Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

 w/ Defiled and Manatark 

The 13rd of April 2004 Tavastia Club Helsinki Finland

Review and Pictures by Arto Lehtinen

The legendary Norwegian black metallers, Mayhem, have always had a strong following in Finland. Previous events have been packed by enthusiastic black metal freaks to witness the grotesque show by these true ones. Mayhem's third assault on the soil of Finland covered three gigs all the way from the south to the north with the Japanese death metal tornado Defiled and Manatark from Finland's south neighbor Estonia. Originally, Poland's death metallers Decapitated was supposed to be involved in the tour, but pulled out for various reasons and were replaced by Manatark.

Even though the club wasn't even half full, a handful of people had arrived on time to catch the first opening band in action. The Japanese death mongers kicked the night off by giving a lesson in extreme technical death metal. Unfortunately, technical problems and failures brought some unexpected problems, but the Japanese death mongers didn't give up that easily and instead whipped harder and harder. Regrettably, Defiled appeared to be quite unknown to most of the people as the whole frontline of the stage was more or less empty. The Defiled front man even jumped to the floor trying to get some kind of reaction in the half dead audience. As for the set list, well the Japanese death mongers did a quick dissection by going thru their albums even from the first one to the latest effort called DIVINATION. People's reactions were kind of divided as extreme technical death had appealed to death heads, whereas the ultimate technical parts went beyond the normal comprehension of other extreme metallers.

Next was the Estonian Manatark, being a little bit mysterious, but an interesting dark/black metal combo at least for me. The opening 2-3 tracks appeared to be interesting, but the excessive running time of most of the other songs more or less ruined the main interest toward the band's darkish material. The app 35 min set mainly consisted of stuff from their latest output CHAOS ENGINE. In general the four piece Estonian dark metallers did the needed support role for Mayhem without any big or outstanding surprises. Frankly seeing Estonian extreme bands in Finland was definitely welcome and hopefully other Estonian metal will get the same opportunity as Manatark to spread their material here.




Last time, Mayhem had several decapitated pig heads all around the stage and a huge cow's skull placed on the top of a 2.5 meter high stand which was decorated with long barbed wire...wire that Maniac used to slit his wrist open several times at the previous show! But this time, all these heads and skulls were gone and abandoned and the stage looked more or less normal. It was decorated by obscure looking metallic pieces of art placed in various places on the stage. The Norwegian black metal cultists apparently were willing to rely more on their black metallic Armageddon approach by doing a set covering their long career on this long European tour. Besides, I was eager to switch to a basic performance by leaving these self mutilation and pig heads behind as people seem to know and expect these extra show things to be witnessed on upcoming Mayhem gigs and tours...but Mayhem definitely know how to surprise people either in a negative or positive way. 

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to become acquainted with the new Mayhem opus CHIMERA in order to point out any obvious differences between the album and live renditions, or to compare it to the older stuff which is familiar to my ears. The magnificent DeathCrush definitely crushed...literally. But as far as other older tracks are concerned like Freezing Moon, Carnage, Pagan Fears they all definitely kicked hard. The older material without any doubts belongs to the elite class of primitive black metal with catchy and vicious riffs. The newer material hasn't reached the same success and constant opinions and understanding among the black metal purists. But that doesn't bother the Mayhem guys at all. 

Having a second guitarist added in their ranks strengthened their sound. However, in some ways this seems like an odd choice as Mayhem have mostly relied on one guitar and Blasphemer is the man with that, even though the hired Gehenna member did a solid job after all. Maniac has calmed down since his previous visit as not making any extra visual tricks, just concentrating on handling the vocal duties. Necrobutcher was having his birthday on the same exact date and acted hyper thru the whole gig. He also had some extra interaction with the audience, and Blasphemer did his own job, even though he wasn't much satisfied with the sound.

HellHammer's machine gun drumming created one hell of a sonic maelstrom thru the whole set. Besides the death crushing roaring out of the loudspeakers, the audience appeared more restless and wilder than at previous shows. It is quite obvious that extreme bands gather extreme people to shows like now when some smartass got the divine idea to get on the stage to jump around until Maniac pointed out to a security guy to kick the unwanted jumper off from the stage. A little later on there was another incident when a couple of guys had started fighting and finally someone had kept provoking Necrobutcher through the whole gig until Necrobutcher literally lost it and smashed his bass to the provoker and kicked direct to the face or head and screamed to the mic "Kill Him". As a matter of fact, I don't remember having seen the stage diving on previous Mayhem gigs as a few didn't land that well even though the No Fun No Mosh and above all stage diving wouldn't belong to a black metal gig according to the old Norwegian black metal proverb… Weird..

Mayhem's stage show would have been an extreme shocking experience for any weak heart concert goers if these special things had been on the stage. But seeing Mayhem without any of these heads and so on isn't the most disturbing experience. Instead, it was quite mellow like a standard extreme metal gig. Mayhem's reputation gained during these past 20 years doesn't let the band get into the softer direction by any means, as they are here to carry out the ultimate nihilistic black metal approach for years to come.