Review: Callum Doig

Photos: John Raptis

As one of metal’s most controversial and influential bands, Mayhem have proven to the world why they still remain as one of the most relevant acts of modern music. From the beginnings of the satanic black metal scene in Norway, Mayhem has been one of many acts to have shaped the genre across the world. One of the many artefacts of their career that proved this notion was ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, which had been worked on since 1987 up until the release date of May 24th, 1994. With the Norwegian quintet making their return to Australia, and performing in Melbourne the day after the birthday of Per Yngve ‘Dead’ Ohlin (who wrote all the lyrics for the record), it seemed coincidentally fitting to celebrate this record. And to help with the proceedings of the band’s visit to the country, Swiss duo Bölzer and Tasmanian-based bands Ruins and Départe were invited to help support this massive occasion.

With an eerie and Noise-inspired start to their set, Départe opened the night with the droning and abrasive tones of their low-tuned hymns. The four-piece began with a small following of attendees that would later build up in numbers as the show progressed. With a night full of truculent black metal to witness, Départe was nothing short of a great choice to start up the evening. Reciprocating cleans and harsh vocals, their vocalist Sam Dishington harnessed styles of post, black and death metal with his fellow band mates. Throughout their half hour slot, Départe delivered very strong and caustic overtones that tied the gig’s sound together with flying colours.

As the preparations were still underway, the second lot of Tasmanian representatives known as Ruins packed a powerful punch to their moment, beneath the dimmed spotlight of Max Watts. With a brutal take of blackened death metal plaguing the room, Ruins had already gained themselves a great, receptive audience. For thirty-five minutes, Ruins brought the place down with nothing but sheer strength in their live production and hammered through each song with no trouble whatsoever. Having seen them years ago, I can honestly say that their live shows haven’t changed in the slightest, and they showed that they still have a lot of substance to their name and onstage presence.

When Swiss duo Bölzer came on, everything was starting to get just as frantic and maniacal in the pit. That being said, with their second ever appearance in the country after supporting Behemoth a few years back, Bölzer‘s spectators made them feel even more welcomed as they significantly executed their tracks for the Melbournian patrons of Max Watts. From pieces such as Roman Acupuncture to The Archer, to Phosphor, to I Am III, no matter what was to be performed in front of the hundreds of attendees, there was plenty of chaos to be ensued by Okoi Thierry Jones‘ ten string guitar and Fabian Wyrsch‘s insane percussion expertise.

With a little service announcement playing in the background before the darkness of Mayhem began to spread, the hundreds of fans that awaited the entirety of ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ to be recited by the Norwegian black metallers started to bring forth the malevolence and intensity by opening with Freezing Moon. Dressed in black cloaks, Mayhem inoculated Max Watts with the darkest of theatrics from Attila Csihar‘s antagonistic and blood-curdling persona. Attila’s husky and spine-chilling whispers would echo every now and then before kicking into the next track to help keep that rancorous spirit dwelling throughout their set. Halfway through, a table with a set of candles and a skull would then appear onstage with some dark, atmospheric music hissing in the background before launching into Life Eternal. Attila would then proceed to the table and hover his hand over the skull with a noose wrapped in his hand. But as soon as the title track De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas begun, Attila would later dress himself in red, swinging a large pendulum throughout the execution of the song. All in all, the entirety of the show felt much like taking part in a satanic ritual, but a very brutal and zealous one. With Hellhammer‘s intense, high-velocity drumming and the crushing distortion on the strings of Necrobutcher, Teloch and Ghul‘s bass and guitars, the sound that brought the album’s essence to life was at its highest level possible. If there’s one album you can’t afford to miss in its entirety live, it’s easily ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’.