BLACK METAL: Evolution of the Cult – Dayal Patterson, 2013.

Uma síntese dos trechos mais importantes da obra, muito compreensiva, pois abarca metade de todo o texto. É a melhor maneira para conhecer o conteúdo do livro de Patterson para quem não tem o hábito da leitura ou tempo de sobra!

LEGENDA UTILIZADA:

Nome de banda conhecida pelo autor – negrito preto

Nome de álbum (demo, EP ou videoclip), conhecido ou não pelo autor – itálico vermelho

Nome de música – sempre em itálico

Nome de banda desconhecida pelo autor – negrito azul

Quando a banda é um nome de pessoa, e ela é citada a primeira vez no contexto biográfico e não discográfico, uso o vermelho, como nos meus outros posts – o mesmo vale para o compositor Richard Wagner, por exemplo, que tratamos como entidade histórica e não como foco deste livro.

Os grifos só são utilizados à primeira menção da música, do álbum, da pessoa ou da banda em questão, que depois são elementos normais do texto quando forem re-citados (exceto para o itálico).

Outros trechos de parágrafos destacados em itálico, negrito e vermelho, sem vínculo direto com citações de obras musicais – trechos considerados mais importantes que os demais. Em verde eu destaco, como sempre, o que acho cretino.

EVER SINCE ITS BIRTH in the early 80s—and especially after its rebirth in the early nineties—black metal has proven itself to be the most consistently thought-provoking, exhilarating, and vital of all the many offshoots of heavy metal. Truly enduring, it is a multifaceted beast, at once fiercely conservative yet fearlessly groundbreaking, undeniably visceral yet at times thoroughly cerebral. Its combination of primal, philosophical, spiritual, cultural, and artistic qualities have allowed it to transcend even its own fascinating controversies to become one of the most important forms of modern music. If you don’t already agree with that statement, there’s even more reason for you to read this book.”

By this point extreme metal already dominated my listening tastes thanks to bands such as Sepultura, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, and Entombed, but this (apparently) new genre appeared almost disturbingly radical and alien—in fact, I distinctly remember one of the most vocal of my metal contemporaries warning me not to listen to it. By the time I left school he had cut his hair and sold his metal collection, which probably says it all.”

In that sense, while this tome was officially begun in 2009, in many ways its true genesis dates back almost a decade and a half earlier. From 2004 onwards I was interviewing bands on a fairly regular basis, first for a fanzine I put together called Crypt, and later for magazines including Terrorizer and then Metal Hammer, all of which allowed me to speak to a number of the genre’s key protagonists. Even so, I’ve realized that a major part of my motivation for writing this book was to satisfy my own curiosity and get a more rounded understanding of a phenomenon that has entranced me since my early teens.”

As time passed and black metal grew beyond the confines of the underground, I noticed that more and more people were covering it in various forms of media, with varying degrees of care or accuracy. At one time it seemed to me that it was better not to have black metal discussed beyond its own perimeters, but by the end of the nineties, it was clear that horse had bolted. The problem was that many of the writers and filmmakers who covered black metal were either misinformed, or focused solely upon a few strong bands and personalities to the extent that they ultimately distorted the bigger picture.”

50 CAPÍTULOS – usar control+C, control+F para acessá-los mais abaixo:

1 Roots of Evil

2 Venom

3 Mercyful Fate

4 Bathory

5 Hellhammer

6 Celtic Frost

7 The First Wave of Black Thrash

8 Blasphemy

9 Samael

10 Rotting Christ and Greek Black Metal

11 Tormentor

12 Master’s Hammer

13 VON

14 Beherit

15 Mayhem Part I

16 Mayhem Part II

17 (Re)Birth of a Movement: Norway Part I

18 A Fist in the Face of Christianity: Norway Part II

19 Death of a Legend: Norway Part III

20 Thorns

21 Darkthrone

22 Burzum

23 Emperor

24 Gehenna

25 Gorgoroth

[OBS.: Decepcionadíssimo com a falta de um capítulo para Immortal, Nargaroth e Satyricon, embora quanto a esta última pelo menos haja alguma informação condensada, sobretudo nos capítulos que citam a Moonfog Records…]

26 Trelldom

27 The Opus Magnum: Mayhem Part III

28 The Beast Reawakens: Mayhem Part IV

29 Cradle of Filth: Black Metal Enters the Mainstream Part I

30 Dimmu Borgir: Black Metal Enters the Mainstream Part II

31 Underground Ethics

32 Les Légions Noires

33 Marduk: Sweden Part I

34 Dissection and Watain: Sweden Part II

35 Shining: Sweden Part III

36 Politics, Poland, and the Rise of NSBM

37 Graveland and Infernum: Polish Black Metal Part I

38 Behemoth: Polish Black Metal Part II

39 Enslaved: Folk and Folklore in Black Metal Part I

40 Moonfog and Ulver: Folk and Folklore in Black Metal Part II

41 The Proliferation of Black Folk Metal: Folk and Folklore in Black Metal Part III

42 A Turn for the Weird: Part I

43 A Turn for the Weird: Part II

44 Sigh

45 Dødheimsgard

46 Mysticum: Industrial Black Metal Part I

47 Aborym: Industrial Black Metal Part II

48 Blacklodge: Industrial Black Metal Part III

49 Lifelover: Post-Black Metal Part I

50 Post-Black Metal Part II

1 Roots of Evil

Did it all begin with Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods? Or with blues legend Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads?”

Like Purple and Zeppelin, Sabbath was heavily rooted in blues rock—indeed, the debut album contains 2 covers of blues rock numbers—but all the same, the release was a clear move toward darker and heavier territories. Whether this album marks an absolute year zero for the birth of heavy metal is naturally debatable, but there’s little doubt that it was a milestone recording, effectively kick-starting both the heavy metal genre as a whole and arguably black metal itself.”

An often-reported story tells that a major turning point for the band came when bassist Geezer Butler witnessed a crowd lining up to watch the Boris Karloff horror flick Black Sabbath, and realized that people would happily pay money to be frightened out of their wits. However, by his own admission Butler was also studying subjects such as Satanism, black magic, and occultism.”

In fact, American psychedelic rockers Coven were actually some way ahead of Black Sabbath, releasing their impressively titled debut Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls in 1969 and staking their claim to many elements of the metal archetype in the process. Among these were the use of the inverted cross and the <throwing of the horns> hand gesture, seemingly the first recorded example of either within rock culture.”

Coming from a heavy blues rock background that was similar to Sabbath’s, Judas Priest would do much to refine metal during the seventies, releasing 5 studio albums during that decade, all of which saw a gradual decline in blues influence while simultaneously upping the pace and aggression. Priest were also responsible for adding the now-familiar dual guitar set-up adopted by many bands that followed, perhaps the most notable being Iron Maiden.”

A final mention must go to glam metal stars Kiss, as strange as that may seem, if only for the fact that almost every Scandinavian musician interviewed here discovered heavy metal as a direct result of the group’s highly successful merchandising campaign. The fact that so many bands have adopted an appearance similar to the demonically face-painted and blood-spitting Gene Simmons suggests at least an underlying influence, even if it’s simply a trickle-down consequence of 80s groups such as Mercyful Fate.”

2 Venom

for a time, Venom were arguably the heaviest, noisiest and most unpleasant metal band on the planet.”

Formed in Newcastle in 1979, the group rose from the ashes of a number of earlier bands, most notably the short-lived 5-piece Guillotine. It was at a 1978 Judas Priest concert that the wheels were put in motion for Venom’s creation, when Guillotine guitarist Jeffrey Dunn, waiting at the bar for a drink, found himself chatting to a member of Oberon, another local band who were struggling with line-up difficulties. Recollections differ as to whether the Oberon member in question was guitarist Anthony Bray or vocalist Clive Archer, but either way, the meeting was highly fortuitous for all concerned. Before long, both Bray and Archer had joined the Guillotine ranks and the band name had changed to Venom, following a suggestion from a roadie. Two more line-up changes saw the addition of bassist Alan Winston and, more significantly, guitarist Conrad Lant, who had been playing in a band called Dwarfstar and was working as a tape operator at the nearby Impulse Studios. The transition from this incarnation to the one that would become famous was relatively swift. The group first stripped down to 4 members when Alan Winston departed, a move that forced second guitarist Conrad onto bass, a fateful change that would see the band stumbling upon a dirty, rumbling sound that became a staple of their style and influenced many who followed.”

We didn’t have time to get another guy in and learn the songs, so I said that I’d basically just play all the root notes, and after the concert we’d get a proper bass player. But all I had to play my bass through was my guitar stack—a Marshall 4×12 plus effects pedals—and when I played the bass into the guitar stack… fucking hell, it was like, woooooorghbwwwrooooaaaaw, and that’s how the bulldozer bass was born. After the show the other guys were like, ‘Keep that, that sounds great,’ so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m now the bass player.’

Cronos, a.k.a. Lant

We grew up with the rock bands of the 70s, Cronos explains, from T. Rex to Status Quo to Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple to Judas Priest to AC/DC. But I was also a big punk fan, I loved the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, Sham 69, all that. I loved the imagery, the youth of it all. It was very much where we were mentally at that time. Living up in the northeast of England, punk was the voice for our frustration, because we were all leaving school and there was no work. But punk was over so quickly—like boom, a total flash in the pan—and the bands that I heard coming out of the back end of the 70s, the Saxons and Samsons and Def Leppards… I mean, to me rock music is the devil’s music, and it was like, ‘Wow, this is pop music, this is not rock ‘n’ roll.’ And I thought if we put the punk back into metal then we have a winning formula, ‘cos it’s about the youth, how you felt, how angry you are, and that’s something we wanted to put into the music ‘cos we weren’t hearing it anywhere else.”

Bands would come in and say, ‘Can you make my guitar like Tony Iommi?’ or ‘Can you make my vocals like Rob Halford?’ and I thought ‘What the fuck…! These are all club bands, this is karaoke,’ so Venom’s goal was always to be different, to create something new, and that’s exactly what we did. We thought if we took all the best parts of all the greatest bands we could make the ultimate band. So we took the heaviness of Motörhead, the doomy, Satanic side of Black Sabbath, the leather and studs of Judas Priest, the pyrotechnic side of Kiss and combined it all.”

Conrad became Cronos, Tony Bray became Abaddon, Jeff Dunn became Mantas, and vocalist Clive Archer—perhaps most outlandishly—adopted the stage name Jesus Christ.”

I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we weren’t just called Conrad, Jeff, Clive, and Tony,’ Cronos laughs, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we put this band together with wild fucking stage names?’ and told them that David Bowie and Elton John’s names weren’t theirs.”

My birthday’s in January, I’m a Capricorn, my star’s Saturn, and the god of Saturn is Cronos. So you see I wanted something that was mine, something relevant to me, my birthday, all that sort of crap. I thought the Father of Time would be… apt.”

With this move the band inadvertently kick-started a tradition that would become almost mandatory within black metal, that of the Black Metal Persona—though Venom were perhaps more mindful to separate this from their offstage personalities than others have been.”

As it turned out, however, the Demon demo was not only the first recording featuring Clive, but also the last. Some months after Demon was issued the band returned to the studio to record 6 more tracks, and Jeff—or Mantas as he was now known—having heard Cronos <messing around> with vocals for a new song entitled Live Like An Angel during rehearsal, suggested he might also try recording them. Very quickly it was decided that Cronos’ vocals were the most suitable for the job, and Clive departed amicably, leaving the band as a trio.”

The reason there was 2 guitars and a separate singer in the first place was that Mantas, being such a big Judas Priest fan, thought it was the best formula for the band, Cronos considers. But 3-piece worked, and we said ‘look at Motörhead, look at Rush—fuck it, we’re a 3-piece.’ And the chemistry was there immediately. The first rehearsal, me and Mantas were jumping round like grasshoppers—there was so much room on stage not having the other 2 guys. We were running round striking a pose like nobody’s business. There was no way that line-up was gonna change, there was so much freedom and it sounded so fucking heavy with one guitar and one bass.”

In 1981 the band released their first single, a double A-side comprising the songs In League With Satan and Live Like An Angel. Sales proved to be surprisingly good, and Neat—seeing that they were on to a good thing—asked the band if they had any more songs to offer. Replying in the affirmative, Cronos agreed to record all the songs written so far and soon provided Neat with a collection of roughly recorded demo tracks. To the band’s surprise, those same demo recordings were released later that year as their debut album Welcome to Hell. By far and away the most blasphemous metal album released up to that point, it was an opus fixated on Satanic themes, its iconic cover emblazoned with Cronos’ adaptation of the Sigil of Baphomet, an occult symbol dating back to the 18th century but made famous by LaVey’s Church of Satan. If any doubt were still in place as to the band’s intent, the album opened with Sons of Satan, while other notable numbers included Witching Hour and In League With Satan, whose lyrics clearly went some way further than anything that had come before in metal.”

I’m a big Sabbath fan and I sing along to Ozzy’s lyrics, but it’s very obvious to me that he is the tortured soul. He’s singing, ‘Oh God help me!’ and ‘The witch is coming for me, the demons are gonna come and get me,’ and I thought, ‘Well, I want to be that witch, be that demon,’ you know, I’m coming to get you!’ and that’s where we came from immediately, you know:

I’m in league with Satan

I was raised in hell

I walked the streets of Salem

Amongst the living dead.

I’m not gonna sing about Satanism in the third party, I’m going to fucking speak about it as if I’m the demon, or I’m Satan.”

Cronos had been interested in the neo-pagan religion known as Wicca since going out with a girl who was interested in the subject, and the pseudonyms and cover art found within Venom’s work reveal at least a passing knowledge of and admiration for LaVey’s writings. All the same, Cronos chose not to draw on these subjects directly and instead wrote far more melodramatic, horror-style lyrics that drew on people’s fear of the dark side, rather than exploring the actual beliefs and activities of genuine practitioners.”

IMAGEM 1.

When I was working in the studio I saw so many band arguments over timing, the slight movement of a snare drum, the slight coming in late of a bass guitar, and that’s got nothing to do with Venom. Venom’s all about feel and compulsion—never mind if it works on a scale or a graph. I don’t want Stephen Hawking or someone to analyze the music, I want some kid to drop to his knees with an air guitar and say, ‘Yeah, this is amazing.’ When we put the first album out and people were hearing glitches, errors, time fluctuations and even tuning issues, it was like, ‘Oh, these guys can’t play, blah blah…’ and we were like, ‘For fuck’s sake!’

a year later issued their second album, Black Metal, a milestone that managed to give a name to an entire genre while also contributing immensely to its development. To say that the band had <matured> would probably be stretching a point, but while the gloriously anarchic feel of the debut album was relatively intact, the band had certainly refined things considerably. Kerrang!’s Malcolm Dome described the album as ‘altogether more structured than its predecessor’

Doing Buried Alive, we were able to push the boat out even further and get the engineer to do mad things. When we wanted to do the burial scene I brought in a big bucket full of mud and some spades in cardboard boxes and said, ‘We want to recreate this burial scene, so if we put the microphones inside the cardboard box and shovel the mud into the box then as the mud gets deeper and deeper, you’ll hear the thud of the mud getting further away as the muck’s coming on top of the coffin.’ And this guy was like, ‘Hell, yeah, fucking great!’… The people in the studio were like, ‘What the fuck’s going on here, you’re turning the whole place upside down,’ but everybody was psyched, it was like, ‘This album’s going to be amazing.’

Years later when I met Dave Grohl (of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and later Probot, for whom Cronos provided guest vocals) I asked him, ‘Have you ever heard of The Magic Roundabout, the animated children’s program? ‘Cos we wrote this song called Countess Bathory, which is a deadly serious Venom song and the riff is the theme for The Magic Roundabout. You know, da nana na na, da nana naa. And I asked, is this where you pinched the riff for Spirit of Fucking Whatever? ‘Cos it’s exactly the same as the Countess Bathory riff, only backwards.’ He totally didn’t get what I was talking about—must be an English thing!”

One distinctly English moment that sticks out like a sore thumb on the album even today is Teacher’s Pet, a bluesy number whose crass, tongue-in-cheek lyrics (which see the protagonist caught masturbating under the desk by his teacher) and chant of ‘get your tits out for the lads’ showed how the group’s approach differed from many bands that would claim them as an inspiration.”

This isn’t Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, this is a rock band, so having something like Teacher’s Pet—it was the ‘wink,’ you know, to show we were human.”

The band’s next album, At War With Satan, released in early 1984, would complete what most fans now regard as the classic Venom trilogy. It did so in a somewhat unexpected fashion, with a concept album based on a story Cronos had originally intended to release in book format. Given what had gone before, this somewhat more thoughtful approach turned more than a few heads, as did the fact that an entire side of the record was devoted to the opening title track.”

No, fuck it, let’s freak them out and make one song that takes up the whole album ‘cos it’ll be what they don’t expect, ‘cos remember, ‘Venom can’t play, they’re crap!’

While the band played perhaps their most famous shows in the Seven Dates of Hell tour, taking with them an up-and-coming Los Angeles band called Metallica, the lifestyle that accompanied this tour started causing cracks in the once-close unit, with Mantas eventually departing the band altogether.”

If you ever watch the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster and see James Hetfield—that was Mantas. He just turned off. He wasn’t interested anymore. All demure, all attitude. ‘Have you got any ideas?’ Nah. ‘Any stage gear?’ Nah. It was like talking to a different bloke. Speaking to him years later I asked him what happened, and he said he felt under pressure to join in with everyone and didn’t want to. And I said, ‘For fuck’s sake, of all people, you could have had anything you’d wanted, if you’d wanted to go back to the hotel room you could have, you didn’t have to fuck that chick or whatever.’ I mean, me and Abaddon were just drinking the Jack and getting stuck in, but that wasn’t for him, because of doing all the fitness and the martial arts. In a way, it made me go the other way—I partied even harder as if to say ‘Look how great this is, this life we’re having, look how fantastic and happy I am.’ But I think that pushed him even further. I think if I’d straightened up, been a bit more sensible and not been off my fucking tits, I might have been able to communicate with him better.”

The band recorded one final album with the Cronos/Mantas/Abaddon line-up, entitled Possessed, but it was a relatively disappointing effort, perhaps inevitable given that when the band reached the studio they had no songs rehearsed. Cronos explains that Mantas was relatively disinterested by this point, and as Abaddon had never contributed much in terms of songwriting, it essentially fell to the singer to teach the other members the songs. Perhaps as a result, there’s a definite chemistry missing from the album.

While Venom would release a wealth of material in the years that followed, with a variety of members—even reuniting the classic line-up for 1997’s Cast In Stone—there’s no doubt that it was their early career that really helped create the black metal movement. And of course, Venom will always be the band responsible for the term itself (alongside several others), even if the later bands that appropriated the phrase would interpret it somewhat differently.”

When we started to see people like Eddie Van Halen doing guitar solos for Michael Jackson on the song Beat It—and then that song got into the Sounds ‘heavy metal chart’—we were just disgusted to tell you the truth. I mean I’ve got nothing against Jackson, but he’s not heavy metal. At that point it was like we are not heavy metal, if Jackson’s there we do not want to be in that chart… we are black metal, death metal, power metal, thrash metal, all of this, but not heavy metal. Coming up with a term like black metal or thrash metal, it was great when bands came along and used those titles. The Norwegians used the term black metal ten years later ‘cos they knew they would automatically be put into a category they wanted to be in.”

3 Mercyful Fate

Mercyful Fate was really important. When I was listening to it I knew instinctively that it wasn’t normal heavy metal like Queensryche you know? You can’t really compare it, it had something extra, and that was the black metal extract.”

Fenriz (Darkthrone)

Their musical style,” explains Diamond, “some of it was heavy metal, some of it was punk, but when I joined we made an agreement that this was going to be heavy metal, not punk, we were gonna write new stuff and only concentrate on that. We played a few shows and recorded demos for CBS for a new Brats album and when they heard our stuff they freaked out, they told us there was no way they were going to release that sort of stuff, that we had to go back to this more pop-oriented heavy metal, more accessible stuff in the style of the first album. That’s when me and Hank split and started looking for musicians to make our own band.”

King Diamond proved more than capable of matching Priest vocalist Rob Halford’s impressive range, taking falsettos in metal to new extremes.”

Deep Purple had influenced me to try to sing like Ian Gillan,” Diamond explains. “At one of our shows I remember one of our fans saying, ‘You should really work on your falsetto, ‘cos it sounds really cool those few times you used it.’ I had no idea what the word meant, he had to explain to me what it really was. So then I started to work harder on it until I had better control of it and could hold the note and sing more relaxed, so I didn’t come home without a voice every time.”

The band were invited to play the Friday Night Rock Show thanks to a friend who was helping to distribute their demo, and were given 8 hours in the studio to record 3 songs, namely Evil, Curse Of The Pharaohs and Satan’s Fall.”

Compared to later material, however, the riffs reveal a greater hard rock influence, coupled with a definite NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) vibe. The recording is also notably rougher round the edges than later albums, a result, the vocalist explains, of a simple lack of time.”

Hank, when he recorded the long intro solo for A Corpse Without Soul, he gave it a couple of shots and didn’t quite get it right, then the producer said, ‘Okay, we don’t have time for this shit, do it now and whatever you make that’s what’s going on, I’m sorry,’ and he did the one that’s on there now!”

K.D.

Melissa also replaces the melancholy found on albums such as Sad Wings of Destiny with a creepy malevolence that mirrors the album’s lyrics, the frequent use of the word Satan still standing out today, especially due to the clarity of Diamond’s vocals. From the beginning the focus is on the cruel and the macabre, the album’s opening song Evil telling the story of a mercenary raised from the cemetery—via hell itself—to murder and torment the living.”

Don’t Break The Oath. Toning down the progressive blues rock overtones somewhat, the album, despite the addition of infrequent keyboards, proved a heavier and more aggressive listen than its predecessor, frequently entering thrash metal territory, while retaining the Judas Priest/Iron Maiden dual guitar attack. A fuller production—the result of 18 days in the studio, as opposed to the 12 used for Melissa—undoubtedly gives an additional punch to the already meaty riffs, and Diamond’s vocals remain hugely dramatic, his range as impressive as ever.”

Despite the commercial and critical success of the 2 albums, however, Mercyful Fate turned out to be a fairly short-lived act [?], at least in its original incarnation. Following Don’t Break The Oath, Diamond departed (along with Michael Denner and Timi Hansen) to concentrate on a self-titled solo career, which continues to this day, utilizing a horror concept album formula to produce such classics as Abigail and “Them”. Hank, meanwhile, formed Fate, a hard rock band that continues today, though Hank himself departed after the band’s 2nd album.”

It was Hank who changed his tastes a lot and I’m not putting him down, ’cos we’re the best of friends and he knows what happened. He was hanging with a certain crowd and there was a lot of disco stuff and watching funk bands, and he wanted to incorporate some Mother’s Finest-style funk into what we were doing and also make it a little poppy. We had a meeting and were presenting demos to each other and that was when we got a shock. Because Hank was a prankster—a few of us liked to play pranks on each other—and we thought it was a prank, like, ‘Okay, play the real stuff now, this is kinda funny, but come on now.’ And he was dead serious. And it was like, ‘You’re kidding? What the hell are you thinking of?’ Well, his intention was that maybe me and Michael Denner could write the music for one side—the ‘Mercy side’—and he would write the music for the other side, the Fate side. Like two different bands. Are you kidding? I would never do that, that would be like pissing on myself and my fans, I’m never going do something I couldn’t believe in. And it was the same from his side. So we parted on good terms. It would be no good if any of us were prostituting ourselves.”

The band would eventually reform in 1992, with all of the original line-up save for drummer Ruzz appearing on 1993’s In The Shadows, an album that also saw Metallica’s Lars Ulrich (a long-time fan and fellow Dane) handling the drums on a re-recording of the demo-era song Return Of The Vampire. Two more albums, Time and Into The Unknown (1994 and 1996), were recorded minus bassist Hansen, and two more, Dead Again and 9 (1999) following the departure of Denner, before the band finished activities once again. More recently, the popularity of the hugely successful video game franchise Guitar Hero caused a resurrection of the <classic line-up> (again minus drummer Ruzz) to re-record tracks Evil and Curse of the Pharaohs for Guitar Hero: Metallica since the original masters had been lost.”

4 Bathory

Bathory had a unique sound to them, totally. They always got the worst marks in the reviews, but they were maybe the most important band for the second wave of black metal. They were obscure, Satanic, they had a shit sound, a very cold production and the vocals were different to what everyone else was doing.”

Apollyon (Aura Noir, Dødheimsgard)

I’d say it was Venom who created black metal but the prototype of today’s black metal was created by Bathory.”

Mirai (Sigh)

If anyone says they are into black metal, but do not know or like Bathory, they do not know what black metal is or where it came from. Sure Venom and Hellhammer were important as well, but Bathory defined the sound of black metal as it is known today.”

Dolgar (Gehenna)

Whether or not the band were inspired by Venom is a question that has been floating around almost since their inception, even though such influence was passionately denied by the band’s creative force Tomas Forsberg—better known to the metal world by his nom-de-plume Quorthon—right until his untimely death in June 2004.”

It was in 1983 (1p.m. on March 16 in fact, according to the official Bathory website) when the 3 founding members—Quorthon, Jonas ‘Vans McBurger’ Åkerlund, and Fredrick ‘Freddan’ Hanoi—first met.”

It was very popular at the time to form bands, it was just what everybody did,” begins Jonas, who was 18 at the time. “We would change names every week, we tried all combinations and styles. It was me and the bass player, who was my cousin, we were looking for a guitarist, to be a 3-piece. We had the idea to play really, really fast metal and, like everybody else back then, we put our little advert in the record store where you had all the instruments. Quorthon called us and our rehearsal studio was not too far away, so we went straight there to try it out.”

Years later on the official Bathory website, Quorthon would describe Bathory as an attempt to <amalgamate the gloom of Black Sabbath, sound of Motörhead and the newly found frenzy of GBH,> the latter being one of a number of pioneering English hardcore punk bands active at the time whose efforts were pushing into similarly ‘extreme’ territories.”

The thing with Quorthon was that he wrote all the music and had been writing songs for forever, so he came with a catalogue of stuff. He was already banging it, on the very first day we started playing those songs. He brought so much to the table, because he was a genius musician. We really weren’t used to playing with someone like him, so he brought up the level to a higher scale than we were used to. He was a very different kind of guy, his creativity didn’t come from listening to other people. His creativity came from inside in a weird way.”

Jonas

There were a lot of things I never found out about him. We never really talked about other music, because once we started it was all about us, and where we wanted to go with it. It slowly became darker and darker and faster and faster. It felt like it was a completely different era; the combination of the punk rock and the dark bands like Sabbath and Quorthon’s guitar playing, it kinda fell into place in a way. But it wasn’t really the kind of music anyone else played at the time, especially in Sweden, there was a completely different scene going on.”

While Quorthon maintained vehemently throughout his life that Boss was in no way related to him, it is generally believed that he was, in fact, Quorthon’s father. Certainly it cannot be denied that it was Boss who was responsible for giving Bathory their big break, allowing the then-unknown group to contribute two tracks to the 1984 compilation album Scandinavian Metal Attack, alongside more melodic and commercial Swedish heavy metal acts such as Oz and Trash.”

A friend of mine bought Scandinavian Metal Attack and the first time I heard it I couldn’t believe my ears,” explains Necrobutcher of Norway legends Mayhem. “We hadn’t heard the techniques that he was using, singing through the guitar microphone to create this effect on his voice, how fast the music was, what the lyrics were about… we were just blown away.”

Not long after the release of the compilation, Jonas and his cousin began to drift away from Bathory, moving from Sweden to stay in London for a while. Jonas also discovered a career in film, one that would eventually lead him to create full-length features, advertisements, and also music videos for the likes of Madonna, Metallica, and even Norwegian black metal act Satyricon. Coincidentally, one of his first efforts was a video for Swedish doom metal band Candlemass, and featured a young Per Ohlin—future singer of Mayhem—as a zombie extra.”

It was a good 10 years before I realized what Bathory had become though. I see people with the goat head tattooed on them now—we had that very, very early, I think I had that on my bass drum, I don’t remember, but I think I did—and I mean, who would have thought that would happen back then?”

Released via Black Mark Productions—a sub-label of Tyfon Grammofon set up especially for the release (with a ‘666-1’ serial number no less)—the album’s cover was emblazoned with the now-familiar goat’s head design. Though Quorthon is credited on the Bathory homepage, the image was in fact taken from a drawing by American illustrator Joseph Smith, and has become one of the most iconic images within black metal today. The reverse of the record was illustrated by a large pentagram.

Aesthetically speaking, the sleeve had much in common with the early Venom releases, with one important difference: a complete absence of band photos. This, coupled with the fact that only Quorthon and Boss were mentioned on the sleeve, meant that the element of mystery and anonymity had now well and truly been added to the black metal formula, a mystery made easier to retain due to the decision to keep the band as a studio-only project.”

Prior to Bathory, one-man bands were pretty much unheard of within metal and there can be little doubt that the common perception of Bathory as a one-man outfit hugely legitimized the concept of the solo-driven, studio-only black metal band. It’s interesting to note just how many later bands in the movement, from Norway’s Burzum and Isengard to America’s Xasthur and Leviathan, would adopt this setup, something still largely unheard of in the thrash and death metal scenes.”

IMAGEM 2.

If Quorthon didn’t hear the Black Metal album before recording the debut, one might have to assume some higher power was at work as not only do both albums have songs entitled Sacrifice, but the lyrics to Bathory’s Raise The Dead and the third song from Venom’s Black Metal, Buried Alive (which actually bleeds straight into a track entitled Raise The Dead), are startlingly similar, both describing being buried alive and explicitly including mention of a ‘gasp for air’, a ‘tear at the lid’, and the promise that the victim will arise again from the dead.”

Indeed, aside from one track—Bestial Lust—the album had reduced the rock ‘n’ roll overtones present in the debut, making the Venom and Motörhead comparisons less relevant and leaving a collection of nastier and more punishing songs that some consider to be the first ‘true’ black metal album. And if The Return… didn’t create the black metal sound as we know it today, the album that followed it 2 years later undoubtedly did.”

Under The Sign of The Black Mark had such a cold atmosphere, so fucking, freezing cold,” explains ex-Mayhem vocalist Maniac. “Of course you had the Satanic lyrics, but there was something within the music that was really capturing me, it was really cold, sometimes even scary, and it just nailed something there with the whole sound of it. It’s always very hard to talk about how music influences you, but it set off an avalanche of emotions, it was like Quorthon actually managed to give sound to something that was inside of you, in a very appropriate way.”

Fast, aggressive metal was now becoming relatively commonplace, a total contrast to the situation only 3 or 4 years before.”

The eighties was a decade in the metal scene where everything was compact, there was no monotony,” comments Fenriz of Norway’s Darkthrone. “If you played a riff 4 times, that was it, you move onto the next riff. 99% of the albums were like that. Then came Bathory”

It was an incredible experience to listen to Under the Sign, as he was using some synthesizer, which was not common in that sort of music at the time and certainly that influenced Samael to have a keyboard later… it showed that you can have a lot of different ambiences and still keep the heaviness.”

Vorph

We were just three shit kids aged 17-8. We didn’t know a shit about life or death, let alone the stuff that metal and rock lyrics seemed to be made from. We’d never get to fuck bombshell bimbos, we’d never get to party all night long … We really couldn’t relate to those lyrics. We’d certainly listen to those NWOBHM albums, but when it came to write lyrics for our own material, we just picked up from the sources we thought seemed most graphic or effective… picking up the dark and evil themes was not a stand taken, a point of view made official, or a personal ideology expressed… It was quite simply… to irritate and to annoy those above-all know-all Christians, the church itself and the dictatorial Christian faith on a whole.”

