Mayhem is probably the band with the most turbulent and eventful past ever to play our festival. The lives of these pioneers of Norwegian black metal are inextricably tied up with murder, suicide, substance abuse and violence, but let’s be honest here: black metal is not for softies.
Mayhem’s live shows are the epitome of debauchery. Skewered pig’s heads on stage and band members who slash open their own arm: been there, done that. In 1991 singer Dead decides to shed this mortal coil and blows his brains out. He was the first to mount the stage in corpse paint, not to look badass but to resemble an actual corpse. Guitarist Euronymus is the first to discover the grisly tableau and starts photographing the scene. One of the pics eventually ends up on the cover of the infamous bootleg ‘Dawn of the Black Hearts’. Remember, these are pre-internet times and every snippet of news that reaches the European mainland adds to Mayhem’s cult status; the stories of barbaric behaviour turn increasing numbers of metal fans on to the band. Despite the occasional death, things are actually looking up from a musical standpoint. Co-founder Euronymus is stabbed to death in a heated dispute with session bassist Count Grishnack so unfortunately he is no longer around to witness the release of their studio debut ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ (1994), a record that sets the bar for an entire generation of black metal bands and helps Mayhem tap into a wider audience. With only Hellhammer still breathing or not serving time in prison, the latter needs to assemble a new line-up. New guitarist Blasphemer is the primary songwriter on the next three albums until his departure in 2008. On the only studio release since then, ‘Esoteric Warfare’ (2014), Mayhem once again succeed in pushing back the genre’s boundaries without compromising their identity. A mayhem show teeters on the edge of structured chaos and leaves no one untouched.