Roel de Haan : Mayhem’s ‘Grand Declaration Of War’ is a special album for me. It was this specific album that made me a fan of the notorious black metal group, and not the legendary ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ record. In fact, it is only due to my liking for ‘Grand Declaration Of War’ that my interest for their previous works began to grow. ‘Grand Declaration Of War’ is an album that splits Mayhem’s fanbase even to this day. For many reasons. It was their first full-length after the demise of Euronymous. The album was clearly different in style, song-writing and most importantly: production. And exactly this is addressed by this new remastered version of the album.
The original sound was razor sharp, clear and the drums sound very synthetic. And well, that is because they actually were synthetic. However, contrary to many of the album’s detractors I have always felt that the drumsound helped to create the atmosphere they were clearly aiming for. Cold, calculated, futuristic and militant. The album was also fragmented with no obvious structures in the songs. The riffs were often more flurries than actual riffs and the vocal style of Maniac in the form of proclamations was something many could not appreciate. And to make matters even worse: it featured a triphop-like song in the form of ‘A Bloodsword And A Colder Sun pt2’!
So the album was clearly something different in those days and destined to fall victim of misunderstand. And that’s a shame really, because for me ‘Grand Declaration Of War’ was a bold move and showed a remarkable vision from a band that was seemingly trapped in a web of nostalgic expectations. In this way and stylistically too, the album can be placed within the ranks of Satyricon’s ‘Rebel Extravaganza’ en Thorns’ self-titled album.
Right. How about the remastered version then? Well, many things has stayed the same. I mean: it still has Maniac’s proclamations, it is still is fragmented and still doesn’t sound like ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ and still has that triphop song. However, the sound of the drums have been severely altered, every hit was painstakingly replaced by a more natural sound. One by one. The guitars are beefed up and the bass has been brought more up-front and sometimes has a distortion effect added. If your only qualm with the original album was a sterile and cold production, then this remastered version is definitely something you want to check out. However, I think most people have more intrinsic issues with this album. And exactly those issues cannot be fixed by changing the sound. To me this remastering seems to disregard the original intentions and goals of the album, and for me the sound and the character of the album no longer go hand in hand. So I prefer the original. But one thing the remastered version definitely shares with the original is a divisive nature, only this time it will be among fans of the album.