I was extremely excited when I first saw Mayhem announce their North American tour this past fall where they would be playing their influential full length debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety. I was especially excited to see they would be playing a show in Washington, D.C. which is the nearest major city to my home. I was looking forward to this concert for a couple of months, and I was certainly not disappointed when I saw the show on Wednesday February 15th at the Howard Theatre in D.C.
I like to get to venues early prior to the opening act starting. I was one of the first people to arrive at the venue, and as I was walking into the stage area I saw a familiar face standing by the sound booth: the one and only Hellhammer, drummer for Mayhem. This man is one of my favorite drummers, and one of the best in all of metal in my opinion, so I was very excited to say hello and have a short chat with him. I could not resist the opportunity to take out my De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas record for a quick autograph. This was a great way to start out the night!
Black Anvil was the opening band for this tour. These guys are a fantastic modern black metal band from New York City. The band is made up of four extremely talented musicians. I checked out their newest album As Was about two weeks before the concert, and I was greatly impressed with their songs. If you aren’t someone who is into black metal then this band may be your gateway into the genre. Black Anvil masterfully mix screamed black metal vocals and harmonizing clean vocals into their songs. They were a great way to start off the evening for everyone. The band started and ended their set the same way they start and end their album As Was: with the songs “On Forgotten Ways” and “Ultra”. Everything in between was definitely fun to watch. The band really has a lot of melody to their music, and the drummer really pounds the skins of his kit. The song “Ultra” was a perfect way to end the set as the closing part of the song is the band harmonizing some lyrics. A backing track of the song from the album kept playing as the band walked off stage signifying their time slot for the night had ended. I’m definitely interested in seeing Black Anvil again.
Inquisition was up next. There are just two official members in this band, guitarist/vocalist Dagon and drummer Incubus. You might they think they would hire a session musician to play bass for them live or even hire another guitar player, but nope these guys don’t need it. Inquisition had several banners around the stage to close it in and make it smaller so the stage doesn’t look so barren with just two people up there. Dagon had a microphone on both the left and right sides of the stage so he could move back and forth and entertain both sides of the crowd. The two gentlemen who make up Inquisition are extremely talented musicians. It’s amazing how great they sounded live with just one guitar and a drummer. I was very impressed. Inquisition plays more of a classic black metal sound which I really enjoy and provided a good gateway from opener Black Anvil into the next set for the headliner, Mayhem.
It was 10:00 when it was time for Mayhem to take the stage and unleash the sounds of their full length debut album on us all. They had a great stage set up with different banners around the rear perimeter of the stage showcasing some type of hellish monsters. Mayhem’s backdrop showed the three silhouetted images of original guitarist Euronymous, drummer Hellhammer, and vocalist Attila Csihar as seen in the album artwork originally released in 1994.
The stage began to fill with fog and out came the band cloaked in black. They really wanted to create a certain atmosphere to this set. The fog, lighting, costumes, and of course the music really set the tone and maintained the atmosphere throughout their entire set.
The band, consisting of guitarists Teloch and Ghul, bassist Necrobutcher, and drummer Hellhammer launched into the album opener “Funeral Fog” presenting the song in all its glory. The song features a lengthy instrumental intro, and vocalist Attila Csihar did not appear onstage until it was time for us all to hear his voice. Attila appeared onstage and looked like he had just come out of a grave. His tattered cloak and makeup gave him the look of death come to greet us all.
After the opening song ended there was a brief silence before the audience heard a voice say, “When it’s cold and when it’s dark the freezing moon can obsess you”, which Mayhem fans know as the introduction to their most popular song “Freezing Moon” as introduced by former vocalist Dead on the album Live in Leipzig released in 1993 as a tribute to Dead who committed suicide in 1991. The crowd goes wild for the song “Freezing Moon”. It is a classic of the black metal genre and helped to inspire all those who came after Mayhem.
Vocalist Attila Csihar moved about the stage throughout the night while Mayhem carried on through the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album. He would entertain the crowd by going back and forth from the front of the stage to his altar complete with candles and a skull. Attila also does gestures with his head and hands that truly make him seem like a walking corpse. He is the perfect frontman for this show. It could not be done better.
It’s very difficult to highlight tracks off this album as they are all necessary to make the album flow although a real crowd favorite seemed to be the song “Pagan Fears”. Mayhem kept up their energy throughout the entire set and even seemed to kick it into overdrive for the second to the last song titled “Buried by Time and Dust”. There was tons of thrashing about both onstage and in the audience when this song was played.
There was a pause after “Buried by Time and Dust” ended before the band would launch into the closing and title track, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. This song starts off with a really cool, sinister guitar riff. The band started playing again without vocalist Attila on stage as they did to open up the show. Attila then appeared with with purple robes on and pope like adornments on them. The backdrop of the stage also changed for this final song of the night. The backdrop showcased the album cover artwork of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim Norway in it’s signature purple color with a full moon shining in the upper right corner. The audience could not have asked for a better way to end their evening of black metal mastery.
Mayhem’s trek through North America ends this weekend in New York City. The band is then taking a brief break before they begin a full tour of Europe. If you are in North America and didn’t catch this show you really missed out on seeing a genre defining album performed in its entirety. If you live in Europe you have a lot to look forward to this spring.
- Isaac Sauers
All photos by Isaac Sauers
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