Q.

Bathory would also have the dubious honor of becoming the first in a long line of bands from the black metal scene to be accused of Nazi sympathies. Hammerheart fell into considerable hot water upon its release, due to the song Under The Runes, which partly related to Germany’s SS, the SS insignia utilizing two ‘Sig’ runes, hence the titular reference. This, coupled with the sleeve art’s use of a sun wheel, an ancient symbol appropriated by right-wing groups since the Second World War, led many to question and reassess the band’s use of Scandinavian themes.”

For the rest of his career the only controversies that followed him were down to his musical decisions, with later albums such as Octagon departing from both the black metal and Viking styles, much to the horror of many fans. Of Bathory’s 12 albums, there’s little doubt that it was only the first 6 that had significant relevance within black metal.”

5 Hellhammer

The story of Hellhammer is, without a doubt, inseparable from that of its founder, vocalist, and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer, better known to the world as Tom G. Warrior. To him the band owes not only its existence, but also its dark and uncompromising nature, which reflects his musical technique and then-limited level of ability, as well as a personality shaped by the severe conditions of his youth.”

I had a regular childhood until I was 6 years old,” Tom explains in his faultless and carefully measured English. “My parents then decided to divorce, and my mother took from the divorce a fantastic record collection. We moved to a tiny farm village of 1,500 inhabitants and my mother put the key around my neck and said, ‘You’re on your own now, I’m going to smuggle diamonds and watches over the world and you’re going to be alone for weeks on end.’ So that little 6 or 7-year old kid was left at home with no relatives, no friends, no nothing, in a village he didn’t know. The only thing I had was this record collection, so basically music became my best friend, that’s how it all started. I totally turned to music, I found my sanctuary there, it became my universe.”

Later my mother gradually drifted into insanity and the living conditions in my home became unbearable. I became trapped. There was no family and because I was an outcast and the village was so small, everybody knew about my background and the other young people decided I was going to be the perfect punching bag, being all alone with no brothers or sisters, no father. So I encountered drastic violence every day in that village in my teenage years. Nobody gave a shit. Nowadays in a politically correct society everybody jumps at the chance to help somebody and you read about cases like this in the newspaper, but at that time—mid-1970s, tiny farm town—nobody really gave a shit. The teachers actually sided with the young people who put the violence on me and the farmers made me even more outcast with their comments and their reactions toward me. At home my mother acquired 90 cats that lived in a confined space, the same space I inhabited. I grew up in feces, urine, cockroaches, tapeworms, and maggots for years and when I stepped outside I was beaten violently—that was my youth and this is the direct link to why Hellhammer even existed. I’m not telling this to tell a tear-jerking story, it’s simply the background to why my music became so dark. Why a little kid from Switzerland—not really a rock ‘n’ roll country—plays music that barely even exists yet. That music was a reflection of my life at the time.”

Tom visited England, the source of so much of the music that fascinated him. Making a pilgrimage to HMV in London’s Oxford Street, he discovered an entire wall of NWOBHM records, including In League With Satan, the debut single from Venom. It would prove to be an epiphany. <I had no idea what they sounded like, but I saw the photo on the back and felt this was the most extreme photo I had ever seen of a band>, he recalls. <So I bought it and took it home to Switzerland and was like, ‘I have found my revelation.’ It literally changed my life, these 2 tracks on this single completely changed my life.>”

It was very difficult to get a proper instrument in Switzerland at that time and everything is very expensive here. I was in an apprenticeship as a mechanic and made hardly any money so I had to sign a installment plan for I don’t know how many years, to get the rate low. I was into Rush and Motörhead and so I wanted to have a Rickenbacker bass—at that point I didn’t think I would ever play a guitar, so I bought that and started paying it off. Having that instrument in my hands was magic beyond any description… I would be sitting in front of that instrument for hours, smelling the scent, touching it, looking at it. It was like some magical thing I had seen in record sleeves and magazines, and even though I didn’t know how to play it, the power that instrument had over me was amazing.”

Grave Hill [bandas amadoras que depois se tornaram bandas centrais deste livro não serão citadas no índice de bandas ao final do post] proved to be a fairly amateurish affair, with all members having only a rudimentary ability on their chosen instruments and rehearsals taking place in Tom’s cramped bedroom. In fact, so difficult was it to find a guitarist who would take them seriously that the band were even forced to recruit a 2nd bass player and then put Tom’s bass through a distortion pedal (à la Venom) to make it sound more like a guitar. Ultimately the band was to be short-lived, but it did finally provide Tom—albeit indirectly—with a like-minded character named Urs Sprenger, soon to become the co-founder of Hellhammer.”

I’d heard Venom’s In League With Satan, but it wasn’t heavy enough for me. The single was on 45 rpm and I played it at 33 rpm to make it heavier and we had some sort of a roadie—even though we never played any concerts, we had a hanger-on—and he was the only one who said, ‘Yeah, that sounds much better on 33 rpm.’ He listened to punk and listened to Venom, he was like me, so I asked if he wanted to join the band and at that point everyone left the band. They said, ‘Hey, these guys are crazy, that’s no longer music.’ So we felt we might as well form a new band and be dedicated in trying to be as extreme as possible, and that was the birth of Hellhammer in May 1982.”

Sprenger took up the role of bass in the newly formed band, with Tom moving on to guitar and vocals. Inspired by a fellow apprentice whose surname was Krieger, German for warrior, the pair adopted the pseudonyms Tom Warrior and Steve Warrior. <It sounded cool,> explains Tom, <and we liked that a lot of the bands in England were brothers—like Raven, with the Gallagher brothers.> All that now remained was to find a drummer, a role they initially filled with an individual called Peter Stratton.”

He was a million miles from us,” smiles Fischer. “Me and Steve were fanatics and he just wanted to be in a band—and to top it all off his parents were radical Catholics! As you can imagine that only lasted a few months, but it did give us a rehearsal space. The Catholic Church had some nuclear-hardened bunkers at their disposal for youth activities, and they didn’t really know what sort of band we were, so they gave us an affordable bunker which was only 50 euros a year, which is of course sensational. For us it was hard even to find that money, but at least we had a rehearsal room. We lost that drummer after a short while, but Steve and I went to a tiny heavy metal festival in a gym hall in the next city and there was a band, Moorhead, whose drummer was really good. So I went up to the guitarist and said, ‘Can you give me the number of your drummer?’ and the guy was stupid enough to do it. So I called the drummer and said, ‘Hello, my name is Tom Warrior, I’m here with the heaviest band in the world ever, do you want to be our drummer?’ and it worked. That was Bruce Day.”

While other musicians also briefly played in the band, it was the core trio made up of Satanic Slaughter (Tom Warrior), Savage Damage (Steve Warrior), and Bruce Day (also known as ‘Bloodhunter’ and ‘Denial Fiend’) who first achieved a real impact with Hellhammer.”

For example I picked up the Metal for Muthas compilation which had Angel Witch’s Baphomet, and that song became an icon for me. To this very day I’m trying to recreate something like that. So completely strange to think a single song might change my life, but it has done so several times.”

There was absolutely no support, no encouragement, no nothing,” Tom sighs. “In spite of that we tried to be as professional as possible, in fact all the bands that had a name in Switzerland were actually far lazier than us. We said, ‘We need to have an image, a concept, a logo, a symbol,’ and since we had no support whatsoever, we did everything ourselves. We wrote the lyrics—at first blatant copies of Venom lyrics, then later we tried to make them more original—and worked extremely hard, without having a chance to really achieve anything. Steve Warrior was a massive punk fan and brought in a lot of punk aesthetic, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is that NWOBHM was such an underground movement that a lot of the singles were done in an almost pathetic manner, black-and-white, hand-drawn, and I think we took some of our aesthetic from there.”

But my father told me that one of his friends was a sound engineer. I would see my father a few days a year because of a court order; they had told him that he had to see me every month, of course he didn’t do that, but I would see him a few times a year. A friend of his was a sound engineer, so I called that guy and said, ‘I’m Mr. Fischer’s kid, we have no money, could you do us a cheap recording?’ The guy said yes and came with a mobile recording unit, which was basically just a tiny tape machine, a four-track tape. Us being completely unprofessional, having never been into a studio, instead of using 4 tracks, we used 16 tracks, we were like, ‘let’s record everything!’ The sound engineer was sitting there wide-eyed and said, ‘Look, what you’re playing is absolutely terrible, it’s not music, has nothing to DO with music, this is a waste of tape, it’s awful.’ But we insisted. We said, ‘You have to mix it and give it to us, we’re dying to have it.’ So we waited while the tape was just languishing at his place. We waited for weeks until he said he had mixed it—even though he probably didn’t do anything to it—then he sent us a cassette. For years after I would hear from my father that he was still talking at the motorcycle magazine where they both were working as journalists, the guy would badmouth my music for years afterwards, saying, ‘This guy cannot play and his band is a joke.’ But at least we had our first demo.”

IMAGEM 3.

We were going to release 2 demos originally, the first, Death Fiend, with the older songs, and Triumph of Death, which was going to be the newer songs. But when we listened to Death Fiend we realized ourselves that this was awful. By now it was 1983 and American bands were coming out like Metallica, we had heard the first Slayer demos and the Metal Church demos, and even the English bands had progressed massively. The trend was to go more commercial and get clean productions that sounded fantastic. Most of the singers tried to sing like Ronnie James Dio, they sang very high and had multiple-octave voices, and here we were with our shoddy little tape that sounded just like a bulldozer. So we felt really ashamed initially and we knew this wouldn’t go anywhere and everyone that heard it, they were laughing their asses off, nobody took it seriously.”

Of course many years later it would be a habit to have bad productions—many of the Norwegian bands purposely wanted to have a production like that and it makes you get used to it after hearing this for almost 20 years. When you listen to Hellhammer production now it’s very fashionable, but if you see it in the context of the early 80s—when all the bands tried to improve and bands like Venom and even Motörhead were accused of not being musicians—it was extremely anachronistic. We were picking up a lot of reviews and I’m not exaggerating when I say that 99% of them were devastatingly bad.”

I realized that even though Steve and I were as radical as one another, many other things between us didn’t match—Steve Warrior enjoyed certain drugs and lots of alcohol and he had problems progressing on his instrument, Fischer states. (…) Finding a replacement proved to be problematic and time-consuming but eventually the group resurfaced with a new bass player, Martin Stricker, known to fans as Martin Ain or Slayed Necros. It was around this time that Hellhammer experienced its first ray of hope.”

NA CONTA DO CHÁ: “They listened to it, looked at the photos—which were radical at the time—and based on the photos they said, ‘If you can come up with a better demo by the end of the year then you get your record deal.’ Of course that was something I never expected and it gave us immense energy in the few remaining months of the year, to come up with a better demo, and on the 31st December we had the demo finished and sent it to Germany.” “The 46-minute demo, which featured revamped numbers such as Messiah and Triumph of Death alongside new material, was enough to convince Noise, who promptly signed the band.”

Of course the record deal was ridiculous—they gave us the chance to be on a compilation and maybe do an EP—but for me that was the biggest thing in the world. So we worked like maniacs day and night on this music. In my apprenticeship I started failing really badly, because I wasn’t doing any homework. I would come home stinking from cooling liquor from the tool machines and go straight to the rehearsal room, play until midnight, walk back home from village to village through the forest, listen to the music at home, then try to get 3 or 4 hours sleep, then start again. I failed at school, the CEO of the company where I did the apprenticeship ordered my parents to come and try to forbid me to play music. My whole life became disorganized and catastrophic just because of this musical dream.”

More importantly, the same year also saw the release of the EP Apocalyptic Raids, which featured 4 songs recorded at the same session as the Death Metal tracks, including new numbers Horus/Aggressor and Massacra, a song that would end up being revisited by a wealth of black metal bands including Emperor, The Abyss, and Merrimack. Murky and primal in sound, the EP revealed its hardcore punk inspirations on fast-paced songs such as Massacra—particularly in the drumming, which featured a more primitive and idiosyncratic take on Discharge’s famous d-beat—while elsewhere featuring torturously slow and lingering passages, complete with pained screams, such as on the 10-minute-long Triumph of Death.”

By now the first Slayer album had come out and the first Exciter album had come out and Metallica were much bigger, Megadeth and Metal Church were coming out and here we were with this EP, a million miles from the standards being set in America. Radical as we were, we said, ‘Instead of trying to reinvent the band a million times, let’s start from scratch,’ and on the night of May 31, 1984, Martin and I sat together in my room and spent the entire night drawing up the concept for the band, making it as detailed as possible. We designed 3 albums; we said what the covers would be, the song titles, what the lyrics would be about, we said what kind of photos we would choose for each album, we said how these could be promoted… everything. We put this in a handmade book—this was well before desktop publishing, so we wrote it all down with a typewriter and sketches—then sent it by snail mail to Berlin and said, ‘Hellhammer no longer exists, this is Celtic Frost and we’d like to take over the record deal with this new band.’ And we thought they would never go for it. But to my huge surprise, once they got our little presentation they called me and said, ‘You don’t have to do a demo, let’s go for a minialbum. The whole thing sounds convincing.’ So on June 1, essentially—and retroactively—Celtic Frost was born.”

I had finally freed myself from the world my mother had created where I was completely helpless, and I really did not want to be reminded of that for many years. For decades I pushed that era aside. I did not want to have anything to do with Hellhammer, even in a lighter sense. I was very glad to leave this behind and be in Celtic Frost and be a contemporary and not have to think about why Hellhammer really existed. It was only as I approached my 40s that I began to be able to assess that time realistically.”

Eventually Tom, and his ex-Hellhammer bandmates, learned to not only accept Hellhammer but even celebrate it, and in 2009 the band’s complete discography was released in a collection entitled Demon Entrails. The following year saw a lavish book about the band released, entitled Only Death Is Real. Having now come to terms with the work and events of his past, Tom acknowledges just how significant those years were in shaping the man and musician he is today.”

I’m a self-confident, grown-up musician now, who’s been in the music industry for a quarter of a century, and I think there’s a point where you have to stop making excuses, be an adult and take responsibility for your own actions. On the other hand, I cannot deny that the background I experienced as a kid has completely affected every detail of my life, my entire outlook, my infinite hatred for mankind, my radically violent reactions nowadays when someone looks at me even slightly the wrong way. Every time that happens a movie plays in my head… back then I was a little kid who wasn’t able to defend himself and as soon as I became an adult that turned completely and I would punish the person who exerted this on me by putting all the anger that had accumulated over all these years on that one person.”

So I’m very torn between the intellectual who thinks it’s time to be different and the radical metal musician who almost enjoys that side of me.”

6 Celtic Frost

This was the time of the Metallicas and Megadeths, smiles Tom, “and we wanted a name that wasn’t so ‘cliché-metal.’ Hellhammer had a name that completely defined our music, so we wanted a name that gave us total artistic freedom, that didn’t sound metal, that didn’t sound anything, so we could incorporate whatever we wanted into our music, from jazz to opera. We wanted the name to represent our lyrics—basically the apocalypse—and chose a civilization, the Celts, as we ourselves had Celtic backgrounds, and ‘frost’ which symbolized the end of the year, the end of a civilization, the end of a cycle. But a new cycle arises after the winter, just as with all civilizations. It was a very symbolic name.”

All the same, Celtic Frost were clearly also utilizing a much wider spectrum of influence, including that of gothic rock acts such as Bauhaus and Christian Death, and were already beginning to demonstrate the decidedly innovative approach to songwriting (evident in the restrained but notable use of violin and female vocals) that would increasingly earn them the ‘avant-garde metal’ tag. The record was followed in early 1985 by Emperor’s Return, an EP that continued where its predecessor left off and saw the introduction of a permanent drummer Reed St. Mark, real name Reid Cruickshank.”

We were in awe, he played like all these drummers we’d heard on American albums and we knew we had to have this guy, whereas he was quite bewildered by our appearance and by our music. But he needed a new gig, so he decided to give it a chance against his better judgment.”

Vocally, Tom’s wonderfully distinct, almost alien handling of words continued to define the group’s sound, and as in Hellhammer he peppered his vocals with unexpected bursts of enthusiasm, often throwing in a hey, or, more famously, an uuuuuurgh!.”

I first heard the ‘death grunt’ when I was a child, when I heard James Brown in the early 70s. During the seventies a lot of hard rock bands would do that as well, then NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, and even Motörhead, I simply picked up on that. On the first Iron Maiden single there was a death grunt and we thought that was so unbelievably cool. Maybe I took it to a different level, maybe that’s the credit I deserve.”

Occultism had always interested me and at times in Hellhammer and Celtic Frost we got a lot of first-hand experience of all that because our extreme music and lyrical topics attracted a lot of very serious people from both sides of the line: Catholic religious fanatics, national socialist Satanists, and everything in between. Some of those would want to literally kill us and some would try to turn us to their direction, it was a very weird time and it frequently still happens actually. At one point we had problems with a local grotto of Satanists that tried to infiltrate Hellhammer to convey their message. Since they also had National Socialist tendencies Martin and I completely blocked them off, which infuriated them no end, and they made very serious death threats. I’m actually friends with these people nowadays, and even though I disagree with their ideas I have to really deeply respect them. I respect a lot of radical people simply because they didn’t wimp out and cut their hair and become normal citizens, what can I say?”

It was part of the music we grew up with,” Tom replies simply. “The record collection of my parents was very eclectic—classical, jazz, Beatles—and Martin had a background with a lot of new wave and a lot of church music. We were never a ‘small town-minded’ heavy metal band, we were always fascinated by music. We didn’t want to adhere to some invisible border that heavy metal bands had set for themselves, like, ‘You can’t have a keyboard on an album,’ and all the crap that was being said back then. We always felt it was about the music, and we thought it was much more courageous to be a musician and try to make an eclectic album, rather than adhere to a list of things you cannot do. We had a violin and female vocalist already on Morbid Tales, and the bigger the budgets became and the more experienced we became as musicians, the more we incorporated that.”

Translating as The Great Beast, the title To Mega Therion was a biblical phrase adopted by occultist Aleister Crowley, an individual whose influence would surface throughout the band’s career. All the same, Tom is quick to point out that the man once dubbed ‘the most wicked man in England’ wasn’t the only inspiration for the album’s title.”

For the first two albums we had this huge rock tied to our ankles—whenever we went to an interview or a record label or promoter, everyone would say, ‘Oh, it’s the Hellhammer guys, they can’t play and it’s crap,’ and it was an extremely difficult start for Celtic Frost. Our recipe to avoid this was to distance ourselves radically from Hellhammer; if you read period interviews, Martin and I are very often distancing ourselves just to get a chance with Celtic Frost, so people would recognize that we wanted to do something better. It took many years for Celtic Frost to be taken seriously. It began when we released Into the Pandemonium in 1987—that was basically our breakthrough album and the one where we started to get respect.”

A revolutionary and highly influential effort, Into the Pandemonium would prove to be an even more bold and diverse effort than To Mega Therion. Taking the experimental streak even further, the album rarely stands still stylistically, shifting from upbeat hard-rock-tinged thrash (for example I Won’t Dance or the Wall of Voodoo cover Mexican Radio) to industrial/electronic efforts (One in Their Pride) to deeply melancholy metal numbers such as Mesmerized and even, perhaps most provocatively, a classical piece with French female vocals, Tristesses de la Lune. Deeply haunting and epic in tone for the most part, the album also upped the orchestral ante thanks to a legion of session musicians, an addition that wasn’t without its challenges.”

These guys came in and said the same old story: ‘What you guys are playing, it’s noise, not music.’ They were very reluctant to even try it, especially when they learnt that none of us could conduct, none of us could write scores and that we were mediocre musicians. They laughed at us, they didn’t realize they were taking part in something that was a pioneering album. And neither did we of course.”

If you actually risk your career to do something new, even if it’s in a very small way, then it’s art. Especially heavy metal musicians who pose like they’re big, bad men in their leathers… a lot of those bands are so conservative and scared to ever deviate from their track… to me heavy metal itself is a powerful, energetic, courageous music. It’s a revolutionary music, or at least it was when it arose in the 70s and I cannot believe so many people are scared to go anywhere with that.”

Unfortunately this achievement came with a heavy price. While the album was warmly received (although inevitably it would prove too challenging for some of the band’s more conservative listeners), and earned the band both new fans and critical acclaim, its creation would also directly help to destroy the band.”

The record company, when we persisted with this album, turned toward open confrontation. They cancelled our video, they cancelled the tour support that they were contractually obligated to provide and they changed the album round in an attempt to make it a more traditional heavy metal album, which resulted in an exchange of attorney for 14 months and burdened us with a huge legal bill to regain our artistic freedom. These legal wranglings were one of the reasons the band split up. We were young at the time and didn’t have the legal backing, a proper management, the connections or the experience to withstand such an assault from a corporation, and even though we persisted with our principles and got rid of the contract and were free at the end, the free band was a band that no longer existed. It was our breakthrough album but the result was that Celtic Frost was over and done with… Into the Pandemonium is basically the epitaph of the original Celtic Frost.”

even today the phrase Cold Lake is occasionally used by the metal press for <an irredeemable album by a once great band>, and although in retrospect its glam rock/melodic thrash crossover attempt doesn’t quite live up to its terrible reputation, it’s fair to say that it was deeply flawed and a great disappointment compared to what had come before.”

I had also freshly fallen in love with the woman who would later be my wife and the end of that litigation and this never-ending hell and me being in love just conspired in me wanting to be happy, and wanting to do something colorful, something positive. And that’s all nice and dandy, but that’s not Celtic Frost. I should have done a solo album or whatever, but it should never have been a Celtic Frost album. It also made me relinquish control, I was way too much involved in my new relationship and left the studio for great periods of time and let the people do whatever they wanted to do.”

The follow-up, Vanity/Nemesis, released in 1990 and featuring the return of Martin Ain, was a far stronger effort musically speaking, closer to the melodic but heavy thrash metal album that the band had originally envisioned for Cold Lake. It was not enough to fully rejuvenate the band, however; a compilation featuring unreleased and re-recorded material, Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying, was issued in 1992 and the band split for the second time the following year.”

That’s probably because death metal has become very technical over the years,” Tom ponders. “We actually named ourselves death metal in an attempt to get away from the black metal tag, we also called ourselves doom metal, we felt very trapped by the tag ‘black metal.’ We were also involved, I think, in the thrash metal scene, that was music we loved and music we played, but you’re right, a lot of people focus on our connections to black metal and so be it.”

One only need look at the pseudonyms used by Norway’s Mayhem, one of the 2nd wave’s most important bands, to see this influence: a member named Hellhammer, not to mention Messiah, Euronymous [anagram!], and Maniac—all Hellhammer song titles. Similarly, where Celtic Frost had boasted the songs Dethroned Emperor and Circle of the Tyrants, now there was a leading Norwegian band called Emperor with a release called Wrath of the Tyrant. Both bands are among the legion who have covered Hellhammer/Celtic Frost songs at some stage in their career.”

Number one, I didn’t like all the black metal bands—I thought a lot of that music was repetitive and copyist, and very few bands seemed to me to do something original. Number two, I had a lot of problems with a lot of the things going on that were tied to the black metal scene. When the murders happened for example, all the journalists came up to me and said, ‘Well, the band Hellhammer has been mentioned in conjunction to Norway and the murders.’ It became extremely uncomfortable. So I avoided the black metal scene for a long time, it was absolutely impossible for me to listen to this with an open mind, there was too much personal baggage.”

the 2006 comeback album Monotheist. Featuring Tom and Martin, along with guitarist Erol Inala and drummer Franco Sesa, perhaps leaned more toward doom than black musically, but was produced by premier 2nd-wave black metal producer Peter Tägtgren, and featured several appearances by vocalists from the Norwegian scene, such as Satyr of Satyricon and Ravn of 1349.”

I have a hard time accepting modern death metal, it sounds very similar to me, every song uses the same guitar solo and so on, and that annoys me as an artist. Even though these guys can outplay me by a thousand times, it’s very one-dimensional music to me. Thrash music… it’s like NWOBHM, it was a product of its time and thrash metal as I define it no longer really exists. Black metal on the other hand has developed in very interesting directions. Who would have thought black metal and ambient could be merged and so on?”

at first I was almost disappointed that they weren’t practicing Satanists. The one thing I noticed when I started to really involve myself in the black metal story is that so many protagonists have their own way to define what they mean by Satanism or black metal. When the black metal wave first came into recognition in the late 80s and early 90s, they all basically believed in Satan. But in the years since I’ve been exposed to so many explanations of what Satanism and black metal really is, that I find it extremely interesting. (…) In fact, I can’t help but wonder; most of my life Martin and I have fought the black metal association with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and always made the point that our lyrics go much further than that … But at the end of the day when I listen to several of the explanations of the protagonists it comes down to nihilism and hatred against human beings, or rather the conduct of human beings, sometimes I think I’m just like them.”

Though Monotheist was hugely acclaimed, making the number 2 slot on Terrorizer’s top albums of the decade [quanto exagero!] and leading to a number of highly successful international tours, the band’s resurrection was sadly not permanent. Following significant problems between Tom and drummer Franco, the frontman demanded a lineup change, a point that Martin was unwilling to accept, and in April 2008 Tom left the group, effectively bringing it to an end. It is a situation that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.”

I feel betrayed—so much work, so much money went into bringing Celtic Frost back, it was such a gargantuan undertaking to work on this album for 5 ½ years, it was a risk at every level. I invested so much and in the end Martin lets it slip away, lets me stand there alone. How could I ever trust him again?”

Thankfully, the spirit of Frost continues in the shape of Triptykon, a band whose first album contains material written as a direct follow-up to Monotheist and which features Tom along with a number of musicians, including V Santora (Victor Bullok) of contemporary black metal act Dark Fortress, who had previously performed as a live guitarist in Celtic Frost.”

I formed Triptykon with the specific aim of continuing the music of Celtic Frost,” concludes Tom, “both to play the old songs which I love to perform and to write new songs in the same vein. It’s the same equipment—I bought all the equipment from Celtic Frost—it’s the same road crew, it’s the same 2 record labels, Prowling Death and Century Media, it’s the same management, it’s the same graphic designers, it’s exactly Celtic Frost… The only thing that’s different is the rhythm section and the lack of ego problems.”

7 The first wave of Black Thrash

THE TRADITIONAL DIVISION of the black metal movement into the first and second ‘waves’ has long been a convenient way to distinguish between the bands from the eighties and the seemingly new movement that exploded in the early nineties—indeed, for reasons of clarity, this division is even used when appropriate within this book. However, this practice can also be somewhat misleading. Far from being 2 entirely separate entities, the ‘first wave’ gently bled into the ‘second wave’ as the 80s ended, and it was simply the sudden success, notoriety, and proliferation of bands in the early 90s that created the appearance of an entirely new scene. Norway’s Mayhem—the band at the center of much of this explosion—formed in the mid-eighties, a fact highlighting some of the confusion at work.”

Again it should be emphasized that in many cases the band’s ‘black metal’ qualities remain a matter of interpretation, since the extreme metal scene at the time was simply too small for the sort of intense sub-genre labeling that goes on today.”

The German trio of Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction, as well as the American act Slayer, are a perfect case in point. Formed in the early eighties, these three bands would increasingly be hailed as thrash icons as the decade continued, and are all still going strong today. Nevertheless, the early works of these three acts helped to inspire an entirely different movement, a fact attested to by Fenriz and Apollyon, two important figures in nineties Norwegian black metal who helped resurrect the early primal spirit of these Teutonic acts at a time when it had been all but forgotten, not least by the bands themselves. Still, it was perhaps Mayhem’s Euronymous who was most vocal in his admiration for those bands’ formative days (indeed, his label was named after Sodom’s Deathlike Silence song), as well as in his determination not to lose the black metal essence the way those bands had.”

Formed in 1982 in the West German town of Gelsenkirchen by one Tom Angelripper (born Thomas Such), Sodom were heavily inspired by both Motörhead and Venom. They adopted a similar set-up, working as a trio with Angelripper handling vocals and bass, Aggressor (Frank Testegen) on guitar, and one Bloody Monster (Rainer Focke) handling drums. Later that same year Monster departed, to be replaced by Chris Witchhunter (real name Dudek), and the band recorded and released a 4-track demo entitled Witching Metal. One of the noisiest and most chaotic-sounding metal releases in existence at that time, the tape presents Sodom as perhaps Bathory’s only real competition in terms of early metal extremity—and bear in mind, this was 2 years before the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation was released.”

Another demo, Victims of Death, this time featuring 8 songs, followed in 1984, before the iconic In the Sign of Evil EP was issued later that year. Featuring a slightly clearer sound than the demos—but only just—the release remains an aggressive, rabid-sounding piece of work.”

I mean, you’re allowed to have fun and care about the environment and so on in private, but there’s no need to sing about it. So I still prefer really simple stuff, primitive, Sodom-like lyrics. And Sodom really have the best lyrics ever. Like that Blasphemer song, ‘Spit at the church, Evil I get’…. yeah I’m all for that sort of stuff. You can hear they really want to play as fast as they can and as vicious as possible and it really has a punk attitude, so I prefer the first albums when it doesn’t sound technically brilliant, it doesn’t sound too controlled or well produced.”

Apollyon

Sodom’s first full-length, Obsessed With Cruelty, was issued in 1986, following in a similarly violent vein while refining the band’s sound and including a lengthy atmospheric introduction.”

Based in Essen, West Germany, Kreator formed in 1982 under the name of Tormentor, and featured the talents of vocalist/guitarist Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza, bassist Roberto Florettie, and drummer/vocalist Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil.”

Changing their name to Kreator the same year—a wise move given that there are a host of metal bands, past and present, called Tormentor—the group released Endless Pain in 1985.”

Another 3-piece—consisting of bassist/vocalist Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer, drummer Tommy Sandmann, and guitarist Mike Sifringer—Destruction originated from the southwest of Germany and originally bore the slightly odd name Knight of Demon. Though they formed in 1982—the same year as their Teutonic compatriots Sodom and Kreator—Destruction were the last of the three to issue a release, namely the EP Sentence of Death, which saw the light of day in 1984.”

I know 6, 7, maybe 10 versions of that Bestial Invasion riff, laughs Apollyon. I think even Darkthrone have something similar on their Under A Funeral Moon album, so for us in the second wave that was, and still, is a major inspiration.”

Within the metal scene—and perhaps even beyond—Slayer have earned a uniquely iconic status, and they remain arguably the most successful extreme metal band of all time. With humble beginnings as a cover band that celebrated the likes of Iron Maiden, the group got their initial break thanks to a compilation, Metal Blade Records’ 1983 Metal Massacre Vol. 3, which they opened with the song Aggressor Perfector.”

Though the record was somewhat slower, less aggressive, and more melodic when compared to both their later recordings and the early eighties efforts of, say, Sodom or Bathory, the spirit was surely there, and the group emphasized a ‘Satanic’ image from the start, wearing leather, face paint, spikes, and inverted crosses. Show No Mercy itself features numerous Satanic references in classic songs such as Evil Has No Boundaries and The Antichrist, and its cover depicts a large inverted ‘pentagram’ composed of four swords, the one ‘missing’ sword wielded by a slightly comic-book-style goat-headed warrior.”

Interestingly, unlike most of their contemporaries, the band have never entirely abandoned the Satanic/anti-Christian themes of their early works. Though their lyrics have expanded to embrace other subjects, albums such as 2001’s God Hates Us All (released, strangely, on September 11th and featuring a blood-splattered, nail-embedded Bible on its cover) and 2006’s Christ Illusion (whose cover depicted a mutilated Jesus in a sea of blood and severed heads) have continued to cause much controversy—especially since vocalist Tom Araya now claims to be a Catholic.”

