photos by Paul Birman, words by Black Bubblegum
In their first NYC show in eight years, and first since the return of legendary vokillist Attilla Csihar, Mayhem played Irving Plaza last night (5/21) as part of The Blackened Fest with Cephalic Carnage, Withered, and Lair of The Minotaur. When I arrived, I was greeted by quite a few disappointed faces due to an announcement that Marduk would not be performing. Word is that there was an issue with their flights, and that their appearance at Maryland Death Fest tonight is in jeopardy as well. Hopefully Baltimore will have more luck than we did.
Missing Lair Of The Minotaur completely, Withered were setting up when I arrived at the venue. The Atlanta foursome's Weakling-inspired take on Black Metal pleased the sea of Mayhem and (sadly) Marduk tee-shirt wearers. I am not one to encourage/mix it up in the pit (anymore), but it was good to see a considerable amount of movement for the upstart band.
Cephalic Carnage's weed-tech-grind followed, along with dedications to cheetos, masturbation, and glass pipes (that they also sold at the merch table!), and props like a horse mask. It was well-executed and entertaining, but somewhat of a mild comedown following the energetic and pummeling assault of Withered.
Finally, the night belonged to the black metal pioneers. Mayhem took the stage a little before 10:30, playing a set that lasted until before midnight, when they retired sans encore. The core duo of Hellhammer and Necrobutcher with live members Morfeus and Silmaeth banged out rapid-fire blasts of black metal fury, spanning their entire discography.
For all of their impressive technical prowess and energy (lots), the highlight of their live set is the infinitely watchable Attila Csihar. Attila's formidable on-stage presence can only be described as dictatorial; he towers over his bandmates, gives the thumbs down as if he is deciding the fate of a man's life, punctuates lyrics with a clenched fist, and barks at his devoted minions with his thick Hungarian accent. In between a pair of impaled "heads", Attila sang from behind a "tree stump" podium which doubled as an area to hide both effects triggers and various gross-out props. Attila made sure to fondle and rub his face against those heads and an IV cart with dangling arm for further nauseating effect. Kitschy? a little. Fun/ny? Definitely.
Besides being visually arresting, Attila is one of the most versatile vocalists in all of heavy music. Barks, pitch perfect viking vocals, Celtic Frost grunts, screams that last longer than it seemed humanly possible, and what I like to call "squeaking elf"... a low end screech that was part Gollum and part creaking door, were all present and impressive.
Tour dates HERE.