Mayhem

support Gaahls WYRD
author AP date 24/11/19 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

After one day’s break, I find myself at Pumpehuset for the second time in the same week, and again the show is completely sold out. This is hardly a surprise, however, as topping the bill is the legendary Mayhem, whose influence on black metal stands virtually second to none, and who very recently issued their sixth studio album “Daemon”. And as if the presence of these legends were not enough to lure 600 patrons here, the band is joined tonight by ex-Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl’s new project WYRD, as well as the hyped synthwave artist GosT (the latter of whom, however, falls outside the scope of our publication and is thus not unfairly reviewed by me). A dark evening lies ahead of us, then, as the lights are dimmed and the scent of incense fills the air...

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk


Gaahls WYRD

There are few frontmen in the black metal genre more eccentric than Gaahl, and as “Ghosts Invited” off WYRD’s début album “GastiR - Ghosts Invited” gets underway, he further cultivates his reputation by creeping onto the stage with slow, deliberate steps, and moving amongst the rest of the musicians like a revenant. This feeling of his not quite fitting the stereotype of a black metal artist is further emphasised by the music of his latest undertaking, which involves, among other rare features, messianic chanting and baritone singing as well as the crackling growls and demonic wails for which Gaahl became known in both Trelldom and Gorgoroth. This contrast is made all the clearer by the covers of “Carving a Giant” by the latter and “Slave til en kommende nat” by the former, that follow the opening track. It is always precarious to riddle your setlist with cover songs, but it makes perfect sense in this context, given that only eight originals by WYRD exist as of yet — and even if that were not the case, all of the extracurricular material the group plays nonetheless belongs fully, or at least in part to Gaahl. Out of the ten tracks aired, only half stem from “GastiR”, yet it is the brand new pieces like “Ek Erilar” and “Carving the Voices” that leave the greatest impression on me. The former stands out by virtue of excellent drumming by Spektre (alias of Kevin Kvåle), while the latter ropes me in with slow-burning, melodic grandeur that finds no equal in the rest of the songs.

Gaahl continues his theatrical ways, in particular by making expressive use of his hands as he lists around the stage with a majestic eeriness, sometimes hunching over his microphone with a kind of hopelessness. But while the spotlight shines almost exclusively on him, when the intense onslaught of “Høyt opp i dypet” (off Trelldom’s 2008 album “Til et annet”) begins, the rest of the band explodes into action, too. Both guitarists, Lust Kilman and Andreas Fosse Salbu, as well as bassist Eld transform into a blur of swinging hair and banging heads in keeping with the chaos of this truer black metal chop, which, however, concludes in a crescendo that is a notch too close to sounding like newer Batushka to really take this track to the limit. And once again, it is one of the WYRD songs, “Through and Past and Past”, that assumes the responsibility of wowing the increasingly enthusiastic audience with guitar chords that sound like blows of a trumpet. It feels more triumphant even, than the closing track “Exit - Through Carved Stones” by Gorgoroth (which appears on 2003’s “Twilight of the Idols - In Conspiracy with Satan”) despite the bombast this song brings with its marching rhythm and infernal resonance. Be that as it may, this is a rock solid barrage of black metal and it sets the bar high for the headliner, who have a reputation for faltering in the live setting every now and then.

7

Mayhem

One never knows what to expect from Mayhem, and in particular the band’s vocalist Attila Csihar. And while there are no surprises from the iconic frontman tonight, the concert itself subscribes to a very different formula than the previous three occasions on which I have seen these Norsemen live — one divided into distinct periods, with intermissions in between. As it quickly dawns on the audience once “Falsified and Hated” off Mayhem’s latest album “Daemon” has been unleashed, the first part of the show focuses on that record, albeit not exclusively, while the second and third parts deliver most of the classics the vast majority of people here are undoubtedly hungering for. I have yet to grow fond of “Daemon” myself, so it does not surprise me that none of the material aired from that album piques my intrigue too much, but it does surprise me that it is “My Death” (off 2004’s “Chimera”), which, by Mayhem’s usual standards, verges on the avant-garde, that stands out the most in this first segment of the show. The song is made even more jarring by Csihar’s presentation of various items and ornaments to us during its instrumental passages — but then it is precisely his hyperbolic showmanship that makes Mayhem so entertaining to watch. Dressed like a Satanic bishop, Csihar’s microphone is attached to an inverted cross fashioned from (what I presume to be real) bones, and he moves it around in bizarre trajectories as though he were writing scripture in the air. The rest of the band, meanwhile, all seem to be wearing not only identical black tees and black jeans, but also identical military style haircuts, and they focus on playing the material tightly instead of contributing their own theatrics to the show.

That is not to say that the four musicians bring nothing to the table in terms of showmanship, with bassist Necrobutcher in particular making his presence felt by virtue of the maniacal glares he casts in our direction during the likes of “Symbols of Bloodswords” (taken from the band’s 1997 EP “Wolf’s Lair Abyss”) and “Invoke the Oath” — the latter of which does nothing to improve my impression of “Daemon” as ultimately a generic work of classic Norwegian black metal. The band leaves the new material behind once that track is brought to a conclusion, however, and after the intermission that follows, the crowd, which has been uncharacteristically subdued thus far, comes to life, and roars in approval as the staple “Freezing Moon” announces the onset of the concert’s second part focusing on Mayhem’s 1994 début “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. It is here the show enters an upward trajectory, and while the rest of the band sans Necrobutcher still remain fixed in their positions, the nature of the classic material nonetheless renders the atmosphere as intense as it should be in the black metal genre. And yet, in the highlight “Buried by Time and Dust, which provides the finale to this second part, I cannot help but notice an omen of things to come for the genre. It contains an instrumental segment that, honestly, sounds like some of the so-called post-black metal that is so popular today, and since I am an outspoken fan of that style, it should not come as a surprise that tonight’s rendition of “Buried by Time and Dust” sticks out as one of the consummate highlights in a concert that otherwise leaves me with mixed feelings.

But while the aforementioned song provides an individual highlight, it is without a doubt the final part of the concert that leaves the most haunting imprint on my memory overall. If the level of intensity was high during the “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” material, then it shoots through the roof when the title track to Mayhem’s 1987 EP “Deathcrush” erupts from the speakers and draws a thick line under the fact that Hellhammer, nigh invisible behind his gargantuan kit, still remains a prodigious drummer and has lost none of the speed that made this band so fearsome in their late-‘80s to late’-90s heyday. Necrobutcher’s eyes glow with fire and vitriol, and Csihar’s antics turn even more possessed as “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” from the same EP is unleashed, until church bells garnish the finale of a masterful rendition of “Pure Fucking Armageddon”, the culmination of this slow and uneven, but never uncertain rise of total domination that Mayhem visits upon us. If only the band had succeeded in starting with the same imposition and maintaining it for the entire duration of the show, this could have been one of their best on Danish soil yet. But alas.

7

Setlist:

  • 01. Falsified and Hated
  • 02. To Daimonion
  • 03. My Death
  • 04. Malum
  • 05. Bad Blood
  • 06. Symbols of Bloodswords
  • 07. A Bloodsword and a Colder Sun, Part II
  • 08. Invoke the Oath

— Intermission —

  • 09. Freezing Moon
  • 10. Pagan Fears
  • 11. Life Eternal
  • 12. Buried by Time and Dust

— Intermission —

  • 13. Deathcrush
  • 14. Chainsaw Gutsfuck
  • 15. Ancient Skin
  • 16. Carnage
  • 17. Pure Fucking Armageddon

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