Mayhem & Dragged Into Sunlight (2017 tour diary)

Heavy metal’s grandfathers Black Sabbath set the genre’s tone of darkness with their music, visual aesthetic and energy, and it seems that the acorns haven’t fall from the tree at all. Their fellow countrymen—as varied as Cathedral, Paradise Lost and Cradle of Filth—have followed suit and branched off while remaining true to that ominous core. Continuing to draw from that bleak sap is Dragged Into Sunlight, a cross-pollination of black, death, doom, sludge and noise. Simply put, DIS is a savage beast, and by virtue of the strength of their music, it made sense that they were selected as the direct supporting band for legendary Norwegian black metal progenitors Mayhem in Europe, a tour that saw the nearly 35-year-old band properly commemorate its classic 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety every night.


Murder. Suicide. Church burning. Mayhem’s insane history will always precede them. If you’re unfamiliar or new to black metal, there’s a plethora of information just a Google or Wikipedia search away. Setting all value-laden judgements aside, the extraordinary lore is absolutely fascinating and inextricably linked to Mayhem’s very essence. (Aside: Yours truly was nearly trampled to death by a crowd when I was pinned under the fallen photo pit barrier that collapsed at their Maryland Deathfest performance in 2009. But I digress…)

In the early nineties, Mayhem recruited the uniquely talented Attila Csihar for De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas from the Hungarian band Tormentor. Attila replaced their previous vocalist whose pseudonym was, ironically enough, Dead. That former singer, who provided the album’s lyrics, succumbed to a self-inflicted shotgun wound in 1991 at the band’s house that was out in the woods. Mayhem’s longtime rhythm section, drummer Hellhammer and bassist Necrobutcher, remains to this day. However Necrobutcher didn’t perform on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. He left the band because of guitarist Euronymous’ reactions and handling of Dead’s suicide. Upon discovering his lifeless body, Euronymous took pieces of Dead’s skull to make necklaces. Euronymous also snapped some pictures of the corpse, one of which became the cover of the bootleg album Dawn of the Black Hearts.

“I got very choked up. Dead was one of my best friends. Euronymous wanted to jump on the chance to use it to promote the band, but at the time, I felt that that was a very wrong way to do that,” Necrobutcher told me during an interview for Pit magazine in 2007. He added that Euronymous’ behavior was becoming increasingly extreme at the time. He was making death threats to people on a daily basis, until he “messed with the wrong guy. Varg went to kill him in self-defense, as he called it.”

With Necrobutcher’s departure, the band recruited Burzum’s Varg Vikernes to provide session bass work on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. It seemed clear that animosity was building between Vikernes and Euronymous around that time, although the actual motivation for what followed seems to be an ongoing subject of debate. Late one night in the summer of 1993, Vikernes and Snorre Ruch—the mastermind of the band Thorns who actually provided some lyrics and riffs to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas—drove from Bergen to Euronymous’ apartment in Oslo where Vikernes killed Euronymous by stabbing him nearly two dozen times. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was Euronymous’ final musical testament. Fast forward to 2017, the band now has two guitarists, and they’re extremely impressive ones at that: Teloch (Orcustus, Nidingr) and Ghul (Imperial Vengeance, Cradle of Filth).


Attila prepares for performance in Sweden

March 24: (Nojesfabrieken) Karlstad, Sweden

The initial few days of constant driving through England and mainland Europe led to a “pre tour” show of sorts in Gothenburg, the evening before DIS and I met up with Mayhem for the first proper day of tour in Karlstad. Load-in times were generally quite early in the afternoon, and on day one, Mayhem took the opportunity to rehearse their set: the entire De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album from front to back. As a longtime Mayhem fan, I’ve used the album as the soundtrack for my workouts many times. It was only natural for me, then, to fall into meathead mode by doing push-ups while enjoying the rehearsal. Attila glanced down with a bewildered expression a few times, understandably so.

My make-shift, midday workout was in front of the stage somewhere amid the maze of scattered gear and Mayhem stage props like hooded skeletal characters. During their performances, Mayhem emerged from smoke wearing cloaks themselves, definitely adding to the sense of ambience inherent within their music. Sweden’s Dissection-esque black metal band Voodus opened the show and were on board for several dates.

March 29: (Electric Ballroom) London, England

London proved to be one of the tour’s most well-attended and memorable stops. There was somewhat of a festive mood as well since it was Attila’s birthday. One of DIS’ members texted the frontman a meme depicting a corpse-painted Attila with a birthday hat on. Sure, Mayhem’s notorious history precedes them; however, at the end of the day, they’re not really fire breathing dragons. They are people, and they aren’t afraid of humor. But with that said, they’re not exactly your average next door neighbors.

