It's nigh on a decade since Norway's most notorious black metal act Mayhem played that now infamous trainwreck of a gig in Dublin's Button Factory, a show where that shambling clusterfuck of a band stumbled their way through something that was hard to describe other than an utter self-parodying pantomime. So it wasn't unwarranted that I had some degree of trepidation upon hearing they were returning before finally deciding to give them another chance. What eventually sold it for me was the fact that this was them playing their magum opus 'De Mysteriis...' in full, because honestly if not for that I frankly wouldn't have bothered my arse.
The initial support was our very own Malthusian, a band who quite rightly are getting a significant amount of praise from a wider audience in the black/death scene outside of Ireland due in part to their two absolutely devastating EPs from the last few years. This was the my first time seeing these guys and by fuck did the exceed all my expectations, cleaving their way through just over half an hour of bleak malevolence, delivering their hybrid of devastating, noxious triple vocalled black/death metal like an unrelenting force of hell.
It was the perfect stage for which can surely only do the band good, as Mayhem are the type of band who have plenty of fans who fall into the category of armchair, once a year gig-goers who bemoan the lack of decent locals bands, without actually making any effort to find what's right beneath their noses, bands like Malthusian for example. I'd say they definitely had a few converts that night. Trying not to be biased at all as they're local, but standout band of the night for me.
Main tour support act Dragged Into Sunlight were up next and admittedly a band I wasn't particularly familiar with at all, a mysterious English quintet that peddle a technical hybrid of black/death/doom. Not particularly my cup of tea, I prefer my extreme metal a bit more 'dirty' for want of a better description, but there is no denying the band were extremely powerful and tight as fuck, with a beast of a drummer. One thing though, this whole 'backs to the crowd' shit, what is the point? I get that they want to create an atmosphere of sorts and stage set-ups certainly can help add that the music, but it just came off as nothing other than pretentious, you're not the fucking Jesus and Mary Chain, wind yer necks in.
So, then came Mayhem. A few thoughts running through my mind, would they further tarnish their legacy by destroying their masterwork? Or actually give a decent stab it? Surprisingly they went one step further, they were actually really fucking good. 'De Mysteriis...' needs no introduction to any self respecting black metal fan, it's an iconoclastic monolith that quite rightly sits at the very top of the tree for black metal as a whole. Appearing on stage in hooded robes looking like Nazgul or some shit, they tear through each track chronologically, beginning with the admittedly rough 'Funeral Fog', they iron it out for the anthemic and chilling 'Freezing Moon' removing any lingering doubts and showing as a band they may actually be beginning to take themselves seriously again in the live environment.
'Pagan Fears' is similarly well received, driving the crowd into a frenzy with that riff and 'Buried By Time and Dust' another highlight. At least this time around, even if the whole 'mysterious robes' shtick is slightly overdone these days, they actually managed to create an effective atmosphere with candles, altar, dry ice and the strobe lighting. It at least helps erase the horror of paper crosses and Attila dressed up like a gimped out paramilitary. It was certainly not flawless though by any means, Attila's vocals were a bit too buried in the mix and the drumming was overbearing, although I guess that is to be expected with the ego behind the kit, it just distracted a lot from the rest of the music which was otherwise impressively tight and intense, especially Teloch and Ghul in place for the now departed Blasphemer.
All in all a welcome surprise, yes some may argue the set was very short, I could easily have watched them for as much again, but when you're getting one of the greatest black metal albums ever written delivered in full, with some songs that have been gathering dust for god knows how long now, it was definitely worth it. They've been getting good reports all tour so far, so lets see if it continues. I would certainly pay to see them again after that showing.
Originally written for metalireland.com