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Mayhem and Dragged Into Sunlight at the Electric Ballroom, London - live review

Oslo’s black metal pioneers forge a homecoming

The interest in this show – not to mention the full European tour tonight is part of, as well as various festival billings – was predictably high since it was first announced. Mayhem fans have, after all, always been hungry for live renditions of the now-legendary De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, so playing the album in its entirety was always going to go down well. In many ways, the surprise is that it took so long to happen, but then again this is the same band that gave the world such unpredictable works as A Grand Declaration Of War and Ordo Ad Chao, so playing to the gallery has never really been part of their modus operandi.

DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT [7] aren’t, perhaps, the most obvious choice of support band, but although the band have a few veteran Mayhem fans shaking their heads and retiring to the bar, they are at least more welcome than the generic third-tier black metal support we often see at such shows. The ‘playing with the backs to the audience’ gimmick is actually less irritating than at previous shows thanks to the lighting and stage paraphernalia, not to mention the excellent songwriting and tangible venom evident throughout the entire set that has become the band’s hallmark.

The first impressions of MAYHEM [8] are actually a little chaotic tonight. Album and set-opener Funeral Fog is essentially just a wall of noise – mostly drum noise – with riffs and changes mostly recognisable through familiarity with the song. But by the iconic second number, Freezing Moon, the sound quality is on an upward trajectory, the insane percussion from Hellhammer no longer competing against the two guitars and the creeping, wandering basslines, but instead combining to create the crushing backdrop to Attila’s possessed vocal performance. One classic follows the next, from Carved Into Eternity to the closing title track, each a maelstrom of malevolence that is so ingrained in the longtime black metal fan’s minds that witnessing them feels akin to coming home. Admittedly, it’s mildly jarring to see a band that have always taken risks – and that notably never played it safe by attempting a De _Mysteriis… Pa_rt II – playing such a nostalgic show, and, despite the material, it is by definition a world away from the pioneering danger of early Mayhem and of black metal itself. But this is more of a comment on where the genre is today than anything else, and importantly, few will be disappointed by what they witnessed tonight.