The Black Metal Opera Arriveth
Mortiis with Christian Death, Godhead and Diet of Worms at the Reverb in Toronto on October 19, 1999
by: Gino Filicetti
I can't express how excited I was when I first got wind of the news. Could it be that Mortiis had actually secured a North American tour and would be playing in Toronto? Well, that seemed to be the case, but I didn't hold my breath. I fully expected something to prevent the master from gracing our little village of two million. Needless to say, the show was a go, or be here I would not. So, come, my little droogs, and let me tell you the tale of Mortiis' visit.

The line up this night was strange, to say the least. Anyone would've thought that Mortiis would have teamed up with some of his fellow countrymen playing the blackest of metal. However, that was not the case. Mortiis was instead playing in support of Christian Death, an industrial band with somewhat of a cult following, even here in Toronto. A major consequence of this fact was that Mortiis barely got a quarter of the already tiny stage. But as we'll see, this wouldn't deter him from serving up quite a show.

The first band to perform were Diet of Worms. This band reminded me a lot of Marilyn Manson in the early days. Four guys, unforgettably dressed and made up, playing a brand of industrial rock that could get you snapping your fingers if you didn't watch out. The venue was almost empty for their entire set and I thought to myself, hmmm... I've never seen the floor of the Reverb before... how interesting.

Next was Godhead, an industrial band from The Windy City. I'll admit, I thought it was a bonus when I heard Godhead would be performing with Mortiis. I had heard two of their albums and was quite impressed with their music. The singer was tall and bulky and without a stitch of hair on his head. He looked a lot like Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins, or, more accurately, like Billy Corgan in his coffin after having snuffed it. Godhead played a few tunes I recognized, and managed to get a few people out of their seats and onto the floor. Their sound was tight and the light show left me epileptic, so I can't really complain. They closed the night off with their cover of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", one of my favorite Beatles songs, and an excellent cover to boot. Although I enjoyed Godhead, I couldn't wait for Mortiis to make his entrance. After all this time, the moment was at hand.

I had brought a friend to this show, although he was a complete stranger to the black metal scene and had never heard of Mortiis before. But the hype and expectation was so high that even he felt the anticipation waiting for Mortiis' set to start. Watching the roadies set up the stage for Mortiis was a show unto itself. The props on stage were psychotic concoctions of art and the macabre. There was a cross made out of bones and vertebrae with a skull to top it off. The bones even had a yellowish brown tinge, perhaps they were -real- human bones? There was a sadist's rack of torturing weapons: a battle axe, a leather submission strap and a baby doll hung up by a chain on one leg and covered in blood. There was also a wooden "X" set up which had leather straps attached to it. It was some kind of crucifix; I was very interested to see how it'd be used. The instruments set up were only three percussion stations having a mixture of real and electronic drums. I was shocked to see no synthesizer in sight. What came next was more of a shock to me. Mortiis' "band" appeared: two guys took up their places at the percussion stations, and an extremely fat blonde chick, showing way too much cleavage, took her spot at a microphone. But what was all this about a band?? I guess my information was a little out dated, but last I'd heard, Mortiis' shows in Europe involved only him and his props, none of this conventional, rock show stuff. But these thoughts quickly left my mind as the music started and everyone turned their heads towards the back of the venue....

And there he was, Mortiis -- in all his glory -- leading a small, subdued, female "gimp" by a chain shackled around her neck. As he walked through the crowd and passed me I couldn't help wondering, wow, Mortiis isn't very tall! As they took the stage, Mortiis tied the gimp's chain to his "rack o' sadism" and took his spot front stage center. The songs they played were very heavily influenced by percussive sounds. There was some recorded synthesizer played as well, but a lot of it was drowned out by the incessant drumming. It sounded very gloomy and dungeon-like, but the Mortiis I remember had a lot more synth, and sadly, it was missing from this night's show. The second song they played had the opera singer providing some vocals. They were quite impressive, I must admit, but then again, she definitely had the lungs for it.

After the first two songs, the band paused while Mortiis performed the preparation of his "virgin". He squeezed the baby doll, which spat blood all over the frightened girl, anointing her in blood, as it were. Next was one of Mortiis' epic songs which always seem to last an eternity whilst keeping you enthralled with fear and delight. After this, there was another pause while Mortiis untied the virgin and lead her to the crucifix. Here, he tied her up and held a huge bucket up to her. Into this bucket he dipped his fingers and smeared the blood contained within onto the virgin's neck and face. Then, holding the bucket up to the heavens, Mortiis emptied its contents -- about five gallons of blood -- onto his head!!

Believe me people, to behold Mortiis in his make up is definitely a sight to see; but to see him drenched from head to toe in red gore was completely unreal. After this spectacle, another couple of songs were played. This time, Mortiis joined his vocals to those of his hefty friend. Then came another pause in the music, time for more hyjinx I thought. This time, Mortiis went off to the side of the stage and grabbed a bottle made out of horse's hoof. From this, he took a swig of the contents and was handed a flaming torch. He brought this torch to the center of the stage and start twirling it around, bringing it close to his virgin; this time anointing her in fire. After that he blew fire out into the crowd, it being kerosene that he drank from the horse's foot. And with the flame started the next song. It was full of intense drumming and high pitched singing, truly one of the best songs played that night. Then, my friends, after one more song came the grand finale. From his rack, Mortiis retrieved a pair of what can only be described as "medieval garden shears". He brought these over to the virgin affixed to the crucifix and began the final anointment: the anointment of the blade. Starting at her midsection, Mortiis cut into his sacrifice with the shears. Blood poured out of her torso in great gushes and dripped from her mouth as first she wreathed and then fell limp. At this point, Mortiis unties her from the crucifix and slings her over his shoulder. He jumps into the shocked crowd and carries his victim to the back of the venue from whence he came. As he leaves sight, the band starts another song without Mortiis. This song continues for awhile, but the entire crowd is staring at the back of the venue away from the stage, just waiting for Mortiis to return. And return he does after the song was over. He calmly resumes his spot and the band performs its last song of the night.

Needless to say, I was impressed by the show put on by Mortiis. I've always been a fan of bands who can put on a good stage show, so I thought the night's festivities were great. There were some who thought it was all a load of cheese, and there were others still -- the uninitiated masses of industrial fans -- who were shocked by the proceedings.

And that was all she wrote for me, my friends. Realizing that anything that came after Mortiis would be anticlimatic, I left without seeing Christian Death, knowing that I would have to come out of retirement to tell my readers about this one.

(article submitted 9/12/1999)

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