If you’re a metal head and whether or not you listen to black metal, chances are you have heard of the Norwegian black metal legends, Mayhem. Mayhem is one of the most influential black metal bands and were also one of the founders of the black metal genre. Their 1994 debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Latin for “About the Mystery of the Lord Satan”) alone paved the way for many black metal bands and is widely considered one of the best black metal albums of all time. Mayhem may have been influential, but their history is far from cheerful. Mayhem is also considered the most controversial metal band in history. Their controversy begins with the suicide of the band’s vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin in 1991. Former bassist Varg Vikernes was arrested for the infamous church burnings in Norway. In 1993, Vikernes murdered fellow band member, co-founder, and guitarist of Mayhem, Oystein “Euronymous” Aarseth. All of this happened before their debut album’s release. Decades later, people still talk about the band’s controversies with both Dead and Euronymous seen as black metal icons. 23 years after its release and Mayhem‘s debut album is still going strong. Mayhem announced a US tour and on this special occasion, they will be playing their entire debut album in its entirety.
The Santa Ana crowd at the Observatory was hyped up to see one of the greatest black metal bands of all time. Waiting on stage was an altar with a skull and two lit candles. The lights went out and the members of the band came out one at a time and they started the first track from the debut album, Funeral Fog. All the band members came out wearing cloaks that hid their identities. Frontman Atilla Csihar came out last and started unleashing his black metal growls onto the audience. The fans responded positively by moshing and shoving against one another and even crowd surfers started making appearances right away. The second song played was the band’s most famous track, Freezing Moon. The crowd knew this song by heart and went wild when the familiar guitar riffs started. In the middle of the song, Csihar approached the mysterious bassist and pulled back his hood to reveal that it was none other than Jorn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud, one of the band’s founding members. To keep up with the band’s atmosphere, the stage was primarily kept dark most of the time with only a few blue lights lighting the stage and keeping the band members mostly in the dark. Longtime drummer and legendary black metal drummer Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg was nearly impossible to see as lights rarely shined on him and was often either covered up by his drums, or was covered by the band’s fog machines. Csihar kept his own face hidden by his hood and would occasionally pull it back so his face could be see and you could tell he was wearing a mask depicting rotting flesh. The band kept their show going without slowing down and fans kept actively moshing and crowd-surfing the whole night. Csihar made no speeches during the show and kept strictly to singing the songs. The rest of the album was played and fans enjoyed other fan favorites from the album such as Pagan Fears and Life Eternal. The band seemed to leave the stage for a second before the backdrop to the stage changed and revealed the album’s cover. It was time for the album’s finale, the title track De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Hearing the song leaves a chill up and down your spine hearing Csihar sing using his now more haunting vocals while waving the skull from the altar in his hands. The show came to an end and the band members came out to greet fans and wave goodbye to the audience. It was truly a haunting, yet beautiful experience.