Speaking of Attila, he is incredibly intense right before he performs. Adorned with his hooded cloak and corpse paint, he is assisted with his garb as he drinks from some kind of bloody concoction that at times spills from his mouth. He often moans as his shoulders and head sway back and forth, side to side. He’s like a shaman who has lost his mind. It doesn’t seem like much of an act. He is the real deal.

April 1: (Lords of the Land Festival @ Barrowland) Glasgow, Scotland

Lords of the Land was an impressive fest. Autopsy was reliably vicious onstage. There’s a suffocating and almost tangible sense of evil and dread that’s almost overflowing right off the stage when they play. Venom Inc., too, were definitely fan favorites. Their performance was stellar and there was definitely a greater feel of authenticity than what I witnessed from Cronos’ Venom, which I saw in 2008, mind you. It really did feel like a more metallic version of Motörhead. And after all these years, Marduk proved themselves to be a well-oiled, fine-tuned machine.

Amidst general banter involving band members and friends in the larger, shared green room backstage, Marduk’s vocalist Mortuus was overheard saying African and European cultures should not mix, which raised some eyebrows amongst our ranks when one of our crew members informed the rest of us of what he heard. Shortly thereafter, a DIS member confronted Mortuus directly, asking him what his statement was all about and pointing out that a DIS member is black. Mortuus responded, “I’m not racist. I’m against multiculturalism.” Clear as mud, then?

DIS performs

April 2: (The Angel Microbrewery) Nottingham, England

While I didn’t see Robin Hood in Nottingham, I did see the tour’s best opening band: Venom Prison, a band tightrope walking between death metal and hardcore that’s just as savage as it is memorable. Keep your eyes on this band.

April 3: (LEmpreinte) Savigny-le-Temple, France

The venue was in Savigny le Temple, a commune nestled away in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. Considering that it wasn’t deep in the thick of things of downtown Paris, it’s all the more impressive that there was such a good turnout. The local openers, Khaos-Dei, were cordial enough during the daytime. They refrained from waiving their douche flag until they were onstage, the problem being that they wouldn’t get off of it. While someone should have intervened to cut the performance off when they were supposed to finish, the band chose to play significantly longer, meaning that DIS’ follow-up set was cut short to allow Mayhem’s proper allotted time before curfew.

Rather than take an apologetic route like professionals afterwards, the French band took their attitude to the next level once someone addressed the situation. Like a child, one member was popping in and out of sight flipping off one of Mayhem’s crew members, later loudly proclaiming he’d beat up Mayhem’s members. Predictably, as the case often is, nothing happened, other than the fact that they’ve perhaps gained a cool story they may one day take liberties with for social media dissemination. They probably would have been booted from the following few tour dates they were previously booked on anyway, but, unsurprisingly, they didn’t show up the next evening in Lyon.

April 5: (Les Docks) Lausanne, Switzerland

Mayhem’s techs regularly played Pantera during sound check, much to the dismay of their sound engineer and much to the pleasure of yours truly. With more time to work with in Switzerland, the techs channeled their inner Dimebag and Vinnie Paul for quite some time. At another point on this tour, it was enjoyable and unexpected to here some of Mayhem’s members play some Duran Duran during sound check.


April 6: (Live Club) Milan, Italy

Touring isn’t for everyone. It can be difficult in many ways. You’re away from your loved ones as well as the creature comforts of daily living. You’re cramped in a van with smelly men for hours every day. While there are lasting friendships, memories and bonds created during the antics and conversations involved during the travels, you also see people at their worst since you’re around one another all day every day. You’re literally inches away from them when the crankiest of moods surface. (Please note: I’m no gem. I have extreme mood swings, and I can barely live with myself.)

We were exhausted following the drive from Switzerland, but we awoke the next morning to a breathtaking sight of gargantuan, snow-capped mountains under a clear blue sky. While I had to endure the stench of his rotten feet the previous evening, someone in our crew reminded me to soak in the sight and experience since such moments can be quite rare in life. He was right. (I feel bad for putting him in a choke hold on a previous tour in New Orleans.)

Puking Dracula? Very black metal.

