Over thirty years, through numerous lineup changes, murderous scandals and tumult, Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem still exists, despite many encounters with death.
"Mayhem is a band that never gives up, no matter what gets thrown at it. There isn't any secret other than stubbornness and dedication," says the band's current guitarist, Teloch.
Formed in 1984, Mayhem took ten years to unleash its debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The title is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to "About the Mystery of the Lord Satan."
The album, simply put, is considered a black-metal masterpiece.
"I'm guessing nobody could foresee the impact this band would have in the scene. Neither was it clear in the early days how big the whole genre would turn out," Teloch said. "The idea behind black metal in the beginning was to be underground, and for the chosen few. Didn't take many years before the whole thing went south and the ideology was ditched."
Mayhem's death-ridden history and the Norwegian black-metal scene of the early 1990s is well documented. Lead singer Per "Dead" Ohlion committed suicide in 1991, at the house the band shared in the Norwegian woods. Photos of the suicide scene later graced the cover of a bootleg live album, titled Dawn of the Black Hearts. Two years later, guitarist Euronymous was murdered by session bassist Varg Vikernes, of Burzum fame. Vikernes also inspired church burnings in Oslo committed by black-metal devotees.
The 1994 album showcases Dead's lyrics, Euronymous's guitar work and Vikernes on bass. Such elements make for an eerie mixture of postmortem melodies.
The group originally played the album in full during a 2015 gig in Sweden. "It felt very natural to perform it," Teloch says. The band plans to play the album through 2017 before "putting it to rest."
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The live rendering of such a death-drenched dirge, accompanied by the band's usual on-stage antics — severed pigs and sheep heads — will be quite the sight.
"The whole experience is almost like a play. It's like going to a diabolical ceremony. It's not to be missed," Teloch says. "And we don't get any younger, any of us. Get it done before more people die. Age is our enemy these days."
Mayhem will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Gothic Theatre, with fellow black-metal groups Inquisition and Black Anvil. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.