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Editorials, Pure Fucking Mayhem

Pure Fucking Armageddon: The Mayhem Tour Diary

Posted by on January 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm

When our photographer Aline Miladinovich had the opportunity to spend a few weeks bunking on Mayhem's tour bus, this past Fall, she could not turn down the opportunity. The following is her recounting of spending two weeks on the road with the band, with highlights including altercations with cops, Thanksgiving with black metal bands and a shitty case of the flu. Aline also submitted a massive photo gallery in addition to this report, which you should definitely check out. Here is Aline's report:

If anyone had told me twenty-three years ago, when I was a wee young thing with an uncommonly precocious thirst for musical  knowledge, and a ravenous hunger for brutal, obscure metal that I would someday be along for the ride on tour with Mayhem, I’d have most assuredly thought them crazier than a shit house rat.

Having first learned of this “new phenomenon of the heaviest metal ever” coming out of Norway (a land as mythical and arcane as Santa’s North Pole to this American kid raised in farm country) through a Swedish pen pal whom I connected with via the now defunct Metal Edge magazine, I was burning with excitement and curiosity about this, as no other kid that I knew, at my age, was remotely cognizant of this sort of thing.

From the moment my incredibly poor quality third generation cassette recording of Deathcrush arrived in the mail, sealed in a bubble envelope, and wrapped in white lined notebook paper, I was absolutely intrigued by this thing called “Black Metal”. I could not wait to learn about, acquire, and absorb more of it.

My Swedish pen pal Ingar, a boy of fifteen, hand-wrote the album title on the cassette, and the song titles on the paper the tape arrived wrapped in, along with a brief  handwritten note that concluded with, “You are not going to believe what you hear. Write me back soon to tell me what you think of this…” I noted with secretive, mischievous glee that there was a song called “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” and knew full well I’d best be hiding this little treasure from my parents.

I popped it in the cassette deck, hit play, and sat on the floor next to the three foot high speakers we all had back then; the ones that were the size of small automobiles, and housed in solid wood casing, and produced the densest, roomiest wall of sound that could ever fill a kid’s bedroom.

I leaned in, and listened eagerly to the opening drum roll of  “Silvester Anfang”,  and readily imagined that’s what marching into war must sound like. Then…the chilling opening riff of “Deathcrush” came screaming from the speakers, and I felt like someone poured a pitcher of ice water down my spine. I straightened up attentively, and leaned in closer. Ingar was right. I could not believe what I was hearing. It was absolute evil, and I loved every diabolical note of it. It was unreservedly, discordantly, chaotically beautiful.

It didn’t take long for some rather astonishing stories to start appearing in metal magazines about some of the wild deeds that a few of these bands were getting up to, and my sheltered little brain could not even fathom what I was reading.

Fast forward a shade over two decades…

November 21, 2011 – Rickshaw Theater, Vancouver

Not even torrential downpour, or the drug and crime addled neighborhood where the Rickshaw stands could possibly put a damper on the excitement I felt as I arrived for my first show on the tour, and the first time, EVER for me to see Mayhem live. Not even the deranged junkie pounding on the bus door, demanding to be let on, and asking Mayhem guitarist Morfeus if she could “come on and do him” could ruin the euphoria of being at this venue for this particular show. And what’s a Mayhem show without a little filth and grit, really?

Despite having photographed hundreds of bands, I still felt that heart-poundy feeling of giddy anticipation that one feels when they are about to do something new and epic that they’ve waited their whole life to experience.

Providing support for Mayhem were Keep of Kalessin, Hate, and Abigail Williams, three bands I had seen before and knew were well capable of putting on a kick-ass show. I had utmost confidence that this tour was going to be an exceptionally rewarding experience.

I arrived early enough to observe the bands sound checking and technically got my first glimpse of Mayhem then, and just that wee bit of a teaser was pretty transcendental…this was gearing up to be a hell of a good time.

Vancouver crowds never disappoint, and even early on in the night, the venue boasted a vehement, very drunk, and rather ebullient turnout.

Abigail Williams opened up the show to an already pretty packed house, and an enthusiastic reception, followed by Poland’s Hate, and Norway’s Keep of Kalessin…a great bill, with just enough variety between the bands to make things really interesting – something for everyone, and all performed beautifully, despite the presence of a “Captain Trips” like flu that was plaguing the entire tour group.

