Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem are back in London to celebrate their thirtieth birthday. Having not been in the capital since 2010 and with the release of their first album in seven years on the horizon, the anticipation is high as the Relentless Garage fills with eager black metal subscribers.
Opening act Stahlsargare a new name to the English black metal scene formed in 2012, with three ex-members from Ipswich black metallers Eastern Front. Their take on black metal is a typical mid-paced affair with the odd melodic guitar lead and lyrical themesreimagining World War Two, much like their previous band. Song structures are incredibly bland and repetitive,failing to conjure much of an atmosphere or energy. The audience is subdued throughout the performance as the corpsepainted members plough through their set with little variation or intrigue. Overall, Stahlsarg fail to leave much of an impression.
Next up is French black metallers Merrimack. Formed in 1994, they are not newcomers to the black metal scene and score approval from those underground adherents interested in high tempo black metal. Their insistence on blastbeats and tremolo picking draws comparisons to the likes of Scandinavian black metallers Gorgoroth, Dark Funeral and Marduk. There are some slower attempts at forebodingatmospheres to dissect the high speed passages but these lack conviction or ambience. Consequentially, they offer little in the way of originality or variation and on the whole, the audience loses interest.
With 'SilvesterAnfang' as their intro tape, the infamous Mayhem fire out the rabid 'Deathcrush' as their opening track, one of the strongest songs in their varied repertoire. The sound is sluggish and initially removes some of the ferocity of its recorded counterpart but it is enough to hurl the audience into a frenzied mosh pit. The opener is followed by the rhythmic 'Pagan Fears' from debut full-length 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' with the sound slightly improved and the audience's ovation refusing to waver. Hellhammer's drumming thunders through the venue, backed by the nastiness of guitarists Teloch and Charles Hedger.
The setlist fairly covers Mayhem's thirty years of black metal, with severeanthems from throughout their career including 'Buried by Time and Dust', 'To Daimonion', 'Symbols of Bloodswords','Freezing Moon' and 'Whore' (the latter prefaced byNecrobutcher stating: This next song is about your girlfriend.). 'Psywar' from the forthcoming Mayhem album 'Esoteric Warfare' is served up and although does not receive as strong a reaction as the previous material, definitely follows in later Mayhem's sinister footsteps. In fact, the audience reactions is very placated when tracks from releases other than 'Deathcrush' and 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' are performed.
The stage presence of vocalist Attila Csihar does not seem as strange as previous ventures to London with Mayhem and his choice of outfit is definitely normal compared to the literal rubbish pile he showed up wearing a few years ago. Nonetheless, a no-nonsense and austere approach certainly suit Mayhem's music better. Unfortunately, the muddled sound curbs the intensity of the music tonight but the raw and relentless nature of Mayhem's music is not lost; 'Carnage' gives way to the scrappy 'Pure Fucking Armageddon' to create an explosive end to the show. Promptly, Mayhem leave the stage and a sweaty congregation vociferously applauding the Norwegian black metal legends.
While not Mayhem's best live venture in the capital, this was certainly a show worth capturing to celebrate three decades of belligerent and wildly influential extreme metal. Those expecting some kind of dramatic show that matches Mayhem's controversial history may have been disappointed but as a monument to their music, this concert ticks the box.