Πέμπτη 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2022

February the 3rd, 1990: One rode to Jessheim and the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal.

 One could say that the story of Mayhem is the story of True Norwegian Black Metal even if no one can really imagine how Black Metal would evolve if those "events" wouldn't happen. Still though, no one can really write the complete story of a genre that is more than music until the mid-90s. And since it is "more than music", there are really no rules and guidelines.

Documenting the music, the beliefs, the aesthetic, the people and the events, is something that can't be objectively done, since different people will have a different perspective on different memories and facts, many times distorted by the passing of time. And while the author of this blog tried to write the brief story of Black Metal under the title "The Past is Alive: Gazing into the Void of Black Metal" for Vinylom, which date could be considered as the birth of Norwegian Black Metal? That date is February the 3rd of 1990. Because it has to be a date surrounding Mayhem. And since Deathcrush is not really a "true Norwegian black metal" release, while De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was finally released in a year where many other black metal albums already had emerged from the depths of Hell, we will mark the date that made people witness blood and darkness.


Written by Andreas Andreou


On February 3rd of 1990, Mayhem performed live in the town of Jessheim, and many people claimed to witness that event, but according to Faust (born Bård Guldvik Eithun) as mentioned in the book(let) that accompanies Mayhem's Cursed in Eternity box set (with 4 live shows of 1990), "Several thousand people have in retrospect claimed to be there, whereas the club only holds around 200 people". But Faust was there. And so did a few other people that in the years that followed were among those who shaped Black Metal. That's how important that specific date was, and also Euronymous' influence upon everyone else. Abbath Doom Occulta (born Olve Eikemo) and Demonaz Doom Occulta (born Harald Nævdal) that were previously in death metal bands like Old Funeral and Amputation formed Immortal. Kristian Vikernes, also of Old Funeral, formed his own black metal entity named Burzum, and Samoth (born Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) with Ihsahn (born Vegard Sverre Tveitan) of death metallers Thou Shalt Suffer, formed Emperor. Even Darkthrone who released their debut death metal album Soulside Journey in 1991, changed to black metal. And many of those iconic black metal figures were there, on February 3rd of 1990, witnessing the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal.


I tried to locate someone who was there, but not really one of those musicians and people that became part of the music industry, just one random person who happened to be there. While studying the history of Mayhem and Black Metal, I randomly noticed that from time to time, different people (like Faust and Necrobutcher) mentioned two Greeks who were there. After a research, I located Evangelos Zaoutsos and he shared his story. I was expecting to hear something completely different but Vaggelis (mentioned just as "Vagge" from now on) was very honest and didn't try to sound as an "important part of the history" just like others would do. But his story during the birth of Norwegian black metal has its charm and reveals another side from a person who was really there.


"I had found Øystein Aarseth's address from Metalion's Slayer 'zine", recalls Vagge. "I sent him a letter because I wanted to buy the Deathcrush vinyl, and added US dollars hidden in a silver foil. When I got the record we started corresponding and sending letters to each other". Vagge kept for years most of those letters and a few parts of them will be presented here.


It was the era of "tape trading" and Vagge was mostly into noisecore music, while he also had hundreds of letters from many contacts and bands of the late '80s and early '90s, including Paradise Lost and Marduk from their early years. Euronymous also told him that he liked a lot Rotting Christ from Greece, and Mayhem also had a contact with Rotting Christ who would arrange a Mayhem gig in Greece during 1990, but it never happened because of a miscommunication even if Mayhem were already on the road, finally performing in Germany and Turkey. However, the great overthrow in the discussion between Vagge and myself is the real reason why he went to Norway...

"In the summer of 1988, I met in Crete a girl from Norway and kept contact with her through letters" says Vagge, and he also mentioned her to Øystein. Vagg's girlfriend was from Oslo and he had a crush on her. [Note: the author of this blog knows the name, and also saw pictures of her, but we will keep it private]. Vagge told her that once he will save a few money, he will visit her for a week in Oslo. So, he gathered 150000 drachmas and travelled to Norway in a period where this kind of trip wasn't the easiest thing in the world. "That was the real reason for my trip to Norway", says Vagge. "Øystein wanted to help me find the places as soon as I arrived in Oslo to meet her and he would host me for a few days. It wasn't Mayhem the reason I travelled in Norway... It was my love for this woman".

"When we started corresponding in 1988 no one imagined what would happen after 3-4 years", Vagge adds but to his surprise things didn't end as planned. If there was ever a plan. "When I met her, after 4 days, she told me that she can't do anything for me and I should leave her house... so Øystein told me that I can stay at his place as long as I want, and so I did, until all of my money ended, and I returned back home with expenses of the Greek Embassy in Oslo which I paid as soon as I returned to Greece".

That's a memory also mentioned in Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud's book The Death Archives (Mayhem 1984-94) with a different way. As Necrobutcher states, during the first gig with Pelle (February 3rd), large crowds started showing up in the flat and there was also some visitors from Greece, living there. "We couldn't get rid of them", notes Necrobutcher in his book. "After a while we had to go to the Greek Embassy and plead for money to send those guys home". According to Necrobutcher, they just showed up one day.


