Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive album review

Extreme-metal benchmark gets the live treatment

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Even black metal isn’t impervious to nostalgia. In 2015, occult overlords Mayhem joined the likes of Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters and Alien Ant Farm in opting to play a landmark album from start to finish, theirs at a show marking the 21st anniversary of the band’s 1994 masterpiece De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

Of the people involved with the original studio album, one was murdered (guitarist/leader Euronymous), one killed himself (lyricist and former vocalist Dead) and one subsequently diversified into a virulent form of white supremacy via multiple stints in jail (bassist Varg ‘Count Gishnackh’ Vikernes), although that seemingly provides no obstacle to the current line-up.

The lure of posterity clearly proved too much for these Norwegian Satanists, and the show was captured on this live album. Given the original’s inhospitable beginnings, this retooling works surprisingly well. Where their contemporaries focused on velocity and noise, Mayhem were stranger and subtler, cloaking their anti-social screeds in stark gothic atmospheres. Vocalist Attila Csihar delivers much more than a one-dimensional shriek, alternating between hoarse croaks and operatic wails on the closing title track – you can hear their more esoteric influences, among them avant garde metal pioneers Celtic Frost and artgoth icon Diamanda Galas.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive clearly isn’t going to challenge Live And Dangerous or Made In Japan for the title of Greatest Live Album Of All Time, and don’t come to it expecting zinging banter (or banter of any kind, for that matter). But if nothing else its mere existence marks black metal’s inexorable creep towards respectability.