While North America and Germany certainly dominated the early thrash movement, South America would also prove something of a hotbed, particularly Brazil, the first country in the region to significantly embrace the genre. One of the earliest names was Vulcano, which started life as a hard rock band before reinventing itself a few years later.” “Vulcano’s Bloody Vengeance, released in 1986, is almost certainly South America’s first black metal album, and is still one of the most potent.”

I joined Carli Cooper (bass) and Paulo Magrão (guitar) in ‘78 and together we created Astoroth, explains bassist/guitarist and co-founder Zhema Rodero. One year after we resolved to change the name to Vulcano, and in the following year I moved to Santos. There I reformed the band and we started to play in high schools, college, major events, etc. In 1983 we recorded our first single.”

Like their German peers, Vulcano soon made a shift toward a more refined and less infernal thrash sound, partly because the famously corrupt police began hassling the band after drummer Laudir Piloni was photographed bringing human bones to a show. This change was noticeable from the Anthropophagy album, released just one year later, and a further two albums would follow before the group split in 1990. Happily, they would reform in 2004, and while Zhema is now the sole founding member, the group have kept in touch with their dark roots and have been embraced by new generations of fans thanks to members of significant second-wave bands such as Darkthrone and Mayhem quite literally wearing their influence on their sleeves. Sweden’s legendary Nifelheim even released a split with them, describing Vulcano as ‘one of the only remaining great and real black metal bands’.”

Still Brazil’s most famous black metal practitioners, the infamous Sarcófago was co-founded by Wagner ‘Antichrist’ Lamounier back in 1985. The previous year had seen him installed as vocalist for the now hugely popular Sepultura (whose Bestial Devastation EP and Morbid Visions album, released 1985 and 1986 respectively, also demonstrated an influential proto black/thrash sound), but he had fallen out with the other members and left to begin his own project. Warming up with 3 demo cassettes (Satanic Lust and The Black Vomit from 1986 and Sepultado from 1987), the band would put themselves squarely on the map with 1987’s I.N.R.I.. A genuinely classic opus, the album drew influences from international acts such as Sodom, Bathory, and Hellhammer, putting a distinctive spin on them while maintaining the chaotic violence (the frantic blast-beats of drummer D.D. Crazy being of particular note) and boasting a slightly tighter sound than their contemporaries.”

1989’s Rotted maintained the blasphemous intent, its cover painting depicting the grim reaper licking Christ’s face, but saw the band moving in a more technical direction, with longer songs and more complexity in the songwriting. By 1991’s The Laws of Scourge the band had undergone a fairly dramatic—if not unprecedented—reinvention, Wagner and co-founder Geraldo Minelli utilizing new members to create a more technical death/thrash sound, the lyrics covering more earthly subjects as opposed to the infernal topic of old. The band would find greater success with the formula, even getting some love from MTV, but ultimately split in 2000.”

Black thrash, meanwhile, has had several resurgences in popularity over the years and maintains a dedicated fan base, with bands such as Bestial Mockery and Nifelheim (Sweden), Aura Noir and Vulture Lord (Norway), Destroyer 666 and Gospel of the Horns (Australia), and Sabbat and Abigail (Japan)”

8 Blasphemy

Canadian fanatics Blasphemy first made their mark upon the international black metal scene in 1989, courtesy of demo tape Blood Upon The Altar. But they began life as far back as 1984, when the band was formed by vocalist and bassist Gerry Joseph Buhl (otherwise known by the lengthy pseudonym ‘Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds’) and drummer Sean Stone (‘Three Black Hearts of Damnation and Impurity’). Both were British Columbian teenagers who were rapidly engrossing themselves in both the music and lifestyle of extreme metal.”

Trying out a number of band names, including Antichrist, Desaster, and Thrash Hammer, the group finally settled on Blasphemy, picking up a 4th member along the way in the form of Blake ‘Snake’ Cromwell (‘Black Priest of the Seven Satanic Blood Rituals’), a close friend of Icelandic origin who was ‘a pretty serious Satanist and demonologist’. Indeed, as the band name suggests, Satanism and demonology were interests held by all members of the group, whose ‘ritual names’ were more than grandiose-sounding pseudonyms, but rather the outcome of secret initiation rituals, many specific to Victoria’s notorious Ross Bay Cemetery, a location the band would help bring to international fame.”

Heavily wooded and facing out onto the Pacific Ocean and the Ross Bay from which it takes its name, the historic cemetery has become well known for the occult activities that have taken place within it, having even featured in the notorious ‘Satanic ritual abuse’ book Michelle Remembers. It has also gained considerable fame thanks to Blasphemy themselves and interviews such as the one below, taken from Gallery of the Grotesque zine and featuring later guitarist Marco ‘The Traditional Sodomizer Of The Goddess Of Perversity’ Banco.”

Victoria is one of the Satanic capitals of the world, explains Black Winds today. There was this club in this really hard-to-find, back-alley type place, and you’d walk in there and they’d usually be drinking from chalices what would look like blood, but was probably red wine for most. I remember they had their faces painted green, then they had the black war paint. There were also the Satanists we met at Ross Bay itself of course.”

Indeed, in the years prior to their demo—and after that for that matter—the band built something of a reputation for trouble due to their taste for alcohol, drugs, bodybuilding, and fighting. As Black Winds remembers it, however, the band members themselves were never interested in initiating conflict with anyone, even if they weren’t ones for backing down once it occurred.”

These conflicts also tended to follow the band to their own notorious live performances, which involved heavy use of barbed wire [arame farpado], candles, bullets, fire-breathing, blood-spitting, war paint, and even stolen tombstones. Blasphemy’s shows were not only chaotic on stage, but also saw frequent violence from the audience, a situation that ultimately led to the band being banned from many local venues.”

Ultimately the tape would sell thousands of copies worldwide, and its success convinced the now infamous Wild Rags, a label run out of the Californian record store and clothes shop of the same name, to sign the band. Though they would release their 1990 debut album Fallen Angel of Doom, it was not to be a rewarding relationship from the band’s point of view, due to the label’s notoriously haphazard financial dealings—which saw the company closed down by the authorities some years later.”

Those guys really fucked up, I mean they could fuck up a cup of coffee, those guys, Black Winds spits, the anger evident in his tone. I don’t know how they had bands sign, ’cos they were a bunch of lowlife degenerates. The guy was supposed to pay us a dollar per album he sold, per CD, per cassette, per shirt. Money was never a big thing for me, but when he calls up and says, ‘Black Winds, you’ll never believe this, we just sold 4,500 copies of the CD alone just in Europe, imagine how much we’ve sold—especially in other countries!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah must be fucking over hundreds of thousands.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah for sure!’ I’m like, ‘Well that’s cool,’ you know, ‘That’s nice,’ so I said, ‘You making lots of money on it?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah’ and I’m like, ‘So you think we’re gonna see our share?’ ‘Oh well, well, we’re gonna have to fucking reinvest er…’. You mean you’re not making enough money off of it to reinvest? You know, sure we’ve seen a few checks over the years, but nothing too large, I don’t think we’ve seen more than 4,500 dollars and when he says he sold that in less than a month in CDs alone… I mean he’s kinda telling me… And whenever we called to say, ‘Fire us up some dollars’, he would just ramble on. He was such a fucking fast-talking guy that we couldn’ … you know, you just couldn’t get a question in with the fucking guy. It’s a good thing he wasn’t based up here. We’d have had to go in and break some bones and shit like that.”

Primal and aggressive, the album’s short songs are almost unrelenting bombardments that focus on a ferocious percussive blitzkrieg and deep reverberating vocals, the lightning-fast atonal riffs buried somewhere within the primitive production. Interestingly, despite its timeless quality the band were actually somewhat disappointed with the finished opus, due to a shift in sound that occurred—for reasons unknown—between the recording (which took part at Fiasco Bros. Studio, the same location used for the demo) and the mastering.”

Another tagline included on the sleeve was ‘Black Metal Skinheads’, a concept that was new to many, but reflected the culture that the band were a part of in British Columbia.”

IMAGEM 4. “A flyer for 1993’s legendary Fuck Christ tour. The first tour of black metal’s ‘second wave,’ it saw the Canadians appearing alongside Norway’s Immortal and Greece’s Rotting Christ.”

Despite that, in a scene predominantly consisting of Caucasians, the very fact that Blasphemy featured a black member was something of a political point in itself. While people of color are fairly rare in metal generally, in black metal bands they are still almost all but completely absent (with notable exceptions including the Brazilian pioneers Mystifier). This drew attention to Blasphemy, particularly since racial concerns had begun to creep into some quarters of the scene.”

IMAGEM 5 [não consta do livro]. Geoff “Caller of The Storms”, lead guitars do Blasphemy (CAN).

It would be 3 years before the next Blasphemy recordings were released in the shape of Gods of War, a slightly less chaotic but similarly possessed-sounding release that also includes the Blood Upon the Altar demo due to its short 20-minute running time. By this point Traditional Sodomizer had departed, leaving all guitars to Caller of the Storms. The album also featured a new bass player, the memorably named ‘Ace Gustapo Necrosleezer and Vaginal Commands’. Released by French label Osmose (of whom the band still have good things to say) and benefiting from a less murky sound, the album was an improvement in some respects, though Black Winds maintains its predecessor was closer to the band’s vision.”

Someone also fucked up the cover—it was supposed to be four goats pulling what looks like a woman, but it was like a skull-faced woman on the original picture we had, and the only colors were supposed to be black, red and white, so things kinda got changed on us here and there along the way.”

I didn’t even go on the Fuck Christ tour. I was really pissed off about the first tour, how I let this bass player play for us… and I must have said to him ten times, ‘You got the box with all the bullets, all the hardware for the stage?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, I got it all, don’t worry,’ and while we’re flying over the Atlantic to Europe, sure enough he didn’t have them. And you know when I’m playing on stage without that stuff I feel like I’m fucking naked, I felt I couldn’t carry on with it. The look was as important as the music, so it was like, ‘I’m just fucking ending this for myself, if you want to go on and embarrass yourselves carry on,’ that was the end for me.”

Eventually Ace and the band would go their separate ways, with Blasphemy receiving what Black Winds describes as a ‘rebirth’ at the beginning of the millennium. Since then the band have maintained their presence within the scene, headlining events such as Nuclear War Now festival with the aid of guitarist Ryan ‘Deathlord of Abomination and War Apocalypse’ Foster, also known for his work with fellow Ross Bay Cultists Conqueror. This, along with the proliferation of bands playing a similarly barbaric form of black metal—for example Spain’s Proclamation, who stay true to the band’s sound and aesthetic and are signed to the Ross Bay Cult label—keep the band from being forgotten, something that Black Winds has been kept acutely aware of, sometimes in surprising circumstances:

My daughter just graduated from high school, like maybe 3 years ago, and everybody at her school, they couldn’t believe I was her dad. I mean, she’s not into black metal, but all the older kids at the school had Blasphemy T-shirts and listened to Blasphemy—and of course other black metal bands—so when she would come over to my place and tell me stuff like this of course I was pretty surprised. And then I’d go to the gigs and they’d recognize me. And I’m like, ‘Holy fuck, these guys are 17, 18 years old.’ I’m just happy black metal didn’t die out or nothing, in fact if anything I think it’s gotten a lot bigger.

For his part, Black Winds has kept true to the cause, and musically—aside from the perhaps surprising inclusion of English 60s outfit The Animals—his listening habits tend to lean toward the bands who inspired Blasphemy and the bands who were, in turn, inspired by Blasphemy:

Black Witchery from Florida, Archgoat, Proclamation, RevengeOrder From Chaos I still listen to a lot of Destruction, Hellhammer, Vulcano, Sarcófago, Adorior, Abominator, Venom’s Black Metal album, Sodom—old Sodom that is—, Sadistik Exekution and Gospel of the Horns, Mortuary Drape, Discharge, and Warfare from England.”

¹ Há 19 bandas de metal Revenge no M-A, mas ele deve estar se referindo à única canadense da lista: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Revenge/6408.

9 Samael

HAVING ALREADY GIVEN the world Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, Switzerland had one more highly significant contribution to make before the eighties came to a close. Formed in 1987 by Michael Locher, otherwise known as Vorphalack and later simply Vorph, Samael drew upon the primal magnificence of the early 80s black metal bands, who were by that point largely forgotten thanks to both the increasingly technical thrash scene prominent at the time and the burgeoning death metal scene that was fast emerging.”

In the early days, Vorph took the leading role in the band, handling everything other than the drums, which were played by one Pat Charvet. Two rehearsal/demo tapes were issued, entitled Into The Infernal Storm of Evil and Macabre Operetta, before Pat was replaced by Vorph’s brother Alexandre, who was known as Xytraguptor, later shortening his pseudonym to the more pronounceable Xy.”

He wanted to do a band of his own, in fact he had his own band with two other friends where he was actually playing guitar, but there were a couple of times when Pat didn’t want to come to the rehearsal and Xy was able to learn the songs in one week or so, so we soon had two songs that were perfect. We were not hanging out and it was probably only when my father died that we got closer and actually that’s when we started to play together.”

Vorph

In 1988 the duo recorded a 3-track EP entitled Medieval Prophecy, released at the end of that year, initially as a tape and then as a 7” vinyl. This well-received release contained 2 original compositions, namely Into The Pentagram and The Dark, as well as a cover of Third of the Storms by Hellhammer, a band from whom Samael had clearly taken much inspiration.”

We recorded Medieval Prophecy in a home studio of a guy who didn’t have much clue about metal at all, but at least he had a place, so we tried to do the best we could. Of course, it was pretty pathetic, if you listen to it today, he had no knowledge about how to do things and neither did we, so we had to find ways to make our music as close as we could to what we expected. I think we recorded for 2 days and did the mix together at the same time. A few months later we had the copies of the 7” and 9 months after we received the first 1,000 copies we sold out, so we printed 200 more with different covers.

It is testament to the strength of the underground (as well the strength of the material) that the band were able to sell out of Medieval Prophecy in such a short amount of time, especially given that they were not yet playing live and were pretty much on their own, both stylistically and geographically. Though Samael had corresponded with Norway’s Mayhem since their early days (Euronymous was a great fan, and even suggested that he regretted not having them on his label), at this point there was nothing approaching a ‘black metal scene’. Instead it was a case of engaging with the small but varied collection of bands that inhabited the international metal underground.”

IMAGEM 6.

Once we had the EP out we sent 10 or 20 copies to the biggest fanzines we knew and they made reviews and that’s how it spread. You spread flyers all over the place, and would get orders from South America, Japan, anywhere in the world. The flyers thing was the best way to have your own name somewhere else, you would spread your own flyers along with those of other bands that you got, everybody helped each other somehow. A lot of those bands don’t exist anymore, I don’t even remember all the names, but I remember trading with Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost, Lee Dorrian from Cathedral, Chris Reifert from Autopsy, Immolation, Nocturnus, Blasphemy, Beherit, and Carcass. Carcass were a fine example, because they already had an album out and it wasn’t a rule, but most bands when they had an album out, they would not waste time to trade stuff with people from the underground. But Carcass were one of the only bands who were signed but would take time out to check out what was coming onto the scene or happening in the underground.

Recognizing promising new talent, the newly formed Osmose Productions—a label which, a few years down the line, would gather one of the most impressive rosters in the black metal scene—quickly signed the band. Released on the auspicious date of April 1, 1991, Worship Him was not only the first album for the Swiss group, but also, in fact, the first full-length album released on the Osmose label. By now the band had become a trio, having been joined by Christophe ‘Masmiseim’ Mermod, a bassist who had previously played in black metal outfit Alastis and still remains with Samael today, some two decades later.”

After the release of Worship Him, the band moved to Germany’s Century Media, another relatively small label that would grow massively in stature as the decade progressed. Vorph explains that the band were keen to join the label as they had noticed that bands already on the roster were touring heavily, something Samael were desperate to do, if only to counter the drawbacks of their geographical isolation. The decision paid off, and the band did indeed embark on their first European tour (with label-mates Unleashed and Tiamat) following the release of their second album, 1992’s Blood Ritual. Adorned with a stunning cover painting that positively oozed atmosphere, it was a record that saw the band finally working with a like-minded individual in the studio, namely Waldemar Sorychta, who produced almost every Samael album that followed.”

A far bigger leap in style, however, would come with 1994’s Ceremony of Opposites, an album that once again came in a striking sleeve, this time featuring a red-bordered monochrome depiction of an eyeless Christ-like face with nails hammered into his head. A notably slicker effort musically, it boasted a significantly more polished production, as well as a fourth member, Rodolphe H., who handled keyboards and sampler. The album picked up the pace considerably, with driving and surprisingly catchy compositions that moved away from the cavernous primitivism of old in favor of a less archaic atmosphere, with orchestral flourishes used to great effect on numbers such as Baphomet’s Throne. It was a record that would surprise and even alienate many of those who had followed the band previously, but one that would also win the band many new fans. This shift in direction reflected a significant change within the workings of the band itself, and from this album onward Xy took over the writing of the music, as a surprisingly modest Vorph explains:

On that album I let him do what he wanted to, I wrote one song and that was enough. I felt a little bit relieved and that things were falling into place. When you learn to interact with other people, you learn to let something go. I mean, I had less control, but I felt better because I agreed that he was better than I am to write the songs. When Xy started to do the music it became more technical, because he’s a better guitarist than I am—still today in fact. I had to learn how to play the stuff he was composing, so I had to work a bit more but it also gave me more time to work on my lyrics and go deeper into the subject matter.”

Some of the early industrial bands like Ministry, Godflesh, Pitchshifter, they had an influence on us at that time, definitely. Those were bands who were playing with the drum machine and trying different sounds. (…) Today there are still people who want the real thing, for us to have a drummer like every other band does, but that’s one of the things that makes us different and I don’t think we will go back to the original formula. We will stick to our guns.”

Later albums would move more squarely into industrial/electronic metal territories and away, therefore, from the central focus of this book.”

10 Rotting Christ and Greek Black Metal

While the Norwegians were good at making headlines and making sure their faces snuck into the frames of magazines, black and extreme metal was actually being shaped from the outside inwards, toward Norway. One of the major Southern European influences was Rotting Christ, with their unique brand of mid-tempo Bathory-esque mystique and eerie atmospheres. Totally unique and magical! And the fact that one of metal’s biggest disgraces, Dave Mustaine (eek!), stays away from festivals if they’re playing (because of the name), should award them some kind of honorary award.”

Ivar (Enslaved)

At one time Thy Mighty Contract was the only black metal album that I was really into. The atmosphere of that album is really unique and it had an aura around it that was very different to the Norwegian cold sound.”

Blasphemer (Mayhem/Aura Noir)

If you want to listen to bands that are really original, then listen to Rotting Christ! Their music is so Dark, so BRUTAL! ARGH!!”

Euronymous, Slayer Magazine

Rotting Christ’s story bears many parallels to that of Samael. Both are hugely influential bands that formed in 1987, have a line-up based around a pair of brothers, and have exhibited a notable evolution between each and every record.

Unlike Samael, however, the path Rotting Christ walked in their early days had very little to do with black metal at all. Instead the band leaned toward grindcore, a point underlined by their demo Decline’s Return and the rehearsal tape Leprosy of Death, as well as their 1989 split 7-inch, which saw Sakis ‘Necromayhem’ Tolis (vocals and guitars), Themis ‘Necrosauron’ Tolis (drums), and Jim ‘Mutilator’ Patsouris (bass) cramming in 9 songs in less than 6 minutes. The other side of the record saw a similar display by fellow Greek death/grinders Sound Pollution, a short-lived project that also featured Sakis on vocals.

We didn’t expect big things back then, we were so poor that we were forced even to steal our instruments in order to start playing! I was feeling like a junkie that couldn’t get his smack, so I was forced to do that, something that I only recovered from years after by giving the money to the store and apologizing, because I have never ripped anyone off in my life. We were fans of grindcore back then, though not the grindcore sound you hear nowadays, but instead something really primitive with lots of noise. Maybe this is a result of being fans of the punk attitude back then.”

Sakis

I will be a liar if I don’t mention Iron Maiden, right? Also bands like

Motörhead, but we were really fascinated with the first-era black metal bands such as Venom, Bathory, Possessed,¹ Hellhammer, and Celtic Frost, and we were really influenced by them in our first steps. I remember when I listened to Hellhammer for the first time, I was actually scared. I couldn’t understand how music could sound so gloomy. Every night before I slept I was listening to it on my walkman—cassette of course—in order to have a really weird sleep. The same happened when I first listened to Bathory’s song Possessed… I suddenly discovered my dark side and since then I have been following its path. We were basically a company of guys that brought this extreme metal music back to our land in the late eighties and we really wanted to create a horde that would sound like our idols.

¹ Também não entendo como o autor pôde ignorar esta banda no livro!

The Satanas Tedeum demo, released in mid-1989, clearly demonstrated this intent, not only in the title and cover art (which featured a new, more sinister logo and the inclusion of a pentagram) but also in sound. Boasting longer and darker songs, it has a primitive and cavernous sound, and a black thrash/old-school death metal vibe despite the use of keyboards—an inclusion still unusual at that time. The band then described their music as ‘Abyssic Death Metal’, though they explain quite rightly that this was ‘only because the term black metal was not yet established in the underground, and death and black metal were more or less interchangeable in those days.’

Back then I was in contact with almost all the bands that were around. That was a really important matter of my life, I became a freak and totally addicted to that. A new demo, a new fanzine, a new letter… I was expecting the postman everyday as if he were Santa Claus. He was bringing to me food for my soul. If he was bringing some demos then it was my day, if not I was falling into depression.”

This new approach to the genre was defined by surprisingly melodic heavy metal riffs, the use of guitar harmonies, prominent bass, and a far less caustic and treble-heavy production than the one generally coming out of Northern Europe. Moreover, though the record featured a drum machine, it was a take on the genre that was noticeably ‘warm’ in tone—something frequently attributed to the sweltering region from whence it came and a trait that has become fairly traditional among the Greek bands that followed.”

Indeed, a major catalyst for the creation of this ‘Greek template’ was the use of the band’s own Storm Studios, a location that would soon be used by many other bands in the local scene, many of whom would share members with Rotting Christ at one time or another.

It was the time that every band wanted to create its own sound, explains The Magus, keyboard player and second vocalist on Thy Mighty Contract. While he would not begin engineering Rotting Christ until the band’s second album, he had already engineered works by a number of other bands at Storm and would produce or engineer for bands such as Septicflesh, Kawir, Astarte, and Varathron as well as his own groups Necromantia and Thou Art Lord.”

You see, in Greece the music was always more emotionally charged than the other scenes. It is in the Greek soul. Furthermore I come from a strong heavy metal background and it was kind of natural to go for the feeling, rather than a brutal ton-of-bricks sound. The funny thing is that the equipment we used was pretty cheap since there was not enough money and we were trying a lot of recipes and experiments until we got a decent sound. Combinations of various amplifiers, expensive microphones, cheap microphones, both combined and a lot more. We had to be inventive and creative!”

The most important bands besides Necromantia and Rotting Christ were: Varathron, Septicemia, Septicflesh, Horrified, and Death Courier and later on Kawir, Zemial, and Nergal emerged with a strong impact. Like everywhere, only a few had serious interest in the dark side. Few were (and are still) involved in it. I proudly consider myself one of them. My quest through the Abyss has never stopped… For the wide majority it was the ‘heavy metal Satanism’ which attracted them. You know, a little bit of rebellion, sex, diversity… the usual. But still even this attitude is okay since it creates less sheep!”

We were so close to doing a split LP with Burzum but Euronymous’ death meant this couldn’t be done. I was really good friends with Euronymous—in fact, the first-ever Mayhem show outside of Norway was actually supposed to take part in Greece. We had booked the show and we were waiting for the band in the train station to come from Norway, but due to the wrong understanding of a letter that was received by a relative of Euronymous when the band was on the road—we didn’t have mobiles or e-mails back then—the band was informed by mistake that they cannot play in Greece but in Turkey. I still can’t understand how this happened, but that’s why the first band’s show outside of Norway was in Turkey.”

It was a great experience for us, though I only remember blurry things. We were not the band that drank alcohol a lot, we were more into smoking pot the whole day. We were stoned all the time and were also inexperienced kids facing first-time experiences. I remember shows were cancelled because of death threats from Christians, people in the audience were cutting their veins… every day was a new experience with strange things happening, a really primitive black metal era!”

You can hear that Non Serviam has a heavier, fuller sound than Thy Mighty Contract. It was the successor of a highly successful album and it had to be better! We recorded a lot more guitars and we tried a variation of guitar amplifiers—back then downtuning was not known so we had to record 6 guitars in order to choose the ones we wanted and mix them together. We also tried to make the cheap drum triggering sound a little bit better! We were really satisfied because we got the atmosphere we wanted and Sakis’ songwriting has started to shape and mature, thus creating more solid songs.”

IMAGEM 7.
Rotting Christ cerca de 10 anos atrás.

Indeed, in a pre-Internet age, there were many outside Greece who thought that the band had split up, simply because they never saw the appearance of the Non Serviam album, or at least not until many, many years later. The group’s reaction to such trials, however, should remain both an inspiration and a lesson for any band facing hard times.

A soldier never abandons the battlefield!, says Sakis. We got a car and drove the whole continent in order to give our recordings to labels by hand. Of course it was really hard, because we had no money for this travel and I remember we were sleeping in the car with the danger of losing our lives, especially when we were crossing the Alps. Our sleep there could easily have been our last, and an eternal one, because we almost froze.

Fortunately the hard work paid off and the group were soon signed by Century Media, who released 1996’s Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. As well as losing keyboard player The Magus (who found the band’s new direction too melodic and gothic in nature) and the drum machine—Necrosauron returning to the drum kit from this point on—the band also departed Storm, recording in Germany with Andy Classen of Teutonic thrashers Holy Moses. The result was a shift away from the black metal sound of old, toward a more traditional heavy metal-oriented approach, yet with the vocal aggression and much of the heaviness present on earlier recordings. The 1997 follow-up, A Dead Poem, would move even further away from the black metal scene, building upon the heavy metal dimension and combining it with gothic overtones, a fusion that saw the band reaching their biggest audiences to date.

The Magus meanwhile would concentrate on Necromantia, arguably Greece’s second biggest name in black metal and one that famously used 2 bass guitars (one 8-stringed) in place of any rhythm guitar, a trait they maintain even today. He would also continue to make music with Sakis in Thou Art Lord, creating what he describes as ‘pure thrash/death/black metal the old way’, and would also find an unlikely creative partner in Mika Luttinen of Finnish outfit Impaled Nazarene, with whom he would work on two industrial metal projects, Raism and Diabolos Rising.

Over the years, Rotting Christ would gradually return to heavier and more blackened territories, their 2007 album Theogonia even being hailed by some as their best work yet, introducing ethnic Greek elements that have remained in the records that have followed, the band making heavy use of traditional Greek choirs to impressive effect.

All in all, Rotting Christ have proved to be an ever-shifting entity musically, yet even now they remain defined, and even restricted, by their provocative band name, which over the years has offended many overzealous religious types. These include American politician and one-time Republican candidate Gary Bauer—a man with ties to evangelical Christian groups who famously criticized rap metal act Rage Against The Machine for being ‘anti-family and pro-terrorist’—as well as Megadeth frontman and born-again Christian Dave Mustaine, who demonstrated his own intolerance by having the band thrown off the bill of 2 large Greek festivals in 2005. Having braved the cold of the Alps in the name of his art, Sakis has little time for such individuals.”

Black metal is a punch of resistance—or at least was back then—so what better than to choose a name that expressed our opinion about religion? Religions are rotting worldwide in our philosophy. Okay, it sounds extreme for many people and it closes doors, but our goal was never to be Metallica. Despite the many shows that were, and still are, cancelled, and the problems that occur with the distribution of our CDs, we kept this name. We are still proud of it. I do consider myself as a spiritual individual that has searched his personality in so many ideologies, including Satanism. I do consider myself more as anti-religion than a Satanist, but still believe that Satanism influences me in my everyday life. Back then we were rebels without reason. But nowadays we are with reason, and this name still represents our band philosophy.”

11 Tormentor

Tormentor was such a unique band and some of the attraction was that they were from Hungary. Not that Hungary is the most obscure place on earth but at that time it was. Kinda like the Brazilian bands—the right influences but still making everything their own.”

Metalion, Slayer Magazine

FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, the name ‘Tormentor’ has been adopted by an unbelievable number of bands (at least 20 to date) throughout metal’s history, including, as we’ve seen, the trio that would eventually become Kreator. Of all the many bands calling themselves Tormentor, however, it is the Hungarian outfit that most black metal fans associate with the name, due in part to their charismatic frontman and vocalist Attila Csihar, who would later become the singer for Norway’s Mayhem.” 21 hoje (01/12/20) no metal-archives, e contando… Destaques: 2 bandas de thrash da Colômbia (!), 4 (!!) de thrash da Alemanha, uma de brutal death da sempre-presente-nessas-horas Indonésia, 2 de thrash metal da Malásia, 2 de thrash metal do México, e 2 dos EUA (1 de BM outra de speed-thrash). Tem até uma ocorrência “International”, por ser uma banda listada como sendo tanto alemã quanto inglesa ao mesmo tempo, de black-death (talvez seja a que este livro não contemplava, pois sua discografia consiste num full-length desse ano mesmo, 2020)!

That these cassettes were able to make it into Scandinavia in the first place was no small achievement: Based in Hungary—a country then behind the Iron Curtain and thus under the control of the Soviet Union—the members of Tormentor faced restrictions that resulted in an almost total isolation from the global music scene. That said, Hungary was relatively liberal compared to many other countries in the Eastern Bloc, with music less heavily clamped down upon than in some neighboring states.”

I got into music with AC/DC, Kiss and Motörhead. However Kiss was just one song, and I still don’t know what song, ‘cos my brother-in-law just recorded it from the radio. Hungary was separated back then, but he lived close to the western border so could get Austrian radio. Like most of us black metal musicians I was the kind of person looking for more and more extreme stuff, so I got into Iron Maiden, then the punk stuff like GBH and The Exploited, whatever I could find in Hungary back then. I remember I went to the store—Hungary was a little bit more open than the other countries and there was a private record store—and I said to the guy, ‘What’s the most extreme thing here? I have this hardcore music already, do you have anything else?’ And one guy was like, ‘Okay, give him the Venom record,’ and he put it on and within 10 seconds I was like ‘Okay, I like that!’

Attila

With local audiences hungry for any live music they could get their hands on, the band soon built a strong following, their shows attracting a wide collection of individuals including punks, skinheads, metal fans, and other miscellaneous troublemakers, a volatile combination that often resulted in bloodshed.”

There was no way to think about touring the West—though we played one show in Slovakia and one show in Vienna—so we played a lot in Hungary. We were a ‘trouble’ band originally, almost like the Sex Pistols. People who liked trouble came to our show, so it was not just a metal audience, it was a ‘wrong people’ audience. There was no security back then either, but somehow it shaped out and of course we got famous. We had a lot of fans in Hungary actually, our crowd was always 500+ in the 80s.

In 1987 the band headed into a garage with a homemade mixer and recorded what was technically a demo tape, though one that boasted a surprisingly lengthy collection of material (9 songs over 51 minutes). Entitled The Seventh Day of Doom, it proved well-received by listeners, blending elements of thrash bands such as Slayer and Metallica with the more heavy metal leanings of Mercyful Fate and even Iron Maiden. Soon the band began work on a ‘proper’ album, investing a year in the writing and recording of their debut, Anno Domini, which benefited massively from being recorded in a professional studio.”

the track that most embodied the group’s more grandiose leanings was the 4th song, Elisabeth Bathory, based around one of Hungary’s most famous historical figures. One in a long line of black metal tributes to the serial killer countess (following in the tradition of Venom and Bathory), the song is a melodic and mid-paced number, rich in dark feeling and deliciously epic thanks largely to a simple 3-chord, synth-accentuated, verse and a sinister, yet highly memorable chorus. Elsewhere songs such as Heaven and Damned Grave demonstrated the angrier, rawer, more chaotic side of the band.

