By Brayden Turenne
VANCOUVER – On the eve of February 3, the relative peace of the warming season was overtaken with frigid, cruel snow and chill-inducing rain — an omen to foretell of the coming black metal onslaught on the horizon. It was that Friday night that Mayhem, one of the most vital arteries in the cancerous heart of metal’s most extreme subgenre, descended on Vancouver, accompanied by New York black metal outfit Black Anvil, to preach the word of pure evil and (death)crush all in attendance with a performance that will not soon be forgotten.
The show was quick to get underway, with Black Anvil sparking the flame that would only grow as the night crept on. Repping their most recent LP release, As Was, Black Anvil took to the stage with skin stained from what looked like either blood or tar (maybe both), and for the entirety of the regrettably brief set took the crowd by the throats, whether they liked it or not, and made their presence known. On stage, Black Anvil emote a sense of confrontation, embodying an aggressive animal baring its teeth. Even during the various harmonious sections that intersect with the gnarled black metal aggression, the fourpiece find a way to maintain that venom, which all works in tandem with their equally combative sound. One thing that seemed evident watching Black Anvil was the sincerity in the delivery: These guys believe and love their stuff to the black-hearted core, and it shows.
Anyone even partly knowledgeable of the history of black metal knows about Mayhem, one of the most infamous groups in all of music. How could you not? The maelstrom of insanity that has surrounded this group, as well as the sheer magnitude of their role in founding what has come to be called “true black metal,” has turned Mayhem into a modern-day titan, a living legend amongst fans. It was Mayhem’s first full-length record, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, that imprinted them in the genre’s history, and it was that album in full that Mayhem were set to perform.
And after a prolonged wait, the air, electric with anticipation, broke under the ice-cold impact of drummer Hellhammer’s blastbeats and the accompanying strings courtesy of Necrobutcher, Teloch, and Ghul. On cue, Attila, looking like a ragged, deranged priest of lost malignant gods, let loose his brand of demented screeches and wails. Throughout the set, each song was separated by intervals of hauntingly atmospheric chanting and ambience, which only made the music that much more brutal when it finally hit. The energy that this band is able to conjure up is absolutely astounding, striking the perfect balance of theatricality without falling into melodrama. Attila is no doubt one of the most startlingly brilliant frontmen in metal today, and looks to channel something sincerely malignant when performing.
Mayhem are a band that remind us of the power of the live concert experience, morphing concert into macabre ceremony. Before the music even started, there was a message asking for the audience to refrain from using their phones for the sake of atmosphere and experience. These guys truly infuse that word into what they do on stage, and this latest Vancouver show was no exception. It was a show that will be remembered until the time when Mayhem return to thrust us all into hell one more time.black metal, Mayhem, Vancouver