Mayhem’s long and storied history requires no introduction for anyone even vaguely familiar with the black metal scene of Norway in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “Infamous” is a word that could easily be applied to the band, which has hosted membership like Varg Vikernes, notorious murderer (of the band’s guitarist, Euronymous, no less) and white supremacist, and singer Dead, whose suicide photo ended up gracing an album cover at one point. Of course, focusing entirely on those aspects of the band undercuts the truly masterful black metal they once produced.
Now helmed by original bassist Necrobutcher along with long tenured drummer Hellhammer and vocalist Attila Csihar, Mayhem has comfortably settled into their role as legends of a bygone scene. For all the, pardon the pun, mayhem which took place around them, the survivors have managed to carry the torch of their inestimable legacy quite well. Now, for perhaps the first time in their long history, the music is what matters. Thus, their 2017 tour marks a moment of celebration, hailing their 1994 debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.
Thoroughly enjoying their status and the adulation of a varied audience at the Mohawk in Austin on November 21st, which was made up of older metalheads and young punks alike, Mayhem rocked out classics like “Freezing Moon” and the album’s eerie title track as though De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was written just weeks ago, rather than twenty three years prior. Csihar danced and sang into skulls, seemingly in a trance-like state of performing Satanic rituals on stage. Though all the smoke and skeletons could come off like cheesy Halloween parlor tricks, something about the band’s checkered past, the evil brutality of the music, and the earnestness with which Mayhem performed made the experience truly creepy and awe-inspiring.
Different, however, from the early days of Mayhem was the inclusion of former Cradle of Filth and Imperial Vengeance guitarist Ghul. Ghul’s stellar guitar soloing brought new life to these well worn shredders. Outside of Csihar’s transcendent spectacle, Ghul’s virtuosic playing proved the most exciting part of Mayhem’s live show.
The fact that only De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was performed meant that the entire performance wrapped up after only about an hour, including chilling interludes between songs. One could quibble with the brief length of the show, but fans certainly got their money’s worth hearing such a monumental record performed in its entirety. With the title track serving as a perfect closer, coming out for an encore might have ruined a special moment. For a band so revered and steeped in myth and urban legend, Mayhem hit their mark perfectly.
Photo via Mohawk by @crc.images