Being the only band on the bill I had never previously seen, and considering how long I had waited for this moment, I got a bit goose-pimply as I prepared for Mayhem to take the stage. Tachycardia commenced as their intro music keyed up, and wondered if my shaky paws would allow me to even line up, or execute, a single workable shot.

Bathed in a bank of fog, and wrapped in eerie silver light, they emerged one by one, and took their places. Necrobutcher waved to the fans and sipped a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Classy!  The war beat of “Silvester Anfang” erupted, and I proceeded to pee down my leg just a little. Ok, not really…but it required incredible, superhuman bladder control not to do so. As “Silvester…” morphed into “Deathcrush”, Attila’s bloodcurdling vocals could be heard emanating from the darkness, though he was still nowhere to be seen. Eventually he emerged from the mist, a towering figure clad in a billowing cape, artfully applied corpse paint, and grasping a human skull, a noose, and a microphone holster crafted from an inverted crucifix.

Glorious.

Just over half of their fifteen song set was comprised of material from their first two albums “Deathcrush” and “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and the rest was a smorgasbord of selections from the rest of their catalog, one or two songs per album – a veritable buffet of  blasphemous Black Metal irreverence.

The audience was fully engrossed, and climbing over one another in a euphoric mass to get a little bit closer to the madness. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the kids in the audience were not even born yet when I first discovered Mayhem. How amazing to see a band such as this, with such a rich history and legacy, playing to a packed house with three generations of fans in the crowd.

At the end of the performance, the crowd went truly apeshit, and the real icing on the cake was when Mayhem reemerged after being backstage for several minutes after the last song, Attila now out of costume, and performed an unplanned encore of “Pagan Fears”, after which Necrobutcher jumped off the stage, slid precariously across the beer-soaked floor, was caught and righted by the fans, and proceeded to hug everyone in the front row.

A more perfect and profane night could not be asked for.

November 22, 2011 – El Corazon, Seattle, WA

The following night, the tour hit Seattle, Washington, and ripped the rafters off El Corazon. As the caravan crossed over the US border, it carried with it the most virulent and horrific strain of incubating influenza one could possibly hope to have their respiratory system obliterated by. One by one, band and crew members alike began to develop fevers, sweats, chills, productive hacking, and conjunctivitis. The sounds of sniffling, barking cough, and an ominous, deep, phlegmy “death rattle” were heard everywhere. The buses began to look and sound more like tuberculosis wards than recreational vehicles. Things like Nyquil, Ibuprofen, Thera-Flu, and Chloraseptic became the drugs of choice…that, and single malt scotch.

But not even the Black Metal Plague was going squelch the ferocity of this tour.

El Corazon is a tiny venue, dark and cavelike, which actually lends itself to an incredibly intimate show experience, with a low stage, low ceilings, and no barricade in front. Fans are truly up in the action. Packed like sardines, and crushed against the front monitors they thrashed ecstatically as the bands played on, and the temperature inside the building soared to uncomfortably muggy levels, even for the most heat tolerant among us. This slowed the impious masses not one iota, and it was, all things considered, a hell of a brilliant night. The party raged on afterwards as the most tenacious among us spilled over into the adjoining bar (in Seattle, you cannot serve alcohol in the same room as the stage, so the venues are set up with the “performance area” in one part of the building, and the bar in the other, and you can’t carry your drinks back and forth.) This lends itself to everyone bum-rushing the bar after the last band is through, and guzzling as much booze as they possibly can before security turns surly and throws everyone out with the requisite, screaming, cussing, bellowing, and threats.

Good, beer-soaked times were had by all!

Later that night, nestled in the dark confines of my womb-like bunk, with the sound of the relentlessly pouring rain on the armor plated roof, and the croupy, rhonchorous, hacking of Mayhem and crew lulling me to sleep…we rolled southward.

November 23, 2011 – Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR

A large theater with an ample stage, Portland’s Hawthorne Theater is capable of housing a substantial crowd, and boasts some pretty respectable acoustics as well. Despite the increasingly debilitated state that the flu-wracked tour group was operating under, everyone put on a staggering show, with no real obvious snags or difficulties. It was great to see yet another eager crowd, and to know that people were still turning out in decent numbers to support underground metal, especially in such a lagging economy.

