Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Concert Review: Black Anvil, Inquisition and Mayhem at Metro in Chicago, January 23, 2017- photos and words by Danny Nichols

It was an epic night of black metal at Metro Chicago in the city's north side.

Black Anvil's Jeremy Sosville, Paul Delaney and Raeph Glicken
The bill started with New York's Black Anvil.  They stormed the stage like a biker gang from hell with their menacing presence, militaristic leather and ubiquitous tattoos.  Their sound reminded me of Children of Bodom, with vocals being mostly of the harsh traditional black metal variety with occasional interludes of clean vocals and discernible lyrics.

Black Anvil guitarist Travis Bacon
They delivered a crushing, bludgeoning set which was often melodic without losing the genre's trademark speed and intensity. There seems to be a strong thrash influence to the Black Anvil sound as well.  Upon conclusion of their performance drummer Raeph Glicken alone remained on stage, arms raised in prayer, while he chanted along to a diabolical latin hymm outro track.  It was a  poignant and unique close to a show.

Black Anvil drummer Raeph Glicken offers a post performance prayer to the darkness.
The second act was the Colombian two piece Inquisition.  The short length of their roster is no indication of the fullness of their sound.  With just one guitar Dagon manages to produce a tidal wave of sound equivalent to three guitars, two bass guitars and an army of Sherman tanks.
Inquisition's Dagon
When I texted to my friend Matt how amazed I was so much sound could emit from just two musicians, he suggested Inquisition had Satan himself as an off stage secret third member.  This may be true.

Dagon melts faces at Metro
It was a privilege to observe Inquisition drummer Incubus ply his craft.  My particular vantage point permitted me to observe the great skill with which he performed precision blast beats and breakneck fills.  I enjoy the aesthetic of black metal and was glad to see Inquisition still in full corpse paint.

Inquisition's amazing drummer Incubus
By the time Norwegian legends Mayhem took the stage Metro Chicago was packed and there was a buzz through the crowd.  To see a Mayhem show is a rare treat, especially in my hometown, which necessitated the five hour drive to Chicago.  Mayhem is, in many ways, the definitive black metal band.  They are the central band of the genre's history and its early rise to world prominence. Their backstory of suicides, murders and arsons, reads more like the plot of a Hollywood thriller, than the true band history which it is.  In the world of extreme metal are were the most extreme band, both on and off the stage.  And on this night they would play their essential album, and arguably the genre's  essential album,  De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety.

Teloch, Attila Csihar and Necrobutcher of Mayhem
The energy of the crowd matched the momentous occasion.  Even spending the first three tunes in the photographers pit, did not safeguard one from danger.  The threat of an exuberant crowd surfer being hurled into my back was ever present.  Kudos to the exemplary security team at Metro Chicago, who performed a heroic job of keeping the revelers contained to the audience.

Ghul of Mayhem
The mosh pit was as intense as any I have witnessed, with participants flinging themselves into each other with a fury to match the sound.  (After a tumble in a Volbeat pit four years ago, I have decided to retire from this activity, but still enjoy observing it, and regret the fabled 'Wall of Death' seems to have gone out of style).
The dark majesty of Attila Csihar
Mayhem was firing on all cylinders.  The entire band performed in a deep, backlit mist, cloaked from head to toe in black robes. Drummer Hellhammer was completely invisible behind his monster kit, but although not seen for more than a few seconds the whole night, his thundering blast beats were most certainly heard.  
Attila Csihar unmasked
Guitarist Teloch wore corpse paint, which called to mind late band founder Euronymous.  His playing was also a spot on rendition of his legendary predecessor, his pick hand a blur of tremolo motion.

Mayhem's Teloch
The crowd let out a hefty roar when the bassist was unmasked following the second song, revealing original bandmember Necrobutcher.
Legendary bassist Necrobutcher
The imposing Ghul, formerly of Cradle of Filth fame, joined Teloch in delivering riff after mighty riff of black metal finery.
Mayhem's Ghul
The centerpiece was the fearsome Attila Csihar, whose demonic vocal delivery and hulking stage presence remain among the most intimidating and striking in all of music.  His orcish face paint and tattered robes commanded attention as he growled hymns of despair and devilry.  Csihar performed black masses and closed the evening by serenading a skull.
Attila Csihar performs a midsong black mass.
The old theater which is home to Metro Chicago shook with jet engine metal sonics.  This was music at its most visceral and its most violent, with the audience devouring all seven billion beats per minute.
Csihar performing De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas 
After the show I was walking down Clark Street.  As I passed by Wrigley Field, which is only a couple of blocks from Metro Chicago, I overheard a female metalhead rehashing the show to her friend.  She said, "from the first note to the last I couldn't stop smiling from ear to ear".  A surprising reaction to a demonic set devoted to darkness and devils, but such is the power of metal.

Mayhem slays Metro Chicago

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