Mayhem + Immolation @ Elements in Kitchener, November 4, 2017
Legendary Norwegian black metal heretics Mayhem return to North America for the second time this year, yet again to perform the seminal genre-defining ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas‘ in its blasphemous entirety. For those questioning the objective to seeing this album again, New York death metal veterans Immolation – armed with their new full-length – amp up the line-up with some old school anti-Christianity. For some reason, the tour evades Toronto but fortunately metalheads located in or around the city can high-tail it to nearby Kitchener for this unholy occurrence.
Much like the headliners, old school death metal swarm Immolation need no introduction. This year saw these New Yorkers unveiled their tenth album, ‘Atonement‘, their return to the studio in four years. All dressed in black button-down shirts, the four-piece commence their miserable metal with ‘The Distorting Light’ from their most recent studio result. Their stage presence is as commanding as their unstoppable music and special mention goes to guitarist Robert Vigna who swings his axe around with such forceful exertions, it looks like he’s levelling cities.
The majority of the set is assembled from ‘Atonement‘. The fans append thunderous applause to the likes of ‘When the Jackals Come’, ‘Above All’, ‘Destructive Currents’ and ‘Fostering the Divide’, but when the band is actually storming through these tracks, the crowd response is surprisingly subdued. Admirers of the pre-‘Majesty and Decay‘ era will not be satiated as usual staples such as ‘Father, You’re Not a Father’, ‘No Jesus, No Beast’ and ‘Into Everlasting Fire’ are sacrificed for the new blood. However, ‘Swarm of Terror’, ‘Burial Ground’ and ‘Dawn of Possession’ make appearances and are certainly the highlights of the set.
New guitarist Alex Bouks from Goreaphobia slots into the line up seamlessly, doing justice to the musicianship. While the New Yorkers proffer an impassioned performance, the set list renders the show one of their less exciting spectacles. Either way, devouring Voivod-influenced angular riffs, classic death up-heaving rhythms, dissonant gloomy guitar work and Ross Dolan’s beastly growls is more than most death metallers desire so it’s better than nothing.
Once again, Norway’s Mayhem turn the clock back to 1994 when ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas‘ dictated a new order for black metal. The venue is very busy, demonstrating the permanence and relevance of this record in 2017. Vocalist Attila Csihar, bassist Necrobutcher and drummer Hellhammer are the original members on the release who are on stage tonight. Each member is adorned in black cloaks, resembling monks – a unified visual approach unlike other Mayhem performances in the past and possibly an ironic nod to contemporary orthodox black metal acts dead set on reproducing a ritualistic ambience live. Smoke machines envelope the stage and the members, morphing them into bleak silhouettes. Starting with ‘Funeral Fog’, the black metal phenomenon make their way through the album in chronological order.
Yet there is something noticeably absent from this performance. It appears as if the band members are divorced from what the album probably signified 23 years ago and are merely going through the motions. Csihar is the most spirited member yet his performance is a far cry from the deranged odd-ball stage presence he usually embodies.
The venue is energetic though with mosh pits and head banging in abundant supply. Guitars are coldly belligerent, the drumming is uncompromising brutality and the vocals originate from the wilderness. The gutsy ‘Pagan Fears’ and eerily atmospheric ‘Freezing Moon’ are the sharper attacks tonight but even still, their mysticism is depleted. The set feels bloated, passive and lethargic, a sign of an iconic collective grasping onto old glories. There’s little in the way of the darkness or unhinged violence that is featured throughout their discography.
Mayhem are hit or miss live and tonight they don’t strike the bulls eye. Maybe it’s because playing this album in its entirety across doesn’t feel exclusive or refreshing any more, particularly at time when so many convention-defying black metal artists are on the road and rejuvenating the underground.
MAYHEM – Purgatorium Americæ Septentrionalis Pars Duorum w/ Immolation, Black Anvil:
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11/25/2017 Mavericks – Jacksonville, FL
11/26/2017 Saturn – Birmingham, AL
11/28/2017 Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC
11/30/2017 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA
12/01/2017 Baltimore Sound Stage – Baltimore, MD
4/01/2018 Decibel Metal And Beer Fest @ The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA w/ Carcass, Repulsion, more [info]