When Mayhem originally released De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in 1994 the album quickly became a touchstone amidst the second wave of black metal. The razor-sharp guitars of the genre’s first wave had picked up the speed of thrash and added dark, animistic vocals with “evil” lyrical themes and crossed the boundaries of performance into politics with its extreme denouncement of traditional institutions of faith. A generation later, this tour brings both Mayhem and black metal full circle, adopting appropriated iconography of Western religion (e.g. demons in the guise of saintly statuary, and the menacing church from the album cover of De Mysteriis looming in the background) to declare its philosophical enemy dead.
Demonstrating the evolution of the genre as we know it, Black Anvil reflects a stylistically diverse palette, mixing doomed tones of gothic rock, traditional black metal, and its now prevalent influence on heavy rock. If rock is the Rome to and from which all (electric) guitar-based roads lead; with the benefit of hinsight and the opportunity for comparison offered by this lineup, then it would seem that black metal was predestined to emerge from the Scandinavian wilderness and carve out a niche for itself in the rock agora to a chorus of screaming girls in the front row.
In a sea of fog, this performance of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas realizes black metal as it was meant to be: an Impressionist’s rendering of damnation and the disavowal of organized religion’s dogmatic, style-over-spirit presumptions of authority in matters of faith on earth.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot
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