During Vagge's staying in Langhus many things happened, including the Mayhem shows that shaped the Norwegian Black Metal. On February 3r of 1990, Mayhem performed live in Jessheim, and that was the first live show of the line-up of Dead (vocals), Euronymous (guitar), Necrobutcher (bass) and Hellhammer (drums). A few weeks later (February 28th, 1990), Mayhem performed live in Sarpsborg. That was the show known from the notorious bootleg Dawn of the Black Hearts that was first released in 1995 by the Colombian Warmaster Records. That specific gig was part of the "Support for Slayer Magazine" festival, organized by Metalion (Jon Kristiansen) of Slayer 'zine. Adding detail to the story, the owner of Warmaster Records was Bull Metal (born Mauricio Montoya Botero) who was a member of Colombian bands like Agressor, Masacre, Typho, and a friend of Euronymoys. The Dawn of the Black Hearts bootleg is known for the cover that has Dead's body after his suicide, photographed by Euronymous after re-arranging some items. Bull Metal got the photo directly from Euronymous since he introduced him to the Colombian extreme metal scene who already had an important act like Parabellum in the '80s, an influential band for early Mayhem. As for the audio of that gig, it is said that Bull Metal got a VHS from Metalion including the Sarpsborg show. Just like Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin, Botero was found dead in December of 2002, commiting suicide.


When Vagge was asked about the first moments he landed in Norway and his meeting with Øystein, he said: "When I arrived, Øystein was waiting for me at the airport. I remember the ice when I entered the new country, we went to a supermarket to get basic stuff and we went to his home. Euronymous drank a lot of Coca-Cola, he was a huge Coca-Cola fan... There were 3 people living in that house, Øystein (Euronymous), Pelle (Dead) and Jan (Hellhammer)... and myself for a while. Before me, there was also a guy from Poland living there for a while but he had left earlier".


January 1990
Euronymous at a Mayhem rehearsal (with Coca-Cola bottles behind him).
Photo by Vagge.


But what kind of guys were Mayhem in their early 20s? "They were OK", Vagge recalls. "Everyone was in his room, several hours all together, just like you're sitting in your home with friends. Only Pelle was spending many hours alone in his room, the room he shot himself. Øystein was writing letters all the time, he never stopped. There was also a rehearsal where I took a few pictures of them. Years later I sold them to a guy from Japan on eBay". Vagge kept seeing those pictures in various blogs and sites, the photos from that rehearsal that were probably spread all over from Euronymous... or after his death when his stuff was also spread among different individuals. Many people claim "memories" and "I-was-there" or "I-was-talking-to-him" things after Euronymous' death and despite the fact that Euronymous was in contact with countless people, no one will probably understand who was really "there". But that's a thing that happens all the time in life, isn't it? 

Still though, Vagge also met Fenriz, Faust, he was in the studio when Cadaver were recording their debut album Hallucinating Anxiety, he met Mortem and many more, but as he adds, "It happened by luck". He was just there for a woman and Øystein helped him because they were pen pals, talking about different things. They even exchanged letters about communism since Euronymous had specific ideas about it and it was just 2 years later when everything started getting wilder reaching the edge of different and extreme ideas leading to the "events". Some ideas poison people and change them. Some people change, others not. Some people regret, others not. Some people use extreme ideas and images just for the sake of their art, others truly believe them, and always, there is a different context and impact to different periods.

People talk highly about those Mayhem ‘90s shows, their vibe and the electric atmosphere. For people that later were part of bands such as Emperor and Immortal, seeing Mayhem live in 1990, was a life-changing experience. Vagge's memories from the live shows weren't exactly what you would expect to hear. "What I remember from the show is that Pelle cut himself in front of us and I didn't like that... The show was a typical live gig like those you could see in Athens. Loud with mosh. That's what I remember". But that first show, on February 3rd of 1990, can really be considered as the birth of the Norwegian Black Metal, with a sound that others found life-changing, others a chaotic mess, Dead cutting himself, the corpse painting, the blood, and the pig heads on stakes. Mayhem was already a legend in 1990. According to "album release dates", it is often said that Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky (March 1992) is the first true Norwegian black metal album with Burzum's debut album released a few days later, but nothing would happen without those Mayhem shows when people listened for the first time a chaotic live black metal sound of songs like "Funeral Fog", "Freezing Moon" and "Buried by Time and Dust". A sound that was completed by Snorre W. Ruch (using also the stage name Blackthorn) and the Grymyrk tape of his band Thorns that created the Norwegian guitar sound we all know. Grymyrk was actually 6 tracks of guitar and bass only, recorded in 1991 by Snorre and bassist Harald Eilertsen, so the other two members of ex-Stigma Diabolicum, singer Marius Vold and drummer Bård Eithun (Faust) could listen. Euronymous was heavily inspired by that recording and more or less, Blackthorn and Euronymous sat down and created what is known as the tremolo-picking Norwegian black metal riffing style.


As noted in the beginning of this article, someone could say that the story of Mayhem is the story of True Norwegian Black Metal and no one can really imagine how Black Metal would evolve if those "events" wouldn't happen. When Vagge was asked about those "events", he said: "I stayed in Norway for 35 days during January and February of 1990. I remember I learned about Dead's suicide by a letter but after that I exchanged just a few letters with Øystein and then we got lost. Around 1992 things started getting wild... When Øystein was killed, I lost my interest in black metal. I never listened completely to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and I sold my copy. I sold my records because I needed money... I know it is not right but I needed that money. I sold my 2 copies of the original Deathcrush pressing for 2000 US dollars each... As for now? I guess I am a wussy and I only listen to pop, synth, industrial, dark electro and bands like Depeche Mode. And always Celtic Frost".



Left picture: Euronymous' personal Norwegian-English dictionary, sent to Vagge in 1989. Euronymous was willing to learn more from other languages, and also suggested that to other people too.

Right pictures: Pelle's favourite Swedish tobacco. Ηe used to put it on his gums so he would not smoke.


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