We later arrived in good spirits to the venue in Milan and quickly noticed a slew of shirt bootleggers carrying products depicting a variety of bands, most prominently Mayhem, of course. As it turns out, unlike most European countries, there are no Italian laws prohibiting bootleggers from duplicating and selling merch. However one wishes to cut it, stealing is wrong. So I chose the high road… by spitting on some of these shirts at the end of the evening which led to these bootleggers and I simultaneously confronting one another face-to-face. I assume that one of them was working with a limited English vocabulary since he simply kept repeating, “Thank you very much.” My choice of words in response wasn’t quite the same. But, once again, I digress

As soon as the massive venue’s doors opened earlier that evening for show time, hundreds of people literally ran inside, just like you’d picture happening in a movie, in an effort to secure up-front viewing. It was a packed house of a thousand wild metal maniacs, and they were a part of one of the best shows of the tour. Deftones’ Around the Fur album emanated from the speakers only minutes before the show started. It’s a great album, but not exactly the best selection to set the tone for a big black metal show. I was listening to it while seated on the couch of the small greenroom next to the corpse-painted and masked opening band: Inferno from the Czech Republic. They were about to perform their first of a few solid performances on the tour. Just moments prior to heading out to get on stage, the singer started puking in the trashcan before glancing my way. “Don’t worry. This is normal,” he said with an accent and delivery similar enough to that of Dracula. Deftones? Not black metal. Puking Dracula? Very black metal.

April 7: (Mostovna Nova Gorica) Solkan, Slovenia

Attila opened up about a few things during an early dinner in Slovenia. Perhaps surprising to some Mayhem fans since they’ve notoriously included decapitated pig heads as part of their stage show, Attila is very empathetic toward animals, stressing that there’s no doubt that they have souls and that they deserve to be treated humanely, even if that might mean traditional livestock living would be a favorable alternative to factory farming.

He also discussed his arrest and imprisonment in Italy for possession of ecstasy at the start of the millennium during the time that he was fronting industrial black metal act Aborym. He believes his arrest was a part of an orchestrated set-up of sorts, not knowing whether or not he was the key target, though. Local Italian media sources pounced on the story and kept it in headlines due to his celebrity status. He was behind the eight ball for several months, required to submit and manage bureaucratic paperwork almost daily. The experience was costly financially and in terms of stress, and it is clear that he cherishes his freedom since that ordeal.

Attila is always the last member of Mayhem to get onstage to perform. This show in particular had a very congested area backstage near the bathroom which was occupied for quite some time just prior to showtime. I really had to go, so I was lingering nearby and pacing a bit, a lot, seemingly endlessly. Now, I’m certainly not a passive or sheepish kind of person, but since he and I were the only ones in the room, I found it a little awkward to maintain eye contact since, as mentioned earlier, that’s when he is very involved in a sense of ritual, wearing a massive cloak and embellished with ghoulish makeup. He isn’t exactly in the mood for conversation at that time.

So I was basically standing around while he was in a nearly possessed state: grunting, sighing and moaning. In this sense, he’s basically the manifestation of how Bible Belt grandma and grandpa envision Marilyn Manson. At some point he fell silent before saying, “Dude, I’m fucking drunk.” Then he abruptly got up and swiftly exited the door to join the band, and the occupied bathroom eventually became free.


April 8: (Vienna Metal Meeting @ Arena Wien) Vienna, Austria

The Vienna Metal Meeting festival was the final show of the epic Mayhem/Dragged Into Sunlight tour. While they are the maniacs one might picture and want them to be, Mayhem and their entire crew proved to be very cool, likable, professional and hospitable. In the midst of loading out, I unfortunately missed Sodom, who I’ve yet to see, but I did enjoy the impressive, unique stylings of both Asphyx and The Ruins of Beverast.

A DIS member and I were “delightfully” joined briefly in a backstage area by one of their Austrian fans who was quick to boast about being from Adolf Hitler’s hometown. And he had a “Hitler Youth” style haircut. He spoke pridefully of his hometown. “Some things don’t change, you know what I mean?”

How do you respond to that? We didn’t.

April 9: (Mayapur Pokojícek) Prague, Czech Republic

Dragged Into Sunlight had two more shows en route to England, starting with beautiful Prague. We enjoyed the company of the opening bands—Japan’s Birushanah and France’s Monarch, the latter of which is an interesting doom band—but what was most memorable was our sight-seeing detour just outside of Prague prior to our arrival. As a group of metalheads fascinated by all things dark, we really appreciated the infamous bone chapel, properly referred to as Sedlec Ossuary, or Ossuary of the Bones. It’s a small Roman Catholic chapel decorated with the bones of nearly 40 thousand people.

We did the obvious tourist thing by snapping far too many pics. It didn’t seem like a big deal to ask a man seated on the floor with a high quality camera for a picture, yet he didn’t care for us smiling and laughing to ourselves because it’s “not that kind of place.” We had some less than friendly words and laughter for the delightful individual before finding someone a bit more accommodating. 

April 10: (Klapperfeld Ex-Gefängnis) Frankfurt, Germany

The venue in Frankfurt was run by a leftist collective occupying the space of a closed prison that was active between 1886 to 2002. The Nazi regime was of course active within that window of time. In other words, it was a former Nazi prison. People were imprisoned and tortured within these walls, many of whom were transported by regular national trains to concentration camps and extermination camps. It’s a horrifying part of human history that becomes tangible when visiting a place like this, a reminder that it was all too real.