Hailed as a classic by the underground, the record would provide no small amount of inspiration for the nineties black metal explosion that was only a few years away. Tragically, however, the album never saw official release—or at least not before the band split up. For reasons unknown, the head of the record label that was set to release the album vanished, taking the master tapes for Anno Domini with him. The band were left with nothing more than copies of the original recordings, which were issued on cassette tape as a self-release. In fact, it wouldn’t be until some 7 years later that the album would finally receive an official release courtesy of Norway’s Nocturnal Art Productions. Understandably disillusioned, the band split as the 80s came to a close, unaware that their work was picking up a legion of fans in other countries.”

We were very young, I was 15 when we started and maybe 19 when we stopped, and all the other members were the same age, so we were just going with the flow. Now I would say it was a mistake to stop of course, but back then we felt it was over; we saw bands change in the West, Celtic Frost changed and became strange, Bathory had changed… even Destruction, and then all this glam metal and white metal was coming up. It was maybe 2 years after we split that I heard from Euronymous—in ‘91—and also this friend of mine sent me stuff from Mexico: I thought ‘What is this? Someone from Mexico writes about us?’. So we realized then there was something in the air, but the problem was the guitarist had to go to the military, so in the end we just fell apart.”

IMAGEM 8. O lendário vocalista húngaro Attila Csihar (Tormentor, Mayhem, Sunn O))), etc.).

The appreciation of their earlier works would only grow as the years went on, and in 2008 Anno Domini even received a re-release via Csihar’s own Saturnus Productions, featuring noticeably improved sound compared to the earlier release—supposedly due to the sound being taken from the original master tapes, which were finally located by Attila after many years missing.”

12 Master’s Hammer

I often say—more like a joke, but it’s true—the first Norwegian Black Metal album is Ritual. It is in that style; the atmosphere, the types of riffs, a bit of the way to handle vocals…”

Fenriz (Darkthrone)

Franta Štorm has one of the most—if not the most—insane vocals in all of extreme metal, extremely expressive and raw. Anyone interested in something unique should check out Master’s Hammer, there is nobody else quite like them.”

Dolgar (Gehenna)

HAILING FROM PRAGUE—then the capital of Czechoslovakia and now of the Czech Republic—Master’s Hammer never once toured or appeared live outside of their home country. Despite this, they would become immensely respected within the international scene thanks to their forward-thinking and hugely influential take on black metal. Indeed, as the quote by Fenriz above suggests, in many ways Master’s Hammer can be considered the first band in what is now seen as black metal’s second generation.

Originally formed in 1987, the group was created by František ‘Franz’ Štorm and Milan ‘Bathory’ Fibiger, school friends who were attending the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, Štorm studying typography and graphic design, and Milan studying illustration, fields the two men still work in today. With Štorm handling guitar and vocals and Milan taking care of bass, the duo were joined by drummer Franta, Fečo, an individual Milan knew from their mutual home city, Mladá Boleslav, located some 50km north of Prague, where the band would rehearse in their early days.”

We never learned to play any instruments before. I don’t know about notes even now. We fell in love in [sic] Bathory about 1986, King Diamond and Motörhead, and in our childhood we used to listen to ABBA and Kiss. But later on, we wanted to be the most radical of all bands, I’m not sure for what reason, perhaps as a subconscious reaction to a then-formed—and already glorified— underground scene. Here I don’t mean strictly the metal one, but more (of) rock and folk. We also liked dark things in general.”

Štorm

IMAGEM 9.

“‘Radical’ is certainly an apt adjective for the band’s first demo, The Ritual Murder, which appeared soon after the band’s formation and was recorded by the aforementioned trio—though confusingly the cover features 6 individuals (‘just our friends’, explains Štorm, ‘mostly’s Fečo’s brothers who wanted to have a photo’). A demented and frantic half-hour effort, it remains a challenging listen, frequently threatening to overwhelm even the seasoned extreme metal fan with its fuzzy sound, thrashy riffing, and sporadic, eccentric vocals.

While the music on the tape might not always sound much like it by today’s standards, it’s interesting to note that the band had already begun using the term ‘black metal’, a decision inspired, Štorm explains, predominantly by Bathory. Czechoslovakia had at that time contributed only one band to the genre, Törr—with another, Root, forming later that year—making Master’s Hammer one of the first within Eastern Europe to really fly the flag for the movement. Not only does the demo include a number entitled Blak Métl, but the tape’s sleeve features a burning cross and the first appearance of the iconic and almost regal Master’s Hammer logo, complete with horned skull, inverted crucifixes, and pentagram. ‘It represents the essence of my idea of a brutal band logo’, Štorm explains of the design, ‘quite naïve after so many years, but naturally we’ll keep it forever.’

IMAGEM 10. Master’s Hammer (1988)

For the 1988 follow-up—another half-hour tape entitled Finished—the band would go one stage further, inverting an entire church for the cover design, hammering the point home with a woodcut image of Lucifer on the inner sleeve, a song of the same name, a Satan Records logo (which was there purely for design reasons, this being another self-release) and a backwards recording of the Lord’s Prayer.”

The inspiration was quite simple: there was no true Satanic band in our country, and we made an effort to fill the gap. Except for some beer drinking with Root members, I haven’t noticed any Satanic circles and I’m in doubts if there even were any in my country. But Root’s founder Big Boss soon became a local head of The Church of Satan and I’ve illustrated LaVey’s Satanic Bible for my diploma work at the Academy in Prague.”

Musically speaking the Finished demo was a far less bizarre listen than the first effort, and also a notably darker one. Kicking off affairs with a winds-and-church-bells introduction (by now a familiar formula within the genre), while adding some disturbing vocals for good measure, the opus was a move toward more cavernous, Bathory-esque territory and somewhat more traditional metal vocals, though a certain degree of eccentricity was preserved thanks to a number of odd, almost random-sounding guitar leads.”

Soon after Finished was released, Ulric was replaced by Charles R. Apron, real name Karel Zástĕra, and it was with this line-up that the band played their very first live show, on May 18, 1989. Taking place not long before the peaceful revolutions that overthrew the country’s communist government and eventually led to democratic elections, the show was organized without permission from the authorities, and resulted in the band being summoned to explain themselves soon after.

That was rather funny. The secret police took me for some 3 hours interrogation before letting me go. The asshole behind the table was rather interested in the students’ movement, and sideways he showed me a huge collection of underground metal fanzines; today, he could have a very valuable, rare collection. I don’t believe that black metal ever really attracted the attention of authorities in our country though, this is not Norway.”

In the nineties I wrote in one song God is our servant and Satan as

well, and I earned bad reactions from so-called Satanists. I’m tired of explaining that Satanism is not a goal by any means, it’s just a path. One of tens of thousands of possible paths.”

The band also took on two new members at this time—the alarmingly named Necrocock (Tomáš Kohout) on guitar, and Silenthell (Honza Pribyl), who took over the timpani playing from Apron—both of whom would end up being longterm members. While Necrocock had contacted the band seeking to join, Silenthell was simply a regular face at the band’s local pub that was approached purely because of his appearance. Asked if he had ever played timpani before, he answered no, and—in a fine example of Master’s Hammer logic—was immediately inducted into the group.”

The combination of new members, combined with the departure of Milan, who had co-written most of the material with Štorm, clearly had a big impact on the band’s sound. In late November 1990, they issued another half-hour demo entitled The Fall of Idol, an opus that demonstrated a sound both powerful and way ahead of its time. As Štorm comments, The Fall was, to me, a step toward a new, very distinctive and original Master’s Hammer face, with almost no audible similarities to any other band.’

The demo was only available for a short time before a debut album entitled Ritual was recorded and released in 1991, the band signing to Monitor, which Štorm explains was the first independent label set up following the country’s Velvet Revolution. Featuring superior re-recordings of the 6 tracks on The Fall, as well as fairly significant re-workings of 4 songs from The Mass and 1 from Finished, Ritual largely pre-empted the Scandinavian second-wave explosion. The same earnest sense of purpose and sinister grandeur surrounds the epic compositions, the demonic vocals combining the sung and the screeched in a similarly otherworldly manner as those later used in Mayhem by fellow Eastern European Attila Csihar.”

In 1990 there were just a few metal albums on the Czech market, so Monitor reached the sale of several thousand Ritual LPs. Hence you must regard this incredible number groundless on real fans’ acceptance—musically it only became popular in the late 90s. I have a deep feeling that our songs must mature by aging, like wine.

Interestingly, such was the prominence of the band at home that two songs on the Ritual album, namely Černá Svatozář and Géniové, were provided with promo videos. Wonderfully hammy and Venom-esque in nature, both are somewhat at odds with the mystical ambience of the album, though hugely entertaining. Both videos were made by dull directors in official TV studios without understanding our music, Štorm comments. They are just funny.

An ambitious work, The Jilemnice Occultist was a conceptual piece constructed as a ‘black metal operetta’, with Štorm’s lyrics giving voice to the various characters in the band’s native Czech language. Essentially based around a young character named Altrament, the story follows the protagonist as he arrives in the small town of Jilemnice and meets a fellow occultist, Kalamária, as well as Poebeldorf, a man masquerading as the captain of the town who throws the drunken Altrament in jail and attempts to make off with the local treasure.”

Three years would pass before the band returned with their third album Šlágry. Featuring only Štorm and Voral, the record was, to say the least, a shock to the band’s fanbase. With the exception of the final song, the group had now moved away from black metal—indeed, any kind of metal—altogether. Instead, listeners were presented with a collection of irreverent and highly experimental covers of pre-existing compositions (among them Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and Chuck Berry’s Rock & Roll Music) along with one other new composition, Indiánská Píseò Hrùzy, actually one of the stronger tracks on the album. A highly bizarre collection of music, the album has often been viewed as a prank of sorts, and indeed from Štorm’s words it does seem that the motivation was, at the very least, somewhat reactionary:

We needed to move outside a black metal cliché after rumors that we were a ‘living legend’ and similar nonsense. That album also captured the attention of non-metalists in our country, whereas orthodox fans were disgusted about the fall of their idols—that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve. The message was clear: don’t ever trust us, not one word, always go your own way. If this remains as the sole asset of Šlágry, I’m happy.

To this day rumors persist of a ‘lost’ black metal album recorded by the band between The Jilemnice Occultist and Šlágry, entitled Zaschla Krev. In interviews even Hervé Herbaut, owner of Osmose, has claimed that such a thing exists, though admits he has not heard it, and bootlegs have even been released featuring material purporting to be tracks from the very same work. On this subject Štorm is terse, stating simply:

I will not comment on unauthorized leaked material, but Zaschla Krev has nothing to do with Master’s Hammer. My computer is crowded by unused music which will never be released.

On this subject, the band’s official website adds only that Zaschla Krev was not intended for release, someone just picked a tape from [a] trash bin in a studio and misused it. We’ve never signed it, so most probably it’s not Master’s Hammer on it.

Following Šlágry, the band undertook a long, seemingly permanent, hiatus. Some members would begin to appear in their own side projects, most notably Necrocock, who would pursue a truly surreal death- and sex-drenched solo career in his eponymous outfit and the project Kaviar Kavalier. Utilizing laidback beats and seemingly tongue-in-cheek lyrics, he has penned numerous bizarre songs, such as Saigon Lady (‘suck me baby’) and Hong Kong, apparent odes to sex tourism that are complimented by somewhat voyeuristic music videos largely comprised of home videos of his holidays in the Far East and bemused local women in various states of undress.”

while 2012’s Vracejte Konve na Místo (an album whose title is taken from Czech cemeteries and translates as ‘put watering cans back in their place’ and whose wonderfully idiosyncratic cover features said garden implement alongside an angel) showed lyrical playfulness, musically it was essentially a piece of avant-garde/progressive black metal, and indeed improved upon the sound of its predecessor in many respects.

What the future holds for Master’s Hammer is all but impossible to say. Though sadly the band have stated publicly that they will never play live again, the fact that they are active at all is surely cause for celebration.”

13 VON

I didn’t know about VON until Varg and that ‘name thing’… I’d heard them at his apartment but didn’t pay attention. Then after some years I started to listen to some tracks and thought, ‘Fuck, this is like Nitzer Ebb black metal! Simplistic, toneless…. it’s anti-music, it tries to do things you shouldn’t do in music and break some of the rules, maybe make it so simple, or ‘bad’ that it’s not necessarily very easy to listen to. I hope someone sees that in my music.”

Snorre Ruch (Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns)

Metal in the eighties was hectic, often complex and intense. Monotony was seldom heard, but one black metal album had just that—Bathory’s Under the Sign of the Black Mark. However, it was well ahead of its time, and didn’t ‘take’ as much as it could in 1986. The decade wasn’t ready for repetitive coldness. Five more years of hectic metal and the world was ready for it, we could feel it in the tiny Norwegian scene when VON’s demo hit our shores, and it cemented our belief that this could be elaborated upon. I think Burzum, Mayhem and Darkthrone all did it, and many that followed.”

Fenriz (Darkthrone)

THERE CAN BE FEW BANDS in the world of metal with a history as convoluted and confusing as VON. Formed around 1987, the group were arguably the first black metal act in North America and proved both revolutionary and uncompromising, illuminating some listeners while simultaneously alienating many more, their truly barbaric primitivism proving unpalatable to the majority of heavy metal fans at that time. But despite that fact—or indeed because of it—in the years that followed their 3-letter, 1-syllable name would be spoken in the hushed tones of utmost respect. VON would take on an almost mythical status, not least because there was so much confusion about the people behind the band.

For almost two decades the only evidence of the outfit’s existence was a handful of live photos and a single demo entitled Satanic Blood. A 20-minute assault upon the senses, its short songs boast a level of barbarity that is still all but unheard of, even within black metal circles. Unrelenting, save for short snippets of strange spoken word poetry, the simplistic pounding of its backbeat provides the foundation for a combination of hypnotic riffing and possessed, guttural vocals, drenched in reverb. Needless to say, it has become mandatory listening in black metal circles.

While the band was ultimately short-lived, splitting—seemingly forever—in 1992, Satanic Blood would have a profound impact on generations to come. Though its release a few months before the band’s demise was limited to a few hundred cassettes, the 8 songs would nonetheless feature heavily on the tape-trading scene in the years that followed and would impact the emerging international black metal scene significantly, including that of Norway. Indeed, there’s no doubt that many people’s introduction to the band came courtesy Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, who not only mentioned the band in a now-infamous interview with Kerrang! (where he famously spelled out the name of the band for his interviewer as ‘V for Victory, O for Orgasm, N for Nazi,’ causing some readers to mistakenly believe this was what the band’s moniker stood for) but later wore a VON shirt during his well-publicized trial for murder and church-burning.” Insólito…

From the mid-nineties onward the opus would be released in a number of seemingly official CD pressings, perhaps most famously as a split with Dark Funeral. The popularity of this mysterious group slowly grew, resulting in literally hundreds of cover versions including recordings by such high-profile names as Abigail, Nachtmystium, Dark Funeral, Urgehal, and Taake, not to mention Swedish outfit Watain, whose very name was taken from a VON song title. Hard facts regarding the group or the recording itself were all but non-existent, but the musicians detailed on the minimal sleeve art—namely Goat (guitar and vocals), Snake (drums), and Kill (bass)—naturally came to be considered the core members of VON, the sleeve’s brief text also revealing the band to be based in California. In fact, Kill would for a time become the only tangible element of the group since it was later revealed that he was none other than Joe Allen, bassist of death metal act Abscess/Autopsy.

But as it was revealed some two decades later when the band made a most unexpected return, the group’s genesis had taken place not in California, but in Oahu, Hawaii. It was here in the unlikely setting of a deli and bagel joint that the three founding members were brought together; ‘Snake’ (originally ‘Vennt’, first name Brent, surname currently lost to the sands of time) worked as a manager, and ‘Goat’ (originally ‘Von’, real name Shawn Calizo) was employed alongside his longtime friend, a bassist known as ‘Venien’ and born Jason Ventura. Shawn and Jason were both aspiring musicians who had met at school when Jason moved to Hawaii from San Francisco, and had played together in a short-lived band called Mesmeric, fueled by metal inspirations such as Venom, Slayer, and Sodom and hardcore punk bands, most notably Idaho’s Septic Death.”

While Shawn naturally came to the fore and became the frontman, it was Jason who determined that the trio should return to his birthplace of San Francisco in order to become part of the famous Bay Area scene, a far cry from the beautiful but isolated existence that the island of Hawaii offered.”

Brent, always the more practical and professional of the three, was a Californian-born surf enthusiast who adapted back to life in the city with reasonable ease, but Shawn and Jason often struggled to keep afloat, with drugs and young families proving awkward bedfellows.”

Metallica and technical metal was popular, still is, but we wanted to be raw and simple… and not like anyone else if at all possible. Metal music was a crucial and important form of expression, as was the urban/punk and even tribal sounds that played in my head. The influence for me was the pit, the mosh pit, but the raw human condition, the brutal and psychotic mentality within us was what really drove me. I can only speak on what I feel I brought to VON, which was the raw, brutal, and overpoweringly loud aspect of bands like Septic Death, D.R.I., Black Flag, Christ on Parade, Cro-Mags, Venom, Sodom, Kreator, Slayer, Samhain, Misfits, and my personal favorite, Diamanda Galás, and more specifically her album Litanies of Satan

Venien

The trio played live at a few bars and gatherings but the reception was far from overwhelming; entirely at odds with the technical thrash and death metal prevalent at the time, VON, as with so many early black metal bands, found their efforts largely unappreciated.”

As unhappy as the band’s situation was, worse was to come in late 90/early 91 when Jason’s mother was told by doctors that she had only a few months to live, forcing the bassist to return home to Hawaii. His bandmates were far from happy; having been persuaded to head out to California, they were already struggling to get shows and would now have to deal with losing a band member. The solution came from Joe Allen—whom Jason describes as his then-best friend who would later be the best man at his wedding—whom the bassist introduced as his temporary replacement while he sorted out the family situation back in Oahu. Some resentment over the situation clearly arose and VON sought to distance themselves from their departed bassist, with Shawn/Von becoming ‘Goat’, Brent/Vennt becoming ‘Snake’ (after his taste in pets) and Joe adopting the ‘Kill’ moniker. Furthermore the song that had been named after the bassist (something of a tradition, since Vennt and Von would also have songs named after them) was renamed from Venien (as listed on Satanic) to Veinen (as it appears on Satanic Blood). Venien himself was later described unflatteringly in interviews as ‘an unnamed bass player’.”

Before their demise the group would record one more demo, Blood Angel, but this would go unreleased until many years later.”

Indeed, Jason’s next move would prove confusing to many black metal fans. Forming a company to release new material, he issued a slew of publicity announcing the launch of ‘VON Music Group/VON Properties LLC’ and its possible distribution by Warners, the rather corporate presentation perhaps reflective of his two-decade absence from the scene and underground sensibilities. He also stated that earlier releases of VON material, including the most recent by the respected Nuclear War Now! were ‘bootlegs’. Given that most black metal fans had not yet learned of Jason’s role in the VON story, or even heard his name before, skepticism was rife, with many believing the entire thing to be a hoax.”

If people think a guy doing everything DIY, his own cash, his own hands, recording, mixing, planning, and even illustrating every image for every album is corporate, they are misled and need to learn the basics of starting a record label.

While confusion reigned during this time, Jason had also managed to re-establish contact with Shawn and persuaded him to reform the band to record an EP and play a one-off reunion show at the Armageddon festival, a 2-day London event where Watain were launching their new album, Lawless Darkness.”

Unfortunately, though the London show would at least prove that the whole affair had not been a hoax, it was not well received. While the playing was certainly not as tight as it could have been, much of the resentment from fans seemed to focus on the slower renditions of the songs and the lack of stage gear, the band simply playing in their street clothes without the blood or crosses. When I asked about this Shawn replied I think we grew as people, it’s been 20 years and you have to sort of fucking grow up… people grow up in different ways, different things take on more meaning and it boiled down more to the music I think.

A scheduled performance at Norway’s Hole in the Sky festival was quickly cancelled and Shawn soon decided to leave the band, making the 2010 Satanic Blood EP the only non-demo release to feature both Shawn and Jason (alongside J. Giblete Cuervo and Diego ‘Blood’ Arredondo). The two men would later follow their own musical projects, Shawn issuing new full-length albums with the aid of drummer Blood, guitarist J. Giblete Cuervo, Bone Awl bassist He Who Gnashes Teeth, and even session drummer Wrest of contemporary USBM heroes Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice. These slabs of intriguing psychedelic black metal would be issued via Nuclear War Now!, the label making peace with Shawn if not Jason.

For his part, the latter would take on a huge amount of work. Initially going under the name Von Venien, his solo project would revert to the more straightforward Venien and craft an ambitious double album entitled Tribal Blood,¹ featuring himself on vocals and bass, Giblete on guitars, and Anthony ‘Dirty FvKn! Pistols’ Mainiero, drummer of sludge metaller The Atlas Moth. VON itself would continue, meanwhile, under Jason’s leadership” Que confusão!

¹ Conforme a discografia listada no https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Venien/3540308581, tudo que temos é um single com esse nome.

Charlie [?] would then be replaced by Dirty FvKn! Pistols and several new guitarists, with whom VON would record another ambitious project, a trilogy of albums entitled Dark Gods, works that would wander quite far stylistically from the early compositions. Quite how the legacy of VON will be perceived following the band’s comeback remains to be seen. For his part, Jason is untroubled by whatever reactions may arise and continues upon a very determined and unusual creative path.”

My current state of mind harbors no ill will toward ‘kvlt’ VON fans and Goat-worshippers and those that might react to Satanic Blood [a regravação moderna] and Dark Gods as blasphemy. Those new to it who listen to the screams of those holding on for dear life to a demo, well it’s up to them to think for themselves. I respectfully feel the albums will be received, in both camps, good and bad, it is the VON way. I have been in an uphill battle to get this out since the gatekeepers of the metal scene in the 80s told me it’s not really what’s going on right now, well, let’s see if its time is now.”

14 Beherit

Beherit were one of the bands who had a real mystique. Their sound was never really popularized so they’ve remained ‘cult,’ but their atmosphere of claustrophobic and pernicious ritual had a big impact on a generation of black metal. They represent a whole era when black metal felt vital, and even dangerous, in a way that was swiftly lost.”

V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Anaal Nathrakh)

To be a Finnish person that started to listen to black metal in the early 90s, there is no other name that could be as influential as Beherit.”

Mikko Aspa (Clandestine Blaze/owner of record label Northern Heritage)

FORMED BACK IN 1989, Finland’s Beherit was another act that preceded, instigated, and then finally became a part of the second wave explosion. Even today their name carries enough cultish clout to rival almost any act in the extreme metal universe, thanks to the band’s fierce individualism, underground spirit, and refusal to follow prevalent trends. Consequently they have found themselves both revered and despised, which some might say is a true seal of black metal authenticity.

Originally called Horny Malformity, and then Pseudochrist, the band finally settled on the name Beherit—meaning ‘Satan’ in Syriac, a dialect of the Middle Aramaic language—having found it within the pages of LaVey’s Satanic Bible. The group itself came into existence thanks to Marko ‘Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance’ Laiho (guitars and vocals) and Jari ‘Daemon Fornication’ Vaarala (bass), with drummer Jari ‘Sodomatic Slaughter’ Pirinen joining the group soon after. All 3 musicians hailed from Rovaniemi, the capital of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland.”

The country’s first black metal band, Beherit drew inspiration from acts such as Venom, Slayer, Sodom, Possessed, Rotting Christ, Samael, Sarcófago, Bathory, and also Blasphemy, whose song War Command the group covered and who influenced both the band’s sound and their lengthy pseudonyms.”

Quite why Turbo chose such a course of action remains unclear, though a long-running rumor states that the band were presented with the funds to record an album but, in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, blew this advance on alcohol and drugs. On this subject Holocausto’s recollections are somewhat hazy, the frontman simply stating, I cannot say where those dollars—which were sent by postal mail in a 7-inch box—were spent, or how much it was in total, but definitely it was not enough to record a whole album in the studio.

Despite the continuing confusion, The Oath of Black Blood did manage to raise the profile of the band considerably. This was all the more impressive considering that Beherit was essentially swimming against the tide of metal fashion, combining 80s-inspired sounds with a similarly old school aesthetic comprised of spikes, inverted crosses, pentagrams, fire-breathing, and heavy black face paint.”

In 1992, Beherit seem almost like an anachronism. Either that, or you’d have to admit that Black Metal is not dead after all but is slowly and painfully raising its head again. The new Darkthrone album A Blaze in the Northern Sky can be seen as an indication: pure Black Metal. So would I be right in saying that classic Black Metal is coming back? The Finnish view on the matter: ‘Black Metal was never dead! Unfortunately there’s a lot of bands who start playing Death Metal because it happens to be trendy.’ (Holocausto)

German Metal Hammer magazine profetizando

O EAD SEMPRE EXISTIU: “I applied for enrollment as a student to Collegium Satanas, a correspondence course in Satanism founded by New Zealand Satanist organization Order of the Left Hand Path, Daemon told Sepulchral Voice, a Norwegian zine (produced, incidentally, by Stian ‘Occultus’ Johansen, later of Mayhem, in 1991). I should be qualified as a Satanist priest about in one month.”

Holocausto’s interests in spirituality and the occult have clearly evolved as the years have passed but remain as strong as ever, and his interest in Vipassana meditation and Tibetan rituals has led him to travel the Far East quite extensively as part of a greater spiritual journey, one whose outcome may surprise many longtime fans.”

After my Satanist youth and years in Odinism, I went to experience various hippie new age movements, paranormal lectures, channeling, and read all possible esoteric books. They had valid points but were too often based on superstitious belief. In the late nineties I finally went to the East and found Tao and Buddhism and the Tibetan Book of The Dead, which was a quite remarkable reading.”

H.

A feud soon spread between the two scenes, which became known in black metal circles as the ‘Dark War’. This has undoubtedly become somewhat bigger in legend than in reality, being relatively short-lived (partly thanks to Euronymous of Mayhem and Mika Luttinen of Impaled Nazarene sorting out their differences in 1993) and today the only real lasting sign of this conflict is an amusing note on the reverse art of Impaled Nazarene’s 1992 debut album, Tol Compt Norz Norz Norz, stating NO ORDERS FROM NORWAY ACCEPTED!!!!!!!!!!

A bizarre project called Fuck Beherit is frequently cited as further evidence of the hatred Beherit had earned in Norway, although the fact that the band covered Beherit material, and had a song entitled Beherit Are Gods, casts some doubt about the intentions of the group. Equally bizarrely, Holocausto was later accused in Isten zine of stirring up paranoia and sparking the Norwegian/Finnish feud by making late-night drunken prank calls to Samoth of Emperor and Mika of Impaled Nazarene, something he strongly denies, stating: That prank calls story is bullshit, written by liars of Isten magazine. Now a long time later, some dude perhaps saw that speculation important enough to add into such a reliable source as Wikipedia.

The following year, through new label Spinefarm, Beherit issued Drawing Down The Moon, a truly groundbreaking masterpiece that featured rerecorded versions of the 4 songs on the previous Promo 1992, alongside 9 entirely new numbers. Fittingly for an album named after an occult ceremony—in this case one from the Wiccan tradition (the band practiced witchcraft during this period)—Drawing was utterly ritualistic in nature, dripping with the atmosphere and primeval violence of the early recordings, while accentuating slower, more minimal songwriting and introducing synths and electronics to the mix, something all but unheard of at the time. Fulfilling—nay, exceeding—the promise of the 1992 tape, this release took rawness and primitiveness into almost avant-garde territories, showing contempt for traditional ideas of musicianship and production and in doing so crafting a truly powerful work.”

Slow, hypnotic invocations such as The Gate Of Nanna (a reference from H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon) took the concept of a ‘stripped-down sound’ to new extremes, its ridiculously simple percussion and 2-riff structure making it a challenging listen for many. No less challenging were the spacey instrumentals such as Nuclear Girl, which were also scattered among the more traditionally barbaric assaults such as Nocturnal Evil or the memorably titled Werewolf, Semen and Blood. The result was a varied and immersive listening experience, unlike anything else available then or now, and is still greatly admired by fans and black metal musicians alike.”

I remember the old Norsk bands doing interviews shitting on these guys, recalled Blake Judd of USBM act Nachtmystium, yet I don’t think a single one of those bands ever made something as nightmare-inducing as Drawing Down The Moon.”

Unable to find suitable musicians to join him and increasingly enthralled by electronic music and its ‘crossover’ possibilities with guitar music, Holocausto created 2 electronic albums under the Beherit name in 1994 and 1995. The first was the primitive H418ov21.C (the strange title taken, Holocausto explains, from Aleister Crowley) and the second was the better received Electric Doom Synthesis, which reintroduced guitars into the Beherit formula while remaining brooding and predominantly non-metal in nature.”

After Electric Doom Synthesis, Laiho abandoned both the Beherit and Holocausto monikers altogether, continuing the electronic themes with a ‘metamusic’ project called Suuri Shamaani and creating hardcore techno under the name DJ Gamma-G. It would not be until 2009 that Beherit would return, with an album entitled Engram, which saw the band boasting a full line-up again, Laiho (as Holocausto again) working with original drummer Sodomatic Slaughter and two newcomers, guitarist Sami ‘Ancient Corpse Desekrator’ Tenetz (founder of Thy Serpent) and bassist Pasi ‘Abyss, Twisted Baptizer’ Kolehmainen.” “Stylistically the record was very much a return to black metal territories, though it made use of a far more powerful production than might have been expected from the band’s previous works. The result was cold, aggressive, and satisfying, but also hinted at the band’s minimalist and hypnotic past, as well as carrying an air of Bathory about it. The unexpected return was warmly received by fans”

I think the Earth itself is a beautiful place and with Internet technology it’s so easy for people to study occultism, learn and enlighten their souls. But it makes me feel sad, when people are not taking their precious time more seriously. Fucking homosapien monkey shit, always with some latest trendy nonsense.”

15 Mayhem Part I

I was first introduced to Mayhem in a local record shop here in Bergen around 1987. Back then metal was almost unknown in Bergen and to explore a brutal metal band from Norway was awesome. Metal is, in my eyes and ears, meant to be provoking and extreme, and the band is one of a kind, and has inspired me from day one. They were, and still are, revolutionary and artists on a high level, and their history is like the most exciting story you can wish for. Salute!”

Jørn Inge Tunsber (Hades/Hades Almighty)

While the band would make their greatest impact during the 90s, their initial formation took place much earlier, specifically 1984, a time when the group consisted of 3 musicians: bassist Jørn Stubberud, better known as Necrobutcher, drummer Kjetil Manheim, then known simply as Manheim, and guitarist Øystein Aarseth, whose stage-name Euronymous would become immortalized within black metal history and culture after his premature death in 1993.

So much gossip and speculation surrounds the band, even today, that it seemed critical for the story of their early days to come directly from the two surviving founding members: Manheim and Necrobutcher. Though separate interviews were conducted later, the initial discussion took place in person with both men. No longer in regular contact—Manheim left the band in 1987—it had been some time since the two had spoken. Nonetheless, a meeting between them and your author was eventually arranged in a bar close to the centre of Oslo, an establishment whose bizarre taxidermy-heavy décor proved to be a suitably macabre setting for the tale.”

My first record was Procol Harum, I got it from my uncle and loved it. I never got into Kiss, which was big then, so my approach to it was more diverse. I liked a lot of different music, still do. But heavy metal, it was something that as soon as you heard it, you liked it, it was the energy around it.”

