The Norwegian black metal horde are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary with the release of their fifth album Esoteric Warfare. Blasphemer has left since 2007’s Ordo Ad Chao, and Teloch has joined as the band’s new guitarist, and they’ve taken their time, with it being seven years since their last outing. Vocalist Attita Csihar is once again on excellent form, with a varied twisted performance, with howls, grunts, chants, screams, shouts,shrieks and his trademark croak all used throughout the album in great fashion, sounding completely inhuman. With dissonant, discordant guitar playing, Teloch’s first studio outing with the group is mixed, with a dense wall of sound created in combination with the bass and the drums. Continuing in the same progressive, dissonant style of previous album Ordo Ad Chao it’s somewhat unfocused at points, and stops and starts far too much, completely destroying any sense of tension and atmosphere created. This is especially annoying on Pandemon where vicious bursts of black metal just stop and start far too often and it becomes annoying – you think the songs over, then another five second burst of freneticism comes back only to stop again, it’s frustrating. When there’s actual music and not unnecessary silence it’s one of the better tracks, and the drumming on it, and indeed the whole album is simply astounding – Hellhammer is simply the best drummer in metal to my mind, with this frantic, unique energetic style always engaging, interesting and brimming with creativity. What is somewhat annoying though is how low Necrobutcher is in the mix, his usual crunchy bass is a little lost and it would have just added that extra depth. Overall, when the dissonant guitar playing works, it combines with the rest of the music to monumental success, with Milab being far above the albums best, sprawling and labyrinthine. Unfortunately it is a little unfocused and dull at times, and while on the whole it’s a good album, and one Mayhem fans should definitely hear, with a bit more coherence it could have been a great album.