Black Metal is a difficult thing to gauge attendance for in Australia. On one hand you’ve got a devout following that will always turn out no matter what band it is, but on the other your left wondering if there is going to be a decent turnout of others, or if it’s going to be quiet. Luckily, the return of black metal forefathers Mayhem to our shores to perform their classic album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in full, saw more people turn out than initially expected. Aided in Brisbane by Départe, Ruins and Bölzer, the night was going to be a very grim affair, and grim affair it was.
Opening act for the night Départe are an act I have been wanting to see for a while, so I was excited to be seeing them as the night’s opener. Acting as a contrast to many of the bands on the lineup, their slow approach, fusing black and doom metal is something I appreciate as it evokes a very atmospheric feel about it. While they put on a good show I was disappointed that they didn’t have a live drummer, and while it didn’t make much of an impact in the grand scheme of things, I think that having the sound of those live drums would have really driven home their performance. A solid start for the night and a good sign of things to come.
Ruins were next and if I am to be honest are a band that I honestly never understood the hype around. This was probably due to a show a few years ago that I saw the band looking disinterested on stage and I think I dismissed the act at that point. Oh how I was wrong and I take back anything I have said about the band. For this set, the Tasmanian troupe were musically on fire, and while it was still very rigid visually on stage, I don’t think the band needed to do much more as the overall energy was exuberant, which was the major issue that I had with the band previously. The faster paced sound had the fans more excited and they gave a reciprocal show of energy from the floor.
Bölzer were up next and I don’t even know where to begin. For a band that only has two members the sound that they put out is absolutely tremendous. It’s this multi layered wall of sound that invades every aspect of your surroundings and just commands attention. And if that doesn’t, then maybe just watching KzR playing a ten-string guitar live will. While they perform a very dark and almost primitive sounding metal, that naturalistic approach makes their songs very approachable. While there was hardly any moshing during their set, there was an almost trancelike fixation by the audience, and a silent appreciation for the band. Much like their last tour here, the band had many people talking long after their final notes had played, and hopefully they continue to return on the regular because their show is an experience that will never get old.
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is known for all the right, and all the wrong reasons. Those with a penchant for Black Metal will regale you for days about the mastery of the album, while anyone else would probably try to bring up the ill-fated period during the albums creation. With that in mind its quite special to see that after all this time the band has decided that it will perform the album live. As a band, the current lineup of Mayhem is definitely the best equipped to bring this performance to life, and they certainly did a great job of it.
Musically the band was quite tight, there isn’t much I can really tell you here because if you’ve heard the album then you know exactly what you’re going to get watching it live. But visually is where this live performance took shape and flourished.
The finer details of Mayhem’s performance were not to be understated. Sure it was a dark and all around haunting affair, but it was enhanced through the meticulous way that the band carry out their craft that really draw you in. From the introductory message with the band asking that phones not be used, you knew that it was going to be special and that aura in the air was perfect for the band. The smoke and lighting constantly created an isolating presence around you to that left you focused on what was happening on stage.
With the exception of vocalist Attila Csihar who was constantly around some lit candles, it was difficult to see the other cloaked, corpse paint adorned silhouetted figures on stage. This is the way that the band operates, and works well in creating an atmosphere, but can be frustrating for anyone wishing to see the artists play their instruments. I’m assuming this didn’t bother anyone in the audience as mosh pits (one almost eventuating info a fight) and crazy headbanging was visible all around.
What disappointed me the most about this show was the fact that drummer Hellhammer was invisible through the smoke for the whole show. Sure you could hear him fine, but when your watching a performance of an album where the drumming is the main driving force then it’s a little disappointing when you can’t see the drummer. Anyone further than two rows back probably didn’t have any vision on him throughout the night, whereas you could still make out the guitar and bass trio. It’s a tough one, but when that’s your major issue from four bands, and it’s something so incredibly minor, then you know you’ve had a good night.
There probably will never be another album shrouded in as much darkness as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and with Australia being one of the final legs of the World Tour, this may be one of the last times that the album is performed in its entirety. If that’s the case then the resounding turnout across the country is a perfect sendoff. Mayhem continue to be eerily mesmerizing, and tantalizingly dark band to watch, and their performance in Brisbane was just another demonstration in why they have been able to stick together for so many years.