Manheim

We started in ‘84. The first months we were rehearsing cover tracks, and first song we wrote—Ghoul—I think was the beginning of ‘85. We just finished elementary school. Manheim and Euronymous went to high school and I went to a school that taught a craft, bricklaying, that sort of stuff. That year I dropped out of school, and the year after Euronymous more or less dropped out of school.”

Necrobutcher

Actually I met one of my heroes on our last tour, Jello Biafra, he came backstage and said that… they found it very pure, as it was not touched by anyone else. It was us, it was them and they were proud of the product, which is why Dead Kennedys’ debut Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables has this special feeling, the bad production adds to the whole thing. He’s actually a collector and has all our records, he bought the box set. He was a hero to us in the 80s”

Necrobutcher

They play some pretty good music, but we couldn’t give a shit about what they stand for.”

Euronymous

IMAGEM 11.

When I recorded that tape my mother was sure I had lost any last remaining fragment of sanity I possessed. It was a horrible piece of noise but the voice was to Euronymous’ liking and very soon he asked me to join Mayhem. I lived a long away from Langhus so rehearsals were quite infrequent. We rehearsed in an old pigpen and I had to sing through a Peavey Bandit amp with a very lousy microphone, but it sounded so good back then. I still remember when Necro’s bass sound hit me in the guts like a wrecking ball and Euronymous’ guitar was more like the sound you get when you cut sheet metal. Electrifying. It was like entering a different plane of existence. When we went into the studio I was primed for the 3 newest tracks but Messiah helped me out with Pure Fucking Armageddon and Witching Hour and I just sang chorus on those tracks. The most amusing thing was that the studio technician was ready to record a reggae band if my memory serves me right. Necro had written most of the gory murderous lyrics and I only made small adjustments to them. It was quite an experience.”

Maniac

Yeah, they were laughing at us, saying that we were spoiling our talents, that this wasn’t going anywhere, so why didn’t we play new wave like everybody else?”

Manheim

To give you an example, our first performance was at a rock competition —there were 8 bands, and we came in last. The judges put us in last. There were 7 other bands and, you know, they never went anywhere, so that gives you an example of what was going on.”

Necrobutcher

Though the first studio release by a Norwegian black metal band, Deathcrush itself is not generally considered a black metal recording, due partly to both the bloodthirsty gore-obsessed lyrics found on songs such as Chainsaw Gutsfuck, but also the music itself, which combines many thrash, death, and punk overtones into what was then a decidedly avant-garde sound.

Opening with an introduction track by Conrad Schnitzler of German electronic group Tangerine Dream (a coup achieved after Euronymous found Conrad’s home address and sat outside his house until his wife eventually invited him in) and featuring a stripped-down cover of Venom’s Witching Hour, Deathcrush is a surprisingly eclectic listen, especially considering that it clocks in at not much more than a quarter of an hour.”

Despite this fact and its limited print run, the mini-album would appear in the top 20 on album charts within Kerrang! magazine. This was somewhat misleading, however, since the magazine took their sales information from one store in particular—the legendary Shades shop in Soho London, a favorite haunt of the band and one of the few stores that stocked the album. In fact, sales at the time were far from overwhelming and it was some years before the initial print run of 1,000 copies had sold out.

Deathcrush was undoubtedly far more abrasive in sound than most people were used to hearing or prepared to accept, even in the wake of the success of thrash metal albums such as Slayer’s Reign In Blood, released late the previous year. That included those involved in the music industry.”

When we arrived at the studio, they said, ‘Where is your snare drum, you’re a reggae band right?’. We said, ‘No, we’re not a reggae band.’ They said, ‘Well what sort of music do you play?’ We said, ‘Well it’s better if we just rig up and you hear it.’ Because there was no definition for that sort of music at that time. I think the guy was used to pop rock.”

Necrobutcher

That’s why people can feel it nowadays, it’s not been tampered with. There were no overdubs—bass, drums, and guitar are live and then we recorded the vocals after. Maniac was originally supposed to do everything but there were 2 songs he couldn’t do, so we called Billy [Messiah]. But I had forgotten the lyrics I wrote back home, so he just sat down and wrote new lyrics for Pure Fucking Armageddon in the studio. And then of course it became a bit political, with Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, so I rewrote it afterwards back to what it was before.”

Despite this the punk overtones continued, since by accident or design, the sleeves for the initial run of records were printed in a lurid bright pink, rather than the intended dark red.”

We had set the color codes and everything, so I think they did it on purpose, to make it pink instead of blood red. When I opened the first box, it was like, ‘What?!’ Then we were thinking they did us a favor, this is even worse now, so we accepted, rather than sending back. Also we had been waiting for this moment for many, many years, to hear the stylus come down on the vinyl, your own product, we’d never experienced that before. We just wanted to grab it and put it on. We sent everything through a Norwegian company. They had a printing company in Holland and first they didn’t want to print it ‘cos they thought the cover was ‘racist’, ‘cos it was two black hands hanging. It was two hands hanging in a marketplace in Mauritania on the Ivory Coast of Africa, as a warning to thieves to say, ‘okay, here you don’t steal.’ We actually never thought about it, we were like, ‘Racist? What the fuck? It’s just two hands.’ We didn’t think about what color the hands were, it was just so fucking cool.”

IMAGEM 12 [não consta do livro].

At this time the band were still known for their humorous undercurrents, and in fact Necrobutcher and Euronymous had recently recorded a cassette called Metalion in the Park with Checker Patrol, a one-off joke project they created with members of Assassin and Sodom during a visit to Germany the previous year. Some of this humor was evident in Deathcrush: as well as the cow adorning the central sticker on the record itself, there were the ads that appeared in Slayer Magazine featuring Necrobutcher playing the piano surrounded by images of the cartoon cat Garfield. Then there was the minute-long unlisted final track—unsurprisingly removed from later pressings—which captured the band repeating the lyrics to a composition entitled (All the Little Flowers are) Happy in an increasingly demented fashion [Cliff Richard and the Young Ones].”

We liked English humor, it’s sarcastic and dry. But all that disappeared. At that time it wasn’t that serious. It was ambitious, but it wasn’t that serious. In the early 90s I must say it was kind of scary to see a lot of people going into that and how serious they were about it. What Øystein was talking about; sitting together with him and hearing this extreme thinking and everything was so serious, you know—where’s the humor?”

(Weird) Manheim

Just as Maniac and Messiah became estranged from the Mayhem camp before Deathcrush was released, so too did Manheim, who decided to move on from Mayhem shortly after the recording was completed. He would later return to making music, focusing on projects with electronic and experimental elements, most interestingly working with the aforementioned Conrad Schnitzler in an outfit called Big Robot.”

What I do remember is that Øystein was really mad at me, ‘cos it meant that leaving the band was destroying the tour plans, as they had to replace me and that sets a band back, and he was probably right about that. But it was a shift in life, that’s how things are. My uncle is a musician and he told me, ‘If you are going to be a musician, be prepared to eat flatbread A LOT. If you’re prepared to eat flatbread, and do all that, then go ahead. If you’re not, do something else.’ And that was a turning point, I knew that I was good at other things.”

And yes, we were broke for many, many years. I had to turn to crime, selling drugs and shit for many years to support myself. I couldn’t take a job ‘cos it would take away the focus.”

Necrobutcher

16 Mayhem Part II

WITH MANHEIM, Messiah, and Maniac departing from Mayhem even before the band’s official debut was released, Euronymous and Necrobutcher were forced to set about the task of replacing them. They began by looking to a local extreme metal band called Vomit [Kvikksølvguttene],¹ and recruited two of its members: drummer Torben Grue (now an opera singer) and vocalist Kittil Kittilsen (now a devout Christian and retired from music). However, the line-up they formed would end up lasting only until the end of the year.

[¹ No metal-archives o Kvikksolvguttene é listado como o próprio Vomit.]

It wasn’t that the two were without merit. Indeed, in 1997 Necrobutcher and the latter two musicians regrouped under the name Kvikksølvguttene (Quicksilver Boys, a pun on Sølvguttene or ‘Silverboys’, a prepubescent Norwegian choir), an outfit Necrobutcher describes simply as ‘Mayhem, but under a different name’. Going so far as to tackle a ‘cover’ of the first Mayhem song written, Ghoul, the project would prove just as provocative, making use of artwork featuring the band’s stash of drugs and illegal live weapons (Necrobutcher would later serve time for possession of both) and a photo of a deceased woman in a mortuary taken by a trespassing friend of the group.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8wuXrZag0E

ÁUDIO 1. Kvikksølvguttene, Krieg (1997)

However, in 1988 two notably more suitable musicians had entered the scene, namely drummer Jan Axel Blomberg, better known by his apt pseudonym Hellhammer, and vocalist Per Yngve ‘Pelle’ Ohlin, otherwise known as Dead. Hellhammer’s entry into the group proved fairly straightforward. Impressed with Deathcrush, he learned that the band were looking for a drummer and managed to arrange a meeting through mutual friends, bringing with him a tape of his recordings. So obvious were his talents that he received a call the very next day to tell him that he had been accepted as a member of Mayhem, a situation that still stands over two decades later.

Amusingly, his hell-raising antics appear to have caused Euronymous some concern in the early years. In a letter to Morgan ‘Evil’ Håkansson of Marduk, he complains that the drummer ‘has disappeared again… he’s hanging out with glamrockers, [!] he seems to find it more important to drink with them than rehearse.’

Dead was—to put it mildly—a rather more complicated character. Hailing from Sweden, the 18-year-old (a year younger than Euronymous and Necrobutcher and a year older than Hellhammer) had already provided vocals for the Stockholm-based band Morbid, which also featured in its ranks Uffe Cederlund and L-G ‘Drutten’ Petrov, who would later appear in the pioneering death metal bands Nihilist and Entombed. As it turned out, ‘morbid’ was a pretty good description of Pelle himself, something that was obvious even from his unusual method of application, as Necrobutcher explains:

(…) Then Dead came to Oslo and it turned out he didn’t understand what we were saying… people who are Swedish don’t always understand the Norwegians and people from Stockholm are the worst. So he didn’t understand shit, and we didn’t understand shit that he was saying, so we had to speak English for the first week.”

Previously, the members had lived in their parents’ homes, although Dead lived in a variety of places, including the band’s rehearsal space, a cabin, and supposedly even some woods on occasion. But in 1988 the group began renting a deserted house in a forest near Kråkstad, Ski, far from civilization. The dwelling soon acquired such a dubious reputation among locals that children were warned not to go nearby, and residents in the nearest town began to avoid the band members, perhaps not surprisingly given their strange attire and behavior.”

Of course, living in close proximity with an eccentric like Dead was a challenge even to his bandmates, especially Euronymous. The two would sometimes come to blows, their fights even including knives. In one instance Dead stormed outside to sleep in the woods because Euronymous’ music was keeping him awake, only to find the guitarist further disturbing his peace by coming outside and firing his shotgun, a situation Dead reacted to by hurling a large rock at the guitarist, causing minor wounds to his chest. Much of the time, however, Dead would simply stay in his room, drawing or writing lyrics and generally keeping to himself.”

He heard music and saw colors, and when he discovered some other people also had a similar thing and wrote books on it, he became superfascinated: read all the books, saw all the films, got in touch with people who had similar experiences, and based on that, came to the understanding that there was something more, a 3-dimensional thing. I mean he really believed that.”

Necrobutcher

He’d also bury his clothes in the soil several days before the gig so that they were smelling of decomposition. I felt it was a little bit weird, but he had this black sense of humor around it and that made it alright. We were all laughing a little bit about it, but we didn’t mind, you know?”

IMAGEM 13. O icônico Dead

Most of the people in there were wimps and I don’t want them to watch our gigs! Before we began to play there was a crowd of about 300 in there, but in the 2nd song Necro Lust we began to throw around those pig heads. Only 50 were left, I liked that!”

D.

it was surely Dead’s use of what he described as corpsepaint (combined with the influence that Euronymous was beginning to have over the scene) that caused the technique to be adopted so widely.”

With corpsepaint today, I don’t see any corpse… it’s to look cool or evil… With Dead it wasn’t like dark, it was green, decomposition colors, snot coming from the nose…”

Necrobutcher

Sadly, in his 3 years with Mayhem, Dead recorded only 2 tracks in the studio: Freezing Moon and Carnage. Originally recorded for the compilation album Projections of a Stained Mind and later released separately, they have earned an iconic status among fans and even some ex-Mayhem members.”

I was in the studio when Dead recorded his only studio vocals for Mayhem and I will never forget it. His dedication was something that was very hard to come by even then, let alone these days. I had to hold a bag of dead crows for him when he was singing so he could sniff it for the right atmosphere. These crows had been in the ground for quite some time when he dug them up. His voice was really of another world. Those two are still my favorite Mayhem tracks.”

Maniac

IMAGEM 14. Flyer dum show em Leipzig, 1990 (existe esta gravação em vídeo).

Weird is not the right word. I honestly think DEAD is mentally insane. (He knows I am writing this!) Which other way can you describe a guy who does not eat in order to get [a] starving wound? Or have a t-shirt with funeral announcements on it? I’ve always wanted to have a guy like that in the band.”

Euronymous

His fragile state of mind was probably not helped by the fact that the band he had moved to Norway to participate in was continuing to struggle. Euronymous had been discussing a forthcoming album entitled De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas for some time, but things were progressing extremely slowly, gigs were rare, and without other work the group often found themselves going without food, due to a lack of finances. Increasingly isolated from the world, Dead committed suicide on April 8, 1991”

In an episode that has become part of black metal folklore, Euronymous delayed contacting the police, instead heading back into town to purchase a disposable camera before returning to the scene to photograph the body, even apparently rearranging the knife so that it lay on top of the shotgun—an obvious impossibility in the normal chain of events—for dramatic effect. Unsurprisingly, when the police were eventually informed, the rest of the band fell under instant suspicion. They were eventually able to satisfy the authorities that the death was a suicide, although it was widely believed for some time within the metal world that Euronymous had a hand in Dead’s demise.” Comparar com a narrativa dos fatos mais sensacionalista do infame Lords of Chaos: https://seclusao.art.blog/2019/05/20/lords-of-chaos-the-bloody-rise-of-the-satanic-metal-underground-1998-revised-enlarged-2003-ou-uma-biografia-obviamente-nao-autorizada-do-delinquente-eternamente-juvenil-varg-v-de-vvi/.

17 (Re)Birth of a Movement:

Norway Part I

Black metal was now becoming a matter of life and death—or at least was being portrayed as such by Euronymous. Far from grieving, Euronymous appeared to be actively capitalizing on Dead’s death, something that disgusted Necrobutcher, the only member who traveled to Sweden for the funeral.”

I think the way people took it was absolutely wrong. No one really had an idea what was going on, so it was hard for people to deal with this in a proper way. There was a lot of stupid stuff, like Euronymous and Hellhammer wearing those necklaces of his brain. I think that people put on a tough mask and really went with the black metal lifestyle.”

Metalion

The disrespect Euronymous showed toward Dead proved to be the final straw for Necrobutcher, who cut all ties with the guitarist.”

First of all I grieved like hell ‘cos I loved the guy, he was my brother, one of my best friends. But the reaction from Øystein was not treating him like a friend, but as a piece of shit. He wanted to portray him as a crap idiot motherfucker. Didn’t want to go to the funeral, wanted to exploit the photos, all shit like that, so we were very divided in that way. Dead wasn’t just a fucking idiot, he was a really good friend, a really good guy, a lot of people loved him, so it devastated a lot of people. Pelle’s brother called me recently for the first time—he had plucked up the courage to call me 18 years later—and the whole family is still completely traumatized.”

Necrobutcher

For his part, Necrobutcher explained to Euronymous that he didn’t wish to communicate with him as long as he was planning to use the photos of Dead’s corpse. In fact, these photos were never used on any official artwork, but did appear on the notorious live bootleg Dawn of the Black Hearts, released originally in limited-edition vinyl by Columbian label Warmaster Records—a label owned by the now-deceased Mauricio ‘Bull Metal’ Montoya, drummer of Columbian death metallers Masacre and a contact of Euronymous.”

This was new: in the 80s Mayhem had not claimed the black metal tag, and nor had Euronymous, who actually described the band as ‘brutal, extreme death metal’ in an interview with a South American contact.”

There was no black metal scene in 1991 when Darkthrone and Burzum revolted against the death metal trend and did something else instead. Euronymous called it black metal, because he—unlike me—was a Venom fan and they had used that as an album title, and that name has been used ever since.”

Varg marketeiro, Metal Hammer, 2010

Soon as all the Mayhems and Burzums started coming out, I was like, ‘Yeah this is fucking great, another load of young mad kids’. It was off-the-wall, dirty, nasty, out-of-tune, out-of-time, exactly where we were coming from. But I just kept thinking, ‘Why have these guys not come up with their own title for something they created themselves?’ I don’t believe they sound like Venom—they were influenced by Venom, but I was influenced by Bowie and Jethro Tull and I don’t sound like them—so I just thought those guys should take more credit for what they’ve done. It’s great to hear you’ve influenced someone’s career, especially if they’re doing well, but at the same time I thought they could have had a title like ‘Norse Metal’ or something, that would have given them the respect I think they deserved for creating their own style.”

Cronos

What I don’t hear in any of these bands is songs like Teacher’s Pet or Poison or Buried Alive, it’s having that diversity within the style that makes it black metal.”

Today the term ‘black metal’ is frequently used to describe extreme metal with certain musical characteristics: high-paced percussion, high-pitched ‘screamed’ vocals, fast tremolo picking on the guitars, an emphasis on atmosphere and feeling, and an unholy aesthetic. Indeed, this is the definition many black metal musicians seem most comfortable with and it’s one used (if only for the sake of clarity) at times in this book. Likewise, ‘death metal’ is now generally used to describe bands that emphasize brutality or technicality above atmosphere and use deeper ‘growling’ vocals and frequent riff changes.”

There are only a handful of (mostly great) bands (in case someone hasn’t got it right—black metal has nothing to do with the music itself, both Blasphemy and Mercyful Fate are black metal, it’s the LYRICS, and they must be SATANIC. If not, it is NOT black metal) and what we choose to call LIFE METAL bands. Take a band like Therion. Their music is quite OK, it’s actually one of the best Swedish bands (even though that doesn’t say much), but their lyrics STINK. They are about society and pollution, what the fuck has that got to do with DEATH? If a band cultivates and worships death, then it’s death metal, no matter what KIND of metal it is. If a band cultivates and worships Satan, it’s black metal. And by saying ‘cultivating death’, I don’t think about thinking it’s funny, or being into gore. I’m thinking about being able to KILL just because they HATE LIFE. It’s people who enjoy to see wars because a lot of people get killed. How many bands think that way?”

Euronymous

Furthermore, many of these bands had converted to the black metal cause after previously playing in death metal acts, albeit often ones with an atmospheric edge. Immortal and Hades, for example, had formed from the ashes of the bands Old Funeral and Amputation, Burzum also sprang from Old Funeral, Enslaved from Phobia, Emperor from Embrionic (sic – Embryonic) and Thou Shalt Suffer, while Mortem contained future members of Mayhem, Arcturus, and Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns. Perhaps most notably, Darkthrone underwent a dramatic transformation from a successful technical death metal band to a full-blown black metal outfit. As it turned out, Euronymous didn’t consider many of the bands that surrounded him to be black metal at all, even some bands that today are seen to epitomize the genre, such as Immortal.”

Firstly Immortal is NOT a black metal band, as they are not Satanists. And this is something they say themselves. They are into the atmospheres and moods concerning Satanism. Their new look is just a way for them to go deeper into what they have always been into… And further, those who have cared to read the lyrics of Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey will know that they are the same Satanic lyrics, which means that Soulside Journey IS a black metal album.”

Euronymous o contraditório ao zine Orcustus

“‘Sure.’ We just said yes to everything just because people are stupid enough to ask this sort of thing and we were just laughing. No, I don’t think Euronymous ‘believed’.

Necrobutcher

While Euronymous often presented black metal as merely a medium to manipulate, commenting that young musicians should become Satanic terrorists rather than form yet more new bands, there’s no doubt that music was in fact his first love. Indeed, though he stated that Enslaved and Immortal should not be considered black metal because they veered away from Satanic subject matter, he nonetheless provided both with advice and support.”

He released Merciless, they weren’t black metal, and was planning releases with Masacre from Colombia, which was death metal.”

Mortiis, Emperor

IMAGEM 15. Newsletter da gravadora de Euronymous, Deathlike Silence, 1992.

It’s often imagined that the store was mainly selling black metal records, but at the time there simply weren’t enough of such items in existence to keep a store afloat, and Helvete stocked a great deal of material by bands that Euronymous himself had voiced a distaste for, such as Deicide and Napalm Death. While these helped pay the rent, the store nonetheless was geared toward attracting and nurturing underground metal fans, and was suitably decorated, the black walls adorned with inverted crucifixes, weapons, and records, though in some cases the latter had to be provided—and sold—by the regular customers themselves.”

I donated 60 vinyl and that would be mainly boring thrash metal stuff.”

Fenriz

Whoever was there worked behind the counter at some point, of the shop’s communal atmosphere. I mean I sold records myself.”

Grutle, Enslaved

Guys from Darkthrone were always there and Emperor… The socializing was the most important. We used to live in the basement of the store, and as you know the Inferno festival is now organizing tourist trips there… Oh well…”

Metalion

They had a horrible selection! They didn’t really have any distribution. I remember when the first black metal thing came out, the A Blaze in the Northern Sky album by Darkthrone, Helvete didn’t get it. They didn’t have the connections with distributors… it wasn’t like a proper shop. There was another shop called Hot Records, and I was there the day it came out… one of these Helvete ‘hangarounds’ came into the shop when I was there and when the owner turned his back, or was on the phone or something, he just nicked all the A blaze albums and ran down to Helvete! Obviously the owner just went to Helvete with the police and retrieved them… that was the kind of things these silly ‘hangarounds’ would do.”

Apollyon

When I was out of the picture nobody knew who he was. So he could put on this fake thing. Put on this robe, paint his face white and say stuff that had no truth in it.”

Necrobutcher

The HC (hardcore) pigs have correctly made themselves guardians of morality, but we must kick them in the face and become guardians of anti-morality.”

E.

18 A Fist in the Face of Christianity:

Norway Part II

Originally a member of death metal band Old Funeral, he had moved toward the black metal scene following the group’s dissolution. Like so many others, he had made some contact with the members of Mayhem prior to Dead’s death (in a bizarre twist, it was he who, as a Christmas gift, sent the shotgun shells Pelle would eventually use in his suicide), but it was only later that he really established himself among his peers.”

I can understand that Øystein saw a protégé in him. He was very eager to play his music, was proud of finding him, was talking of this young guy who was a huge talent. I only met him a few times but I thought he was… just dumb. But he was young and I’m not sure if I mixed up ‘young’ and ‘dumb’. He wanted to go into the image and did so with force—it looked real but this is a kid who really wanted to be a part of something, it wasn’t coming from him, it was he who dressed up into it. He found that in this scene he could be someone and he certainly was, and still is, so full respect to that, but at that point I just found it ridiculous.”

Manheim

Marius (Thorns/Arcturus) and me took some distance from that, we thought it was too silly, for us it was rebellious criminal fascination, especially with Varg, Øystein, and Bård.”

Snorre Ruch

With a few exceptions, drugs were only notable in the scene by their absence, and though drinking was popular with some, it was not widespread at that time. Some members of the circle, such as Mortiis and Vikernes, didn’t drink or use drugs, and the use of intoxicants was criticized by several bands in interviews. Though certainly not true today, the Norwegian scene of the period could actually be quite militant and even puritanical, especially compared to most other youth music cultures, not least within metal itself.”

I mean, to us drugs was something you saw in movies, it was almost as if they didn’t really exist.”

Mortiis

Because most members of the scene were from atheist families, this also wasn’t a case of oppressed youths rebelling against overly religious parents. That said, as previously noted, Christianity is a heavily integrated part of Norwegian society, and one has to opt out of the church, rather than choose to be a part of it—something that caused much resentment in the black metal community.” “The not entirely inaccurate concept of Norway as a pagan land wrongly conquered by Christianity in centuries past became a popular one”

IMAGEM 16. Uma das capelas de madeira milenares da Noruega incendiadas pelos pagãos da cena local.

I remember one call when they were going to burn one of the Viking churches, Borgund stave church, which is, you know, 1,000 years old. We had this discussion and I tried to explain this was stupid, this was culture, inheritance, why don’t you just go and burn some modern church that doesn’t mean anything to anyone? So I guess that’s the only time I reacted to the plans. Otherwise it was just, ‘Oh, okay do what you want, it’s not my thing.’” [The Borgund church was ultimately not burnt.]

Manheim

Euronymous in particular didn’t want black metal to become a trend. When we saw—in 1992—that all the failures from the death metal scene all of a sudden wanted to play black metal instead, making black metal the new trend, we did everything we could to make black metal too extreme for everybody else. By doing so we imagined that we could scare large groups of posers away from black metal. So, we used imagery and a language so extreme no sensible human beings out there would in theory want anything to do with us. This worked fine, of course, only we didn’t realize that there are so many insanely stupid human beings out there, who still wanted to be ‘evil’, and wanted to commit crimes to prove it to us, just to be accepted into our select group. Every time we saw that others still ‘liked us’ and wanted to become our ‘friends’, we had to step up the madness, so to speak, and go even further to alienate ourselves from them.”

V.

Whatever the motivations behind the acts, by 1992 the phenomenon of what was generally labeled ‘Satanic terrorism’ was spreading through Norway like wildfire, often beyond any direct connection to Varg, Euronymous, or members of the ‘Inner Circle’. This was evident even in the early days of the church burnings, since one of the first churches to suffer was the Revheim Church, in the relative isolation of the city of Stavanger. The attackers were unconnected to the Oslo or Bergen scenes, but were certainly a part of the black metal culture, and later formed another important band, Gehenna. Elsewhere on the south coast of Norway in Kristiansand, another faction of anti-Christian metallers was also in existence, a group who were later invited to visit Helvete and would become to some extent the ‘muscle’ of some of the operations discussed in Oslo.”

As Terje confirms, the Kristiansand scene was notably extreme even by the standards of the time, with members attacking Christians in the street with knives in the middle of the day. Going some way beyond mere anti-Christian ideology or even straightforward antisocial behavior, these activities were entrenched in a destructive Satanic culture similar to the one that had grown up in Oslo. Like Mortiis (whom he would replace in Emperor), Terje admits a certain ‘saturation’ of extreme ideas. Even for Terje himself—no longer a Satanist and now married with children—this period is quite surreal to look back upon.”

I remember that I passed out on the street on one occasion as I had been living off animal blood solely for quite some time.”

Terje

The resulting interview described a young man living in an apartment with covered windows and Nazi and Satanic-related decor, the photos at the time also showing a large amount of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing material. [HAHAHAHA!] The overall impression was of a living space that would probably seem slightly less outlandish to anyone who’d seen a typical teenage metal fan’s bedroom than it seems to have been to Tønder. [o jornalista escandalizado, lembrando o policial dos anos 80 da série alemã Dark]”

It’s not hard to see, particularly in a pre-Internet age, the magic that these mysterious, criminal, corpse-painted devil-worshippers held for some of those reading, many of whom were undoubtedly curious to discover exactly what this ‘new’ music actually sounded like.”

I support all dictatorships. Stalin, Hitler, Ceaucescu… and I will become the dictator of Scandinavia myself. I’m a Viking and we’re supposed to fight… The only negative thing about murder is that when you kill someone they can no longer suffer.”

V.

If I had great enough reason to kill, I’d gladly serve 20 years in jail.”

Euro.

19 Death of a Legend:

Norway Part III

In the documentary Pure Fucking Mayhem, Anders ‘Neddo’ Odden of death metallers Cadaver and later Satyricon and Celtic Frost explains: ‘Øystein Aarseth was fed up with all the pranks and the attention that Vikernes drew to black metal and Helvete. He thought Vikernes commercialized it. He didn’t want any publicity. Øystein wanted it to be a closed cult system, unknown to outsiders. I met Aarseth in the summer of ‘93. He told me that he wanted to create a black metal movement that was based on the Hell’s Angels. As such, Vikernes had to go because of the commercializing. Vikernes had good reason to take this seriously.’

It’s also interesting to note that in later years two Israeli metal acts, [!!] Salem and Orphaned Land, have claimed that Varg sent them mail bombs in the early 90s. Curiously, Euronymous’ own fears appear to have been accentuated by a visit to a clairvoyant who predicted his death, seemingly at the hands of Varg.”

A CD entitled Nordic Metal: A Tribute To Euronymous—incidentally perhaps the finest black metal compilation ever created—was later released featuring contributions from Norwegian acts Mayhem, Emperor, Mysticum, Enslaved, Mortiis (now working as a solo artist), Arcturus and—rather surprisingly—Thorns, as well as Swedes Abruptum, Marduk, and Dissection, 3 bands that strongly supported Euronymous in the feud. The booklet was full of quotes paying tribute to the deceased leader of the scene, and in some case even threatening Varg’s life.” “Other parties, such as Gorgoroth and Darkthrone—the latter having connections with both Varg and Euronymous—avoided becoming involved in the conflict altogether, choosing not to take sides.”

20 Thorns

Predating the Norwegian black metal revolution of the 90s, Thorns was the brainchild of guitarist Snorre Ruch, who formed the band while living in the Norwegian city of Trondheim. Musically he was primarily inspired by the thrash and first-generation black metal of the 80s, not that it would be particularly reflected in the highly distinctive playing style he developed between the years of 15 and 17.”

I bought a guitar to see what I could make out of it. I guess I was finishing with WASP, Twisted Sister, and Iron Maiden and going for the harder thrash stuff like Slayer and Metallica and then further to Venom and Bathory. It was in that spirit that I bought the guitar to try and make some hard music. (…) There’s a big part of rock ‘n’ roll in it as well, people like to drink beer and go to concerts and party and all that, and I’m more like the Asperger kid who sits at home.”

S.R.

It was actually as an indirect result of Mayhem that Thorns—or rather Stigma Diabolicum, as the outfit was originally known—was formed in 1989, Snorre finding a like-minded comrade in the form of Marius Vold, an Oslo-based vocalist who was also active in the band Mortem, later to evolve into Arcturus.”

Working under the tasteful pseudonyms of Pedophagia (Snorre: guitar, bass, synth) and Coprophagia (Marius: vocals and drum programming), the pair crafted their first release, a 3-track demo entitled Luna De Nocturnus that showcased an intense and challenging sound, the discordant guitars in particular communicating a heavy sense of creeping dread and often leading the music away from any sort of traditional song structure. Like most of their peers during this period, the darkness of the music was not yet totally mirrored by the band’s aesthetic, and a close look at the tape’s inlay reveals that the tongue-in-cheek pseudonyms are echoed by the credits list, which thank Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot… and Mayhem.

By 1990 the group had picked up a 3rd member in the form of drummer Fetophagia (real name Bård Guldvik Eithun, soon to be known as ‘Faust’), and during that year the trio would record a rehearsal tape (playing original material alongside Metallica and Slayer covers) and a live tape, recorded when the band played a metal event in Stjørdal, appearing instead of Marius’ other band Mortem, who were scheduled to play but had recently disbanded.”

While the group seems to have been regarded by many as a death metal band at the time, their music was nonetheless a far cry from the brutality of the Swedish and American camps or even the more atmospheric efforts of Norwegian death metal bands such as Old Funeral or Thou Shalt Suffer. Nor did it have a great deal in common with anything from the world of 80s black metal. Instead, the song-writing bore a distinctly experimental approach, with creepy and discordant riffs disrupting the flow of the more aggressive passages in a seemingly intentional and almost confrontational manner.”

