Mayhem – A Grand Declaration Of War (2018)

Well, I absolutely snoozed on this, that much I can tell you. Imagine my shock then, when chucking this on and thinking “oh, cracking, a remaster should even out the rougher, more heavily compressed edges of A Grand Declaration…” – the difference here is staggering. It sounds as if the record has been completely re-recorded. I half expected Attila to crop up and do some throat-singing.

The immediate notice is the absence of the overblown drum triggers. The sound is warmer and more organic and natural, and I suppose you could also say this – to lesser degrees – about the vocals and guitars too. Maniac’s insane ramblings are much less dense and aren’t dripping with reverb or effects. Perhaps the most welcomed change of all is that Necrobutcher’s bass is now audible, and drenched in a lovely fuzz. Dare I actually say it, but A Grand Declaration actually sounds like a proper black metal record here.

The trouble is, is that it is kind of crap. Its absolutely lifeless. It has that warm, treble heavy, treated and loud production that almost every metal record has these days, and whilst I absolutely agree that the sound on the original release of this album was polarizing, this remaster has completely and utterly missed the point of the original record. Gone are the cold, barren, punishing industrial-tinged mechanical hellscapes that puzzled us so. The electronic passages are almost completely removed, which is just poppycock. Poppycock I say!

A Grand Declaration Of War might have been weird, obtuse, or even, truly, up its own arse, but I think it was light years ahead of its time and its probably my favourite Mayhem record. As interesting as it is for the first couple of tracks, this complete overhaul and reworking to fit the band’s current sound and aesthetic was absolutely unnecessary.