Yesterday Mr. Night After Night and I attended Blackenedfest at Irving Plaza. Let's start with the disappointments. The minor one is that I missed Lair of the Minotaur because they played from 7:30pm to 7:50 and I arrived at something like 7:51. The major one is that Marduk cancelled at the last minute "due to unforeseen circumstances." And I had spent part of the day rehearsing my growlalong to "Panzer Division Marduk"! Seriously, I'd been really looking forward to finally catching the kvlt Swedes live and I was foiled again.
But Mayhem more than made up for it. I admit going mostly out of curiosity because I may have seen Emperor and Immortal, but it's Mayhem that's the alpha and omega of first-wave Norwegian black metal. The book Lords of Chaos? It's about them.
As it turns out, Mayhem was much more than a curio. The main asset was Attila Csihar, who replaced Maniac in 2004 and is a completely magnetic frontman. Clad in black monk-like robes, he emitted a volley of terrifying, barely human sounds that ranged from pig-like grunts to hellish shrieks. He also moved in an odd, stylized manner halfway between Martha Graham and kabuki. Couldn't be a more different vibe from Maniac's, and an improvement it was. Csihar was avant-garde from Hades.
Musically I felt as if I had stuck my head in an oil drum on which people repeatedly stomped. Drummer Hellhammer and bassist Necrobutcher, two original members, got huge applause from the crowd, while it took two tour guitarists, Morfeus and Silmaeth, to replace Blasphemer, who left the band last year. The whole thing was one massive gurgle, part buzzy and part grumbling. It was awesome.
Also awesome: the banners, the shrunken heads on spears, the fog, the strobes. In a word: the show!
Here's a short excerpt from our vantage point at the balcony. (Tip of the hat to Brooklyn Vegan's Paul Birman for the pic of Attila Csihar.)