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-> "[[NoTrueScotsman There exist no death metal bands today, only “life metal” bands.]] If a band cultivates and worship death than it’s death metal, no matter what kind of metal they play. And “cultivating” death doesn’t mean to think it’s funny or being into gore, [[NietzscheWannabe but I mean being able to kill just because you hate life.]] [[OmnicidalManiac It’s people who enjoys to see wars because a lot of people get killed.]] [[PretenderDiss And I know no “death” metal bands in this way. There’s an abyss between us and the rest:]] be careful and avoid being “open-minded”. The [[HardcorePunk HC]] pigs have correctly made themselves guardians of morality: we’ll become guardians of anti-morality.”
-->-- Euronymous, 1992

The story of the group Mayhem marks possibly the darkest chapter in metal--nay, music--history.

Forming in the mid-1980s and taking their name from a song by the band Music/{{Venom}} (who also coined the term BlackMetal), the Norwegian band's original line-up consisted of guitarist Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth), bassist Necrobutcher[[note]]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. Seriously, black metal fans can be scary, especially some of the ones whose favorite band is Mayhem.[[/note]] (Jørn Stubberud) and drummer Kjetil Manheim. When the group was originally formed, Euronymous also sang, before being replaced by [[MeaningfulName Maniac]] (Sven Erik Kristiansen) on vocals (who was [[HilariousInHindsight placed in a mental institution]] after the recording of the infamous ''Deathcrush'' EP)[[note]]No word on whether the two events were at all connected[[/note]]. Manheim also left the band that time. The band found replacements in drummer Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) and the Swedish vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin, nicknamed "[[PropheticName Dead]]" (previously of obscure cult-act "Morbid"), for his love of, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin 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, [[SarcasmMode 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 [[TheresNoKillLikeOverkill bullet wound in his head and his wrists cut open]] (Dead just wanted to be sure).

A suicide note was left that said "[[DeadpanSnarker Excuse all the blood]]". Euronymous, [[SarcasmMode 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 Music/{{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, and 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 and 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 (he was released from prison in 2009), the remaining members (Hellhammer and returned Necrobutcher) 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 [[UnpleasableFanbase still has its fair share of detractors]].

Blasphemer has since left the band, owing to his various other projects (such as Ava Inferi and Aura Noir), and was replaced by a succession of live guitarists (among them Morfeus and Teloch). The band reportedly have a new album due out later in 2014.

TL;DR version: One singer was legitimately insane, another singer committed suicide, the guitarist was murdered, the first bassist walked out in disgust, the second bassist spent a decade and a half in prison ''for'' the murder, and the band's still going because of the drummer. Don't you love black metal?

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)
* 2014 - ''Esoteric Warfare''
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!!Mayhem exhibits the following tropes:

* ArcWords: "Illuminate Eliminate" from ''Ordo ad Chao'' features the lyric "Whatever done equals zero times everything", followed by the lyric "Whatever done equals zero times nothing" from the concluding track on the album, "Anti".
* BlackMetal: Obviously.
* BookEnds: 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.
** There is also a hidden track before the first song on the initial pressing of ''Grand Declaration of War'' which can be found by rewinding the CD from the start point. It is simply a [[SubliminalSeduction backmasked]] version of the final song, "Completion in Science of Agony (Part II of II)".
* ContemptibleCover: ''[[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/59/DawnOfTheBlackHearts.jpg Dawn of the Black Hearts]]''. ('''{{NSFW}}''')
* DrivenToSuicide: Dead. Who'da thunk it?
* EpicRocking: 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. "Illuminate Eliminate", from ''Ordo ad Chao'', is close behind at 9:40.
* FriedrichNietzsche: Some of the lyrics on ''Grand Declaration of War'' are directly taken from his writings or inspired by him. The album's title is apparently his description of ''Twilight of the Idols'' („eine grosse Kriegserklärung“).
* GenrePopularizer: 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 (CelticFrost and MercyfulFate, for example), and the actual black metal genre didn't really have a proper definition until Mayhem and co. came along. (It is worth noting, however, that many of the second wave's most important characteristics had already been established by Music/{{Bathory}}, particularly on ''Under the Sign of the Black Mark'').
* HiddenTrack: As mentioned above under BookEnds, there is one of these before the first song on ''Grand Declaration of War''.
* ImAHumanitarian: 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.
* KillAllHumans: Virtually the entirety of ''Ordo ad Chao'' consists of this.
* MohsScaleOfRockAndMetalHardness: 10.
* NamesTheSame: There were at least nine different bands named Mayhem worldwide that were making demos in the 80s. This lead to Norway's Mayhem to declare themselves "The True Mayhem", which they still use for websites, publicity, and their logo (the little scribbles over the Y and H).
** On Website/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. Naturally, on sites where the two artists are combined onto one page, there are inevitable {{Flame War}}s.
* ProgressiveMetal: Not on most of their material, but a major influence on ''Grand Declaration of War'' and, to a lesser extent, ''Chimera''.
* RealMenEatMeat: Inverted in the case of Attila Csihar, a longtime vegetarian.
* SpokenWordInMusic: Large portions of ''Grand Declaration of War''. Some fans were less than pleased.
* StageNames: For the most part, although Attila Csihar's is an aversion - that's his real name. Also averted with their original drummer Manheim, who simply went by his surname.
* TheStarsAreGoingOut: "Symbols of Bloodswords" from ''Wolf's Lair Abyss'' opens with the line "All the stars in the north are dead now" and doesn't get any cheerier from there.
* StylisticSuck: ''Ordo ad Chao''; while Mayhem's earlier work was quite lo-fi, their years since their reformation had crystal clear production and electronic drums. ''Ordo ad Chao'' had muddy guitars, a very low-end sound (unheard of any black metal), and had under-produced drums (no EQ, triggers only on the bass drums).
* SubliminalSeduction: Done subtly on ''Grand Declaration of War''. The HiddenTrack before the first song is a backmasked version of the last song on the album.
* TitledAfterTheSong: As mentioned above, the band's name was taken from the Music/{{Venom}} song "Mayhem with Mercy".
* TropeCodifier: Mayhem did more than any other band except maybe Music/{{Bathory}} to shape the form that the black metal genre took.
* TroubledProduction: If you haven't guessed from reading the rest of the article yet: [[CaptainObvious Yes,]] ''[[CaptainObvious De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas]]'' [[CaptainObvious had one of these]].
* UncommonTime: "Deathcrush", "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", and "Slaughter of Dreams" among other tracks.
* UnpleasableFanbase
* VampireVords: In RealLife, 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.

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