As far as I can recall, none of the many, many concerts I have attended in multiple cities has ever had a protest outside of it. Until tonight. A group of individuals masked in balaclavas held banners and handed out leaflets protesting Mayhem. I tried to converse with these masked men, but all they were willing to do was hand me a pamphlet, with a headline of “Fuck Mayhem.” – turns out they were against having their photograph’s taken, too, as I later learned.
It seems the group are displeased with remarks made by the band’s drummer during several interviews. One that portrays a racist view and another that promotes violence against homosexuals. Mayhem are accredited as being one of the early pioneers of Black Metal, and amongst the first of the Norwegian scene that caused a whole uproar back in the day. In that time, the band has seen its fair share of controversy, with links to church burning, suicide, cannibalism of said suicidal member as well as using a photograph of the aftermath of the self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head as an album cover. Oh, and a murder plot that backfired and resulted in the antagonist getting killed. Needless to say, I doubt these lads really give a damn about a few people trying to turn punters away from their show. Controversial figures will always gather the curious.
Trying to convince a member of the protest to chat with me caused me to miss the tale end of Revenge’s set; which I was already late for. Once inside and through the pat-down of the security guards and the mandatory coat check, I found myself wedged into a full house with very little room to manoeuvre. Watain seemed in no rush to get up on stage, but those close enough to the stage could smell them before they even appeared. I’m unsure if the foul stench came from whatever it was they were caked in or the severed goat head they lugged along with them, conducting a ceremony with the horned head held high.
Recipients of recent praise for their last few albums, Sweden’s Watain have stormed to the forefront of the Black Metal scene and for good reason. Opening up with an ambient piece that led into “Death’s Cold Dark”, to the cheers of the crowd. Like many bands of the genre, Watain’s live show contains a good deal of theatrics and antics – such as the aforementioned severed goat head and what is rumored to be the animal’s blood offered to the audience. Two skeletons were crucified in cages and rested against the amplifiers.
If the wait leading up to Watain’s appearance was long, then the time it took Mayhem to get up on stage could be measured in life times. Judging by the cold breeze that surged throughout the building, I imagine part of the delay was on the shoulders of the club’s staff, trying to get rid of the stench left behind by Watain. I wonder how much venue staff cringe when they hear they’ll be working a black metal show that night!
Despite the protests outside, Mayhem finally got under way with “Deathcrush” and “Symbols Of Bloodswords”, but something felt off – whatever it was, it was short lived as the band got better and better as the set grew on. “This one is about your girlfriend”, screeched bassist, Necrobutcher, introducing “Whore”. And from there on, the band played some of their more atmospheric work – tracks such as “My Death”, “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” and “Freezing Moon” before ending the night with “Pure Fucking Armageddon”.
Getting the chance to see bands like this, artists that either pioneered or were among the first to play a cult genre, is almost always a treat in itself. Mayhem are a band with a reputation and questionable ethics but at the end of the day, they are also legends of one the most barbaric times any music scene will ever see. Some take offense to their antics and politics, and as understandable as that is, shock and disgust is what Black Metal was built on, and therefore protesting such bands, to me, is rather futile.
Review – Kieron Yates
Photos – Steve Gerrard