Finally, infamous Norwegian black metallers Mayhem are in Glasgow. A show initially penned for two years ago pre-plague. It’s third time lucky for this rescheduled date and the city is ready for it – the show is entirely sold out.
Support comes from fellow Norwegian band, Mortiis. He was in an early incarnation of the seminal second wave Norwegian black metal titans Emperor before losing interest in the genre. He eventually found success with his eponymous electronic project, its origins in synth-led darkwave ambient and then evolving into more commercially-viable industrial club ammo. His 2020 album Spirit of Rebellion backtracks to the dawn of Mortiis’ musical output with a return to dungeon synth.
The album is composed of two lengthy tracks – ‘A Dark Horizon’ and ‘Visions of an Empty Future’ – both divided into several parts. Mortiis hunches over his synthesiser while sporting his trademark goblin mask beneath thick dreadlocks. His newer ambient music is significantly more sophisticated and better composed than his debut material was. Medieval epic melodies, haunting atmospheres and unsettling soundscapes are the flavours of escapism, in dramatic contrast to the headliners. He’s joined on stage by a drummer who batters drums at a march-like pace. Unsurprisingly, the overheating crowd’s attention sheds as the set marches on; chatter grows louder and the passive nature of the music probably isn’t ideal for an extreme metal appetiser. Nonetheless, there’s something undeniably enigmatic about Mortiis’ 45-minute performance and it’s intriguing enough to entertain the curious.
Finally, black metal heretics Mayhem explode on stage with the caustic ‘Falsified and Hated’ from their 2019 full-length assault Daemon. The sound is hazy and sludgy as the band gallops into ‘To Daimonion’ from the criminally underrated Chimera album. This section of the concert is the first act, exclusively showcasing the band’s 21st-century meddlings. From the year 2000, the sweaty congregation is treated to Grand Declaration of War’s ‘My Death’. Last year, the Norwegian hellraisers released ‘Voces Ab Alta’ and this is served up tonight too. Vocalist Attila Csihar’s blood-curdling vocals and eldritch stage presence fix all eyes on him, while guitarists Teloch and Ghul join original bassist Necrobutcher in a headbanging marathon. Thick smoke engulfs the stage so tightly that it’s impossible to see drummer Hellhammer smashing his skins behind towering inverted crosses.
Act II really seduces the crowd into fervent appraisal – unsurprising, considering it’s composed of the lauded De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album. The hypnotic dirge-like ‘Freezing Moon’ and neck-breaking ‘Pagan Fears’ are the highlights. Attila wields a noose and skull for this act, embraced by an apocalyptic ragged cowl. The temperature in the venue clambers into inferno territory and a hybrid of salty sweat and condensation drips from the ceiling. This fails to deter the maniacs from maintaining a fairly consistent mosh pit. ‘Life Eternal’ and ‘Buried by Time and Dust’ round out this influential black metal release’s representation tonight.
Finally, act III crawls even further towards the dawn of Mayhem’s back catalogue to their unapologetic, primitive and downright ugly beginnings. Attila’s outfit reflects this with straightforward non-theatrical attire. The drumming intro of ‘Silvester Angfang’ torpedoes itself into the irreverent ‘Deathcrush’, still one of the finest moments in the Norwegians’ discography. The slower and torturous ‘Chainsaw Gutsfuck’ follows, before closing with songs from the scrappy Pure Fucking Armageddon demo – ‘Carnage’ and the title track. This final paroxysm of iconoclasm seals the night and the congregation is drenched in bodily fluids but fully satiated.
It’s impressive to witness black metal’s never-ending branching metamorphosis furnish every chamber of hell, but it really solidified itself in early ‘90s Norway. The second wave black metal movement is the single common ancestor of all the most extreme subgenre of music. This comprehensive retrospective of one of its most devious pioneers had something to appease all types of the Mayhem faithful.
Mayhem & Mortiis Live Review – Glasglow, UK, May 20th, 2022