Small groups of evil-looking headbangers started gathering near the venue long time before the showtime. Dressed in beaten leather armor, pressing their cyanotic lips to suck from the plastic bottles with cheapo beer, and stepping from one foot to another to prevent them from getting cold, these newborn children of Satan have come to witness the legendary black metal fathers – Mayhem. Inside the small room in the venue lobby representatives of the local metal press were herding waiting for the promoter and the promised press-conference. Some of them were already warmed up with the devilish fire-water and were not balancing on their feet all too well, but, hey, this don’t mean you cannot be at the press-conference, does it?
Having waited for about an hour of extra time, the steel reporters have finally found themselves facing the divine manna in the form of a very friendly-looking bouncer, whose big body obstructed about two thirds of the club doors. Letting out a shriek of joy the ink-vampires jetted forward to the remaining narrow passage, looking sheepishly into the razor-eyes of the bouncer, and pointing their fingers in the holiest of the holies – the name-list. For those who did not make it to the actual press conference… and there were some who due to force major circumstances (equals to about 40 degrees in alcohol-scale) could not go through the narrow opening between the bouncer and the door… so for you guys who could not go through for this or that reason, you did not miss anything special whatsoever. The only question that was of concern for the local press was when Mayhem were going to finally split and finally rid us of their presence, but since the band did not have even the slightest intention of doing so, the rest of the discussions were reduced to regular flaming about the Kursk sub, black metal legends of the past (Venom mainly) and such-like crap. After an excessive footage and signing session involving literally tons of disks, posters, zines and other cellulose by-products, the band was dismissed for dinner and the press dispersed into the corners of the club in order to spend the remaining time enjoying their beers and stuff.
As a matter of fact, the show itself by that time was being 1.5 hours late, but hell do we really give a fuck. Finally the doors were opened for the commons and the hall started gradually filling. Despite all the postponements in dates and the fact that the gig was held in the middle of the working week, Mayhem managed to gather anywhere between a 1,000 or 1,500 people (a lot by local standards). The moods in the hall were that of a mild nervousness – everyone was feared of not looking “true” enough, on the one hand, and looking too loyal to the “new” Mayhem on the other. However the general public appeal was rather friendly than not, and thus no special incidents were taking place. For the sake of justice, we gotta say that the start did not take too long (or not as long as it usually does) and already within some 40 minutes the lights went out and the root of all evil dropped its bitter seeds upon the stage.
Here is the most logical moment to make a pause and take a closer look at the stage decoration, that were developed by a guy called Spacebrain, an avant-garde artist and designer, who was responsible for decorating the city anniversary in Oslo a couple of years ago, and who in fact is (notwithstanding his German background) quite a popular, if not cult, figure in modern artistic Norway. The back wall was covered with a huge blood-red banner with a black band logo over it. Posts with the notorious pig-heads were standing to the left and the right of the stage (two at each end) and the middle was decorated with a huge ladder-like steel structure with a bull-skull on top of it.
For those of you who are curious – both the pig-heads and the skulls are genuine and are in fact part of the gig contract. Every local promoter who brings the band in is undertaking to provide at his sole expense four pig-heads and a couple of bull skulls. This provision is non-negotiable and goes like “no heads – no gig”. The left side of the stage was also occupied by a huge steel robot, looking like a cross between the Alien and Terminator, with a big machine-gun in his hand. The stage costumes for the musicians were also masterminded by the evil designer genius of Spacebrain, and also for those of you who can keep a secret, most of those are heavy-metal and not some fucking plastic.
But let’s return to the gig: the intro was followed by the ‘In the Lies Where Upon You Lay’ from the band’s latest ‘Grand Declaration of War’, which was then swept away by the classic ear-blasting ‘Necrolust’ and ‘Pagan Fears’. And already in the first several minutes of the concert it became clear, why, despite all the whines of the so-called true-fans of the band, Mayhem are still the kings of this literally god-damned genre. There can be a lot of piss and moan that the drums were processed, and that Maniac sucks compared to Attilla, and that the guys are fat, and that the sound was not strong enough, and piles of other similarly meaningless and idiotic complains, but I mean the people who are saying such crap, can only be pitied, because they just wasted their own time coming to the concert. The music of Mayhem has very much in common with an internal system of a human body, calm at one second, and then suddenly exploding in agonizing convulsion twisting and crooking the fragile cell it is encased in. It is the music of absolute reality, the highest pitch of existence, its boiling point. And it is exactly in that moment when Maniac starts slitting his wrists with a knife and mutilating himself with barbwire, letting the scarlet stream flow down the stage, for the magic of blood is the strongest magic. The second thing that struck me was the crystal clarity of the sound, that at the same time was also so unbelievably alive. You could hear literally each and every little sound, every single note, so strange and at the same time so natural. That evening Moscow has got everything it could and couldn’t dream of: Ancient Skin, Freezing Moon, View from Nihil. Deathcrush, To Daimonion, Fall of Seraphs, Chainsaw Gutsfuck, Time to Die, and of course, Pure Fucking Armageddon. Banal as it is but naturally there is no pleasing everyone in this world and sure enough there were a lot of those disappointed, but time and time again, the only thing we can help them with is our sincere condolences.
Maniac and the road crew stayed in the club long after the gig has ended, and looking at his bondaged arms one could hardly believe that this very guy, who is now sitting here all calm and jolly, sipping on his beer, and practicing taboo-Russian, just a mere two or three hours ago was cutting his own hands on stage presenting his blood to the crystallized reality of the moment.
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