Oh dear. This highly anticipated gig was reduced to shambles, namely because of the heavy snowfall the UK experienced. Originally billed as legendary Norwegian black metal masters Mayhem with support from black/grind UK metallers Anaal Nathrakh and fellow countrymen Dragged into Sunlight, Mayhem turned out to be the only band performing, arriving via the Eurostar. Anaal Nathrakh were stranded in Birmingham because of the snow while Dragged into Sunlight travelled fourteen hours to finally arrive at the venue, only to be informed that they couldn’t play in order for Mayhem to have their soundcheck and finish in time for the 10pm curfew. Punters are left standing for three hours until Mayhem finally grace the stage, opening with the punchy ‘Pagan Fears’ much to the delight of fans of the much lauded ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ album. The sound is awfully sludgy and the guitars are barely audible, frustrating considering the paramount importance of Mayhem’s soundcheck that displaced Dragged into Sunlight. The second most striking feature of the performance is frontman Attila Csihar, famed for donning bizarre outfits for the stage. This time, he is guised as a tainted bishop with a purple cloak and an inverted crucifix featuring a four-armed Jesus. Csihar’s growls are as uniquely malevolent and sinister as they are on CD, filling the shoes of previous vocalists Dead and Maniac era Mayhem flawlessly. The setlist is an essential compilation of Mayhem’s varied regurgitation of black metal through the years with older tracks, including the austere ‘Freezing Moon’ and the ultra violent ‘Deathcrush’, pitted against the later, more clinical ‘My Death’ and from their latest ‘Ordo Ad Chao’ full-length ‘Illuminate Eliminate’. The highlight of the night is the human drum machine Hellhammer who, although veiled by a thick measure of smoke, rendering him barely visible, drums away most impressively, particularly on the less conventional numbers, like ‘View from Nihil’. Original bassist Necrobutcher bears a look of contentment on his face while newer guitar recruits Morfeus and Silmaeth are clearly putting effort into their performance but the poor sound neuters most of it. The crowd reaction is frenetic with pits and beer flaring seemingly everywhere. The primitive ‘Pure Fucking Armageddon’ spawns a final burst of sheer aggression before the band vacate the stage. The set clocks in at less than an hour and an expectant audience waits for an encore but, unfortunately, they leave the venue unsatisfied, probably due to the insistent curfew imposed by the venue. Apparently the face value for the tickets is £20 and many feel they have been hideously cheated given the lack of supports and the very short set (not to mention the poor sound quality), particularly since this is Mayhem’s only UK venture this year. Those who failed to make it due to the weather are most probably relieved to hear that they did not miss much. Maybe next time.
Saturday 18th December 2010
Islington Academy in London, UK
Review by Elena Francis