Staging: Norwegian black metal legends Mayhem have been around for over 35 years, which is pretty epic considering their tumultuous history that includes murders and suicides (as depicted in the 2018 film Chaos Lords).
The extreme metal band’s “The Sanguine Sodomy of North America” tour kicked off March 7 in San Francisco as one leg of a massive world tour, and hit Los Angeles the following night on March 8. (Serious consequence was present for both shows, along with a photographer in San Francisco and a reporter in Los Angeles). North American races end April 3 in Joliet, Illinois, with tickets available through ticket master.
Mayhem originally arranged the release as a co-headliner with Swedish black metal veterans Watain. Unfortunately, just days before the tour started, Watain had to drop out due to visa issues.
Take the stage: Mayhem’s set was essentially a retrospective of their long and storied career presented in three acts with costume and set changes. The band fully embraces the theatricality of black metal, which helps make the show such an immersive live experience.
The first act of Mayhem’s set consisted of newer material, opening with “Falsified and Hated” from their latest studio album, Devilwhich landed at No. 1 on Serious consequence‘s Top Metal & Hard Rock Albums of 2019. With its spastic opening riffs that turn into an atmospheric dirge, it was a great choice. The song embodies the band’s style, which hasn’t changed much over the years. The first act ended with “Voces Ab Alta”, a track from their recent Atavistic Black Trouble / Kommando EP.
Then the stage went dark and spooky music played as the band prepared for act two. The lights came on revealing a change of backdrop from an eerie depiction of Jesus to an eerie cathedral with upside-down crosses. Lead vocalist Attila Csihar changed from a pope-like red robe to a ritual-style black robe with the guitarists flanking him on either side in hoods like evil monks. Mayhem had very few banter between songs, as they let the music do the talking.
The band then went into one of their most famous (or perhaps infamous) songs, “Freezing Moon,” from their iconic debut album. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. There was a sense of reverence as the band continued to blast out older material with crowd favorites like “Pegan Fears.” Its complex intensity of chosen speed was very well executed by current guitarists Charles “Ghul” Hedger and Teloch. Of course, they were accompanied by the thundering bass of founding member Necrobutcher, as a mosh pit erupted through the crowd.
The third act began with the instrumental overture “Silvester Anfang” from the 1987 death crush EP. Now bathed in red light with a red banner adorned with a giant Mayhem logo behind them, the band embarked on true Norwegian black metal of the era, including the title track of death crush as well as “Chainsaw Gutsfuck”. By then, Mayhem had taken off her robes and masks, allowing fans to finally see their full faces. They launched the “Freezing Moon” single “Carnage” and ended the set with the short but brutal “Pure F**king Armageddon”, the last track from death crush. The song served as a real connection, because that’s exactly what the audience experienced during the Mayhem set – pure fucking king armageddon.
Strong support: Midnight, the blackened one-man speed metal band from Ohio formed by multi-instrumentalist Athenar, was an interesting choice for the opener. Of course, there was supposed to be Watain in between, which would have bridged the gap a bit more between the black metal party music of Midnight and the hypnotic, brutal reverence that was Mayhem. Midnight and Mayhem also played longer sets to make up for their absence.
Midnight is certainly fun as the trio they’ve become for live shows. They’ve found a killer drummer and have great onstage chemistry despite being born out of a solo project. Their faces were covered in masks somewhere between bondage and Leather Face as they ran through their succinct brand of punk beats with thrash guitars and screaming vocals.
“Hello Los Angeles, City of Evil Angels,” Athenar remarked as they kicked off their incredibly loud set with “Black Rock’n’Roll” from the Complete and total hell compilation. They certainly make “fight-starting music” as their label Metal Blade puts it, because they had a very decent pit.
After some sound issues with vocals and bass, Athenar joked, “Can you hear the vocals because what I’m saying is very important.” With song titles like “Who Gives a F**k” and “Evil Like a Knife,” it’s clear they don’t take themselves too seriously.
All in all, despite Watain’s absence, fans were treated to a full evening of raw, brutal metal music.
Mayhem’s North American tour with Midnight takes place April 3 in Joliet, Illinois. Take tickets here.
Photo Gallery – Mayhem and Midnight (click to enlarge and scroll):
Mayhem set list:
Falsified and hated
Blood Swords Symbols
Voice Ab Alta
Buried by time and dust
Pure fucking King Armageddon