Δευτέρα, 11 Μαρτίου 2019

True Norwegian Black Metal, Arson, Murder and the Lords of Chaos - Part I

Part I : Prologue - The Dawn of the Black Hearts

Black Metal (the genre) was named after the second Venom studio album, originally released in 1982. However, during '80s and the first wave of black metal, such terms were abstract and general and took few years until they took a certain form to characterize a sub-genre of metal music. During the '80s, bands like Venom, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, were the foundations of what became the most extreme sub-genre of metal music. But the massive influence was the first three albums of Bathory, especially, "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" (1987). Other notable mentions include the early works of Sodom, Destruction, Slayer, Possessed, certain bands-releases of the Brazilian label Cogumelo Records (like Sarcofago, Holocausto, Mutilator) and the imagery/lyrical content of Mercyful Fate.

Metal music was moving to extreme and dark paths, and extreme music needs extreme lyrics and imagery. Many private releases, demo tapes, albums and alliances were taking shape during the '80s, worldwide. From Norway to mid-Europe and South America. Later during late '80s and early '90s, conflicts and wars were also in the game, even among friends.

The turning point for black metal has probably nothing to do with music. On 10 August 1993, Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous) guitarist of Mayhem, that took their name off Venom's song "Mayhem With Mercy", was murdered by Kristian Vikernes (Varg Vikernes, Count Grishnackh), also member of Mayhem and the man behind Burzum. Nearly a year later, in May 1994, Mayhem's album "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was finally released and it is widely considered as one of the most influential black metal albums of all time.


In 1993, I was 16 years old and I was operating Metal Oath Tapes, where I was distributing demo tapes and releasing compilation tapes including demo bands. I was mainly focused in classic metal but few extreme bands were also included in those tapes, plus many more for tape trading, worldwide. During tape trading, I was introduced to few of those underground extreme bands and I had the luck to include even few more known bands in the compilation tapes, like Rotting Christ (thanks to Jim Mutilator). I was 16 years old then. At the same age when Euronymous formed Mayhem. This is a weird age, and for an overactive young person, you think you can change the world. I didn't change anything, but Euronymous was among the few persons that changed the face of extreme music. With his music and his acts.

Almost one month before the murder of Euronymous (8/7/1993 is the date on the letter I have), I had an interview with Panos from Decapitated Records, that changed to Unisound Records, one of our regular suppliers of official (and unofficial) black metal. Black metal was already huge and an underground beast that was about to burst into mainstream. You could find easily those black albums and you could discover even more. Many of us were fascinated with black metal and extreme music, and while exchanging letters with pen pals worldwide, buying and trading tapes and fanzines, we were discovering an extreme world and extreme ideas. At least in letters.

I admit that nearly 25 years later, in the era of social media and facebook, I don't know where many of those pen pals are, even if I met few of them in real life. But few of them, were in deep shit and ideas back then. At least in letters. Luckily, I didn't follow the extreme ones and I even got a letter with blood one day... I never send something like this though, but I am sure that I also might wrote silly things even if I don't remember any. Thing is, that when you are young, you're doing extreme things. And you think even more extreme. But while you are growing and shape your personality, you change your mind, you regret and you push your mind to forget them. People that might share extreme acts will probably remember them, but you push yourself and mind to forget them. And subconsciously you will forget them and won't admit them. But there will always be few people that remember those acts.

Jonas Åkerlund film "Lords of Chaos" is based in the events surrounding the Norwegian black metal scene, Mayhem and the murder of Euronymous. The film is based in truth and lies. But someone's truth is someone else's lie, and someone's lie is someone else's truth. Plus, there are always in-between the acts of those young persons that pushed themselves and minds to forget them. They don't remember them or they don't want to remember them. And that's the point where confusion, truth and lies begin.

There is a debate about art, that is getting stronger and more confusing over the last years. Should we separate the artist (the human being) from his art? Many times we all fall in this trap and sometimes we pretend about it, but there are cases that the art is an extension of the artist and cannot be separated. Either you accept it, or not. As Mark Shelton sung in Manilla Road's "Crystal Logic", "there's good and there's evil, there's no in between".

Besides the music legacy and influence, most of those young people were insecure kids that wanted to make a bold statement; a false revolution. They wanted to be extreme and presented extreme ideas. Few of them moved to extreme acts and crimes among them. Acts and beliefs like those need to be isolated nowadays. But back in the early '90s, many minds were poisoned with extreme ideas and beliefs. Satanism, nationalist beliefs, self-mutilation, blood, oppression and corruption.

When Darkthrone released "Transilvanian Hunger" in 1994, there was the phrase "Norsk Arisk Black Metal" (Norwegian Aryan Black Metal) in the first pressings. There was negative response since the album was also released by UK-based Peaceville Records and had a major distribution network unlike other underground releases and labels. In later pressings it was replaced with "True Norwegian Black Metal", but still, that remains as one of those acts, that bands regret about. And I am sure that Gylve Nagell (Fenriz) and Ted Arvid Skjellum (Nocturno Culto) have regrets about it and push their minds to forget it. I don't remember their excuse back in the day but they are both in the scene nowadays and Fenriz is also a respectful contributor in various media. I always check his proposals.

Few of those bands and people were trying to appear extreme and most of them regret it. Few of them didn't, but in any case, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you" - Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146.


Part II to follow with events of late '80s - early '90s.

Part III to follow with music, albums and legacy.