It is without a second’s hesitation that Norwegian second-wave Black Metal deities Mayhem are regarded as one of the pinnacles of the style: as one of the seminal acts. Their full length debut De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence) is rightly acclaimed as one of the very best – if not the actual best, which is my personal opinion depending on whether I’ve listened to that or In The Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight) most recently – Black Metal albums, while earlier releases Deathcrush (Posercorpse) and Live In Leipzig (Obscure Plasma) have also attained legendary status for their wild, raw nihilistic fury. Continue reading →
Blood Red Throne have been around for some time now, and with Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen they found a vocalist able to bring something more to their shows, as he is able to communicate with the audience in a way that seems sincere and engaging. With a set list comprised of something like fifty percent classics from Altered Genesis, their most celebrated album, the band lay Rockefeller in ruins. Bolt circlebanging, puking, then continuing to circlebang. Not to mention guitarist Ivan Gujic trashing his guitar at the end of the show, then proceeding to down half a bottle of tequila. It seemed like the pep talk backstage had been had. This said, the band could have added some more visual aspects to their show, but as an opening act one couldn’t really expect much more than a backdrop.
Suffocation are veterans by now, and a band that always delivers. However, it’s somewhat disappointing to catch them with only two members from the core lineup, instead bringing replacement musicians for guitarist Guy Marchais and vocalist Frank Mullen. But then again, the stand-ins did a really good job, and we got all the classics like ‘Breeding The Spawn’, ‘Catatonia’, ‘Funeral Inception’, ‘Liege Of Inveracity’, ‘Abomination Reborn’, ‘Pierced from Within’, ‘Effigy Of The Forgotten’, ‘Thrones Of Blood’ and ‘Bind Torture Kill’. It was all delivered with conviction and by a Derek Boyer with his bass literally standing upright on the floor at times, and a Terrance Hobbes looking as he was having the time of his life playing the same songs yet again. Suffocation is indeed always a safe bet, and also grand masters of the brutal death metal genre, even when they are playing far from their own New York scene.
Last band of the night were none other than the proud Egyptophile Americans in Nile. They are usually worth catching for George Kollias jaw-drop inducing drumming on its own. Throw in the fact that they have a solid discography of brutal and truly quality death metal by now, and you can maybe forgive them the fact that they don’t offer especially much in terms of the visual part of the show except their backdrop. But when a band churns out great renditions of ‘Lashed To The Slavestick’, ‘Sacrifice Unto Sebek’, ‘Kafir!’, and’ Sarcophagus’, most are willing to ignore the lack of visual pleasing stimuli – ignoring washed out t-shirts and shorts.
World record holder in leather, spikes, and mullets, Nifelheim, proved themselves once again worthy of being THE black thrash export number one of Sweden. Lead into battle by The hard rock brothers, twins Tyrant on bass and Hellbutcher on vocals, they held Inferno captive for ten songs, including the massively enjoyable ‘Storm of the Reaper’. They proved once again that to get far all you need is some good tunes and the proper attitude.
Craft was the last band out on the John Dee stage, and saw the venue filled up with people eagerly anticipating an onslaught of Swedish black metal. And they got what they wanted, although I must admit, after seeing Craft twice now, that they sound better on record than live. They also look a bit disorganized in their appearance, as if the band members don’t have that extra cohesive interpersonal dynamic going that makes a band stand out. At the very end drummer Uruz announced that he would be leaving the band, and introduced what might be his successor, Trish Kolstad, a local Oslo-based drummer, also recently making an appearance with Gehenna. She joined the band on stage for their last song, ‘I Want To Commit Murder’.
A surprise was had with the Finnish legion of Moonsorrow, whose albums I must say I have passed by pretty much in silence and disinterest, seeing as most folk oriented black metal is rather bland, and usually far too jolly, and fits better with the typical German festival goer who enjoys drawing a dick on their forehead and wear viking helmets – the ones with historically incorrect horns stuck to them. But I stand corrected. Moonsorrow was fully enjoyable, and far darker and balanced than I remembered from earlier. If not a band with a great show to coincide with their music, they at least pulled off the musical part with excellence.
Mayhem. I have caught them a million times by now, and there’s always an element of surprise to their performances. If not in terms of theatrics, then in terms of songs selected, or even how the band has seemed to vary immensely in how well they perform the material. This time around the band not only put on a great show, had good sound, but also played some songs they haven’t played in a while. In addition they had both former vocalist Maniac on stage, as well as Attila, and Messiah, all doing vocals on selected songs from their own eras and albums with the band. First appearing was Maniac doing five songs from 2000’s Grand Declaration Of War. Then Attila did ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, ‘Life Eternal’, ‘Freezing Moon’ and ‘Illuminate Eliminate’, before Maniac was back on for songs from Deathcrush, which also saw the return of Messiah with the band, probably a byproduct of him appearing earlier on the very same stage with Order. The same band whose drummer Manheim also joined Mayhem on one of the songs he played with them on the Deathcrush EP back in 1987. Basically all in attendance were guided through the bands entire history, pigs’ heads thrown into the audience and all. Wholesome family Easter fun and games in other words. Most definitely a headliner worthy of ending this year’s Inferno festival. The entire Mayhem show is actually on YouTube now it seems, so you know what to do!
Fortune favours the brave, and Carach Angren are forging something of a name for themselves by putting effort into the narratives of their albums, and looking to create something that at least pokes a toe outside the rigid walled box labelled “Black Metal”. A concept album that unfurls telling a story of two children caught up in a chilling horror (no spoilers here, if you want to find out the full extent of a tale that makes King Diamond’s tales seem like bedtime stories you will need to find out the hard – and heavy – way), This Is No Fairytale (Season of Mist) is the Dutch orators most compelling release to date.
Eschewing the usual black metal practice of ripping off thirty year old albums (praise be the dark lord!), Carach Angren are trying something different, with reference points of Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast) and Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis), This Is No Fairytale takes the blood-curdling scream of black metal, and mixes it in the cauldron with a caustic steampunked Nachtmystium, darkened Imaginaerium (Nuclear Blast) symphonics and a liberal dose of Tim Burton.
While the resultant “whole” unfortunately doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts, there are some very good parts here. The Dutch trio’s fourth album is an ambitious and enjoyable album, though at times it does allow certain tracks to outstay their welcome (‘Two Flies Flew Into A Black Sugar Cobweb’) and perhaps lacks a certain je ne sais quoi in the hook department.
This isn’t to put This Is No Fairytale down, because “when you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either” (Leo Burnett) and this stomping, frictional theatrical album conjures twisted Burton-esque images, especially during interlude ‘Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden’. Carach Angren are at least looking to carve their own niche, and they aren’t too far from pulling the twisted nails of faith together to make their own maddened masterpiece.