The following year would prove a significant one for the band, at least in retrospect. At the time, things were moving slowly due to the significant distances between the members—no small issue in the pre-Internet age. So it was that the most famous recording by the band was created with only half its members present, Snorre and Harald crafting a humble tape whose influence upon the Norwegian black metal scene would be nothing less than acute. Consisting of 6 numbers, it featured 5 tracks from the Stigma Diabolicum days (Fall, Thule, Fairytales, You That Mingle May, and Into the Promised Land, curiously renamed Lovely Children), as well as a new number called Home, a song that would later become known as Ærie Descent, probably the band’s most famous song to date. The recording was named the Grymyrk tape, ‘Grymyrk’ being, as Snorre explained in a later webzine interview, ‘the grim world which all music and lyrics for the early material came from… a dead and silent world with its own strange logic. We even made a language for it… A 30-word dictionary.’

Truly groundbreaking, it remains difficult to pinpoint the musical influences that affected Snorre’s composition style, the only clue coming from the man himself, who reveals that the epic bridge on the tape’s one new number had a most unlikely source of inspiration. ‘We have never accepted to be influenced by other metal ‘cos we wanted to sound unique, so we say we’re influenced by children’s music and classical music and computer game music and try to recode it into metal to get a new sound from it. I do remember that on Home I had a lack of parts, so I took one of my favorite songs of German synth-pop act AlphavilleA Victory of Love from the Forever Young album—and stole a part from that.’

The following year would see vocals and drums finally recorded under the Thorns name, these appearing thanks to the Trøndertun tape, another highly significant release, though again one that was both unofficial and lacking the presence of most band members. Named after the college Snorre was attending at the time, the tape contained the aforementioned Ærie Descent (now missing the Alphaville bridge) and a new song entitled Funeral Marches to the Grave. This time Snorre contributed both guitars and vocals, while assisted by fellow students Ronnie K. Prize (bass) and Terje M. Kråbøl (drums), the latter of whom later went on to work with metal bands such as Faustcoven and Antidepressive Delivery.

Proving that Snorre was a more than capable vocalist and also featuring a haunting use of synth, the recordings were somewhat less unorthodox in structure than their predecessors, but no less unique in nature. Indeed, the 2 songs remain largely unparalleled even today, the minimal but effective percussion and sparing use of bass capturing a truly gothic and archaic atmosphere, a tone mirrored by the occult and conspiratorial lyrics.”

In fact, to this day the only recording under the Thorns name featuring either Marius or Bård is a 1992 rehearsal cassette known as

The Thule Tape, which was actually recorded before the move. ‘We never rehearsed!’ laughs Snorre. ‘After half a year I moved back to Trondheim. Maybe I was never that ambitious, I was very happy making riffs and music but didn’t necessarily need to complete things. I wanted to release a record though, but we never even got a place to rehearse, so you see it was a little difficult.’

With Thorns seemingly a doomed project, Bård decided to concentrate on his other band, Emperor, while Snorre joined his old friends Mayhem, taking on the Blackthorn pseudonym and contributing to the content of the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album with some old Thorns riffs. Of course, the events in the Norwegian black metal drama would soon drag both men into its chaotic and violent epicenter, the result being two lengthy sentences in connection to murder—in Snorre’s case, of Euronymous himself. For Snorre it was particularly unfortunate, since he had done his best to avoid the social and criminal side of the Norwegian scene.”

For several years the band lay dormant, the only reminder of their existence being (somewhat ironically) the Nordic Metal: A Tribute To Euronymous compilation, which featured a slightly different version of Ærie Descent, recorded at Trøndertun college prior to the session that produced the 2 tracks included on the infamous rehearsal tape. The fact that Thorns now had 2 members in jail—including the group’s central creative force—certainly didn’t improve their prospects, and it began to look highly unlikely that the band would ever return to any significant activity. And indeed, that’s probably how things would have remained if not for the support of Satyricon frontman and Moonfog Records owner Sigurd ‘Satyr’ Wongraven.”

We talked and it ended up with him giving me an offer that if I wanted to make metal again he could hook me up with a computer and sound equipment so I could make music in prison. I was thinking about putting the metal on the shelf and just having fun with synthesizer and whatnot, but he was like, ‘Give it another shot on metal and I will support you.’

S.R.

The first part of the sentences are high security, Snorre explains, then after showing that you can be trusted, you are able to apply to more open forms of jails. There’s a jail in Tønsberg, which is where Varg was later able to escape from. It’s the sort of jail you are able to just walk out from, but no one wants to because you know you will have to serve your time anyway and there’s not much better places to serve it than an old military camp with nice surroundings and schools. So it was very free; we could walk around as we wanted and meet each other and discuss and play music and, he pauses and laughs before adding with a hint of irony, …yeah, have a jolly good time.

The Thorns half of the Emperor vs. Thorns album would feature 4 songs, lasting almost half an hour. These included an update of the signature song Ærie Descent (a track also covered by Emperor on the split), an update of the Trøndertun song Funeral Marches to the Grave (now renamed Melas Khole), a new song entitled The Discipline of Earth (written just prior to Snorre’s incarceration and drawing once again on the Grymyrk mythology), and Cosmic Keys, a cover of Emperor’s Cosmic Keys to My Creations and Times, with some new and rather thought-provoking lyrics. Retaining the slow pace and eerie, depressive leanings—mirrored by the bleak metaphysical and quasi-scientific lyrics—the recordings showcased a bigger and more symphonic sound, with the orchestral synth work added in Oslo following Snorre’s release.”

To support the release, Snorre was encouraged into giving a number of interviews, the guitarist now going under the pseudonym S.W. Krupp and sporting sunglasses and a shaved head, which initially caused some confusion among fans. One asked via the Moonfog website how the band functioned with both members in prison, to which Snorre memorably replied:

Thorns function excellent without those 2 villains. They were up to no good anyways, and did not contribute to what Thorns is all about. Namely positive thinking, good attitude and politeness!”

The content of Thorns’ 2001 self-titled record would combine both sides of the group’s musical personality. Lacking the grandiose overtones of S.A. Titan’s orchestration, it is a record whose cold aggression and industrial overtones—evident in both the guitar sound and use of synths, samples, and programming—sit comfortably alongside other Moonfog releases of the period. At the same time, the angular immediacy of songs such as Existence and Stellar Master Elite is balanced by the more creeping malevolence of the 2-part Underneath the Universe and Shifting Channels, which give the slow, brooding feel of earlier material a more mechanized twist.”

I guess my personal taste at the time was mainly Front 242, Nitzer Ebb—I thought that Front 242 was very hard in an electronic way and was inspired by that. I also listened a lot to Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, I was always a fan of analog synth and music that’s like… unearthly.”

S.R.

Despite the accolades the album received from the press—Terrorizer placed it at #2 in its album of the year list and in the top 40 of its album of the decade countdown—Snorre remains somewhat unhappy with the recording that would largely define him for over a decade afterward.

I think that a lot of industrialized metal sounds crappy and I don’t think the attempts we have made have been good enough to live on. I think metal I make in the future will always be more brutal and honest and to the core and as little produced as possible. I’m never happy with anything.”

Despite the strong feedback the album received, it would sadly be the last Thorns release for some considerable time. In the year following its release, Snorre would instead collaborate with [The] 3rd and the Mortal guitarist Finn Olav Holthe to create an aural accompaniment to an exhibition by renowned Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard¹ (who has since angered members of the scene, notably Metalion, due to unauthorized use of images from Slayer Magazine), which included ‘modifications/mutilations’ of text, images, and music from earlier Thorns releases. Thorns Ltd. would be born from this venture, with Holthe and Snorre working alongside improvisational musician Jon T. Wesseltoft to create electronic ambient/noise music and sound for artists such as Banks Violette,² though Holthe would eventually leave the group in 2006.”

¹ Foda-se o ‘Metalion’, esse cara sim é importante: “Bjarne Melgaard (born 9 September 1967) is a Norwegian artist based in New York City. He has been described as ‘one of Norway’s most important artists’ and, following the 2014 publicity about his sculpture, Chair, ‘the most famous Norwegian artist since Edvard Munch’. (…) Melgaard appears in Until the Light Takes Us, a documentary about the Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990s. [O documentário em si é uma bosta, não recomendo a assistência!] The film featured in the 15th Athens International Film Festival (16–27 September 2009), screened at Danaos Cinema. In the film, an exhibition of Melgaard’s in a Stockholm gallery is extensively shown, along with his comments on black/death metal.”

² Artista plástico neo-gótico, também já colaborou com a banda Sunn O))).

He has also kept close ties with Satyr over the years, providing guitars and song-writing to Satyricon on 1999’s Rebel Extravaganza and again on The Age of Nero in 2008.”

21 Darkthrone

They have got a good relationship to their music, they are not too serious or stiff, they can do different stuff and have a glint in the eye which is very good. Maybe this is a little Norwegian thing, this little irony where you are overdoing your badassness just for fun almost, and people misunderstand a little…”

Snorre

HIGHLY PROLIFIC, frequently controversial, intensely focused on the past yet forever pushing forward in their own musical evolution, Darkthrone long ago established themselves as a black metal institution. Consistently imitated but never replicated, they have played a massive hand in creating the blueprint for raw Norse black metal, their influence still audible in new bands around the globe today. In fact, excluding the ‘first wave’ pioneers, the group are probably rivaled only by Burzum in terms of the sheer number of acts who have taken direct musical inspiration from their work. Yet despite all this, the band have refused to merely rest on their laurels and exploit their rich legacy. Instead they have carefully deconstructed a mythology that many bands would sell their souls for, and reinvented themselves with a sound and image that has challenged as many fans as it has enthralled.”

IMAGEM 17. “Darkthrone in their early death metal days. Ted Skjellum (later Nocturno Culto), Gylve Nagell (then Hank Amarillo, later Fenriz), Ivar Enger (later Zephyrous) and Dag Nilsen (later a session member).”

For much of their existence—since 1993 in fact—the band has revolved around a partnership between guitarist, bassist, and vocalist Ted Skjellum, better known to the world as Nocturno Culto, and drummer and lyricist Gylve Nagell, otherwise known as Fenriz. Despite a much-voiced opposition to the mainstream and a general sense of misanthropy, the latter has become one of black metal’s more recognizable faces, as famous for his unusual sense of humor, near-encyclopedic knowledge of metal and eccentric manner as he is for his drumming.”

While thankfully Fenriz did not suffer the same trauma in his youth, like Tom G. Warrior he seems to have discovered his path in life at a very early stage, thanks to a combination of heavy exposure to music and isolation, in this case geographical in nature.”

I started musically with stuff like Waiting for the Sun by The Doors in ‘73. I was really young (I was born November 1971) but my uncle already understood that I wasn’t cut out to listen to normal children’s music at the age of 2 when he once played me some Pink Floyd, and so he started pushing other stuff on me, like Uriah Heep. We moved in ‘77 and so I didn’t get any more help from him, and I kind of started from scratch with AC/DC and KISS. That was a normal route, it was inevitable to get into KISS and the KISS trading cards ‘cos they came in candy bags and everyone wanted those.”

F.

But KISS weren’t any heavier than what I had listened to in Uriah Heep, so I was searching for that heaviness in the 70s, but I didn’t have anyone showing me Black Sabbath. The first time I heard them was in ‘81, then it was like, Eureka!

Fast-forward 5 years from this pivotal moment, and in 1986 the young drummer formed a band of his own called Black Death, alongside local guitarist Anders Risberget. A 5-track demo entitled Trash Core ‘87 was issued the following year, before the band were joined by a second guitarist, Ivar Enger, and a 2nd demo, Black is Beautiful, was released the same year. Featuring songs like Nasty Sausage and Pizza Breath,¹ it was a far cry from the band they would eventually become.”

¹ Letra muito boa!

At that time we had discovered punk, which was one of the reasons for do-it-yourself. Bands that were really shabby in playing style, like Cryptic Slaughter, could put out albums, so we felt we could at least start to have a band. (…) So we started up and called it ‘trash core’—not like thrash, but trash, ‘cos it was so bad—and there was punk with the metal from day one in the band.”

After 2 demos I understood instinctively that I would want to continue doing music more seriously than in Black Death, so in late ‘87 I changed the name to Darkthrone and we started writing a little bit more epic stuff. The name was inspired by the name of the Danish mag Blackthorn. From the get-go it was spelled in one word for me, later I would explain it more humorously by saying, ‘Like Whitesnake.’ The logo was in one word too, but when the new logo came, with help from Tomas Lindberg of Grotesque, and later refined by Tassilo Förg—the one everyone knows—there was confusion.”

A debut demo entitled Land of Frost was issued in 1988, before the introduction of a new guitarist Ted Skjellum, who replaced Anders. Ted had grown up close to the other members, but only met with them after witnessing the band’s first performance (which included the one-off sight of Fenriz performing drums and vocals simultaneously) at Follorocken, the same annual ‘battle of the bands’ Mayhem had participated in 2 years previously.”

IMAGEM 18. Primeira logo da banda, desenhada pelo próprio Fenriz.

Hitting 16 shortly afterward, Fenriz quit school and joined the post office, where he still works today, to help fund both his fervent music-collecting and Darkthrone itself. Doubling their efforts, the band rehearsed furiously in their cold-war bomb shelter rehearsal room (another interesting Hellhammer parallel) and released a promo tape in late 1988 entitled A New Dimension, featuring a song called Snowfall along with an introduction track.”

Most bands—people that are self-taught—they need to rehearse for at least 2 years before they can make a recording that can portray them in a way that is any good. So we didn’t really have anything to show until late ‘88 with the Snowfall track, which showed we could at least play a little bit and do a long and epic song. The title A New Dimension explains how much we rehearsed and that we took a tiny quantum leap from our first shitty demo.”

Though Fenriz was personally keen to further explore the epic side of metal, the band found themselves instead evolving into a more aggressive death/thrash direction, quickly crafting another demo called Thulcandra, issued in early 1989. Following the tape, Nocturno would take over vocal duties within the band, due to Fenriz being unhappy with his own efforts. During 1989 the band played a number of shows, one of which was shown on TV and also became the 4th tape, Cromlech. This was then sent to a number of labels including UK label Peaceville, with whom the band were especially happy to get a contract, firstly because it was an English label, and secondly because it featured both Autopsy and Paradise Lost on its roster.

The first result of the deal with Peaceville was the debut album Soulside Journey, recorded in Stockholm’s Sunlight studios in ‘90 with owner and producer Tomas Skogsberg. During the recording the band stayed with Swedish death metallers Entombed, who were able to offer advice as they had recently recorded their debut album Left Hand Path at Sunlight (guitarist Uffe Cederlund was ultimately credited with co-producing the guitars on Soulside). Released in January ‘91, the result was an effective death metal album that bore both a technical edge and a somewhat otherworldly atmosphere thanks to choice use of synth and an epic, slightly creepy approach to songwriting.”

We were influenced by American bands, but the key to our sound was that every riff on that album—except one, that’s like a Celtic Frost riff—you could take and play on a synthesizer, and it would be horror movie music. When people make horror movie music they don’t use the blues scale, they use a certain scale and we made our riffs on this ‘horror scale’. So we would call our music ‘technical horror death metal,’ inspired by maybe Necrophagia, Nocturnus, early Massacre¹ and Death. I didn’t actually watch almost any horror movies at all but that was the philosophy behind the riffs, to make it sound eerie, and we had some science fiction creep in there too. So if it’s original that’s the reason.”

¹ Provavelmente a de death metal da Flórida.

IMAGEM 19. “Darkthrone originally intended these monochromatic portrait covers to be their visual trademark, but the approach quickly spread throughout the black metal scene.”

Notably, it was to be the last time that the group would compromise their artistic vision, and while Soulside Journey was an effective and well-received album, its musical approach would soon be confined to the past as the group underwent a radical transformation in 1991. Though the band had already found success with death metal, ¾ of the line-up had come to the conclusion that it was time to add their voice to the Norwegian black metal movement—despite the fact that it barely existed at that point—due to a disillusionment with the genre they were playing. Thus, Darkthrone ceased work on the death metal follow-up album Goatlord, instead preparing A Blaze In The Northern Sky, an opus that would become known as the very first Norwegian black metal album.”

we had 13/16 beats and shit like that, it was almost jazz—and I was thinking in my head, ‘This professionalism has to go, I want to de-learn playing drums, I want to play primitive and simple, I don’t want to play like a drum solo all the time and make these complicated riffs.’

So we made 3 new black metal songs—Kathaarian Life Code, In the Shadow of the Horns, and Where Cold Winds Blow, and the rest would be Goatlord-ish material that was ‘blackened’ because of the studio sound we chose.”

Fenriz was some 3 years younger than both Euronymous and Necrobutcher, no small amount of time at that age, but not an unbridgeable gap, as it turned out. ‘They would just pick me up in the car,’ he explains. ‘I was already in Black Death then and they—like any sane person would do—hated the band, but they understood that I was a hungry kid that wanted to learn.’

All the same, while Mayhem might have had a degree of influence, Fenriz is keen to correct the widely held perception that Darkthrone were somehow ‘converted’ to the black metal cause by Euronymous.”

That’s a good part of black metal. If we didn’t have any sort of belief in that, a lot of it would feel wasted. Certainly that belief in a real hell and a real devil would be one of the things that pushed black metal to become what it became, and make it worshipped. I think if everyone thought it was really cartoonish it would never even be… I mean it would have no one worshipping, say, a Bathory album. You get a good demonic feeling in a lot of this stuff. I don’t think that, say, a really high-level atheist would start off something that would end up coming as black metal, there had to be something there.”

I’m a loner basically, and that has to do with coincidences with living arrangements, where parents would move and not move. He was Euronymous, you know? He was the guy who had the best network in Norway together with Metalion, so it would be very natural to hook up with those people as fast as humanly possible, and I already did that in ‘87, so by ‘91 I was already one of the old guys in their eyes I reckon. Concerning Varg, again what I see of friendship is what you see on TV, you hang with persons for a lot of periods throughout your life. Well I never did that, so I think it’s different. We were musical persons, we were strange and maybe the strangeness kept us together, the interest in what we knew was a deviant music style. Apart from that you’d say hello, say a few words and not so much more, go about what you were doing. It’s typical Norwegian, we have a lot of space here and we keep to ourselves a lot.”

Period interviews see them frequently paying respect to the band, and there’s no doubt that A Blaze in the Northern Sky did much to launch the Norwegian scene. However, it was, to put it mildly, somewhat less enthusiastically received by the band’s label Peaceville, and specifically its owner Hammy. Not only was the album a far more primitive-sounding affair than the technical death metal album that was hoped for, swapping challenging time signatures and complex arrangements for simple, catchy riffs and a genuinely demonic atmosphere, but the production was now icy and lo-fi in the extreme.”

So we finally had an organic sound—we would bring Black Sabbath albums to the studio guy and say we didn’t want modern sound, that we wanted sharp and cold guitars—and Hammy went totally ballistic, he wanted us to rerecord. We had done something fresh. I don’t think Soulside Journey was that fresh and we can see which has stood the test of time. And it was a mistake that he couldn’t see the fire in Darkthrone at that time. He only stuck by it ‘cos I was like, ‘Fuck the contract, we’ll release it on Deathlike Silence Productions.’ ‘Cos it wasn’t important for us at that point to have money, we had entered the zone, where nothing mattered but to make ugly black metal, primitive stuff. We weren’t businessmen. What I remember is he said if a young band would just leave his label he would lose face, like some Japanese thing (He laughs and adopts a stern Japanese accent): ‘No! We lose face, we cannot do it!’ So he released it anyway, everyone’s happy.”

It was as a trio that the band recorded their 3rd album, 1993’s Under A Funeral Moon, the first Darkthrone album Fenriz considers entirely black metal, since all material had been written specifically for the record. The difference is clearly audible, and where the previous album had made use of chunky Frost-influenced riffs, the successor leaned more toward a Bathory/VON/Burzum approach, introducing a more minimal, dissonant style, fast tremolo melodies, droning, hypnotic song structures, and higher-pitched, raspy vocals.

Equally importantly, the album made use of a shockingly raw production. In itself that was nothing new within black metal, but here was a signed, established band choosing to go with the most primitive sound possible, and it was an important aesthetic decision that would prove hugely influential. Indeed, since that time there have appeared many new bands who place a high value on lo-fi production—despite the increased ease with which one can now attain a ‘professional’ production—and argue, like Darkthrone, that this can be as integral to the aural experience as the composition of the songs themselves. It is a creative decision that is sadly much derided by those outside of the genre who fail to understand that what makes a production ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is entirely subjective, and that a clean, dynamic sound is not always the best medium for metal, nor the most effective way to achieve a powerful atmosphere.

Under a Funeral Moon would also mark the last appearance of Zephyrous, whose departure from the band coincided with his move away from Oslo, a relocation soon echoed by Ted, who was also tiring of life in the city.”

these guys, especially Zephyrous, were the true misanthropes. They moved away and stopped rehearsing just ‘cos they thought, ‘Ah fuck, this is becoming stupid.’ They were like the hummingbirds in the coal mine shafts—if the air got bad the hummingbird died and the people get the hell out. We should have got the hell out of the black metal party at that time, but no, people just kept coming.”

That’s how I felt with the thrash metal party, I got into it a bit late then lots of idiots came and I thought, ‘Fuck this, there must be something else.’ Then I went to the death metal party, ‘Yeah, this rocks,’ then all the idiots started gate-crashing that. Anyway their move started to make it a bit difficult to hang out as a band and rehearse, but we finished the album, then we didn’t do anything else. For the first time we didn’t start rehearsing new material after coming out of the studio.”

As of 1991 I decided to quit the loner life. I had been very involved in the tape-trading scene from ‘87 to ‘90 and I needed a break, I needed to have my first beer, ‘cos I didn’t have a normal youth period where I would hang round with the gang and drink beers underage. I would just be Fenriz in the underground and I needed a break and the break was 15 years chugging beers and socializing.”

in early 1994 the band released their 4th album, the iconic and infamous Transilvanian Hunger. Though following a similarly hypnotic and discordant approach in terms of composition, it also employed a sound that—amazingly—proved even colder and more primitive than its predecessor. If the 2 previous albums had been lo-fi in comparison to Soulside Journey, this opus was lo-fi in comparison to just about anything, boasting a gloriously hideous non-production that would have seemed rudimentary even on a demo.

Still, if the sound qualities caused some controversy, it was nothing compared to the furor initiated by other aspects of the release. Within the black metal community itself the album caused no little antagonism, since the lyrics for the latter half of the record were penned by the recently jailed Varg Vikernes, not a popular figure in a community still reeling from the death of Euronymous. Particularly aggravated were sections of the Swedish scene, including Jon of Dissection and It of Abruptum, who had been particularly vocal in his support of Euronymous and his hatred for Vikernes, and a few thinly veiled threats were issued via Slayer Magazine.”

When Varg was jailed he had no means of communication. And I would say, ‘I have half the lyrics for my album, how about I give you the other half and you do what you want?’ and he wrote back and said ‘Yes, okay I’ll do it.’ And it came back without any message or anything like that, which was cool. Some people would say, ‘Hey, you gotta be careful, some guys are pretty angry with you’, but nothing happened. Maybe I was just lucky, you know, you always hear some rumor that some crazy guy has started on a journey from another country to get you, blah, blah, blah, but it never happens, just talk.”

We would like to state that Transilvanian Hunger stands beyond any criticism. If any man should attempt to criticize this LP, he should be thoroughly patronized for his obvious Jewish behavior.

Taken aback, label Peaceville made a public statement distancing themselves from the band and then refused to promote or advertise the album, while nonetheless refusing to censor the band or cancel the release.

I regret it, admits Fenriz. The statement actually meant: ‘If you don’t know where black metal comes from, why the hell would you try to review it in your magazine? Are you doing it because you need the money?’ That is what I should have said. But I was young and my language was disgusting and flamboyant and very, very angry. As usual, the word ‘Jewish’ would be the prejudice you would use in jokes, but then it’s quite okay for the press that some people aren’t politically correct as long as they don’t express it. After this we lost distribution in most parts of Europe, and we didn’t have it back until many years later. They would boycott Transilvanian Hungernow why is it not still boycotted, do you think? Why would something be boycotted, and then not boycotted anymore? Again, the money, let’s just leave it at that, again just seeing people running for the money.”

“…Darkthrone can only apologize for this tragic choice of words, but PLEASE let us explain this. You see, in Norway the word ‘Jew’ is used all the time to mean something that’s out of order. It’s always been like this… WHY it is impossible to say, because Norwegians have always liked Jews and racism is not a big issue in Norway. You could actually ask the entire Norwegian nation for an apology, because the ‘Jew’ expression is used negatively everyday in Norway… Also it must be said that NONE of our albums have ever contained any racism/fascism or Nazi slant at all. Everyone can check this out by simply reading our lyrics… Darkthrone is absolutely not a political band and we never were. We ask everyone involved to look to our albums for the final proof that we are as innocent as humanly possible…”

IMAGEM 20. Fotografia do último show da banda, em 1996, na própria Oslo. Como um projeto de dois músicos, hoje o Darkthrone não faz turnês ou exibições.

For his part Fenriz has since explained that he was going through a phase of being ‘angry at several races’, after the left-wing phase of his early youth, which apparently once saw him arrested at an anti-Apartheid march, and he has since lost interest in politics altogether. Rightly or wrongly, the apology failed to convince many of the band’s intentions, especially since interviews with fanzines at the time had seen Fenriz claiming that the band were ‘fascist in outlook’. The Varg connection also probably didn’t help dispel the far-right accusations, and there was also the fact that the album sleeve carried the phrase ‘Norsk Arisk Black Metal’, which translates to ‘Norwegian Aryan Black Metal’.”

The band’s next album, 1995’s Panzerfaust, was free of political content but confirmed that the band were in no mood to play it safe, once again featuring lyrical contributions from Varg (this time on a single song entitled Quintessence) and taking its name from an anti-tank weapon developed in Germany during World War II. Stylistically it followed neatly from the raw black metal sound of Transilvanian Hunger, perhaps not surprising since Fenriz wrote the entirety of both albums and, in the case of Panzerfaust, also handled all instruments. The album would be the first released on Moonfog Records, the band parting ways with Peaceville after their contract expired; not surprising, since things hadn’t ended on a good note.

Fenriz also collaborated with Satyr in a project called Storm in 1995, blending black metal with traditional Norwegian folk music, something he would also do with the previously death metal-oriented solo project Isengard, which also released its second full-length album, Høstmørke, in 1995. As if that wasn’t enough, in 1995 Fenriz also released Transmissions From Empire Algol, the second album of his ambient project Neptune Towers, played bass on Kronet Til Konge by Dødheimsgard, and played drums in Moonstoned, the debut album of Vallhall (sic – Valhall), another Norwegian black metal act.

Many of these efforts had been recorded in 1994, a year that Fenriz reports brought about both the end of his marriage and the beginning of the end of his love affair with black metal. Burnt out and disheartened by the direction the movement was taking, Fenriz found himself resentful of a scene that was suffering, as he saw it, from an influx of new bands and a move toward a more commercial sound.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 1996 heralded something of an end of an era for the band, seeing the release of 6th album Total Death, a record on which Fenriz relinquished all lyric writing, the void filled by Nocturno Culto and the vocalists of various Norwegian acts such as Emperor, Satyricon, Ulver, and Ved Buens Ende. The much-delayed Goatlord—the aborted 2nd death metal album—was also released soon after. A hiatus then took place in the Darkthrone world, with Nocturno taking a break to spend time with his young family, and Fenriz hitting a period of depression which, combined with a general sense of disillusionment with the black metal scene, left him loath to continue with Darkthrone.

Darkthrone would continue, however, and in 1998 a resurrection of the group took place, primarily instigated by Nocturno Culto, who approached the band with a new drive, even taking over the non-musical responsibilities. For his part, Fenriz became far more vocal following the group’s resurrection, giving more regular interviews, since by this point a great deal of myth and legend had built up around the band. This is perhaps unsurprising given that fans only had a few words and a few demonic-looking photos from which to draw their conclusions.

Around 1994 the ‘blackpackers’ started coming from all over the world to Oslo, not even with an appointment, just coming to Elm Street, an Oslo bar frequented by musicians in the scene, to meet black metal people. Then they would act all strange because you were not living like a caveman. They would be like, ‘What, you’re laughing?’ Yeah. And you would hear a lot of strange rumors, so we started doing a lot of interviews in ‘98, ‘99, ‘cos I wanted to set the record straight. The horrible thing about being in a band is it’s like being in a house and you are trying to explain what’s in there. People in bands aren’t very good at communicating and when people aren’t communicating at all, that’s where the myths start. ‘What do they have in the house? What are they building in there?’

We actually played around 20-plus gigs, including Blitz in Oslo and even Kafe Strofal, a squat [uma invasão?], which no other metal band did as far as I know. I could write several books on why I don’t wish to play live now. But for one, I dreamt as a child of recording albums, not being up on stage.”

The albums that followed the band’s return—1999’s Ravishing Grimness, 2001’s Plaguewielder, 2003’s Hate Them, and 2004’s Sardonic Wrath—took the mid-90s Darkthrone template but broadened it, adding increasing inspiration from older thrash, punk, and crossover outfits. It would not be until 2006, however, that the band would really bite the bullet and fully commit to such influences, the result being The Cult is Alive, an album that shocked many of the band’s followers thanks to catchy numbers such as Graveyard Slut, Whisky Funeral, and Shut Up, whose titles alone suggested a significant shift.”

With The Cult we suddenly got our own studio. We should have got our own studio in ‘88—we really needed that to evolve our band and we didn’t get it, so we evolved a different way. Once we had our own place we could rehearse together and it took off and there was Darkthrone in the direction we could have taken in ‘88… ‘metal punk’ is a style that is always shabby, always organic, it can not be modern studio-sounding at all.

Far from a one-off experiment, The Cult is Alive would herald a distinctly new era, the band delving intensely into what they refer to as ‘metal punk’ over albums such as F.O.A.D., Dark Thrones and Black Flags, Circle the Wagons and The Underground Resistance, with more emphasis on clear vocals, a gradual reduction of double bass drumming, and more punk and old-school metal overtones.”

IMAGEM 21. Foto quase-contemporânea da banda.

It’s interesting to note that this new era of the band coincided with—and very probably helped trigger—the reunification of black metal with the hardcore and crust punk scenes. Having sprung from the same Motörhead-indebted roots, the two movements appeared to discover one another anew in the late noughties, having been culturally and musically separated in the 90s (a far cry from the early 80s, when the two were often distinguishable only by lyrical content). Just as earlier bands such as Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, and Mayhem took inspiration from hardcore and crust punk alongside extreme metal, so have more contemporary groups such as Japan’s Gallhammer, Canada’s Iskra, and Sweden’s Martyrdöd.”

Motörhead kind of created this sound with the 1979 album Overkill. However they were the only band that ever got known for it, bands like Warfare and English Dogs didn’t have many fans in the 90s, I can tell you that, but their old albums are hot shit now. In the 80s all the bands mixed but the crowds didn’t mix very well—it was the same in the 90s. What I didn’t know was that there were punks listening to bands like Burzum ‘cos it had this organic sound and not the disgusting modern sound, and they came through in the noughties; crust bands inspired by black metal. Crazy as it may seem, the 2 scenes had listened to each other a lot. It was damn funny when the bands had made lots of friends between black metal and crust and the crowds as usual were clueless… oh brother! People are really slow navigating round the underground.”

I have always deconstructed the image since the blackpackers came. And no one wanted that! Everyone wants the glamour and the glitz, no one wants to see Yul Brynner taking a shit in a cowboy movie. That’s how it’s always been, it’s just natural.”

I am the graves of the ‘80s

I am the risen dead

Destroy their modern metal

and bang your fucking head!

