It was a rainy Saturday night in Portland when the “True Mayhem” descended on our fair city.
I arrived at the venue alone, as none of my friends like black metal. I had seen them before and even had the opportunity to interview Necrobutcher a few years back. I have to say, it was one of the best interviews I’d ever conducted. While I don’t think he smiled once during the interview, he was gentle, honest, serious, and very passionate about that of which he spoke.
As you likely know, Mayhem is a band that has sometimes had controversy overshadow their music. Founded in 1984 from Oslo, Norway, in 1991 Dead committed suicide, in 1993 Varg Vikernes murdered Euronymous, and then there was the church burnings. A horrible list of brutality by any standards, and one very difficult to overcome. But somehow, and once you see them live, you’ll understand why this important band is relevant today…and relevant on the merits of their music; no longer just on the curiosity from the dark cloud that once surrounded them. Generally described (and rightly so), as one of the most influential black metal bands, Necrobutcher and his brothers in black metal gave us an amazing show by playing 1994s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Opening the show was New York’s Black Anvil. I positioned myself in the front row, slightly left of the stage. The venue was partially full, and in my experience, black metal fans aren’t the same as death/metalcore/thrash/grindcore/hardcore fans. They are more serious with head nods and windmill head swirls, but generally stay in their general own personal space. That is why I was cool with standing in the front row by myself. However, none of this traditional behavior would be exercised on this night. Between smelly armpits, long-time no bathers, angry/violent moshers, and drunk people feeling entitled to be in the front row regardless of who was there early to secure their spot…holding my position was tough. Black Anvil, whose philosophy is: “I [we] don’t need to make anyone else happy with what this band does. It’s not about pleasing the listener. If you are pleased, then great. If no, go f*ck yourself,” made everyone in the venue extremely happy from what I could see; I know I was. Their form of thrashy black metal was exciting, groove-driven, and well executed. Bass player/singer Paul Delaney was the highlight of this band with his cool stage presence and great skills, looking a bit like a lost member of Sepultura, and a groove to match.
Next up was the mighty Inquisition. Originally from Cali, Columbia, but transplanted to Seattle, Washington, Inquisition is a mighty duo. I’d seen them before and was just as impressed this time as last time. With only two members, Dagon (guitars/vocals) and Incubus (drums) fill a venue with as massive of a sound as a five piece. Alternating time between each side of stage, Dagon moved with fairness to the audience. Incubus was solid and well positioned. “The energy of Satan is everywhere, including the cosmic dust that forms the ground we walk on and even who we are….” Boasted Dagon in a past interview, and Satan was definitely present in Portland on this night. Not in evil, but rather in talent. Likely someone has a contract with Lucifer somewhere in the band. Dagon is smooth, deliberate, and talented; Incubus is solid. The audience in the all ages section of the venue went crazy for Inquisition. I’d liken the violence in the pit to being at a Cannibal Corpse concert, or a modern The Last Ten Seconds of Life show.
Towards the end of Inquisition, I couldn’t hold my front row position any more. I’d taken too many elbow jabs to my head and sides, and somehow ended up farther left of the stage than I intended. People were rabid to get to the front to get a close up and personal glimpse of the band. I retreated to the over 21 section thinking it would be a little less violent. It was less violent, but worse in a way.
As I found my way into the over 21 section, at the very back, I realized how special seeing the “True Mayhem” was to so many. As people left to grab a beer or visit the merch booth during the set change for Mayhem, I inched my way forward and ultimately landed in the front row of the over 21 section (behind the floor on the same level), and directly behind the garbage can. Here is where it got interesting. The set change was fast. Candles were lit and an ominous fog engulfed the stage. An announcement was made by the venue on behalf of the band indicating that all flash should be scrapped. I have to say the ambiance Mayhem set, as well as the anticipation, was exhilarating. For the first time in history, Mayhem was playing 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas on this tour. It was dark and heavy. It was empowering and emotional. It was a privilege and an honor to witness. Necrobutcher, Hellhammer, Atilla, Teloch, and Ghul were stellar, showcasing every reason for why we love Mayhem and why they are vital 30 plus years into their career. The set list included: Funeral Fog, Freezing Moon, Cursed in Eternity, Pagan Fears, Life Eternal, From the Dark Past, Buried by Time and Dust, and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas..
About four songs into Mayhem, people started depositing their partially empty drinks on the garbage can in front of me. A behemoth girl/ninja from behind me used me to launch over the crowd and barricade, screaming “F*ck you mother f*cking N*zi C*nts.” As she belted out the ridiculous and odd words, pushing me forward into the garbage can, it caused the garbage can to tip, spilling a plethora of gin and tonics, whiskey, and beer down the front of me. Security immediately had her removed, and I will always wonder what the motivation for her weird outburst to the band was. Hopefully no one in the band heard her…I know from the looks on the faces of everyone around me (me included), they were horrified, embarrassed, disgraced that someone from our fair city would utter such disrespectful words to such important guests.
Whenever I see Mayhem, or some of the other “good” pivotal early black metal bands from Norway, I always feel like I am experiencing something really special… something that I, a girl from Portland, Oregon, USA, will never fully understand …but will always love.
Those in attendance at this show witnessed something very special. Mayhem, the True Mayhem, is an amazing example of perseverance, dedication, skill, and good black metal.