Mayhem & Watain wage Black Metal Warfare on NYC 1-10-15

Mayhem & Watain wage Black Metal Warfare on NYC 1-10-15

Perhaps one of the most anticipated bills in the early days of the 2015 Extreme Metal scene has been the Black Metal Warfare tour. Marking the return of Scandinavia’s premier sardonic sons, Mayhem and Watain, this was a gathering of forces Black Metal fans could only conjure in their darkest dreams. Shrouded in controversy, noted in books such as Lords of Chaos (1998,2003), and documentary films such as Before the Light Takes Us (2008), Norway’s Mayhem is no stranger to pushing the limits of the extreme. The pairing of themselves with Sweden’s Watain mounted excitement from the moment the eighteen date tour was announced back in fall of 2014. The Metal scene in New York City braced themselves for Watain and Mayhem as they approached Webster Hall. Bracing themselves for the blasphemy ahead on Saturday, January 10th, they gathered inside Webster Hall for the dark arts to begin.

Before Mayhem bathed Webster Hall in Armageddon, opening Canadian Black Metal band Revenge was up first. Rising from the ashes of James Read’s original outfit Conqueror, Revenge’s story began some thirteen years ago. The band struck curiosity as they attacked the hall with its lo-fi minimalist sound that had Black Metal purists hailing and headbanging. Starting the evening off right, they had the crowd enthralled with new song “Desolation Insignia.” The band wrapped up their 40-minute set with “Parasite Gallows (In Line)” from their album Scum. Collapse. Eradication (2012) released via Nuclear War Now! Productions. Leaving the stage with little spoken words, they left the crowd roaring for more. Be on a look out for more from Revenge, as they are scheduled to release new material through their label Seasons of Mist.

Sweden’s Watain took to the stage next, ready to share in the tour’s dual headlining responsibility. Formed back in 1998, this genre defining band take their name from American Black Metal band VON’s song, “Watain.” Releasing their successful album, The Wild Hunt, in 2013, the band made their first return back to New York since the infamous “pig’s blood fiasco” that left Brooklyn Night Baazar wreaking of the sterilized mix of saline and blood back in June of 2014 that gossip spewing television show TMZ called “disturbing.”

Opening up with “Death’s Cold Dark” off of their 2010 offering, Lawless Darkness, the crowd roared with approval as singer Eric Danielsson shrieked his unholy wrath into the microphone and, without delay, went directly into newer song, “Black Flames March.” With the room packed near capacity, ferocity raged as the Uppsala, Sweden’s soldiers waged a sonic war on the crowd. Setting the mood, the stage was covered with crucified skeletons, the band’s hypnotic wolf, three-pronged pitchfork logos, and the glare of an unrelenting, haunting red light. Each song’s end was met by a sea of il cornuto horns that would make an unknowing listener’s blood curdle with fear. Songs like “Puzzles ov Flesh,” “I Am the Earth,” and “On Horns Impaled” reached back into the band’s earliest cataloged recordings, making sure that the longtime fan would have their desires met. As their set drew to a close with “Malfeitor,” the scents of leather, blood, and sweat filled the air. Watain’s performance was nothing short of unadulterated Black Metal that can only be matched by the very same band they were about to share the unholiest of stages with shortly thereafter.

Giving the crowd little time to grab their bearings, Mayhem was ready to take over New York City. Since the late 1980s, Mayhem has been bound for nothing less than infamy. From singer Dead’s suicide, Euronymous’ murder by Count Grishnackh (Varg Vikernes of Burzum), church burnings, and skull-fragment necklaces, this band provokes an emotion no one can deny. Celebrating over three decades of chaos, Mayhem was back to North America in support for their 2014 effort, Esoteric Warfare, marking the first appearance of Teloch as a permanent fixture since Blasphemer’s departure in 2008. Sadly, due to possible visa issues, bassist Necrobutcher’s was absent for the dark ceremony and resulted in the cancellation of the Philadelphia and Baltimore appearances scheduled on the itinerary. As a result, the New York City appearance would have that much more of a buzz and fans were ready to unleash fury in the otherwise calm venue prior to the shows beginning.

Joined by Hungarian-born Attila (of Sunn O))) fame) on vocals, Mayhem dove into their opener, and by the second chord, the crowd began screaming the title, “Deathcrush.” Going on to perform half of the 1987 debut album by the same name, the audience was captivated by the morbid sounds being unleashed upon their ears. This was the closest to pure Black Metal that many in the crowd would ever be. Apart from Teloch’s hood and Attila’s corpse-paint, there were no frills about the performance. It was a sign that they came to do one thing, and that was play the music the crowd had been demanding to come to the United States for so long.

The sound quality was nothing short of impeccable, and Hellhammer’s furious drums could not just be heard but felt, the bass was like a battering ram to one’s chest. Matched with Ghul and Teloch on guitars, it was everything anyone could have asked for and more. Included were songs from Mayhem’s 1994 release De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, written by deceased singer Per “Dead” Ohlin. Showcasing Attila’s accomplished vocals, the set included tracks the crowd could associate directly to the Hungarian singer’s prowess. The peak of his performance as a vocalist was on “Freezing Moon,” a track that is absolutely essential to the Black Metal fan and is just a glimmer of Mayhem’s genius as a collective group. The Black Metal musings of the old guard were alive and well and met with great reception from the crowd. Mayhem strategically chose to close the night with the icing on the cake with the old classic, “Pure Fucking Armageddon.”

From the beginning to the end of each song, the crowd roared with approval, but the cheers for the earliest of Mayhem’s offerings were met with thunder. Mayhem was relentless, with each song topping the next, making their performance one for the history books. The aforementioned “Pure Fucking Armageddon” is perhaps one of the most infamous songs and blasphemous demos to grace the earth and its performance brought the icy chill of the Norwegian fjords to the streets of New York City. Following the set, the faithful stormed the merchandise table like piranhas on a piece of flesh. The band was clearly impressed by the Black Metal legions in attendance and set to declare, “New York, you set the standard.” Coming from a band known worldwide as the pinnacle of standard setting, after suffering the loss of founding members, and being feared for their extreme nature, that sure as infernal hell means a lot.

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Josh Stavrakoglou
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