TVD Live Shots:
Mayhem at O2 Academy Islington, 5/22

Being a lifelong metal fan, I’ve always been intrigued by bands’ stories and legacies as much as the music. Sometimes the story overshadows the music, and other times they seem to match up just perfectly. That’s the case with Norwegian Black Metal legends Mayhem. Formed in Langhus in 1984, they pretty much invented the genre and pushed the limits of extreme metal to become one of the most notorious bands of all time. If you don’t know the story, watch the epic movie Lords of Chaos to get you up to speed.

The craziest part of it centers around the death of the band’s lead singer, simply named Dead, who committed suicide. Guitarist Euronymous found him with a shotgun blast to the head, took a polaroid, and made it into an album cover. Rumor has it that he took pieces of Dead’s skull and made necklaces for the rest of the band. I’m not doing the story justice here, so watch the film.

Original bassist Necrobutcher remains the only founding member of the band, but there are some heavy hitters who’ve been in place since the band basically relaunched after the chaos. Drummer Hellhammer (these guys have the coolest names) is the second longest-running member going back to 1987, and Attila Csihar took over on vocals in 1992. Attila is a significant force in the community and also fronts Sun O))) by the way, so the metal street cred remains.

Mayhem’s legacy continues to resonate with fans both young and old. It was an incredible mix of hipsters, beautiful people, face painters, and of course old school punks and metalheads. It was interesting to see such a unique crowd at an extreme metal show, but hey, maybe everyone’s letting off some steam. While the venue was packed to the gills, the inevitable mosh pit broke out and went strong like an F5 tornado ripping through the middle of the crowd. I’ve seen a shit-ton of metal shows over the years, but this was the craziest. This makes the current buzzworthy “Metal Tour of the Year” look like a Green Day show.

To be honest, I only know a couple of songs from the band, but that didn’t matter. The entire set was a gigantic crushing wall of metal—a Mack truck plowing through a ten-ton brick wall at 100 miles per hour, only stopping for the occasional power groove. Imagine early Slayer and then take it up several notches with speed and pure heaviness.

From what I could tell, the set was a mix of early stuff and newer material. Most notable were a few tracks from the legendary 1987 “Deathcrush” EP, including “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” which holds an award for “Most Gruesome Lyrics Ever,” and “Voces Ab Alta” from last year’s “Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando” EP. I like to put this one on first thing in the morning the day after my neighbors were partying until 3AM playing shitty house music. It’s my gift to them for keeping me up.

Mayhem continues to tour, hitting all the major metal festivals across Europe this Summer. While it may not be the same experience that I had seeing them in a club, don’t miss this one if you get the chance. These guys might be the heaviest, craziest show you have ever seen.

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