Graves of the 80s

Soube depois que essas letras foram dedicadas ao vocalista do imortal Sabbat (Japão)!

I’m on the barricades every day with this shit, having this constant war against the studio people, who are telling bands, ‘Come on, take the easy way, take the click drums’Christianity and religion? that’s like kid’s stuff, that gets you angry as a kid, that’s the ignition key. I mean those things were forced against you as a child and we thought it was super-daft and hated it to the bone. But just mulling about that when you’re older, that wouldn’t be very constructive. You can remove yourself from that so it doesn’t bother me anymore. I would be really stupid to stick my head in that bee’s nest, to seek out churches just to get annoyed. Actually that would be an original black metal idea, like, ‘Say what can I do to really feel the hatred? Okay, I’ll go to a sermon!’

People now are shocked that I don’t want to listen to the 1000th clone band of Emperor or Darkthrone, but I was never into that, I was only into stuff from ‘91 and before that basically.”

22 Burzum

Filosofem is a perfect album, it doesn’t even need any words as it’s so perfect it’s beyond belief. You can’t believe that a human being has been capable of carving that out of nothing, it’s amazing.”

Niklas Kvarforth (Shining)

while his crimes and controversial opinions are certainly responsible for a large part of his fame, on artistic merit alone he would be considered one of the genre’s most significant and influential artists.”

No recordings appear to have been made by this outfit, and soon Varg became a part of Old Funeral (joining just before Olve ‘Abbath’ Eikemo and Harald ‘Demonaz’ Nævdal departed to form Immortal), playing guitar on the 1991 EP Devoured Carcass. As the black metal revolution overtook Norway, Old Funeral would gradually splinter into new groups, and in Varg’s case this led to him working on his solo project Burzum, the name once again from Lord of the Rings (it means ‘darkness’ in the Black Speech of Mordor).

Vikernes then underwent an almost unbelievably productive period of writing, crafting a huge library of songs that would furnish a spree of future releases. Writing alone, Varg’s compositions were defined by his use of hypnotic repetition, catchy yet melancholic riffs, simple yet perfectly suited drum and guitar work, and his uniquely tortured screams. With no input from other musicians, it was presumably his own listening tastes that dictated the Burzum sound: certainly Varg was always open in his passion for Bathory and VON, with early fanzine interviews also namechecking Mayhem and Thorns. Later autobiographical writings also cite the first Paradise Lost demo, Destruction and Celtic Frost, Dutch death metallers Pestilence, and some ‘underground house/techno’ recordings. In an interview in 2010 for Metal Hammer, he also told me that he now believed Iron Maiden and the first two Kreator albums had the most impact on him, [!!] with Destruction’s solos on Infernal Overkill specifically inspiring him to make his riffs ‘solo-like’, and Bathory inspiring his drumming to be simple and ‘drum machine-like’.”

Aske would be released in 1993 on Varg’s own Cymophane label, due to the collapse of his friendship with Euronymous, as would the 2nd full-length Det Som Engang Var (‘What Once Was’), though both were actually recorded in 1992. Since this material was written around the same time as the debut, it’s unsurprising that it bears many similarities, though the experience in the studio seems to have given the songs greater depth and more intricate textures.”

Initially distributed by Voices of Wonder, Varg was soon handed back their stock of records when the label decided they wished to cut ties with this increasingly contentious character as quickly as possible. (…) Earache Records had at one point courted Varg, but were put off by comments they felt were explicitly racist. For the same reason, Candlelight decided not to sign him, since they feared a boycott might lead to them losing distribution for all their artists.”

1994’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (‘If the Light Takes Us’) became the first album to be released through Cymophone and Misanthropy. Remarkably, this album had also been recorded in 1992, just a few short months after Det Som and a mere month after Aske. Despite this, a notable stylistic leap had taken place, the record boasting 4 lengthy numbers that resonate with a greater emotional scope than its predecessors, bearing a distinctly yearning atmosphere and an expansive, heavily synth-laden sound. Epic, bleak, and built around the huge trademark riffs, the album is again peaceful at times, while also presenting Burzum at its most discordant and abrasive; it is rightly considered a milestone in black metal.

The next release would be the final one in the first chapter of the project’s history and arguably its finest effort, taking the genre to even more transcendental levels. Recorded back in 1993 but not released until 3 years later, Filosofem opens with the unbelievably atmospheric and immersive Dunkelheit. With a title that translates as ‘darkness’ (the song’s ‘real name’, Varg has explained, is Burzum, but all titles were in German for the initial release), it was reportedly written back in 1991, and was apparently the first real song Varg wrote for Burzum. With a hypnotic riff, a ridiculously simple yet perfect synth accompaniment and mantra-like lyrics, the track is the closest Burzum have yet come to a single, and was even given its own promo video. The more ferocious and relentless Jesu Død is another highlight, as is a dark yet strangely soothing 25-minute ambient number whose title translates as Circumambulation of the Transcendental Pillar of Singularity.”

Swastikas now appeared in the borders of his written correspondence, and he was famously quoted claiming that looking into brown eyes was like ‘looking up an arsehole’.”

While some didn’t care for the man’s politics, many were disappointed by statements that suggested that any future recordings would remain clear of black metal due to Varg’s disdain for the genre and ‘negro’ instruments.” Chuck Berry comerá seu saco!

But when released from prison in 2009—after a highly publicized escape attempt in 2003 in which he was reportedly captured in a stolen car full of weapons and equipment from a military barracks (though he denies possession of any weapons)—Varg in fact quickly returned to making metal with Burzum, beginning with the 2010 Belus album.¹ Originally given the delicate title The White God, the statement that accompanied its release proved Varg was in no mood for diplomacy.”

¹ O que não é a necessidade de dinheiro – faz alguém até esquecer o anti-semitismo!

The ‘black metallers’ will probably continue to ‘get loaded’, ‘get high’, and in all other manners to behave like the stereotypical Negro; they will probably continue to get foreign tribal tattoos, dress, walk, talk, look, and act like homosexuals, and so forth. Some of the ‘black metallers’, their fans and accomplices will probably even continue to pretend—and actually believe—they have something in common with Burzum, but let me assure you; they don’t.”

yet unlike most similarly minded artists his views have never found their way into his music. In fact, perhaps paradoxically, Burzum’s huge popularity suggests that Varg has managed to tap into something truly universal. Though the post-prison albums (which include 2011’s Fallen and 2012’s Umskiptar) have not proven quite as significant as those recorded prior to his incarceration, Burzum remains hugely popular with a wide array of listeners, including those who completely disregard Varg’s politics and worldview, which now seems to eschew the Odinist faith of his early prison years for what he calls a non-religious paganism.”

23 Emperor

IF BLACK METAL should ever get a hall of fame, there’s a pretty good chance Emperor will be the first inducted. In their early days they carved a name for themselves as an act surrounded by an aura of danger, one that occasionally threatened to overshadow their musical achievements. Yet at the same time they were always an undeniable creative force, and quickly earned a place as one of the genre’s early success stories. Indeed, they were one of the first Norwegian black metal bands to be signed by a foreign label, achieve significant album sales, and tour abroad. They also managed to survive as a band when 3 of their members were in jail. Most impressively, they managed the near-impossible feat of becoming one of the biggest bands in the genre while also being one of the most respected, ultimately winning over much of the metal mainstream as well as the black metal underground.

While the group’s sound and line-up shifted continuously, it would always revolve around two key personalities, Samoth (Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) and Ihsahn (Vegard Sverre Tveitan). Although both would be involved in numerous other projects over the years, it was Samoth who initially had the most band experience, and it was his invitation to Ihsahn to join an earlier group that ultimately led to the formation of Emperor. Like the majority of Norwegian black metallers, Samoth had entered the world of heavy metal through a childhood fascination with Kiss and then WASP, later developing a more serious interest in the thrash and death metal movements of the eighties.”

Sensing a kindred spirit, Samoth invited him to join Xerasia, which promptly changed its name to Embryonic and soon released a 20-minute demo entitled The Land of the Lost Souls.”

Though Samoth was heavily enamored with death metal, he kept his options open and remained busy during this period, playing in a hardcore/grindcore band called Zyltelab (a play on the Norwegian word ‘syltelabb’, meaning ‘pig’s knuckle’) and a drum machine-driven project called Spina Bifida, inspired by industrial bands such as Pitchshifter and Godflesh. Despite some live appearances in these groups, Embryonic was quickly becoming his focal point, and the group continued to evolve, changing their name to Thou Shalt Suffer in 1991 and moving into ever darker territories, adding eerie keyboards to the traditional death metal template.

An EP (Open the Mysteries of Your Creation) and 2 demos (the 4-track Rehearsal and Into the Woods of Belial) were issued that year, the trio assisted at various points by Thorbjørn Akkerhaugen (who would later record numerous black metal bands, including Emperor, at his studio Akkerhaugen Lydstudio) and Ildjarn (real name Vidar Våer). The latter was a musician Samoth had grown up with, and who had also played in Spina Bifida and Zyltelab. He would later become known for the unrivaled barbarism of his eponymous black metal project, which Samoth also briefly contributed vocals to.” Ildjarn, minha segunda banda mais ouvida de 2021!

Me and Steinar started our own death metal band in 1990 called Rupturence, that’s where it started. We were heavily into the early death metal/grindcore scene so we were into ripping off bands like Carcass, Xysma, and Funebre.¹ I was singing and was total shit at it. We did a few rehearsal tapes, but I don’t have copies and I lost contact with Steinar years ago. I know there’s even video footage of a ‘rock contest’ we did—it was absolutely horrendous though, so nobody missed out! We did form another band right after, called Wilt of

Belial, which was a bit more in the doom metal direction—we shared the drummer, Ronny Johnsen, with Embryonic—but we only lasted 2 months or so. I suggested we name the band Thou Shalt Suffer but that was rejected and Ihsahn later asked me if he could take it. After that I pretty much gave up music—I just wanted to keep doing my fanzine—but Ihsahn and Samoth asked me to join their new side project. At first I didn’t want to, because I was sick of being in bands that would just split up but I did join after hearing 2 instrumental songs they’d put together. I brought some lyrics in and those songs became Moon over Kara-Shehr and Forgotten Centuries if I’m not mistaken, that was summer or fall of ‘91. I remember we’d totally hate the kids on the top floor fucking dancing to Snap or Technotronix (sic) or whatever, and we’d be blasting through our songs in the cellar. It was a culture shock for sure. The lyrics would deal with fairly dark and morbid issues… our interests were usually revolving around dark and occult themes and historic matters such as Elizabeth Báthory and Gilles de Rais. I remember I distinctly stayed away from Satanic themes because I found them redundant and I didn’t consider myself a Satanist anyway. In terms of inverted crosses, 666, pentagrams… while I was in the band that stuff wasn’t used, but I know pentagrams were used after I left.”

Mortiis

¹ Tenho quase certeza que se refere ao Funebre finlandês; mas por via das dúvidas também listarei o Funebre norueguês (black metal) no índice de bandas ao final.

In 1992 the band set about recording one of the most iconic demos of the era, a 32-minute masterpiece of primal and malevolent-sounding noise entitled Wrath of the Tyrant. Unlike Thou Shalt Suffer—and partly due to the limitations of recording on a 4-track recorder—the only appearance of keyboards was on the tape’s introduction track, and the 8 tracks of raw and barbaric black metal instead focused on hateful yet catchy guitars and an aggressive battery, topped with a combination of piercing screams, growls, and disturbing chants.”

The demo was very well-received, and along with Enslaved’s Yggdrasil demo, which came out about the same time, it became a demo best-seller at Euronymous’ Helvete shop. We shipped tons of tapes out in the international underground network and later we also did a couple of official licenses of the demo, to Wild Rags in the U.S. and a Polish company.” (The Wild Rags edition of Wrath is probably the best known, although it boasts a different introduction instrumental and, curiously, a cover featuring future bassist Tchort, who does not appear on the recording.)

Samoth

Bård was already a relatively established drummer who had played in the thrash act Decomposed Cunt and the influential Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns. Indeed, he had moved to Oslo to concentrate on that very group, but by now the outfit had all but ground to a halt. His entrance into Emperor—alongside Mortiis, his longtime pen pal—allowed Samoth to return to his instrument of choice and thus set up the dual guitars that would characterize Emperor from that point forward.”

Though relatively simple in execution, the presence of synths on these recordings added a new dimension of majesty and awe to the Norwegian black metal template, recalling the debut of Czech legends Master’s Hammer and preceding the work of similarly minded outfits such as Gehenna and Dimmu Borgir by a good year or so.”

We had already used synth in a more obscure way in Thou Shalt Suffer, so it wasn’t such a big step for us really; it added a lot of atmosphere, and we felt it suited our sound, especially the 2 new tracks.”

Samoth

Appearing in mid-‘93, the Emperor EP was initially released as a limited vinyl, then as a CD split with Enslaved, both released via Candlelight Records, a UK label founded by Lee Barrett, an employee of Plastic Head Distribution. It was the start of a working relationship that would last the band’s entire career and one that owed much to Euronymous, who had initially intended to sign the band to his own label.”

Raw black metal with the majestic keyboards in the background—I felt it was a really nice touch. It reminded me of some of my favorite black metal albums, like Under The Sign of the Black Mark or Blood Fire Death by Bathory. A few bands had flirted with keyboards, like Nocturnus, but I liked the way it was used tastefully and it gave it a bit of an otherworldly feel that set it apart. Back in ‘93 vinyl was still outselling CDs and it was decided to put both sides of the split on one CD, and luckily both bands were all right with that and that’s when the label was born. I thought I’d just sell 1,000 of each, I never had any intention of running a label. Next thing I know the furor around black metal kicked off and I sold 10,000 CDs in about a month and had a label on my hands by happy accident.”

Lee Barrett

Having lost his place in Emperor and become embroiled in the legal aftermath of the black metal crimes, Mortiis would later move to Sweden to concentrate on his highly successful solo ambient project, eventually expanding this into a full band and breaking into mainstream consciousness with more industrial metal-leaning efforts such as The Grudge.”

The original plan for the band’s UK visit was for them to support Deicide at their London Astoria show, but that event was cancelled at the last minute due to death threats by animal rights activists aimed at Deicide vocalist Glen Benton. Looking to save this opportunity, Lee Barrett got together with a like-minded individual, Neil ‘Frater Nihil’ Harding, who had recently reinvented the metal wing of Vinyl Solution under the name Cacophonous Records, and signed cult UK act Cradle of Filth. Together the two men created a tour that would showcase both bands, with Emperor headlining and Cradle of Filth supporting at a number of small venues during July 1993.”

We loved them! Being down-to-earth English people we messed them around a bit, but they got used to our sense of humor. At that time Samoth was only called the Lord of Silence ‘cos he couldn’t really speak English… but he still understood our crude humor and sarcasm I think. They were nice, they weren’t aloof … we talked about lots of things and then that deteriorated into drinking games. We partied pretty hard. I remember we stayed one night with Darren White from Anathema as his dad was away; there were people from Candlelight, Emperor, Cradle… we stayed up two nights, Nick Barker was trying to play Emperor songs on a harpsichord, we had a cake fight, it was proper young lads partying.”

Dani Filth

While partying may have been part of both band’s agendas, darker interests were also at play, as both groups took an active interest in the occult—in fact, Samoth would later marry Cradle of Filth’s backing vocalist/performance artist/Satanic priestess, Andrea Meyer. Of the two bands, however, Emperor were more extreme as characters, and Lee explains that he occasionally struggled in his role as tour manager. While a visit to the West Wycombe caves (former home of the notorious 1700s Hellfire Club) passed without incident, he found himself tested when the band ran amok in a local cemetery, particularly when one member appeared to become ‘possessed’ and had to be restrained by his bandmates and dragged into the van kicking and screaming.”

Tchort would smoke a cigarette then stub it out on his arm—he had only just joined the band a few weeks before, so was making more of an effort in those terms I think. I’d heard from other sources that a murder had taken place but if you’re living in the UK hearing all these rumors, you take them with a pinch of salt. Faust did actually get drunk one night and told me what he’d done and if I’m honest I didn’t really believe him. I just thought of it as a bit of an adventure, I didn’t think about it from a moral standpoint. It was all new to me, running a label, looking after a band—it was just a bit of fun, as strange as that may sound.”

Lee Barrett

This was a busy and productive period for the band, who recorded their debut full-length, In the Nightside Eclipse, at Pytten’s Grieghallen Studios shortly after their return. The album would be praised almost unanimously by the black metal scene when it was released the following February, and remains at the top of countless ‘best of’ lists. An almost cinematic affair, it’s an intensely atmospheric and majestic work. On tracks such as Into the Infinity of Thoughts or Towards the Pantheon—even the short, nameless intro track—the chilling aura of the early/mid-nineties black metal movement is almost tangible: the excitement, wonder, mystery, and sense of communing with something greater than oneself.

The song structures, wall-of-sound production, and performances are notably refined from the earlier recordings, with greater technique allowing far greater emotional scope. The percussion is organic and dynamic in both pitch and speed, alternating between furious blasting and a steady, thunderous pace when the music slows. Fast, dissonant guitars build and fall endlessly, urgent-sounding riffs piling atop one another until the tension is broken by a slower, soaring passage, the guitars dropping away (an element of the production that seems to trouble the record’s critics) to allow the synths to surge in what almost feels like a moment of spiritual revelation. It is an album of great drama, at turns terrifying and life-affirming—as complex and thrilling as black metal itself.

Though the influence of Master’s Hammer has already been mentioned, it was undoubtedly this album more than any other that established the symphonic black metal sound, one later picked up by numerous bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Diabolical Masquerade, and Limbonic Art, to name but a few. Aptly, the lyrics written by Samoth and Ihsahn (along with Mortiis, since rerecorded versions of 2 demo tracks also appear) mirrored the grandiosity of the music, with wordy and poetic explorations of Scandinavia’s nature (Norway is explicitly mentioned in the album’s opening line) and Satanism. The fact that the album was the product of 4 teenagers, one of whom had been turned away from UK pubs weeks before for being underage, is hard to believe.”

We didn’t really know that we had made a groundbreaking album. It’s hard to know that while you are in the middle of the process of making it. We knew it was a good album that had something personal and unique to it in our genre, but we never really saw it becoming one of the classic black metal albums of all time. We were definitely happy with it when we were done, and I must say I’m very proud of the album, even today.”

Samoth

IMAGEM 22. “Probably the most memorable band logo in the genre, designed by Christophe Szpajdel who has gone to create logos for Horna, Graveland, Nargaroth and Wolves In The Throne Room.”

We were using a lot of tracks too, up to 32 I think; we had to use different recording machines, ‘cos I didn’t have a 32-track machine. I think we all felt we were creating something. Both Tomas and Vegard were perfectionists: I like people being serious about things, trying to get the best out of the situation and themselves, and they were absolutely having that attitude.”

Pytten

In some ways it was a bit too much of a success in terms of running a business. I can’t remember what the pre-sale was, but we had to press something like 30,000 copies. My distribution deal meant I wasn’t going to get paid for 60 to 90 days, but I had to pay for the pressing within 30 days, so I had all these releases lined up—like Monumentum—that I couldn’t do. The bands ended up getting pissed off and jumping ship to a label called Misanthropy ‘cos the owner was sort of hanging in the wings like a vulture, hoping to clean up basically.”

Lee

The band now appeared to be in an unbelievably strong position, but any plans of touring the album were smashed when Faust was imprisoned, leaving the band without a drummer. Samoth was spending a lot of his time in Oslo at this point, where he was ‘basically living’ in a rehearsal room used by many bands in the scene. So it was that he ended up contributing to several significant releases from 1994, namely Arcturus’ Constellation EP (bass and guitar), Satyricon’s The Shadowthrone (bass and guitar), and Gorgoroth’s Promo 94 and Pentagram albums (bass only). In early 1995, Samoth was also jailed for his part in the church burnings and with Tchort also imprisoned for his activities in Kristiansand, the band were put on an involuntary hiatus.

Things remained uncertain for some time, and even upon the release of Samoth and Tchort matters were far from resolved due to Faust’s extensive sentence. Tchort soon departed (going on to resurrect Green Carnation and work with Blood Red Throne and Carpathian Forest, as well as Satyricon and Einherjer), leaving the band effectively a duo once more.”

Being incarcerated gives you a lot of time to think and you get to view life from a different perspective, considers Samoth philosophically.”

Right after I left Enslaved, Samoth called me and asked if I was interested in playing with them. Of course I said yes. I met Alver on the train and he told me they had tried different drummers like Hellhammer, Frost, Grim (ex-Immortal, R.I.P.), Erik Lancelot (Ulver), so then I was sure it would be very difficult for me to make a difference. I knew Ihsahn and Samoth from before and we were good friends, we had a good connection already and that probably was the edge I needed to be a member of the band.”

Trym Torson

Confident with the quality of their writings, the group wasted no time, recording again with producer Pytten as soon as Samoth was available to do so.”

This music video—which featured the group sans corpsepaint—would accompany the song The Loss and Curse of Reverence, the title track of an EP released with much fanfare in the cold October of 1996. Issued both on CD and a limited run of 7” and 12” formats (incidentally the first vinyl this then CD-devouring writer ever bought), it further fueled the hunger for a follow-up to Nightside. Accompanied by a neo-classical synth reworking of Inno A Satana [ou Opus A Satana] and a ‘new’ song, In Longing Spirit—a memorable and dynamic effort that recalled the band’s earlier efforts, perhaps unsurprisingly since it had been originally written in 1992—, Reverence would set the tone for the 2nd album, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. An aural hurricane, the album showcased an intense and high-paced musical assault that relied far more heavily on double bass blasting than before, complimenting these percussive bombardments with dreamy and almost whimsical synth-based passages and frantic solos.”

It was also the first album where we actually incorporated some death metal influences, something that was more noticeable on follow-up IX Equilibrium. Compared to Nightside, Anthems has more interesting things happening on the guitars I think, and it’s not so layered by keyboard atmospheres at all times.”

Samoth

Sales and reviews were positive, with the band picking up ‘album of the year’ in Terrorizer alongside other accolades, and the group’s tour of the album saw them visiting a number of respectably sizable venues.”

Without suggesting any great philosophical weight to this album, the title IX Equilibrium touches on the alchemical concepts of aspiring and finding balance on a higher level. This is further expressed in An Elegy of Icaros, idolizing a mythical figure who ‘broke out’ and fell, but where the will to aspire overshadows the outcome. However, looking back I also see how the album is not only taking opposition to ‘normal society’ (as is so often the case with metal), but also breaking away from the shallowness, hypocrisy, and conservative forces among the ‘collective of outsiders’ that every underground scene seems to acquire when they start setting the rules for their collective. This is clearly pointed out in Curse You all Men!, which questions the genuine qualities beneath all the image. A third aspect of this album is also self-criticism, questioning one’s own authority and motives, like in Of Blindness and Subsequent Seers, though this comes forth more on next album Prometheus. All in all I think IX marks a turning point away from the more traditional black metal expression and points to the more introvert and experimental”

Isahn

“…not to mention the occasionally falsetto vocals, which took fans by surprise. The death metal elements were equally contentious, since the 2 scenes were still fairly divided, though in comparison to the late 90s shift of, say, countrymen Gehenna, these overtones were actually fairly subtle.”

we’d always been fans of Morbid Angel. We had also grown very tired of this separation issue between death and black metal.” Samoth

Ihsahn was now moving far more intensely toward the experimental and progressive end of the extreme metal spectrum, something that would become apparent with the self-titled solo albums that appeared from 2006 onward. The frontman was clearly already expanding his musical options from the end of the nineties onward, resurrecting Thou Shalt Suffer as a solo neoclassical project and performing in the experimental metal band Peccatum with his wife Ihriel and brother-in-law Lord PZ, vocalist of black metal outfit Source of Tide.

Samoth, on the other hand, increasingly focused upon the death metal roots that had surfaced within Emperor, leading him and Trym to form the band Zyklon with members of death metal outfit Myrkskog in 1998. Playing death metal with black metal and industrial overtones, the band’s lyrics were contributed by ex-Emperor sticksman Faust, and they would issue their debut World Ov Worms in 2001, the same year as the final Emperor album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.”

Though unconventional, the album was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed, even earning the band a cover story in Kerrang!, something that seemed unimaginable even a few years before. Despite this, the record was never toured and the band split up the same year. This was not the end, however, as Emperor would reform in 2006 and 2014 to play a string of large and highly successful concerts, demonstrating just how wide the band’s appeal had become, having traded their early danger for a surprising sense of respectability.” “compared to Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Burzum, it’s interesting to note how few groups have attempted to cover or take direct influence from their back catalogue”

Ihsahn continued his solo work and played with Ihriel in a folk/metal collaboration called Hardingrock, and Samoth pressed on with not only Zyklon, but also Scum (a ‘deathpunk’ project featuring Faust, Happy Tom of Turbonegro, and Casey Chaos of Amen) and later The Wretched End. An extreme metal band taking inspirations from death, black, and thrash metal, this acclaimed outfit sees Samoth playing alongside Cosmocrator (Scum, Source of Tide, and Zyklon) and Swede Nils Fjellström, known for drumming in bands such as In Battle, Aeon, and Dark Funeral.”

24 Gehenna

DESPITE HAILING FROM the black metal hotbed of early-nineties Norway, the appearance of Gehenna’s 1993 demo Black Seared Heart took many by surprise. A remarkably impressive effort, the 20-minute opus was the product of a group that had not only formed less than half a year before, but had very little connection with the rest of the country’s burgeoning scene. However, despite the fact that the band had only begun in January 1993, the musicians within Gehenna had been playing extreme metal—and, in the case of some members, taking part in distinctly anti-Christian activities—for some time prior. Created by Steffen ‘Dolgar’ Simenstad and Morten ‘Sanrabb’ Furuly, both guitarists and vocalists, the initial line-up was completed thanks to Sir Vereda, who took on the role of drummer.”

Not unlike other Norwegian bands, our first outfit Inanimate—the 2 of us and a bassist named Robert—had a more death-metal approach to the music but nothing was ever recorded, and we pretty soon parted ways with Robert. This was around ‘91–‘92. We both wanted another musical direction, and we also started working with Sir Vereda—we knew him from school but had gotten to know him better by that time. Early 1993 we decided on the name Gehenna, and the music evolved into the direction you can hear on Black Seared Heart. We were only 16-17 years old at that time.”

Dolgar

Black Seared Heart showcased a collection of melancholic and surprisingly considered compositions that highlighted melody above all, through a combination of memorable riffs, professional production, and some of the heaviest use of synths then seen in black metal.”

The demo was recorded during a hasty weekend in Sound-suite studio, which has later on become a much-used studio by metal bands—but prior to our demo the only other extreme band that had recorded there was Incarnator. We had close to no money, and hence could not afford too many hours in the studio and simply did not have time for multiple takes and overdubs to make it flawless. I think it has stood the test of time quite well though.”

the band lived in the southwestern city of Stavanger, a location lacking the black metal community present in other cities like Oslo or Bergen.”

I am not going to criticize, but looking at some of the other parts of

Norway during the early nineties, I think perhaps there was a bit too much of that interchanging of band members going on. I mean, at the most extreme, you could see the same people in a handful of different bands, and that seems a bit unhealthy in my opinion.”

Though all bass and keys on the recording session had been handled by Sanrabb and Dolgar, a photograph of bassist ‘Svartalv’ (Kenneth Halvorsen) appeared on the Ancestor EP, since he had become a member by the time the photo shoot was taken. By the time the record sleeve was being put together, the band had taken on yet another member, and thus also to be spotted was the name of a new drummer, Dirge (or Dirge Rep, real name Per Husebø) who had recently replaced Sir Vereda. The latter’s exit was largely due to his incarceration for the arson of Revheim Church in August 1992—one of the county’s very first church attacks—as well as the arson of a Christian community center (an attack carried out with Sanrabb) and, allegedly, some drug-related charges.

The band would head into the studio in January of 1994 as a 4-piece with the aim of recording a debut album, but the session would be quickly aborted due to a misunderstanding between the studio and prospective label No Fashion Records regarding budget. It was perhaps fateful, since prior to the next attempt to record, the band would be joined by a keyboardist named Sarcana. A talented player who was originally given the name Walpurgis before changing it for the pseudonym of her own choosing, she had approached the band after their live debut in Stavanger in February that year, a show heavily opposed by members of the church and other protestors.”

The reason why they protested was because we were a death cult, and we were against all the good forces that protect life, etc., and because of our ‘satanic’ stage act as well as the contents of our lyrics. The ideological direction of the band was compared to fascism. And this, as you can imagine, did not really charm these people. But politics have absolutely nothing to do with this kind of music.”

Assinado pela banda, no zine Kill Yourself

Shortly after Sarcana joined the fold, the band headed back into the studio and recorded First Spell, released through Head Not Found (…). Only 26 minutes spread over 5 songs, it was originally intended as one half of a split album with label-mates Ulver, though it was later decided to release the recordings separately to allow each band greater control over the sleeve design. The First Spell cover has in fact proved iconic, its low-contrast, monochrome photograph of two figures (Dolgar and Dirge Rep, as it turns out) with horses, seemingly taken at night, proving just as mysterious as the music within.

Regardless of its brevity, First Spell proved a stunning and unparalleled work, one whose sound is as unique now as it was then, exhibiting a style rarely revisited by any band since. Slowing the pace even further—a point highlighted by a brooding rerecording of the song Angelwings and Ravenclaws—the record was saturated in synth, often in the form of an organ voice, resulting in a truly mysterious, almost mystical atmosphere. The 5 tracks also carried a funereal overtone, not least the closing number Morningstar, which actually featured a riff adapted from Chopin’s iconic Marche Funebre.”

We lit a bonfire, watched the shadows play and listened to the sounds of nature. Perhaps that sounds like a black metal cliché, but that is actually the way it was.”

First Spell brought the band to the attention of many new fans, and they soon joined the roster of Cacophonous Records, a UK label that had already signed many of the scene’s hottest names, including England’s Cradle of Filth, Japan’s Sigh, and Ireland’s Primordial. The first product of this union was the group’s debut full-length, Seen Through The Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell). Another striking opus, the record contrasted stylistically with its predecessor, and though it too utilized slow sections and sedate keyboard passages, the material was generally far busier, frequently shifting mood and tempo, unlike the more flowing songs of First Spell.

As with First Spell, the lead vocals and guitars were split between Dolgar and Sanrabb, with Ulver’s Garm making a guest appearance, contributing his voice to Vinterriket. Once again keys played a prominent role, frequently soaring alongside the other instruments in a symphonic manner very similar to Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse, released the same year. Combined with surprisingly catchy riffs, the result was an epic and driving collection of songs, and arguably the most accessible chapter of their career.”

We had actually recorded the Seen Through album before First Spell was finally released, which proves how slow things moved in the underground back then, mostly because of a lack of money.”

1996’s Malice (subtitled Our Third Spell) proved a natural successor, the symphonic black metal style refined with slightly more technical songs and a far less mystical atmosphere than Second Spell. The production was clearer, and though it did little with the bass (now played by newcomer Noctifer following Svartalv’s return to Oslo) it ably separated the guitars, drums, vocals, and synths, the latter proving varied and adding a dreamy and carnivalesque vibe to the proceedings, a stark contrast with the nasty-sounding riffs. If the ethereal forest atmosphere of the past had been laid to rest, then the 14-minute-long Ad Arma Ad Arma was the nails in its coffin, the nuclear war-themed lyrics bringing a contemporary vibe as much as the industrial sounds utilized in its musical content.”

At this time I guess we spent more time in the rehearsal room and less sucking up the atmosphere in the woods, which may or may not explain the different atmosphere on the album. In addition to this, Sanrabb and Sarcana wrote a lot of the music together, instead of her being presented mostly finished songs to write keyboards to.”

