This review is sponsored by
|Category||Real Music||Main Menu Audio & Introduction
Interview with Maniac
Interview with Blasphemer
Interview with Hellhammer
Interview with Necrobutcher
Featurette - Backstage Footage
(Not 84 Minutes as per packaging)
|Region||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6||Director||Michael H. Berberian
Modern Invasion Music
|Case||Opaque Brackley with Jewel-Case clip|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||French [Actually English] (Dolby Digital 5.0, 448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||Not unless placement of army surplus annoys you|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Mayhem are basically one of the original Black Metal bands, alongside such highly respected names as Emperor or Burzum, and, like those two, their history reads more like a rap sheet than the story of a band. To understand this form of true music completely, you will need to understand the mentality that drives it, so those of you who are already familiar with Mayhem's legacy can skip the next couple of paragraphs. Those of you who are only familiar with the current generation of black metal bands can use DarkThrone and early Satyricon as a reference point as to how this band sounds.
Mayhem were founded in 1984 by Øystein Aarseth, aka Euronymous, presumably as a creative pursuit to provide distraction from the terminally cold Winters of Norway. Other past members of the band include Pelle Yngve Ohlin (aka Dead), Kjetil Manheim, and notorious Burzum creative director Varg Vikernes (aka Count Grishnackh). The reasons for members leaving the band are as hilarious and ultimately self-defeating as the confused philosophical drive espoused by Varg Vikernes in much of his writings. Dead quit the band in 1991 by shooting himself in the head with a rather large shotgun, and it is rumoured that Euronymous found his body, took pieces of his skull as souvenirs, then called the police. Euronymous' story is a more complicated and tragic tale, with pro-Burzum and pro-Mayhem listeners arguing with one another about the slightest details, usually to the detriment of the music. One theory has it that Euronymous visited a fortune teller who told him that he would be murdered by Count Grishnackh, and thus began making moves to beat his friend and rival to the punch. Guitarist Snorre Ruch, aka Blackthorn, however, accompanied Varg Vikernes to Oslo and lured Euronymous out of hiding, where Varg Vikernes proceeded to stab him to death. Thus, the prophecy of the fortune teller became somewhat self-fulfilling, since it is doubtful that the murder would have taken place if not for the defensive movies on Euronymous' part.
Naturally, with only one album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, to their credit before Euronymous' violent and untimely death in 1993, one could be forgiven for thinking that Mayhem were finished. However, Hellhammer sought to reform the band, and it evolved into the incarnation which appears on this DVD, as well as the long-awaited second album A Grand Declaration Of War. The current lineup includes Jan Axel Von Blomberg (aka Hellhammer) on drums, Rune Erickson (aka Blasphemer) on guitar, Sven Erik Kristiansen (aka Maniac) on vocals, and Jorn Stubberud (aka Necrobutcher) on bass. This lineup has been denounced by the author of the "official" Mayhem web site as being more about posing and fashion statements, and some of the publicity photos support this stance. However, the old joke that any Black Metal album is a sell-out if it doesn't sound like it was recorded inside a dishwasher with an old answering machine also comes to mind. Nonetheless, for those who are genuinely interested in seeing a concert where all eras of Mayhem are represented, the track listing is as follows:
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced, which is a pleasant surprise given the fiercely independent nature of this production. The disc is encoded for compatibility with NTSC display devices, so you must make sure that yours is capable of handling this signal before purchase.
The transfer is as sharp as the stage lighting and the smoke machines will allow, and it is surprisingly sharp when these two elements are at a minimum. If independent labels and artists can look this good on DVD-Video, then I urge all such labels to get their bands' live performances onto the format post-haste. The shadow detail of this transfer is good, but nothing special since the main subjects of the shots are almost always brightly lit and such detail is not really called for. Low-level noise was not a problem in this transfer except for the occasional moment where a fade-to-black looked more like a fade-to-grey, but I doubt this was actually noise, as such.
Where do you begin when you're talking about colour in a concert video for a Black Metal band? Well, the clothing worn by the band is predominantly black, with only Necrobutcher daring to go outside the square and wear a shirt with camoflague patterns on it. The colours were more or less perfectly saturated, except when the lights flared into the camera, at which points the colours became slightly oversaturated. There were no problems with composite artefacts, however.
MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, although the variances in the bitrate had me shuddering in dreadful anticipation of macro-blocking. I was really surprised when this didn't occur, however. Lesser distributors really need to have a talk with Season Of Mist about the MPEG encoder that they are using, because this one really does produce outstanding quality at low bitrates. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some very minor aliasing in such things as stands and strings, but you'd have to have the eyes of an eighteen-year-old sharpshooter to really notice. Film artefacts were not a noticeable problem, with maybe a handful of marks found on the picture throughout its running time.
In reality, there is a singular soundtrack on this DVD: a Dolby Digital 5.0 rendering of the original music, with lyrics in English. The DVD also incorrectly reports this soundtrack to the player as being a French soundtrack, which might be explained by the difficulty in following Maniac's vocals, but is a rather amusing blunder on the part of the authors.
The vocals, or vokills as Mayhem fans such as the "official" website's administrator refer to them, range from being clear and easy to understand to being totally incomprehensible. Some of the lyrics in later songs are simply spoken, and these are the easiest to understand. Other lyrics are growled in a low, dirge-like voice that matches the bass, and these are easily understood when you've mastered the art of listening to this vocal style. During such numbers as Freezing Moon, however, Maniac chooses to use a high-pitched, almost scream-like roar that is so difficult to understand that you may as well give up trying before you've even started. This is a real pity, because the vocals on the studio version of Freezing Moon were almost as menacing in their original form as the bass solo.
The music on this DVD is entirely the work of various members of Mayhem, most significantly Euronymous, Dead, and Hellhammer. In style, it ranges from a speedy, drum-pounding assault on the senses to a slow, grinding sludge that drags the listener down into the sort of places that nightmares are made of. The influence of this music upon modern-day participants in the scene is unquestionable, making Mayhem into a sort of Black Sabbath of Black Metal. Each instrument is clearly separated in the mix, although the drums seem to lose a lot of their bass presence in the mix, probably due to post-production editing and mixing.
The surround channels were used to give the cymbals and guitars space to move into when required, but not for much else. The mix, aggressive as it is, tends to be frontal in nature, although I suspect it would have sounded a lot worse had the extra channels not been provided. You won't find anything on this disc that will really demonstrate the capabilities of your system, but most viewers will probably fail to notice when they get an earful of the music.
The subwoofer, although not specifically encoded into the soundtrack, was used quite aggressively to support the drums and bass, thanks to the miracle of redirection. During the brief bass solo in Freezing Moon, the subwoofer gently vibrated the floor in a pleasant, appropriate fashion. The integration of the subwoofer into the mix makes me wonder what one would have been in for had the LFE channel been specifically encoded into the soundtrack.
The video transfer is very good.
The audio transfer is very good.
The extras are limited, but somewhat interesting.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|