Black Anvil – Hail Death (Relapse Records, 27 May 2014)
Black Anvil – As Was (Relapse Records, 13 January 2017)
Recently I was reminiscing about the last Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh, partly because we’ve been reporting the news about this summer’s Migration Fest which will also be taking place in this area, but also because we’ve just (well, a little over a month ago) hit the five year anniversary of Winter’s Wake. This also had me thinking about Black Anvil.
They’d been around for a few years by that time and had already released a pair of albums, so I’m sure I had heard a song or two at some point, or at least was vaguely aware of their existence within the realm of domestic black metal bands. But that show — which was immediately preceded by a series of “getting to know you”-style interviews I’d conducted with nearly all of the performing bands (I’d missed a couple, due to timing issues or communication breakdowns, but as I recall, Black Anvil were the only ones who had outright declined to participate in the interview process) — was the first real exposure I’d had.
I can just vaguely remember that night — this was Friday, the first of two days full of music, and they were the second-to-last band to play, after we all had been standing for hours in this cramped loft-sized space breathing in the toxic fumes rising from the nail salon down at ground level. That was the atmosphere through which the band members pushed and shoved their way, each dripping with blood, to ascend to a stage hazy and thick with fog machine discharge — and instantly exploded into a maelstrom of blackened death fury.
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Alive (self-released, 15 December 2016)
It happens every year without fail: news announcements pop up about the Mayhem tour coming to town, and my ears will invariably perk up, until I realize they don’t mean THATMayhem, but the perpetually mediocre packaged tour with the energy drink sponsor. But every single time there’s that split-second of hopefulness, because let’s be honest, it would be a huge deal if the Oslovian band who was one of the main originators of black metal as we know it (hugely influential not only for the musical style but the overall aesthetic as well, and as famous for releasing some of the genre’s most highly-regarded landmark records as for the various controversies surrounding its members’ extra-curricular activities) was coming to town, right? Well guess what, Mayhem are coming to town.
It all started as a celebration of their debut LP (still universally regarded as the pinnacle of black metal), 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which the current iteration of the group (which now consists of bassist Necrobutcher, the sole remaining founding member, though he had been separated from the band and replaced by — someone else — at the time the album was recorded and initially released; drummer Hellhammer and vocalist Attila Csihar, who have each been members for large portions of the band’s history, including taking part in that first full-length; and more recent additions Teloch and Ghul on guitar) began playing live in its entirety for the first time ever, during a European tour. That tour has continued adding additional trips to various parts of the world over the past couple of years, and at this moment Mayhem are recreating De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas on stages across North America.
This current expedition on this side of the ocean will actually be wrapping up in the very near future, but I’ll be including the remaining scheduled dates down in the comments section (along with a one-off visit set to take place next spring). But before we get there, I’d also like to share with you this recording that the band put out nearly a year ago, which originated way back at the beginning of this long series of commemorative tour dates.
Pinkish Black – Pinkish Black (Handmade Birds, 15 May 2012)
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The rest of his bandmates came back from wherever they’d been all day, and walked in to find a hellish nightmare: there lay his lifeless body, extinguished by his own hand while he’d been home alone.
It sounds like a tale from Until the Light Takes Us, I know, but this was the story of Tommy Atkins, bassist for Denton, Texas’s The Great Tyrant. Bandmates Daron Beck and Jon Teague reportedly discovered him in the bathroom. Having found their band reduced from a trio to a duo, they decided to continue on under a new name — in honor of the terrible scene they had come across, in which (they said) “the walls were pinkish black.”
With an origin such as this, it’s not at all surprising that the new musical project would seem inspired by and surrounded by death. Sometimes frightening, sometimes peaceful; sometimes horribly ugly, sometimes angelically beautiful; sometimes all of these at once. And dark. Such an intense darkness that it could almost blind anyone who gazes upon it.