Little introduction is needed for Mayhem’s debut album, 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Even 22 years after its release, it remains one of the most crushing and heavy black metal albums committed to record, despite the circumstances prior to its recording – with the suicide of Per Yngve Ohlin or “Dead”, and the murder of Øystein Aarseth or “Euronymous” by session bassist and Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes. A long time has passed since it was unleashed onto the public, but the current incarnation of Mayhem have decided it’s finally time to perform the album in its entirety. After an initial announcement of their show at the Sentralen in Oslo was sold out, they added an extra the following night, and brought De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas to life in Norway.
The first night they were supported by Inculter, a Norwegian thrash metal band, and one of the best discoveries I’ve made at a concert. Worshipping at the altar of Pleasure to Kill era Kreator with touches of Repulsion, their razor sharp guitar tone, pummelling snappy drums and headbangable riffs all wrapped up in great fast paced song writing, made for an insanely fun way to open the night. Vocals akin to the late Chuck Schuldiner added a great touch to their death-thrash delight.
The second night was opened instead by black metal group One Tail, One Head, who despite the unusual name, and having only released a handful of demos to date, are garnering a fair bit of attention within the scene. With an old school black metal sound and slight thrash influences they remind of very early Darkthrone, and their stage performance was as great as their sound – vocalist Luctus going so mad he seemed like he could have attacked the crowd had it not been for the gap between the stage and the barrier.
Mayhem have a reputation in the black metal scene for being very hit and miss live, some shows being phenomenal, and some being a rather sloppy mess, so it wasn’t necessarily a given that they would give the phenomenal album the performance that it deserved. These worries were for nought though, as they gave a great show. Drowned in dry ice and blue lights and dressed in hoods, they preferred to let the music speak for itself rather than focus on a theatrical element, vocalist Atilla Csihar aside. Their playing was tight, and they created an oppressive atmosphere worthy of the album, the slighty muddy sound just adding to the excellent murky feeling coming from the stage. Funeral Fog was intensely fast, Freezing Moon cold and atmospheric, and Life Eternal foreboding with its strange, angular riffs, though they did justice to every aspect of the album. Hellhammer showed why he’s one of the most revered drummers in the metal scene with unbelievably fast blastbeats during Buried by Time and Dust, the solo in Freezing Moon was icy cold and harsh, while Atilla’s crazed vocals have lost nothing of their impetus in the last twenty years, bringing the same unhinged energy he also brings to his shows with Sunn O))). Whilst more than a few rows back it was nigh on impossible to make out the band members through the wall of fog, from the front one could make out the ritualistic antics of a corpse-painted Atilla using an altar and skulls to bring more dark magic to the performance. The crowd responded in kind, little in the way of movement down the front, bar the one crowd surfer on the first night, no mosh pits, just an appreciation of the classic black metal on offer.
The album is only forty five minutes long, and with eerie ambient interludes between each song the show lasted barely an hour, but on both nights they brought the album to life in a fantastic ritualistic performance, and did the classic album justice. There are a lot more scheduled shows around the world, so make sure to see them performing a piece of history. The past is alive!
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