Posts Tagged ‘Mayhem’

The Lords of the Land festival in Glasgow has some serious issues to contend with this year. First of all, how was the lineup ever going to match last year’s Carcass/Obituary/Napalm Death/Voivod magic? And secondly the small matter of the Heavy Scotland event in Edinburgh on the same weekend, featuring Grave, Arch Enemy and Behemoth, as well as others. Well, the lineup proved to be as competitive, if not superior, as you could want. I mean, black metal and death metal legends colliding with thrash and even a bit of grind and doom. FUCK YEAH! The old Barrowland ballroom played host once again.

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Opening at the unbearable 12:30pm slot, Rotten Sound were fucking ace. The half hour slot is designed for grindcore bands, and Rotten Sound played to an impressively full Barrowlands considering the time of day. They were sharp, visceral and, best of all, allowed me the opportunity to get a hold of an HM-2 pedal tribute shirt. Killer start to the day, that only improved with the advent of Memoriam. Coming from a guy who named his blog and inspiration after a Bolt Thrower song,  I can honestly say that Memoriam are more than worthy successors to the crown. Karl Willets was in fine form, and massive riffs cascaded upon us lucky few. Willets remarked that this was a celebration of life through death metal, and nothing is more true.

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Next up was the hilarious vitality of Acid Reign, old school British thrash that felt so alive and vital it made me smile. So did the stage banter, with ‘Hello Edinburgh’ getting a particular chuckle. They were high energy, frontman H racing around the stage, encouraging all kinds of crowd participation and almost shitting himself when caught stagediving and taken to the back of the room before being ran forward and chucked back onto the stage. Mental. Mental is also how you would describe the aural waves of terrifying brutality emanating from Dragged into Sunlight, who took the stage behind clouds of smoke and a ghostly, huge candelabra. Their blackened sludgey noise was fearsome, and the fact that the band spent the whole show with their backs to us added to the esoteric mystery surroundng them.

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I took a break from the action during Venom Inc, so I couldn’t pass comment on them but I got back just in time for Marduk’s ‘Heaven Shall Burn’ set which, like every Marduk show, was full throttle black metal of war and darkness. Yet again I had the pleasure of getting ‘Accuser/Opposer’ with Nemtheanga live, and they closed with ‘Panzer Division Marduk’! Speaking of Primordial, they have become a band that have transcended beyond what we would consider simply ‘pagan black metal’, becoming the embodiment of what Bathory strode towards. Nemtheanga’s vocals command immediate attention, like a monstrous and apocalyptic preacher. The stunning ‘Babel’s Tower’ and the enthralling ‘The Coffin Ships’ were particular highlights in a flawless set of blackened doom grandeur.

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The stage darkens, smoke billows from under the drumkit and deep, blue lights shroud the oncoming storm of black metal perfection that is Mayhem, and ‘De Mysteriis de Satanas’ complete. Worth the price of admission alone, the howling ‘Freezing Moon’ and savage ‘Pagan Fears’ remind you about how all black metal owes so much debt to this record. Atilla Csihar’s vocals sound like the voice of Satan himself, and draped in a black cloak and then as a demonic priest, he embodies the dark magic infusing each frozen riff. Hw can anyone follow this?

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Well, Autopsy with every vintage death metal riff ever just about managed. You don’t realise just how much they’ve influenced the genre, until you think about how every ‘old school’ death metal band basically stole everything fom them. Rabid fury crashes into sludgey, evil riffs while vomitous vocals spill from behind Chris Reifert’s drumkit. Despite the fact that we are approaching 11 hours into the day, I think that this was the best moment of the night. Tiredness overwheming us, the first time these legends have graced Scottish shores in 27 years mean that we were reinvigorated enough to show them our appreciation.What a fucking triumph.

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Now my previous lists have been specific to genre, but this is my ultimate top 20 of the year. It’ll include some records that you won’t have seen in previous ones as, for example, I only really heard two good power metal records this year, so I can’t really make a list from it. Also, where do you categorise certain bands, like Triptykon, who cover a wide spread of genres? Anyhow, my top favourites of the year are as follows:

20. Killer Be Killed – S/T – A supergroup that combines equal parts of their bands to create awesome

19. Grand Magus – Triumph and Power – Riffs of stone and hooks of great magnitude, the title track alone is one of my favourite songs of the year.

18. Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity – Another record of spellbinding black metal from England’s finest. Windswept and vast

17. Edguy – Space Police – Catchy as hell and stupidly anthemic, Tobias and the squad bring some RAWK to their power metal greatness

16. Electric Wizard – Time to Die – A suffocating, occult riddled drag down doom alley. Evil and heavy as fuck

15. Mastodon – Once More Round the Sun – A big improvement over The Hunter and Mastodon’s prog doom trip extends further

14. Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare – A follow up to ‘Ordo Ad Chao’ was always going to be difficult, but the True Mayhem brought out another stormer

13. At the Gates – At War With Reality – Thank fuck we finally have the follow up to ‘Slaughter of the Soul’. They put all copycats to shame.

12. EyeHateGod – EyeHateGod – NOLA sludge titans send Joey LaCaze off with one of their most superlative records yet. Angry, harsh and utterly devastating

11. Decapitated – Blood Mantra – Poland’s finest sons of death continue their streak of blinding records with yet another punishing exercise in tech death

10. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum – Nasty, abrasive and skullfuckingly epic in parts, Anaal do things their way, and better than most

9. Inter Arma – The Cavern – A Spellbinding 45 minute trip through the mind of one of post metal and doom’s brightest sparks. Wonderful

8. Hour of Penance – Regicide – Always brutal and relentless, I’ve grown fonder and fonder of this record the longer the year has gone on. Death to all!

7. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall – Nasty, lurching death metal chaos, belching death and pestilence to all

6. Whalerider – Thanatos – A surprise late entry, and its been on constant rotation. A stormingly good rock record with doses of psych doom weirdness too

5. Panopticon – Road to the North – Soaring and scorching black metal, vast and hypnotic. Epic black metal is the theme this year, and its great

4. Sabaton – Heroes – I fucking love this band. No one writes more anthemic metal tunes than this. Fantastic record and catchy as hell

3. Mount Salem – Endless – A starkly beautiful trad doom record with perfect vocals and atmosphere. The fact it is third on my list is testament to its quality

2. Behemoth – The Satanist – The rebirth of a legend and a triumphant return. Any other year this would’ve been the best by a country mile

1. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata – Nothing could beat the pure misanthropy, despair and heaviness wrought from Tom G Warrior. A simply monumental release

Ihsahn is one of these visionaries that appear in metal every so often. A man who can take all of your perceptions about what metal is, and particularly in this case black metal, and turn them inside out. Not many people in metal have the audacity to do what he does. Devin Townsend does, but that’s about it. His imperious (pardon the pun) back catalogue ranges from 4 of the finest pieces of black metal ever recorded, through his increasingly progressive and increasingly stunning solo records. But even after ‘Eremita’, no one could have predicted this.

‘Das Seelenbrechen’ struggles to be defined as metal, for a lot of it. This is sheer, dazzling prog. Ihsahn’s distinctive rasp is the main indicator, but if anything this could be, by his own definition of the term, THE most black metal thing he has ever done. Ihsahn regards black metal as an attitude, a state of mind, and if anything represents the ‘fuck the world’ spirit more than one of the founding members of the genre turning into an avantgarde prog-metal overlord, it’d be tough to find.

The record starts with something almost akin to his previous work, ‘Hiber’ sounding like the Ihsahn you’ve heard before, if a touch restrained. But it all goes haywire from there. ‘Regen’ follows with a delicate piano line which builds into a massive epic. It’s almost like something out of a film score, Ihsahn’s voice layering upon itself into an unholy choir. It takes the majestic sweep that Emperor perfected and adds just the something extra to push it beyond. ‘NaCi’ follows it, with what could be the best progressive metal song Dream Theater didn’t write.

The record is full of twists and turns, peaks and troughs, quiet and loud. The record doesn’t flow from one song to another, which normally would be an issue but not hear. Ihsahn keeps you guessing as to what is coming next; be it the Damnation-era Opeth/soft electronica stylings of ‘Pulse’, or the fact that it leads into the violent, nightmarish mire of ‘Tacit 2’. Man is it dark and terrifying. Its like something from ‘Ordo Ad Chao’-era Mayhem, or the vile spewings of Portal. The following Tacit’ adds something orchestral into the mix, retaining the malevolent overtones, before breaking into some kind of grand, jazz breakdown. It’s a staggering moment of what the fuckness.

‘Das Seelenbrechen’ refuses to allow you the comfort of knowing what is coming next. It demands your attention, shapeshifting from prog through jazz, industrial and black metal, until you realise Ihsahn has created something that is so rare in this world of cookie-cutter metal bands. There is no fear, nor any restraint. The slow building acoustics of ‘Rec’, or the 70s blues solo in ‘M’, or the industrial noise of ‘See’; all serve a musical purpose. It’s now up to us to try and pierce through the dense, progressive fog to glimpse magic underneath. Long shall the Emperor reign.