February 6, 2017 | San Francisco, CA | Social Hall
Written & photographed by Ben Manzella (More Than Flashing Lights & Sound)
Out of the light wind and rain, I entered the Social Hall in San Francisco; it was a great sight, especially on a Monday, to see a basement room already half full before the show of the night had even begun. Tonight the Purgatorium America Septentrionalis MMXVII tour would be in town as Mayhem celebrate the release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive, a live recording of their long-storied 1994 record from last year’s Black Christmass Festival in Norrköping, Sweden, as well as performing the record in its entirety every night on this current run with Inquisition & Black Anvil in the support roles.
Aside from the smell of many rain-soaked jackets, the typical aroma of marijuana, as well as the aroma of incense filling the air with the addition of the fog machines engulfing the stage; you knew it was going to be quite literally a dark and foggy night inside the Social Hall. Not long after arriving, the lights went off and Black Anvil took the stage. With their latest LP, As Was, having been shortly released on January 13th; Black Anvil took the stage by storm, starting the night off with “On Forgotten Ways” which is the first track on As Was. While I have listened to Black Anvil since I first heard their 2010 record, Triumvirate, this was my first time seeing them perform live. While very much being a no-frills band, Black Anvil certainly see that a certain aesthetic is presented through live performance; with most of the band in corpse paint, vests with the New York Black or NYBM emblem on the back, and fog coupled with incense, there was plenty to be taken with throughout their half hour set. While the band as a whole are clearly a tight unit, I was particularly impressed with the intensity in which frontman Paul Delaney seemed to increase with every song as he sang and played bass; I look forward to seeing them as a headliner at some point and highly recommend checking out As Was, for those who are not already familiar.
Next would be Inquisition, the unholy duo of Dagon & Incubus definitely kept the rather mystic and dark energy flowing through their set. The danger which could be found in a two-person band would be that the stage can seem a bit barren; on the contrary this is not something you will find when seeing Inquisition. Between the stage props with related design to their backdrop, and Dagon seeing that he had two mic stands which he could perform at, Inquisition seem to have figured out a method of performing as a guitar and drum duo act that is to be admired. It can be challenging enough for the “typical” band setup of four or five individuals to find a way of performing effectively, let alone as a two-piece where the audience’s attention will be all the more focused. I was very impressed specifically by “Dark Mutilation Rites”, a song from their 2004 release, Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer, as the blackened-death riffing of Dagon combined with the dare I say Latin-inspired snare pattern used by Incubus; there was a unique groove present in their caliginous songs.
As the fog again increased on the stage and the table was set with candelabras and a skull, a recorded message requested that crowd respect the atmosphere that Mayhem aims to conjure during their performance, in hope that people would refrain from the use of their phone cameras. While that was an understandable request, which was unfortunately not very respected by a number of people in the audience, the stage was then made all the more intriguing as displays of demon-like creatures were set up. Once the house lights were off again and the candles were lit, it was finally time for Mayhem.
As the stage was lit a deep shade of purple, the eeriness and sinister energy promptly filled the Social Hall. Once all the instrumentalists of Mayhem were on stage, the crowd rapturously responded with howls of “Fucking Mayhem!” and the sold out crowd wouldn’t relent even in the end. A known showman, Attila Csihar made a rather chaotic entrance and made it impossible to be distracted during the performance. All the trappings of history aside, Mayhem have a legacy that they know how to showcase very well as a band and the international legion of fans they have gathered over time are glad to come out when they tour. It was a great privilege to see this tour lineup as they showcased very well the tradition and variety to be found within the black metal genre.