Having reserved a room for the night in anticipation of an early morning flight the next day, I cabbed over from the venue before the show, and was surprised to learn that my driver who, for all practical purposes, looked exceptionally clean cut and GQ, was actually a huge metalhead and knew everything there was to know about pretty much all things Black/Extreme Metal. We had a fantastic chat about Mayhem, 1349, Taake, Goatwhore, Carpathian Forest, and a host of other great acts, and when he dropped me off, he threw me the metal horns and refused to let me pay for the cab ride.

Metal hospitality, worldwide.

No tour stop in Portland is complete without a trip to the world famous and incredibly awesome “Voodoo Doughnuts” Featuring such glorious specialties as the “Voodoo Doll” (a doll shaped donut with an evil, toothy grimace, and a “pretzel stake” through his heart) the “Diablos Rex”, (a chocolate frosted, chocolate cake doughnut with red sprinkles, or, for all you East Coasters, red “jimmies” and a vanilla pentagram on top) and the good ol’ “Cock and Balls”, which is exactly what it sounds like, (a doughnut shaped like a large male apparatus, and filled with Bavarian cream, with the words “Bite Me” scrawled along the shaft in orange icing.)

I split a Maple Bacon bar with Necrobutcher while Attila feasted on a “Dirty Snowball” – a pink, frilly concoction consisting of chocolate, marshmallow, coconut, and peanut butter, which is apparently much better than it sounds. Priceless.

Gorged on bacon and sugar, and feeling a bit euphoric, I headed back to my hotel, soon to hop a plane back to San Francisco. I needed to beat the tour buses home, because tomorrow was Thanksgiving Day, and Casa de Miladinovich was going to be hosting some very special guests for the holidays…37 of them, in fact.

November 24, Thanksgiving Day – Day off near San Francisco, CA

It's a well known fact that most touring bands are sadly deprived of the creature comforts that most of us take for granted in our every day lives. When you live in a bus or a van for six weeks at a time, many times, thousands of miles from home, things like a hot shower, the opportunity to do laundry, a bed that’s NOT on wheels, or a home cooked meal are luxuries that are found extraordinarily few and far between.

I considered it a brilliant twist of fate when the tour happened to have a day off for Thanksgiving in the San Francisco area.

Knowing that three of the four bands on the bill are European, and had never experienced the American Thanksgiving Day tradition, I invited the entire tour group over to our house for a massive feast, as well as showers, laundry, and a place to chill. I fully hoped that ANYONE might be able to make it, but sort of expected with how hectic tour schedules can be, that NO ONE would make it.

However, the most extraordinary and stunning thing happened.

EVERYONE made it.

All four bands, crew, plus a handful of other friends all showed up. With two tour buses, and a passenger van parked out front, and 35+ hungry metal heads inside, armed with a 25 pound turkey, a giant glazed, spiral cut ham, portions of green bean casserole,  garlic & ranch mashed potatoes, and banana pudding fit for an army, (plus six pies, and enough booze to stock an entire liquor store) we raged from 2:00 PM Thanksgiving Day until 8:00 the next morning.


The only minor setback was a visit from an extremely kind and understanding police officer who  reluctantly and apologetically informed me that a neighbor had called to report NOT the party, NOT the noise,  NOT the drunken revelry,  and NOT Mayhem’s Teloch creeping our idyllic, tree-lined suburb with a camera…(which he was by the way, and it was HE whom the cop first encountered…) but the sound of the tour bus generators.

On a holiday.

At 9:00 PM.

(First world problems.)

This same neighbor anonymously calls the cops on everyone in the ‘hood for things like a barking dog, a crying baby, or a trash can left out in the street the day after trash collection. I wonder if they’d fancy a year’s worth of my 115 pound dog’s stool dumped en masse on their front porch, ya know, hence giving them something to cry about? Might have to start saving up for that…

Not to let the party get ruined by one whining neighborhood pox, we shut the generator off, moved all the perishable items into our spare fridge, and carried on like bosses.

Asshole neighbor: You’re officially on notice.

