The first weekend of December brought with it a bright full moon which set the mood perfectly for a good black metal show. Particularly for pioneering black metal band Mayhem to play their atmospheric classic “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” album in it’s entirety at Baltimore Soundstage on the 1st. Completing the tour trio were New York death metal stalwarts Immolation, and the openers, NYC black metallers Black Anvil.
Black Anvil kicked things off with a sound and aesthetic fittingly rooted in second-wave black metal, with a few twists. Clean vocal harmonies occasionally took to the forefront to change things up from the traditional black metal rasp without straying too far out of the normal dark / cavernous atmosphere of the genre; While thrash and rock styled riffs were sprinkled liberally amongst the tremolo picking and dissonant intervals. Black Anvil put together a very competent performance and a stage presence that gelled well with the rest of the bill. Their sound might divide black metal purists from those looking for something with a bit of a twist on the genre. As the band I knew least about on the bill, I certainly found something to want to look into more from their performance, although the songs didn’t quite strike me as immediately memorable in the way some compelling bands manage to hook you with a performanc
Centering the lineup were influential death metal band Immolation, who play a precise, percussive brand of death metal centered around constantly moving dissonant, chromatic riffs and guttural vocals, in some ways typifying the New York death metal tradition of which they are a part. Immolation’s straight-up death metal set presented a fun stylistic break between the two black metal bands, getting the crowd fired up and headbanging with chugging rhythms and squealing pinch harmonics, while still incorporating enough dark and dissonant weirdness to not feel incongruous with the atmosphere. The performance was generally tight as you’d expect from a band of Immolation’s experience and style, however there were one or two moments where the drums seemed to drift slightly off the rest of the band, I don’t know if this was compounded by a sound / monitor issue or something, personally it didn’t distract me much from the show overall , but it was an odd out of place moment for a band playing a somewhat technical death metal set. The wide ranging set list included some of their earliest classics as well as newer material (check out 2017’s “Atonement “) that featured some nicely interwoven, subtle, melodic touches, and seemed go over well with the steadily growing crowd as the night wore on.
Finally, it was time for a theatrical set from infamous Norwegian black metal innovators Mayhem, continuing a long running tour based around an end to end performance of their landmark 1994 “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. I had seen Mayhem perform this album at Maryland Deathfest in 2016, and although they had less stage space to work with at Soundstage, the fog laden stage show scaled down well and benefitted in some ways from being indoors in closer quarters. The band, clad in druidic robes and in some cases corpse paint, emerges dramatically on stage through the swirling fog and well timed lights in an appropriately spectral fashion. Vocalist Attila Csihar is particularly adept at moving into and out of the stage fog like a haunting entity, gesturing in elaborate ritualistic motions while croaking out the lyrics as the band plugs away backed by Hellhammer’s excellent drumming.
There is little new to be said about “De Mysteriis..” as an album at this point, it’s arguably the quintessential black metal album, chilling and atmospheric, and the performance at Soundstage did an excellent job of capturing the album. Atilla’s vampiric snarl carried over well live, the band didn’t miss a beat, and the sound mix was on point. The band has been touring on the complete performance of the album for some time now and has their set finely tuned, in terms of both musical performance and stagecraft. The band’s line was augmented with skeletal figures on the far edges of the stage, initially hidden behind banners that would drop later into the set to reveal the creepy guests, and a few props including a skull clutched in Atilla’s hand and candles set up on the stage, were introduced gradually to accentuate the show. Overall, if you’re a fan of Mayhem’s full length debut, or just interested in a black metal show with a moderate dose of fun stage theatrics, I recommend you check out this tour if you have a chance. You’ll be treated to an efficient three band show with a very good performance of an album that is a classic in it’s genre, plus a blistering death metal set, giving you all your recommended dose of dissonance and tremolo picked atmospherics.