Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, controversial Norwegian black metal legends played at London’s The Garage, the venue having been moved from Camden’s Electric Ballroom, after a fire broke out in Camden days earlier. The change was welcome, as it’s a much better venue than the Electric Ballroom, and bringing Stahlsarg and Merrimack in support, it promised to be a great night of black metal.
First up were Stahlsarg, a British black metal band, and despite not having released an album yet, they were great. Coming out in full corpse paint and black metal attire, their brand of primitive, evil black metal went over well, their vocalist putting in a particularly good performance, croaking and screaming away,against a backdrop of great, tremolo picked riffs, loud blastbeats and dry ice. The sound was perhaps a little muddy on the first song, but it was quickly fixed, and from then on the mix was perfect. Playing a handful of songs, they put on a good show, and despite their adherence to the second wave of black metal sound, their debut album next year should interesting, given the good songs on display here.
Despite having been around since 1994 and having released four albums, I hadn’t heard of France’s Merrimack before they were announced as the support, but after their set that’s going to change – they were excellent, putting on an intense set. With a loud volume, and a tight, furious performance, their set is fantastic, and showcasing complex riffage and great song writing they move between caustic atmospheric sections and full on black metal assaults with ease, each with a real intensity and energy. When they left the stage their set felt too short, they were really impressive, and definitely a band I’ll be checking out again soon.
It was with slight reservations I actually bought tickets to see Mayhem. I saw them headline at the O2 Academy back in 2010, and their performance was disappointing to say the least. They played less than an hour with no support act, with a muddy, messy sound, and Atilla seemed like he didn’t want to be there, and from one of my favourite bands it really was a let down. But thankfully, they more than made up for it last night, with one of the best sets I’ve seen from a black metal band at the absolute top of their game. With the drumming of Silvester Anfang signalling the start of the set, the band came out set to (Death)crush, before kicking into Pagan Fears, with guitarist Teloch coming out to the stage wearing a hood, while Atilla Csihar wore fantastic corpse paint, spikes and a robe. His performance was infinitely better than last time I saw him, his stage presence phenomenal, using skulls, bones and swinging a noose around as part of his performance, and his vocals were insane. Croaking sinisterly to Pagan Fears, screaming with intense energy to Deathcrush and To Daimonion, or chanting in evil fashion to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, both his stage presence, energy and vocals were absolutely spot on. The drumming performance was staggering from Hellhammer, who has to be the greatest drummer in black metal – his unique style and unrelenting energy throughout the set just made it all the more intense from start to finish, while Necrobutcher looked to be really enjoying himself, playing to an energetic crowd. The band ripped through a fantastic set, made up from all of their albums, including the new song Psywar from the upcoming Esoteric Warfare, which went down great. Playing several songs from A Grand Declaration of War, a sometimes maligned album by the band, the great energy and performance means those songs went down great, especially A Time to Die, while Symbols of Bloodswords from Wolfs Lair Abyss completely ripped. In the middle of their set, perhaps the only part which wasn’t quite so good was Illuminate Eliminate, a track that while somewhat sinister, dragged it’s heels and got kind of dull over the 9 minute track length, no intensity or evil, just slow and plodding.
However, after that small lapse in the set, they picked it straight back up with De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, arguably the best performance of the night with a simply intense performance from Atilla, and the fantastic evil sounding riffage and incredible drumming from Hellhammer meant it was a staggering performance. With Atilla joking “this next one’s about your girlfriend”, they followed it up with Whore from Chimera, one of the most brutal songs in the Mayhem catalogue, and absolutely fantastic on the night. When it came to Freezing Moon despite the warm sunny summer day, and the Garage’s notoriously sweltering heat, that opening riff sent a chill throughout The Garage and it was an inspired performance of one of black metal’s greatest songs, doomy, gloomy and incredibly atmospheric, and full of great riffs from start to finish, and Atilla was on great form. Moving into the incredibly punky Carnage, the raw dirt, venom and speed enthused song induced headbanging, before they ended with the incredibly venomous Pure Fucking Armageddon to close a fantastic set.
All in all it was a fantastic set, and for all the controversy and lineup changes they’ve been through in the last thirty years, it’s great to see that the band are still really great live, enjoying what they do, and with a new album on the way they show no signs of slowing down soon. Another fantastic night from Aeon Promotions!
Buried by Time and Dust
Symbols of Bloodswords
A Time to Die
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Pure Fucking Armageddon