The most astounding aspect of this whole event was not the massive quantities of food, alcohol, and revelry, but the fact that 30 very different personalities from all walks of the world and all schools of thought, who had been living in maddeningly close proximity to one another for several weeks already, came together, willingly and happily under one roof, and despite heavy drinking and passionate conversation…the pissing contests, rivalries, fights, tensions, and bullshit that usually accompany such circumstances were…completely nonexistent.

We all laughed, joked, ate, drank, partied, arm wrestled, wore stupid hats, and posed like morons for various cameras, and had nothing but amazing, peaceful times.

With the exception of a few spills which everyone banned together to clean up, nothing was broken, nothing was trashed, no major damage ensued. The kitchen got a bit messy, but the tour's awesome production manager, Jonas Svensson, spent two hours cleaning it, and I woke up to a spotless kitchen, with all the recyclables separated into distinct rows based on material of the container. *BRILLIANT*

I’m sure I am not alone when I say I will never forget this perfect night.

The only negative thing I can possibly say was that it was on this night that I began to feel the very unsettling burn in my throat, and a disturbing ache deep within my lungs…

November 25, 2011 – Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA

Much like the name implies, the Regency Ballroom is a classy venue – large, grand, ornate, and beautifully lit. Intricately carved, extremely high ceilings, and a gigantic wraparound balcony creates a fantastic concert experience, and it was magnificent to see these acts on such a stage. It didn’t go unnoticed that more than a few of the individual band members appeared to still be feeling the after-effects of the Thanksgiving Feast the evening prior. Everyone performed well, and did their jobs with the utmost professionalism, but there was perhaps slightly less head-banging and windmilling on this night, as it’s highly likely there were more than a few migraines and upset stomachs in the house…that, and the “crud” that was slowly but surely taking us all down one by one.

I was also beginning to feel a bit more under the weather, but convinced myself that a few nights of detox coupled with a heavy intake of Airborne and vitamins would make this an uneventful, and short-lived minor illness.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After taking nearly a week off to toil at my other job, I rejoined the tour in Dallas, Texas, and by the time I boarded the plane for the Lone Star State, I was lulling myself into a false sense of “Dayquilled security” that I wasn’t really “that sick…”

December 2, 2011- Trees, Dallas, TX

I arrived at the venue with red swollen eyes I could scarcely see through, a burning fever,  a relentless “seal bark” cough, crippling laryngitis, deaf ears that refused to pop after the plane ride, and crushing lung pain. Nothing a stiff shot of Balvenie and another night of unholy Black Metal couldn’t cure, right?

Stumbling blindly into the venue, and attempting to line up a few shots, I gave up when I realized that a blind, deaf, & mute photographer who’s delirious enough with fever to actually think that she can get the job done has no place being anywhere but a doctor’s office.

Hate’s vocalist, Adam “Atf Sinner” Buszko was so ill by now that lead guitarist Konrad Ramotowski had to sing the set for him. He did a fantastic job,  and the show raged on, but we were dropping like flies around this camp.

Most of the night passed in a cold remedy stupefied haze, and I remember very little of it.

December 3, 2011 – Bond 007 Club, San Antonio, TX

I awoke in my coffin/bunk the next afternoon to find myself profoundly short of breath, and my eyes glued shut with purulent goo. I stumbled to the bathroom, and painfully expectorated something bloody, lime green, gelatinous, and roughly the size of a golfball. It appeared to be a quivering, pulsatile alien fetus! It was encased in a mucoid sac, and looked to be alive, breathing, and possessing an actual heartbeat as it lolled about at the bottom of the rancid bus toilet.

With three flushes, I bid the god-awful thing adieu, and made my way to the front lounge, after peering once or twice over my shoulder to make sure it wasn’t trying to crawl back up the plumbing.

I thought my feverish mind was hallucinating, but I could have then sworn I heard the thunderous sound of what appeared to be….motorcycles circling the bus.

I staggered to the window and peered into the street to indeed see a group of nefarious looking characters on ape-hanger bikes, circling us like vultures.

This scenario had a distinct “Hunter S. Thompson/Bat Country” feel about it, and I suddenly felt a bit uneasy.

I nervously glanced at Attila and croaked my first words of the day, “What the fuck?” in a sick, guttural, raspy voice that sounded oddly like Harvey Fierstein, after guzzling rubbing alcohol and broken glass.

