U.S. Legions


Renegade, 2001


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In the field of black metal, it would be hard to argue whether there has ever been any band blacker than Mayhem. Fans of the genre know the story: vocalist Dead committed suicide in 1991 (and it is alleged that drummer Hellhammer made a necklace from some of Dead's skull fragments and guitarist Euronymous cooked and ate parts of Dead's brain), and Euronymous was killed by then-bassist Count Grishnackh in 1993.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

While I've never been a big fan of the black metal genre, I've found a few discs over the years that I've enjoyed. But U.S. Legions, the group's 2001 release combining live and preproduction tracks, is little more than a sonic slaughterhouse that is relentless in its attack.

Of the seven live tracks, one does have to admire the way that Mayhem is able to pull these songs off live. After all, there does have to be some musicianship and skill to play this intense and fast, and pull it off flawlessly outside of the studio. If only this made tracks like "Fall Of Seraphs," "To Daimonion" or "Chainsaw Gutfuck" any more interesting to listen to. Vocalist Maniac often sounds like he needs an aspirator to clear his throat as he screeches unintelligible lyrics over the frantic drum work of Hellhammer. Guitarist Blasphemer and bassist Necrobutcher provide the rest of the onslaught, but don't do anything to pull themselves out of the sonic muck.

The studio tracks, if anything, are more polished than their live brethren, and are a little clearer -- that is, except in the vocal department, where it seems even a lyric sheet would be so much gobbledygook. The only real highlight comes in "Completion" -- no, not the physical ending of the album (though that ranked a close second) but the song, which features the most musicianship of them all and dares to suggest that Mayhem doesn't have to play 10,000 beats a minute to be heavy.

Of course, fans of Mayhem and the black metal genre will find things to like about U.S. Legions that the casual observer doesn't see - and the more power to them. But from this vantage point, all I see is a disc that fails to entertain.

Rating: D-

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