There was certainly a distinct kind of energy within the walls of the former prison, eerie to say the least. The DIS show took place in the dark, small windowless basement. The show was vastly unlike the larger scaled ones of the rest of the tour, but the dark tone and intimate setting couldn’t have been any more appropriate for the nature of DIS’ music.

After the show concluded, a fan took us to the bar at which she works. It was after hours and we drank at least 500 dollars worth of booze for less than a hundred euros. The bartender was also kind enough to allow us to crash in her attic, which was a 45-minute bus ride away. Our crew typically engages with the public with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, lending to an interesting (read: annoying) bus trip for many folks heading home or making their way toward work in the wee hours. One of DIS’ guitarists and I typically talk mad smack upon one another, and the banter was relentless on this bus ride, piquing the curiosity of one of the Germans on the bus who could surmise that there was an underlying sense of camaraderie since we hadn’t come to blows. “How is an Englishman getting along with an American?” The DIS guitarist followed with a response that was met with an awkward, extended silence from this person and other travelers. “Well, we were allies in the war, weren’t we?”


Tour dates (DIS opened for Mayhem from March 24 through April 8 and headlined on the dates before and after):

March 23: (Arena 29) Gothenburg, Sweden
March 24: (Nojesfabriken) Karlstad, Sweden
March 25: (En Arena) Stockholm, Sweden
March 26: (Amager Bio) Copenhagen, Denmark
March 27: (Train) Aarhus, Denmark
March 29: (Electric Ballroom) London, England
March 30: (Club Academy) Manchester, England
March 31: (Academy) Dublin, Ireland
April 1: (Lords of the Land Festival @ Barrowland) Glasgow, Scotland
April 2: (The Angel Microbrewery) Nottingham, England
April 3: (L’Empreinte) Savigny-le-Temple, France
April 4: (Villeurbanne) Lyon, France
April 5: (Les Docks) Lausanne, Switzerland
April 6: (Live Club) Milan, Italy
April 7: (Mostovna Nova Gorica) Solkan, Slovenia
April 8: (Vienna Metal Meeting @ Arena Wien) Vienna, Austria
April 9: (Mayapur Pokojí?ek) Prague, Czech Republic
April 10: (Klapperfeld Ex-Gefängnis) Frankfurt, Germany

Words and images by Jay H. Gorania. This tour blog will be also be published in Portugal’s LOUD! magazine.

Upcoming Dragged Into Sunlight tour dates:

Sep 29: Colombia Theater w/ MAYHEM Berlin, Germany
Sep 30: Reithalle w/ MAYHEM Dresden, Germany
Oct 02: Wizeman w/ MAYHEM Stuttgart, Germany
Oct 03: Orphieum w/ MAYHEM Graz, Austria
Oct 04: Le Gueuelard w/ MAYHEM Nilvange, France
Oct 05: Essigfabrik w/ MAYHEM Cologne, Germany
Oct 06: Exchange Bristol, United Kingdom
Oct 07: MammothFest Brighton, United Kingdom
Oct 08: MS Connection w/ MAYHEM Mannheim, Germany
Oct 09: Le Grillen w/ MAYHEM Colmar, France
Oct 11: Santana 27 w/ MAYHEM Bilbao, Spain
Oct 12: AO Vivo w/ MAYHEM Lisbon, Portugal
Oct 13: Sala Mon (Antigua Penélope) w/ MAYHEM Madrid, Spain
Oct 14: Razmatazz 2 w/ MAYHEM Barcelona, Spain
Oct 15: Jas Rod w/ MAYHEM Marseille, France
Oct 16: Ligera Milan, Italy
Oct 17: Orion Live Club w/ MAYHEM Rome, Italy
Oct 18: Stuk w/ MAYHEM Maribor, Slovenia
Oct 19: Randal w/ MAYHEM Bratislava, Slovakia
Oct 20: Mega Club w/ MAYHEM Katowice, Poland m
Oct 21: Progesja w/ MAYHEM Warsaw, Poland
Oct 22: Melna Piektdiena w/ MAYHEM Riga, Latvia
Oct 23: Tapper w/ MAYHEM Tallinn, Estonia
Oct 24: Nosturi w/ MAYHEM Helsinki, Finland
Oct 25: Klubi w/ MAYHEM Tampere, Finland
Oct 27: Brewhouse w/ MAYHEM Gothenburg, Sweden
Nov 04: Damnation Festival Leeds, United Kingdom

DIS playing Nazi prison in Frankfurt