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Mayhem’s Purgatorium Tour – A San Diego Review

If there’s anything we can say we are grateful for this year, it’s having been able to see Mayhem three times in the United States over the course of merely a couple of years.  Just because this tour wasn’t called Black Metal Warfare 3 certainly doesn’t mean there was not an onslaught of good-old-fashioned black metal to be had, alongside a satiating touch of death metal that made this tour package feel particularly unique and sonically satisfying

We began our night at the Observatory North Park by catching the end of the Black Anvil set. Their gritty but incredibly well-composed pieces made for a relieving start to the evening, as there were no other local acts to bother the audience (absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?).  With strong openers like “On Forgotten Ways” and “Ten Talons Deep” leading the way, Black Anvil graced San Diego with their unique NYBM performance.

Immolation is a band that doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to show off in a place like San Diego, and it was an absolute treat to see them here. The first song seemed to go just fine, but as they played “Kingdom of Conspiracy,” I turned slowly toward my man as we both gave each other a dreadful look of realization that the sound guy was sucking major ass. There’s no way to skirt around that. The mix was heavily misaligned during the latter portion of their set, but it didn’t make me feel any less bad for the band. Have you ever walked into a Costco only to stop and stare at the latest $5K, 4K TV just to admire all the detail painted into each pixel? That’s what it feels like when you listen to Immolation, particularly albums like Majesty and Decay. This brilliant and underrated band did not get to shine as brightly as they could because of it. Despite the mishaps, the band soldiered on with booming presence and consistently captivated the crowd.

Though I have no complaints about any of the last two times in which I’ve seen Mayhem, it seems as though “third time’s a charm” isn’t as worn out of a cliche as you might think. This was beyond a doubt the best performance put on by the Norwegian titans, as they played through the album that birthed bands from Dark Funeral to Uada: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. When you think about all the shit that was actually going down at the time this was being recorded almost 25 years ago and try to connect that timeline to what you’re seeing in front of you, it’s fascinating and perhaps a smidgen terrifying.  They are after all the godfathers of the dark arts, the literal Marlon Brandos of black metal.  Luckily, they didn’t experience the sound problems as Immolation did, but I did wish that the members changed up their positions on the stage a bit, perhaps trying not to give the impression of feet Super-Glued to the floor. This however seems like a trifling complaint, considering how high quality the sound was, how fluidly the set was paced, and how goddamn intimidating every single member of that band presents themselves.  These guys were the dark side before it was cool. And we hope they continue to shroud us in eternal darkness under the freezing moon for many years to come.

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