June 8, 2009

On Mayhem, and Music in General

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(Mayhem, Cattle Decapetation, Cephalic Carnage, CC's guest guitar player at end)

While the rest of Colorado pondered
whether or not Colbert actually wants to destroy all bears, I went out to Cervantes to see the legendary Mayhem. Opening was Withered, from Atlanta Georgia. Not a bad bunch of metal heads, but I did not find myself dumbfounded. The one thing that impressed me was the flawless pumping out of a song in 13/4. Following Withered was Cattle Decapitation. My buddy Jordan Johnson was into them at one point, so I was interested to finally hear them. Well, these vegans were alright too. I do have to say that their touring bass player Rahsaan Daviswas one of the more visually talented bass players I've seen in a long freaking time. Their guitar player is also nothing to be screwed with. Sweet sweetness they were fast. After Cat-Dec was Denver's own Cephalic Carnage. I've not seen them before, however I've seen a few side projects, and heard the tracks off their newest album (praised heavily by anyone I talked to about it). Like CD's encouragement of equal treatment of animals, all CC wants is for weed to be legal. If this wasn't apparent by the way they encouraged people to light up right in the venue, and if it wasn't apparent by the way the lead singer took a blunt from an audience member and took a heavy toke, then it ought to have been apparent when they played their song Kill For Weed. I shit you not. I was disappointed to hear that Marduk apparently couldn't get into the country, so their presence was absent from the line up. I was pretty interested in seeing their live show, to say the least.

Finally (well, not really "finally." each band had relatively short sets) Mayhem took the stage. For those of you who don't know, Mayhem is one of the most, if not the most notorious True Norwegian Black Metal bands on the planet. There are 25 years of church burnings, murders, on the most extreme music imaginable behind that corpse paint. Well, let me be the first to say that I have never seen anything like Mayhem. It was metal from a different epoch. The bands before Mayhem moved about a little, but didn't do the trashing common to that of the younger players in the metalcore scene, and Mayhem was even less energetic than their openers. The tempo was slower, the riffs were less complicated, and everything seemed to be, awkwardly, a little quieter. The quiet bit changed a little after the first few songs, and the bone-rattling I had expected was delivered. They were no My Bloody Valentine, but a comparison between the two shows would not be lost on me.

My love for metal has, admittedly, been waining in the last couple years, but I will forever respect the music. That said, the metal I'm used to seeing live is more energetic and caustic. Mayhem was just a brutal crushing hate machine slowly wearing down the audience. Attila Csihar, the vocalist, was the only one not in the typical metal show garb (black tee, black pants), but he was also not in the traditional black metal corpse paint (I was a little disappointed to not see anyone with it). After his cloak's hood fell back, you could tell Attila was a weathered spirit. Black teeth, wispy hair, Attila would, between vehement blasphemes, whip himself with a black cat o'nines or remind us of our own mortality by swinging a hangman's noose like a pendulum. His face paint was spattered and dripping even before he took the stage. His torn cloak, undershirt, and priest paraphernalia looked almost as beaten as the man they adorned. Around his neck hung an upside down cross with a four-armed, goat headed Christ figure crucified on it. Attila was a fearful sight, his appearance aided by the severed head props setup around the stage. He slowly walked around the stage cursing us all, crossing his arms as though they were the two parts of an inverted crucifix, while the band's churning instrumentals slowly disintegrated our spirits. It was nothing if not intense. After a few back to back songs, Attila started a political tirade, hardly audible because of his thrashed vocal chords. One tirade was loud and clear though. I don't think I'll ever lose the mental image of Attila leaning over the crowd and screaming "Fuck the Pope." That is a man filled with hate. And if he's not, then I commend him on his dedication to keeping up the act, because his performance was darn convincing.

But after a while, I kind of got bored. This band, the supposed most intense thing ever, paled to simple noise bands I'd seen at Rhinoceropolis in pure intensity and insanity. It brings to mind my question of whether or not Metal is dead. I don't think it's dead, I just think that it has hit it's peak, in some ways. But so has music in general.

We've pretty much all ready got people to play the fastest music, and what can't humanly be done, we can now do with computers, so a fast tempo is no longer novel. And John Cage's Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) is currently still being performed, and will continue to be performed for the next 600+ years, and really, anything can simply be slow, so slow tempo music is not really all that interesting anymore. Sure, you can argue that no one has made a song this fast/slow, but, really, at this point it doesn't matter any more.

Same thing goes for volume. We can build bigger and bigger sound systems and just blast the hell out of everything, and we can make music that is inaudible entirely (beyond the pitch the human ear can hear/the music that simply being quiet is/etc.), so stretching it in either direction really isn't going to matter anymore.

Same things goes for duration. Multiple bands have shown us that short songs can be great, even though they are seconds long (you could stretch it to the thought that all you need to do is play one note, and that's a song. Or even that no note is the music. conceptual pieces can really go anywhere) And bands consistently write long long songs, or composers write pieces that could go on forever (again, ASLSP comes to mind).

This is a good thing though, in my mind. Because now we have boundaries. We know what certain limits are now, and, even though there are so many more limits to discover, we can can stop expending energy trying to discover these limits and put that energy into writing interesting things within those limits, getting us ever closer to the perfect song (which will never happen, but that's kind of the point of Utopia).

So, I guess I would recommend seeing Mayhem if you have any inclination to do so, because it was certainly an experience I'm glad I had. [Edit: I forgot to mention that they will remind you that they are the "True" Mayhem about 10 times during their show. take from that what you will.]

Mayhem - From The Dark Past

Here're the pics:

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