.
  • Unpleasable Fanbase
  • Vampire Vords - In Real Life, Attila Csihar has such an extreme Dracula-like Hungarian accent that it makes you wonder if he exaggerates his own accent to make his vocals more obviously reminiscent of Bela Lugosi's Dracula.

Notes

  1. Not to be confused with the pro wrestler. That Necro Butcher is two words, Mayhem's Necrobutcher is just one. Know the difference, it could save your life.
  2. No word on whether the two events were at all connected
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