Mayhem @ Gramercy Theatre (11/3/2011)

Artist: Mayhem
Venue: Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Keep Of Kalessin, Hate, Abigail Williams, Woe
Date: 11/3/2011
Label: Season Of Mist Records

Tonight the nefarious Mayhem would return to New York City and be the lead off show into what was being called “The Metal Suckfest” that was happening here at the Gramercy Theatre all weekend. If this is a mystery to you then you should know that this was a NYC only showcase of mass Metal proportions that was being held by the guys that run the Metal Sucks website. A prior commitment for the weekend was going to find me only being present for the lead off show but that is alright because one cannot be everywhere at once even if you try hard to do that. The closest I had come to that was the recent shows by both Doro Pesch and Arch Enemy on the same night but I digress. The bands joining Mayhem this evening would be an interesting grouping of players and of course all very heavy bands in their own right with the genres keeping to both the Black Metal and Death Metal formats. There was no misplaced Funk or Alt-Metal band to distract you from the sinister vibe at this show and that was a very good thing. The evening began with Woe and here is how the show went for those that did not attend.

Woe: I’ll start off by saying that I didn’t really know what to expect of these guys when I walked in because I had never seen them in action before. They were the first of three bands to do this to me tonight by the way, but I liked what they were all about from the moment that they started. Their style is a Black Metal base but since they hail from nearby New Jersey, they have a North American vibe to the form. They were solid and very into the audience who was giving them proper attention. There are some who say that Black Metal is chic these days but I say if it helps talented musicians get their message across then fine by me. I didn’t know their set list sadly but do know that their most recent piece of music is entitled “Quiety, Undramatically”. I will assume that most of their short set came from this release. I would see Woe again for sure and hope that they are one of the featured bands when I hit the next or soon in the future Black Metal show. Next up was Abigail Williams.

Abigail Williams: I’m pretty certain that I caught the very first NYC appearance of Abigail Williams when they played at B.B. King’s so many shows ago and I have always had an interest in what they did and enjoyed their output. The first thing that I noticed tonight was how it seemed as though the band had gone through another lineup change but still at the forefront is leader Ken Sorceron. They have a new CD or EP coming out in the beginning of the year so that led them to featuring two of the tracks as their opening numbers. The first song was super long but was definitely a tasty piece of music. Parts of the tune were hypnotizing based on the atmosphere that it put forth and I liked that. Sadly the band would only do three songs and then it was onto Hate who hailed from Poland. I felt bad because there are usually fans of Abigail Williams at these kinds of shows and a set that barely reached thirty minutes is just not fair. Oh well. Onward we go into the blackest night for our next band.

Hate: Now that the US themed Black Metal had finished it was onto the European stuff and believe me the guys in Hate were Black Metal from top to bottom if I had to offer a quick viewpoint. As I said just a moment ago these guys hail from Poland and I guess if you wanted to draw a quick comparison about them you would be best served by saying Behemoth. It was a solid set that was very intense in its delivery and appeared to be making its point in the eyes of the fans that were spinning and circling on the floor like some soon to be fed sharks. They sported the traditional corpse paint that one often finds with this kind of genre and I will say right now that I think if you like this kind of stuff that Hate will appeal to you without a doubt. The downside was that their set would also seem to be done almost as soon as it began but I would totally see them again if I had the chance. By the time their set had completed the venue crowd that had assembled was “nice” but still had room to fill in. The insanity would continue with Keep Of Kalessin who were the direct support on the tour and coming up next.

Keep Of Kalessin: I was glad to find that the band Keep Of Kalessin would be opening up for this particular tour because thanks to schedule conflicts and other shows that I had been attending, I had not yet seen this very powerful band. Their signed to Nuclear Blast Records and that’s one of my own very favorites and seems to have a number of groups on the roster that instantly appeal to my Metal psyche. They would open up with “Kolossus” from the album that bore the same name and it was intensity without question right off the bat. This band was an assault force from the very first note and lead singer Torbjorn was right up in the audience faces whenever possible. Their sound is classified as an Extreme Metal band but their naming comes from the “Earthsea” series of books. I love when there is some deeper meaning to what a group is all about. After the first tune it was head on into a delivery of several numbers from their no longer recent release “Reptilian”. Believe me it continues the quality that you find on “Kolossus”. At the point of this show report I had only heard pieces of the album but really loved what they were putting forth tonight and vowed to look deeper into it. I think that Keep Of Kalessin is a great choice for those seeking a new and exciting Extreme Metal band to follow. This set was of course longer than the other bands with them being the direct support and I think most were left stunned. Of the seven songs the “Kolossus” album acted as bookends while “Reptilian” made up its entire crunching center (a terrible pun I am aware). After their set you could easily find the band down at the merchandise table and learn that they were interested in meeting any of the fans who liked what they just did. Now let there be Mayhem…….queue dramatic and very dark music for proper atmosphere.