He and Jonas explained to me that the venue they were ORIGINALLY slated to perform at had pulled out, due to a “booking error” and when they went down to the venue to speak to the staff and find out what had occurred, they were told that the Bandidos Motorcycle Club would be using the venue for the night,  and this tour WOULD NOT.

I guess a few of ‘em needed to circle the bus for a while to make sure we got the message.

Duly noted.

Extra special thanks to the nearby Bond 007 Club for taking in this microbe addled, rag-tag group  of metallers, and letting them play a show at the very last minute. The fans apparently got the memo, and the place filled up quickly. When life gives you lemons, eh?

Meanwhile, I took advantage of a few hours of downtime to stumble down to Nix Healthcare System’s 24 hour urgent care clinic, where they took one look at me, and insisted I immediately don a SARS mask.

I was later seen by a kindly doctor with long brown hair, a full beard and cerulean blue eyes who bore a striking resemblance to Jesus. This was a huge mind fuck, as my 102 degree fever made it impossible for me NOT to laugh deliriously at this ironic coincidence, and then proceed to TELL him he looked like Jesus. He wryly told me he “got that a lot” and asked me if I used any “street drugs” Hahaha. Touché!

Prescriptions in hand for anti-biotic eye drops, and the most gastro-intestinally devastating anti-biotic pills ever created,  Amoxicillin,  (holy explosive diarrhea & thank you, Jesus) I cabbed over to a 24 hour Walgreens, and waited in line for nearly 30 minutes for my lifesaving remedies. It was a helluva long haul across town, and the kindly cab driver who waited for me in the parking lot to take me back to the venue AND ALSO SHUT THE METER OFF is a saint who deserves to win the lottery and be crowned King of the World. It’s people like him, and his cabbie comrade in Portland, who restore one’s faith in mankind.

Eyedrops installed, colon blowing antibiotics ingested, I stormed the club, camera ready, just in time to see the show, and I was starting to feel a little bit better already.

After the show, myself, and various members of the tour group were treated to a delicious steak dinner, showers, laundry, and some much appreciated hospitality by local friends Kari, Scott, and Lizzy. It’s heroes like these who make all the difference in the world to road warrior musicians  and their crews. Huge, heartfelt thanks to them.

December 4, 2011 – Emo’s, Austin, TX

This would be a bit of a bittersweet night, as it would be my last one on the tour, but as midnight rolled around, it would also be my birthday. According to the set times, Mayhem would still be onstage at that time, so really, this was actually quite an epic and fortuitous thing.

We arrived in Austin to find it unseasonably cold, with pouring rain, whipping wind, and a miserable, blustery feel in the air. Lovely weather for group of weary travelers, deep in the throes of influenza. I stumbled into the venue to find that what USED to be Emo’s was now primarily shut down. The large outdoor stage that boasted a capacity of about 1000 people, and was the former home of the famed South by Southwest festival, was no longer in operation. The smaller indoor room, (cap. 200) was now all that remained. It seemed to be in a bit of a state of disrepair, as rainwater was steadily trickling in from the ceiling, and the staff were busily working to clean it up with mops and a shop vac. It was so cold inside, you could see your breath billowing in front of you.

Holy slip/fall/hypothermia/electrocution hazard, Batman.

However, they successfully got things back on track and got a handle on the pesky leak. When showtime rolled around, and the place filled up with fans, the temperature finally rose to a level fit for human survival. Once the stage lighting came on, and the place got to rocking, it actually had a bit of a charm about it, and a good time was had by all.


Sick, tired, cold, weary, and homesick, all four bands and crew put on a hell of a show, and typical of Austin music fans, the crowd showed their appreciation with hearty applause and vigorous head banging. What a great way to usher in a birthday. Coincidentally, I learned that the woman standing right next to me in the front row shared my birthday.

The night, and my portion of the tour wrapped with a late night pizza and scotch party, and some verklempt goodbyes.

The dreaded flu lasted seven weeks, even with anti-biotic therapy…but the memories of this amazing tour, and all the wonderful people on it will last forever.


Special thanks to Abigail Williams, Hate, Keep of Kalessin,  Mayhem, & all support and crew members, the staff at all the above mentioned venues, and last but certainly not least, any friends, doctors, or cabdrivers who made the entire journey just a little more awesome. You all rock. \m/

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