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Watain and Mayhem @ Webster Hall

(As featured on Webster Hall’s Blog)

Some of the heaviest guitar riffs in black metal rattled the Webster Hall crowd on Saturday night, causing hairs to stand on end and paint to peel from the walls. An intoxicating spell of grimy death and doom was offered up by co-headlining bands Watain and Mayhem as part of their Black Metal Warfare Tour. Featuring the band Revenge as their opening act, I was pleasantly surprised by the sharp energy and theatrics presented by veteran band Mayhem. Considered legendary in the black metal genre since the early 1980s, I’m always thankful to see bands that have been playing and pushing new boundaries since before I was born.

I discovered black metal as an orchestra kid, finding both the drawling chords and speed metal riffs similar to classical music compositions I had been studying for the violin. For me this show was cathartic, as I swayed near the front of stage in a kind of haze, listening to fluttering riffs of a darkened chant quality that I can only describe as symphonic to my ears. I was definitely ready for a nap after this show, but really enjoyed how Watain was able to claim a space of overarching insanity and liquid blackness at the veil of a pagan alter they’d situated on the stage with a goat’s head and candelabra. A lot of the symbolism stems from a northern European narrative of paganism I don’t know well, but hey, when in Rome. 

The crowd went wild for Watain’s most known songs like “The Wild Hunt” and “Black Flames March” from their 2013 album titled The Wild Hunt. Other show stoppers included songs like “Malfeitor” from their 2012 album Lawless Darkness. 

Mayhem’s elaborate costumes of bones, chains and grim reapers also welcomed the feeling that we’d all just been transported to Halloween-town. Lucky for us, it’s a place we metal-folk prefer to most of Gotham city’s landscape. With over 25 years in the scene, Mayhem felt like they had come home to roost, with the crowd ecstatic to hear 1990s hits like “Pagan Fears” and “Freezing Moon” from their controversial album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. 

With a history for sporadic touring in the States, let’s hope these guys come back our way soon.

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