Mayhem: When Mayhem last appeared in NYC it was originally supposed to be with Marduk as support but they ended up playing the gig without them based on Visa issues. They did the show at Irving Plaza and took a little more time getting to the stage based on the amount of visual preparation that was being done. This evening, they would not offer up all of that stuff and instead just keep two banners on either side of the stage that showcased their name and emblems. Musically speaking we’ve not seen any new material come from the band since 2007’s “Ordo Ad Chao” so I expected that we would very likely be experiencing the same set this evening. With no mood setting pre-activity for the bands arrival, it was just “1-2-3 go” in terms of their hitting the stage to their “Silvester Anfang” tune which roused the audience to action before they slammed us with “Deathcrush”. I quickly glanced at the set list I observed on the stage against that last time around and was correct that many tunes would be repeated this evening but they would not be in the same order of play which was a good thing. Tonight’s show found Attila seeming to be some kind of undead caped gladiator or something. I had no idea what was going on with his stage garb but it was not as imposing as that last show. He would also be singing the whole show almost exclusively to a disembodied and bloody skull. It was creepy to say the least but overall the presentation was not as unsettling as I had found that other gig to be. I guess it warmed me up just a little bit back then.

The playing was like a guttural buzz saw in terms of how their brand of Metal goes and the rhythm section of Hellhammer and Necrobutcher was working together as good as one hoped they would. They are the only two legacy members in the band and seem to know just how to lock into each other musically after all this time. Having gotten an appreciation for Black Metal much later than many folks that I know, I can say that I am more of a casual fan of the band but do lean strongly on the most commonly popular numbers from their history. It was interesting to find that only one song would hail from the bands most recently released album while four came from “De Mysteriis de Sathanas” and a full six from “Out Of The Dark”. Clearly this is a band that leans on their earliest material and views it as hard to surpass in some sense. Considering how influential the band was to the Black Metal scene back in those days this makes some sense to me. The crowd tonight was a swirling mass but it maintained order until they got to “Freezing Moon” when it went all out berserk. It would remain this way until the end of the night until the band closed with “Pure Fucking Armageddon”. Another territory destroyed by the True Mayhem and left to try and heal as best as possible until they returned once again.

That would be it for the pre-Metal Suck Fest festivities and while I would love to be a part of the overall show this weekend I would have a prior commitment that would prevent me from doing so. I am sure it will be a hell of a time. All in all this was one of the most focused gigs I have seen in awhile based on so many of the bands working together well musically. Once again well done.

Keep Of Kalessin Set List:

1. Kolossus
2. Awakening
3. Judgement
4. Dragon Iconography
5. Dark as Moonless Night
6. The Divine Land
7. Ascendant

Mayhem Set list:
1. Silvester Anfang
2. Deathcrush
3. Ancient Skin
4. My Death
5. A Time To Die
6. View From Nihil
7. Illuminate Eliminate
8. Buried By Time And Dust
9. Carnage
10. Freezing Moon
11. Funeral Fog
12. Chainsaw Gutsfuck
13. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
14. Pure Fucking Armageddon

One has to think that this particular marquee gave the passers by in the streets a little pause. “Inside there be Mayhem”? Keep walking and fast if you know what’s good for you (I am speaking to the non-Metal fans of course and those touristy sorts who might have wandered too far down from Times Square).

Here is a quick glimpse of the stage curtains that were positioned on either side of the drums and amps. I admit that this time around it was not as “ornate” as that last show we caught back in 2009. Maybe next time.

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