Written By: TIFFANY MITCHELL
The Norwegian masters of black metal called Mayhem, have given haters, fans and the scene much to talk about through the years. Murder, suicide, member changes, and you guessed it, total mayhem are just a few whoppers that have made headlines over time. With all their all ups and downs, twists and turns, what is or was, doesn’t dull the delicious fact that Mayhem will forever be immortalized for what they have created and continue to produce.
I had heard tales of their oddities on stage, like pigs heads on spikes and physically cutting themselves till they bleed. Also hearing the now deceased vocalist, used to bury his stage clothes in the ground the night before to take on the smell of rot and death. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it isn’t super weird, scary even, but it makes for a I-gotta-see-for-myself kind of deal coming straight from the journalist in my bones. Now, if you are a Mayhem fan and you’ve stuck around through the suicide of their 22-year-old vocalist called Dead and the murder of former guitarist Euronymous by former bassist Varg Vikernes (“Count Grishnackh,”) and you’re still loyal, I had to see what kept people coming back. Intrigued, I set out to take this tour story on, and catch Mayhem live in the flesh with Immolation and Black Anvil, for a night of metal and death, what I witnessed was a total invasion of living vessels infected by choice who had become a new breed of darkness-by-death metal. Oh and did I mention that Mayhem played their first studio album from 1994 ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas‘ in its entirety? If that wasn’t reason enough, you know what I mean?
Normally, I see four to five bands on the bill supporting the headlining act, this one being only three including Mayhem, told me they weren’t going to be rushed and each had a good amount of stage time to take your souls to the depths of HELL.
First to lead the willing to slaughter, was Black Anvil. Four black metal scene-sters from the big apple, well-respected and running four studio albums strong, it was no wonder they had been chosen to incite pandemonium upon the mortal realm. As they began with “On Forgotten Ways” and “May Her Wrath Be Just,” the vocally malicious and physically maddening music, trapped inside of your own mind searching in the dark for cracks to crawl out of. A mosh pit formed right away, several would shed blood unbeknownst to themselves, until the trance-like death-dance broke into next song. The room remained dark as crimson lights peered through the foreboding rolling fog, as BA took dominion over time and space, unleashing the power of metal would reshape all who felt the pull. Ending the set with “Ultra,” the compelled congregation were still throwing down bodies with pit-perfect force, as the rest shouted along;
“This is beyond my wildest dreams
He is the light uphold thee
He is he is
Part of me
He is he is
None to see
He is he is
Clear to me
He is he is
All of me
He is he is
Part of me”
until the lights went black. But the night was far from over and Immolation would be next to stalk the altar. You metal-heads from way back may remember them when they were Rigor Mortis, after a few member and label changes they became Immolation, and would go on to release 10 studio albums, including their latest Atonement. They had become influential in the underground metal scene, inspirations to many bands we love and respect and now they were here at Baltimore Soundstage to lay waste within the walls with intricate rhythms, discordant harmonic patterns and tales of humanity’s atrocities. After they arrived on stage to a well deserved breakout of plaudits, the house lit up blood-red highlighted by splashes of purple. A big silkscreen banner served as the backdrop behind the drum kit, reading “Immolation” in black lettering. They played songs such as “The Distorting Light” and “Fostering The Divide,” “Burial Ground,” and “Dawn of Possession.” Playing old faves and new songs, it wasn’t hard to satisfy any fan who had come to witness. I swear, bass/vocalist Ross Dolan has the greatest, longest head of metal hair of I have ever seen, I think it reaches to his knees. But at one point during a song, his locks got locked onto the mic. To immersed in the music, I doubt people likely noticed, because without flinching or stopping his hair was released as quickly as it was caught, except the mic did take some as a souvenir. You’ll probably find it on Ebay somewhere reading, “Legit lock of hair from Ross Dolan of Immolation” Buy Now for $100.00. I didn’t even notice myself until a fellow photog had captured it with his camera. Other than the onstage unnoticed mishap, Immolation spread the seeds of darkness, pushed the boundaries like the vanguards of vehemence. But like it or not they couldn’t play forever and it was almost time for the headliner of the night, you guessed it, Mayhem.
The lights return and there is plenty of shuffling around by crew and staff to prepare the stage for the unleashing of the necromantically need-to-see-to-believe stage production. The black sheets that covered various props were finally removed, it revealed images of winged and hooded figures on four silk screened stationary banners, placed in different locations. The fog machines must have kicked up to… fog-my-ass-&-a-half, this is what HELL must look like. Because I couldn’t see a thing, Oh wait, I see light, nope that was someone walking in front of me with cell phone. But then the real light came on and it was deep blue like the evening sky, and the blue rays sliced through the billowing blur, illuminating the arrival of Attila, Necrobutcher, Hellhammer, Teloch and Ghul, also known as Mayhem (Season Of Mist,) The True Mayhem.
Donned in corpse paint and hooded cloaks, they crept through the murk and took their positions. Vocalist Attila Gábor Csihar had a large upside down cross that dangled from his neck and what looked like robes he had unearthed from a moth-eaten corpse. The first song performed was “Funeral Fog,” which was fitting considering, you know, all the fog right? Let’s see how many times I can say fog in a sentence. I had been listening to Mayhem for years and my expectations were already high. Although there were no pigs or sheep heads impaled on stakes, sonically, technically and vocally they sounded perfect. With strobe lights rapidly flashing behind the hellish cloaked figures on the banners, devil-horned hands are held high as a sign of respect for the bands sacrifice to their fans. “Freezing Moon” and “Cursed In Eternity” were offered next, and boneyard behind the barricade threw themselves into the fray that spiraled into a mangled moshpit. Mayhem, The True Mayhem, was everything I anticipated them to be and sound like; foreboding and hair-raising, ominous and atmospherically eerie. They turned Baltimore Soundstage into a graveyard of hundreds of the dearly departed, who answered the summoning song. Blast beats and fast tempos, uniquely dissonant chords that set them apart from many, don’t even begin to describe the talent coming from these guys. Mayhem are masters of their genre, and ending their set with “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” was a master move of precise execution.
Three bands played, three bands slayed and one girl blown away. Black Anvil, Immolation and The True Mayhem slaughtered it that night and that one girl(me) had the black metal fever from that night on. If you haven’t had the opportunity to venture to the underworld or schmooze with its occupants lately, buy a ticket to see Black Anvil, Immolation or Mayhem at a location near you. And hey, bring a friend.
Mayhem @ Baltimore Soundstage
Immolation @ Baltimore Soundstage
Black Anvil @ Baltimore Soundstage
Mayhem: The True Mayhem