The record received praise from fans and magazines alike and in the same year the band also set about a tour of Europe with Swedes Marduk and fellow Norwegians Mysticum, helping to raise their profile even further at a time when black metal—and keyboard-heavy exponents of the genre in particular—was beginning to break through to a much bigger audience.

With that in mind it’s unsurprising that 1998 album Adimiron Black—which was preceded by a 3-track single Deadlights—proved baffling for longtime fans. Now signed to Moonfog, the band had undergone a significant line-up shift, losing all members save for founders Dolgar and Sanrabb, and replacing them with newcomers E.N. Death on bass, Blod on drums, and Damien on keyboards. Stylistically, the band accentuated the nastier side of Malice, the synths taking a backseat on an album that introduced death metal influences at a time when it was still controversial to do so.”

“…Sarcana left. 80% of the album was written after she left, so I do not think musical differences were part of her decision to leave. As you may know, she did not pursue any musical career after Gehenna, so I figure she was fed up with the whole thing. I also know she did not get along too well with Blod, who had replaced Dirge Rep on drums halfway through writing the album. (…) We basically felt Malice was as far as we could go in that direction without it losing that sense of cruelty we feel black metal should have. Blod came in the band with a whole different background—from thrash and death metal—and Damien was more into electronic/ambient stuff, so we took advantage of their fresh (to us) approach to music.”

The cover for Adimiron Black was free of occult overtones and featured a gruesome scene of a dead, half-naked woman and her gun-brandishing killer, while the record’s lyrics delved into tales of war and murder, a far cry from the mystical-leaning, nature-inspired lyrics of old.”

We are still very much the same people today; only like most other people (and a good bottle of wine) we mature with age.”

If that album had flirted with death metal, then the 2000 follow-up Murder was evidence of a full-on love affair, the band dispensing with a keyboard player and diving headlong into a world of chugging guitars, growled vocals, and even death metal-style guitar leads.”

Personally I feel Murder went a step too far into the realm of death metal, and I actually left the band before the recording of the album was completed. I think it is a fairly good album, I just don’t think it is a very good Gehenna album.”

Despite their high profile in the early days and the gems within their discography, the band went out with more of a fizzle than a bang. Even today they have yet to earn the respect they deserve, especially given their pioneering role in creating black metal that celebrated atmosphere and melody without ever falling into overly commercial territories. Few bands have since touched upon such haunting territories and many, including Head Not Found’s Metalion, have expressed surprise that Gehenna did not become as big as outfits such as Emperor.”

If we had done more touring during the last half of the 90s—and further on of course—I think we would probably have been a better-known band.”

In 2005 the band returned from the apparent dead with one of their most ferocious efforts yet, an album entitled WW. As the title makes clear, the work continues with the war themes explored since Malice, complimenting these with icy compositions, perhaps apt since Satyricon’s Frost appears as a session musician on drums. With all symphonic elements gone, there are obvious similarities with Adimiron Black, and even more so with hypnotic early 90s Norwegian black metal such as Darkthrone, Burzum, and most specifically De Mysteriis-era Mayhem.”

 

WW is my favorite album of them all, no doubt. The guitar sound alone on that album is enough to give me shivers down my spine, cold and harsh as the barbed-wire fences during the world wars. Probably our least accessible album; extremely raw and stripped down. I guess it does not appeal to everyone, even within those familiar with modern black metal, but the critics were much in praise.”

2013’s Unravel (…) With its long, drawn out riffs and stripped down execution, it is perhaps the band’s bleakest effort yet, and cements the band’s reputation as a group unwilling to compromise their artistic vision.”

25 Gorgoroth

For me Gorgoroth has always been one of the mainstays here in Norway as far as black metal goes. Through line-up changes and conflicts Infernus has led the horde of Gorgoroth through the ages, never lacking in quality. They are also one of the bands that has this element of unsafeness and you never really know what is going on.”

Metalion

FROM THEIR CULT BEGINNINGS in the early 90s, through major-label tribulations, artistic reinventions, and periods of occasionally perplexing output, the career of Norway’s Gorgoroth has been nothing if not varied. One of black metal’s most recognized and notorious acts, Gorgoroth have made lifelong companions of both strife and controversy, becoming as well known for the strong personalities within the group and the events surrounding them as for the often brilliant music they have created.

Hailing from Sogn og Fjordane, some 200km from Bergen, Gorgoroth’s line-up has always revolved around guitarist (and occasional drummer, bassist, and vocalist) Infernus, whose real name is Roger Tiegs. One of black metal’s more memorable personalities, Infernus makes for agreeable but intense company, and even after several meetings with him, his sometimes unnervingly serious and carefully controlled manner remains striking. To this day he remains a contentious character, and readily admits that he is not an easy man to work with, a notion perhaps supported by the fact that around 30 musicians have passed through the group during its history.”

In the beginning when I was a kid I listened to all kinds of heavy metal bands without really having a direct, passionate approach to it, he begins, his voice so low that at times it’s little more than a whisper. Then around my early teenage years I started listening to early black metal bands and thrash metal bands like Destruction, Sodom, and Bathory. It was kind of an awakening, and brought with it something extra, which made me more devoted to the music and had an effect that would be life-lasting. It was a result of my passion for music and metal that I wanted to play and perform and create something myself. To the degree that it’s possible to rationally explain why—whether there were other sources of inspiration, or voices telling me to do so—would be difficult to explain. I started rather late in time, playing guitar aged 17, I think. In retrospect I would have enjoyed having, say, piano lessons in childhood, but coming from a background like mine that was difficult. My parents enjoy music, but not as a passion I would dare to say.”

Living in a thinly populated, predominantly agricultural area, like-minded musicians proved few and far between. Nonetheless, Infernus found 2 other suitable individuals, namely vocalist Jan Åge Solstad, who performed under the pseudonym Hat (meaning ‘hate’ in Norwegian) and drummer Rune Thorsnes, otherwise known as Goat Pervertor. Thus in 1992 Gorgoroth was born, the trio taking their name from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Lord of the Rings, and more specifically a barren and lifeless location in Mordor, the land of darkness and fear. The following year saw the band debuting with an almost painfully raw 3-track demo entitled A Sorcery Written in Blood, named from a line in the Bathory song The Return of Darkness and Evil.”

We were living in a small countryside area, located some 3 hours north of Bergen, and one had to be selective who one hangs around with. The ones you did tended to be the ones who were most similar in musical preferences and maybe their ideological views. It was an exciting time, spirits were very high—getting on with it, that is what mattered.”

The unholy opus—which Infernus explains took 4 months to write and about 4 hours to record—would not only earn them a contract with France’s Embassy Productions, but also land them on the front page of regional newspaper Firda, which took umbrage with the Satanic imagery of the band. Other than this burst of attention, however, the band kept largely to themselves during these early years, having limited dealings not only with those in their locality, but also with the rest of the Norwegian black metal scene, though they maintained sporadic contact with Euronymous and the Helvete circle thanks to occasional Oslo visits. It was in the capital that the band would eventually make their live debut, at a 1994 memorial event for Euronymous.

Infernus’ dealings with the Oslo crowd also led him to meet Samoth of Emperor, who joined the band on bass for the debut album Pentagram, recorded in early 1994 at Bergen’s much-favored Grieghallen studio.”

Opening with the utterly searing Begravelsesnatt (Burial Night), the half-hour recording proves a consistently ferocious listen thanks to memorable riffs, an almost constant percussive bombardment, an unfussy yet effective production, and Hat’s utterly possessed, almost bird-like screeching. Despite its emphasis on speed and aggression, the album also includes brief nods toward atmosphere, most notably on the 4 songs written by Infernus, such as Måneskyggens Slave (Moonshadow’s Slave), which contrast with the more driving approach of those written by drummer Goat Pervertor.”

Listening to a musician or painter talk about what he did at the time… I get a bad feeling when I listen to such talk. On the day of the release of an album, or the finishing of a painting, then the bonds should be cut off; to talk about how things were and how things came is not decent I think.”

Following the release of Pentagram, the band opted to sign with German label Malicious Records. Despite turning down an offer from Moonfog—the label of Satyricon’s Satyr—the band did begin working with one half of the Satyricon duo, namely Frost (Kjetil Haraldstad), who joined as a session drummer following Goat Pervertor’s decision to leave the band. Also exiting around this time was Samoth, leaving Infernus to handle all guitars and bass on 2nd album Antichrist, recorded sporadically between December 1994 and January 1996. A 25-minute gem, Antichrist saw a considerable expansion of the Gorgoroth sound, with sole composer Infernus developing the epic and melancholy atmosphere that he had touched upon in Pentagram. The slow and lurching Sorg introduces chanted vocals combined with surprisingly emotive guitar passages, while the despairing, self-titled number Gorgoroth utilizes fast, treble-heavy guitars and surprisingly expressive bass work to hypnotic effect.”

Gorgoroth developed from Pentagram to a colder, more hardcore black metal sound… Roger is a really hard-working musician. He’s got really clear ideas about stuff and he was working hard both in keeping the sound as he wanted it and doing his own guitar parts.”

Pytten

Despite a short play length, Antichrist proved a varied work, with contrast provided by a number of more thrashy, straightforward songs such as the stomping and surprisingly catchy Possessed (By Satan).”

Half the vocals on Antichrist were performed by one Thomas Kronenes, otherwise known as Pest (Norwegian for pestilence or plague), who joined the band after Hat (who Infernus describes as ‘a good guy… but tired of metal, and black metal in particular’) left the group during recording. Pest had been introduced to the band thanks to a drummer known as Grim (Erik Brødreskift), who had previously played with Immortal and would also appear on Gorgoroth’s next album, 1997’s Under the Sign of Hell.”

Curiously, the band would eventually release a complete rerecording

of the album entitled Under the Sign of Hell 2011, though predictably fans unanimously opt for the original, despite—or perhaps because of—its rougher sound.”

For me Under the Sign of Hell is like Slayer’s Reign in Blood, or Metallica’s Master of Puppets, along those lines. I also thought it was important for Under the Sign to have some of that vocal extremity so you can’t catch everything, although that was largely due to the production.”

With 3 warmly received records behind them, the group set off on their first headlining tour, and while in Germany were approached by representatives of the native label Nuclear Blast, with whom they soon signed. This move would cause no small amount of controversy within the underground, since the label—who were in the process of signing several successful black metal bands including Dissection and Dimmu Borgir—were considered to be a major label and also had Christian connections.

Certainly, the first product of this surprise collaboration, the 1998 album Destroyer, or About How to Philosophize With the Hammer did little to put fan’s minds at rest. A combination of new and older, unreleased material, it was undoubtedly an incoherent experience, not helped by the fact that the album features no less than 9 musicians, with a line-up variation on almost every song. Infernus handled, at various times, guitars, bass, vocals, and drums, with second guitarist Tormentor the only other real constant. Under the Sign drummer Grim had departed soon after that recording (sadly killing himself 2 years later), as had vocalist Pest.”

Predictably, the record felt more like a compilation than an album, not least due to the inconsistent production and the fact that no less than 4 vocalists appear over the course of 8 songs. ‘Destroyer was recorded over a long time span and much of it… well, I would say it was the weakest album of the band,’ admits Infernus.

The album is perhaps most notable for its introduction of Kristian ‘Gaahl’ Espedal, a vocalist who would eventually play a large part in bringing the group to greater notoriety, both within the black metal movement and outside of it. ‘…I’m a bit older than him, and we didn’t socialize as kids, but I was aware of him and chose him when we needed a vocalist due to his work in his solo project Trelldom.’

Gaahl duly accepted the invitation but joined the group so near to the album’s completion that he could only contribute to the opening title track, and indeed is scathing about the album, describing it to me today as ‘the worst album I know within black metal’. It would not be until 2000’s Incipit Satan that Gaahl would appear as the primary vocalist, recording in Sweden’s Sunlight Studio with guitarists Infernus and Tormentor, new bassist King Ov Hell (Tom Cato Visnes), and drummer Sersjant (Erlend Erichsen), also known for his work in Bergen death metal act Molested.

Having a more traditional line-up certainly didn’t make for a more traditional-sounding album however, and Incipit Satan proved an even more bewildering listen than its predecessor, due in large part to the industrial elements added by guest member Daimonion, better known as Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved. First emerging during the opening title track—bringing things to a brief but jarring standstill only a minute into the song—the synths and electronics return sporadically throughout the record, most notably on the ambient number Will To Power.”

I was also tired of the process of making an album in Bergen—you can’t separate work from slumber or socializing. At that point in time I wanted everyone to be prepared to go to the studio and stay in the studio until it was done.”

If the electronic touches weren’t enough to shock the longtime Gorgoroth fanbase, then the final number surely was, thanks not only to its name—When Love Rages Wild in My Heart—but the crooning Elvis/Danzig-style vocals of Michael Krohn, well known within Norwegian rock circles for fronting the band Raga Rockers.”

I was from earlier in this band having 2 different vocalists on an album, and also after 2 weeks the vocalist we had on the album went home without finishing the product. I wanted something different and a friend of mine had some time available, and we’d been socializing somewhat before that and we needed a vocalist and I like his vocals—although in a different setting—so I said, ‘Let’s try it’ and we enjoyed the result. If people want to cry about such things let them do so, it’s not a concern. We don’t feel a duty to please, the only thing that I should be able to feel is that it sounds right, that’s the only thing that matters.”

I.

There were maybe too many egocentric persons, especially referring to my good friend Erlend Erichsen, the drummer. He’s a character that works solely with his feelings, logic doesn’t need to be present in his performing and I think that to find solutions to make that album was very interesting. It was extremely tense. Insane at times. We couldn’t be in the studio at the same time, some of us. (…) Of course, I stick to the side of the drummer in this situation … He’s probably more of an extreme than I am. I’m like… I won’t do things if I can’t put myself into it, but he will force himself into it, no matter what. That’s also the reason I don’t sing on the final track, it’s not a song I want to touch. I’ve heard it through once and it’s just bogus in a way, there’s a lot of good melodies but it’s been cut to pieces … I think the vocals are completely bullshit.”

Gaahl

It was King, in fact, who would now take over writing duties along with new drummer Einar ‘Kvitrafn’ Selvik. Allowing 2 newer members to take the creative reins was a surprising move—and one that would have some implications in later years—but it is one that Infernus stands by today:

It was because they were high on spirits. They wrote music and so did

I, but I did not feel comfortable delivering my material at that time. I think that it’s the ultimate duty of someone writing music to know your limits…. So I didn’t feel I could stand behind what I was writing at that time, and coincidentally that fell into a situation where those people could deliver. As it had been before, only this time I let others contribute more material, which again isn’t a big deal as long as the albums can deliver… It’s never important to have complete control, as long as you know the result is going to be good.

King and Kvitrafn’s compositions would see the light of day on 2003’s Twilight of the Idols (In Conspiracy with Satan), an album which (…) bore little mark of Infernus, aside from his characteristic guitar playing. An extremely vicious-sounding record, Twilight practically tears from the speakers the second it starts, pushing everything into a wall of noise, before spreading its wings, retaining a single-minded approach while nonetheless gradually revealing the subtleties within the assault, thanks partly to its unusually clear production. The album also highlighted King’s distinctive writing style, something which may owe much to his unusual musical background.”

Everyone was into metal when I was a kid. When I got older I got tired of metal and started getting into jazz, but noisier stuff, like avant-garde jazz. When I was 21, 23 I was offered to do my first Gorgoroth album and that’s how I got into that sort of music. I already knew people in the scene, but I was not that interested… and I’m still not that interested actually. There are a few good bands around, but as a movement I don’t see myself as part of it.”

King

I wouldn’t say it’s a jazz influence, it’s about how you are able to use

harmonics and how you are able to create moves and I still think there’s lots of unexplored fields and moves that can be put in this sort of music, to make things progress. Because you should never repeat yourself, it just gets boring for you. [Certamente uma coisa que o ouvinte padrão não consegue entender] It’s important to change, develop, and go somewhere. We had to take the band somewhere from the past though, so you also have these old Gorgoroth things in there too—I had to learn all the old songs to play live as well. But I never think when I make music, it’s more about getting the album to work, it’s not like a conscious choice, it happens by itself.”

K.

In February 2004 Gorgoroth traveled to Kraków in Poland for what is now an infamous performance, little knowing that it would boost the band’s profile immeasurably. Taking place at a television studio known as Studio Krzemionki and recorded by national TV station TVP, the event was arranged by native label Metal Mind, who already had a history of filming extreme metal bands at the location for DVD release. An unusually elaborate production, the show made for an impressively morbid spectacle, featuring 4 naked and hooded mock-crucified models (2 male, 2 female), burning torches, barbed wire, banners depicting the Sigil of Baphomet, and a large amount of animal blood and sheep heads. The show would probably have made an impact on its own, but was quickly elevated into something more significant thanks to the massive furor it caused within Poland, with heavy press coverage in the days that followed. More pressing than the contrived shock of the mainstream media was the fact that the authorities were contacted even before the show came to a close. The result was the arrival of the police, who confiscated the tapes of the performance the very same night, leading to a full criminal investigation, with the band and promoters accused of causing religious offense as well as mistreating animals.

The latter charge had few legs to stand on—no pun intended—and the band quickly distanced themselves from claims of animal cruelty (particularly Gaahl, who later explained that he rarely eats meat for animal welfare reasons), explaining that the heads were bought from a butcher, and not the result of some unusually large ritual slaughter. The blasphemy charges were taken rather more seriously, however, with the heavily Roman Catholic population taking particular offense due to Kraków’s status as the home city of then-Pope John Paul II. Incredibly, the band were ultimately forced to appear in court (not for the last time), though they escaped any punishment due to their ignorance of Polish law; the promoter was less lucky, receiving a heavy fine. On the plus side, the tapes would eventually be returned to Metal Mind, and ultimately released on DVD under the title Black Mass Kraków 2004.”

News of the incident spread worldwide and marked the beginning of a run of controversy that would ensure Gorgoroth’s reputation as one of the most notorious metal bands on the planet. With the Kraków incident still fresh in people’s minds, Gaahl found himself in court again, accused of assaulting and torturing a man in his house over a period of 6 hours. The trial received a great deal of attention, due both to Gaahl’s near-celebrity status and the rather sensationalist nature of the case, which included, among other things, an allegation that Gaahl had given the man in question a cup to bleed into, so that the singer, or the victim (the story varies), could drink the blood, a charge Gaahl denied by explaining that he was merely wishing to keep blood off his carpet. Gaahl was sentenced to both a hefty fine and jail time, partly because—as the media soon discovered—this was not his first interaction with the penal system, the vocalist having served several previous sentences for similarly prolonged and extreme uses of violence, reportedly causing long-term injuries in at least one of those involved.”

Another U.S. documentary, True Norwegian Black Metal (2007), added further fuel to the fire, playing heavily on Gaahl’s intimidating interview manner, while also including an inaccurate narration that described him living in seclusion (when in fact he had a flat in Bergen), and saying that as a child he had only one classmate, who later killed himself (in fact he had attended a regular school, apparently the same one as bandmate Infernus). ‘The school story is completely out,’ Gaahl laughs. ‘They tied 4 stories into one, 4 different stories with 4 different people.’

Gaahl’s memorable appearances would paint him as a powerful and intense individual, boasting not only charisma but a dark and otherworldly personality. This is not an inaccurate portrayal, as Gaahl certainly is an unusual individual with a lot of presence. What such appearances don’t convey is his surprising warmth and good humor; in fact, of all the people interviewed in this book, probably none laughed as frequently as Gaahl. Indeed, when speaking to the man himself it can be hard to picture the extreme and violent person described in these trials.”

I despise violence. I can’t even watch action films. But when it’s needed, it’s needed. Since I react and trust so much in my own feelings and emotions, I guess that’s one of the reasons I can seem so different. I think that’s the answer.

Gaahl maintains that far from being an aggressor, his acts of violence have only occurred where justified. As he told UK newspaper The Observer, ‘Everything deals with respect… The way I think of it is that you have to punish… or teach… anyone that crosses your borders so that they won’t do it again.’ He also asserted during our interview his belief that he (along with other members of the black metal scene) has been unfairly persecuted by the Norwegian authorities due to the nature of their beliefs and music.”

When someone comes with a weapon to your door, it would be hard to persuade the police that, ‘Oh, I didn’t think of using the weapon!’ But of course they played on all the clichés… If you saw his first explanation—which of course the police ‘lost’—I apparently had a stone altar in my living room with 12 disciples in a circle, standing round, and we were going to sacrifice him. Of course this statement had to be destroyed as it would have killed the whole case for the prosecution, but that was one of the first rumors that went round from the supposed witness. It was more of a charade than anything—my underground friends discovered before the trial who sent him.”

People run to the police whenever I do anything. I’ve always been under attack. The thing is, if you continue to win, people have a tendency to go to the police. I think it would be quite a normal amount in an area like this… it probably deals with a lot of my friends in a way, and also the surroundings. There’s this idea that people should not be different. Though it might be one of the reasons, I don’t think black metal has so much to do with it. Maybe long hair.”

As it turns out, much of Gaahl’s conflicts seem to stem from his earlier years and his self-confessed involvement in gang activity, rather than any feuds relating to the black metal scene. Such personal conflicts also appear to have played a large role in the controversial views he held in his youth, views he expressed in a now-infamous 1995 interview in Polish zine Holocaust that has recently resurfaced. In this short but memorable feature, Gaahl expressed admiration for Hitler and the ancient Roman emperors, and stated, ‘There are always someone to kill or curse, especially sub-humans (nigers, mulattoes, muslims and others!)’.”

Sometime later Infernus and a friend were hit by rape allegations relating to an incident at his property in 2004, where a woman claimed to have been punched and raped by the 2 men. Both Infernus and his codefendant were found guilty in a 2005 trial, but proclaimed their innocence and appealed the sentence, claiming the sex was consensual, the result being that Infernus’ conviction was changed to ‘gross negligent rape’—the judgment essentially being that he did not take part in any rape but should have been aware of it and prevented it. Ultimately he served 120 days for this and illegal possession of firearms. By now the mounting notoriety of the group was proving too much for Nuclear Blast, and the label dropped the band in late 2004, something of a relief to both parties, it seems.”

The stresses surrounding the unit appear to have had a far-from-detrimental effect on the band’s creativity, with 2006 seeing the release, via Regain Records, of one of the group’s finest efforts yet, an album entitled Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam (…) Featuring Frost on session drums, with all music composed by King and all lyrics written by Gaahl, the album perfected the approach introduced on Twilight, retaining the wall-of-noise style while making a noticeably greater use of dynamics.

Ad Majorem was also notable for being the first Gorgoroth album sung entirely in English, although the contents of the songs have remained somewhat suppressed since Gorgoroth keep their lyrics unpublished, even going so far as to legally challenge fan sites that list them.”

the band established themselves as one of a very small number of black metal acts capable of achieving commercial success without watering down their sound or message. Indeed, all 3 members claimed to be dedicated Satanists, albeit with 3 very different interpretations of what that entailed.

Despite this common ground, all was not well within the group. Even in 2005, when I first met the band in person, the distance between the 3 men was striking, with Infernus at one point making the surprising admission that he had no idea of his bandmates’ personal music tastes. Perhaps inevitably—given such strong, eccentric personalities—the cracks were beginning to form and the 3 soon found themselves embroiled in a lengthy internal battle, one sparked when Gaahl and King moved to ‘fire’ Infernus from the band in late 2007. Citing his lack of creative input and a disrespectful manner toward session members and other creative partners, the band also stated in interviews that the move had been prompted by Infernus’ support of the pro-hard-drugs Never Stop the Madness campaign and recent rape allegations. However, Gaahl confirms that such problems predated the release of Ad Majorem and indeed caused much deliberation regarding the release of that album.”

Moving quickly following the split, Gaahl and King recruited various session musicians—including ex-Cradle of Filth/Dimmu Borgir drummer Nick Barker and Enslaved guitarist Ice Dale—and began touring using the Gorgoroth name and logo, playing some rather poorly received European club shows as well as a truly first-class performance at Germany’s Wacken festival in 2008. Legally, however, there remained much debate about the status of the Gorgoroth name. Though Infernus continued to claim sole ownership, for all intents and purposes it appeared that the name was now the property of the Gaahl/King camp, not least since they had now been signed by a new label.

For that reason it was all the more surprising when Infernus was declared, over one year later, to have won the legal battle. As it transpired, King had in fact only filed an application for the trademark prior to the split with Infernus, as opposed to having been granted it through a court victory, as was generally understood (either through misrepresentation or misinterpretation) by the press and public. In fact the sole court case would not occur until 2008, with Infernus filing a lawsuit for misuse of the Gorgoroth name, a case that ended some 6 months later in his favor.”

There was only one court case. One. It is always the case in Norway that you will get a trademark registered in your name when you apply for it, whether another party disagrees or not, it’s just a formality. So they tried to present this as a court decision, which it was not. So we had to appeal the registration and, in theory, wait up to 5 years. As I didn’t have 5 years I took them to court instead and that was the only court case which was held. The court then decided that King and Gaahl’s trademark registration had to be deleted because it was invalid. They tried to register someone else’s property as their own.”

I.

No I don’t regret. It has gone the way I wanted it to. Well, I wanted to win the name, but I would have given it back to him. Yes, by all means, that was the plan all along. [!] Why should I have the name? I would have given it back and I think Infernus knew this. In the trial he told me, ‘I knew that I would get the true story from you, but I didn’t expect you to speak so much for me.’

G.

I claimed the name solely as an egocentric bit and even though I mean that everything is done right, Infernus needed a slap in the back of the head, and that goes for the other parties involved—one has to be harmful sometimes and it was time to burn Gorgoroth to the ground. I actually wanted to release an album in the Gorgoroth name—because there were only 2 albums under the name Gorgoroth that dealt with the topic I brought into it, and I like to work in 3’s—but my heart didn’t come to do so—maybe the meaning was that this wasn’t supposed to be released under this name.”

Following the court case, Gaahl and King would adopt the name God Seed (taken from a song the two had penned on Ad Majorem), the plan being to release the material King had written for the next Gorgoroth album under this moniker. Ultimately, however, Gaahl would not record any vocals for the album and the material would be released on The Underworld Regime in 2010 under the band name Ov Hell, with a line-up consisting of Dimmu Borgir vocalist Shagrath, Frost, Ice Dale, and ex-Gorgoroth live guitarist Teloch. Gaahl, meanwhile, would take a temporary hiatus to escape the circus that had built up around him following the court case and his announcement that he was gay, a rather unique event in the black metal sphere.

The God Seed name would resurface following this hiatus when Gaahl and King decided to collaborate once more in 2012, returning with a new line-up and a debut release—confusingly, a CD/DVD package of the 2008 ‘Gorgoroth’ Wacken show, minus the Infernus-penned material. The band would then release an impressive album, I Begin, later the same year, featuring a new line-up that included the talented Stian ‘Sir Sick’ Kårstad of Trelldom and whose tracks (quite logically) alternate stylistically between King/Gaahl-era Gorgoroth and Trelldom.

Meanwhile, attention turned back to Infernus. Just as Gaahl and King had been busy following the split, so had the band’s founder, who began working with Swedish drummer and producer Tomas Asklund, already well-known for his work in Dark Funeral and latter-day Dissection, as well as for being a committed Satanist. Together the two crafted the 2009 album Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt (which Infernus explains translates as To Convert as Many as Possible Into Satanism) with the aid of returning guitarist Tormentor, returning vocalist Pest—now living in Tennessee —and, curiously, Frank Watkins of renowned [quasi-]death metal act Obituary, also a U.S. resident.”

Though Pest would depart again in 2012, the album was a hard-hitting return to early Gorgoroth, combining aggressive, unfussy, and confident thrashy black metal with slower numbers that drew on the same epic melancholy and discordant territories as found on records such as Antichrist. Reviews generally proved favorable, and once again the lyrics (written by two friends of Infernus whom he describes as ‘not musicians, but devoted Satanists’) were withheld.

The one who has the sharpest ears and the dedication will be able to find their way into the material without any guiding from anyone of us, laughs Infernus. As a bonus, by not releasing the lyrics we make it more difficult for cover bands in the future. We recently had one cover band, and that was enough. They even called themselves Gorgoroth, I think…’ HAHAHAHA!

26 Trelldom

WHILE THEIR relatively high profile may be due in part to the notoriety of the group’s central protagonist, Kristian ‘Gaahl’ Espedal, Trelldom remain one of the more impressive and artistically driven acts from Norway. Formed in 1992 and named after the Norwegian word for slavery, the band initially saw guitarist Bjørn I, later known as Tyrant, writing the majority of the music, with Gaahl providing lyrics and vocals as well as overseeing the composition process, a role he had apparently adopted even before Trelldom’s existence.”

Trelldom would debut in 1994 with the Disappearing of the Burning Moon demo, also featuring bassist Børge ‘Taakeheim’ Boge and drummer Rune ‘Goat Pervertor’ Thorsnes, both also known for their work in Gorgoroth. A 5-song, 20-minute effort, the demo used rolling drums and long, relatively minimal riffs as weapons, although closing number Til Evighet deviated from the formula thanks to a crawling pace and bleaker vibe.”

Whatever the technical hurdles, the resulting demo tape was enough to grab the attention of Metalion, who signed the band to Head Not Found and released their 1995 debut album Til Evighet… (‘To Eternity…’), a 9-song effort that included re-recordings of 4 of the 5 demo songs. Though it was recorded by Eirik M. Husabø, the same producer as the demo, the opus was free from the murky sound of Burning Moon, and also lacked the deeper, growled vocals Gaahl employed during some parts of the tape. A notably crisper, icier-sounding effort overall, it also picked up the pace, and with the passionate and varied blasting of ‘Ole Nic’ (a collaborator of Tyrant in the band Betrayer)¹ it achieved a monochromatic take on black metal that resembled the sound of countrymen such as Gorgoroth, Burzum, and Darkthrone.”

¹ Talvez a Betrayer thrashdeath polonesa, mas pode ser a banda que depois se tornaria o Belphegor austríaco.

The album packaging certainly made clear the temporary status of the line-up, stating, ‘Trelldom is: Gaahl, vocals, poetry and concept’, and ‘This album is dedicated to Gaahl, and Gaahl only.—Await to behold the sinister words and divine poems of the philosopher Gaahl.’

Not long after its release, however, the band did find a stable line-up, consisting of guitarist Ronny ‘Valgard’ Stavestrand and bassist Stian ‘Sir Sick’ Kårstad. Along with a drummer known as Mutt—who later played in 2 other projects with Gaahl, Gaahlskag (sic – Gaahlskagg) and Sigfader [nada lançado até o momento]—the group recorded at Grieghallen with producer Pytten in 1997 and 1998. A truly stellar effort, the resulting album Til Et Annet… (‘To Another…’) expanded the band’s sound considerably, working from the same raw Norse black metal blueprint as its more generic predecessor, but adding numerous inventive songwriting touches along the way. These not only injected vital character but demonstrated a working band, despite Trelldom having earned a reputation as a solo project.”

For my own sake I think there’s too much vocals on it—now I find it a bit too extreme on the vocal part. But it’s one of my favorite albums no matter what band. But still the singer could be a bit more… well, he could shut up a bit more.” HAHAHA!

Gaahl’s approach on the album sits in contrast to his calmer, more measured work with Gorgoroth, and at times the singer appears to push himself to his limits. Slave Til En Kommende Natt proves a good example of the man’s range, complementing the pronounced bass lines with a combination of gravelly rasps and a distinctive, strangely slurred [enrolado] singing voice that drew comparisons to Public Image Ltd’s John Lydon in its Terrorizer review. The slower title track also makes use of Gaahl’s singing voice and features 2 of Gaahl’s vocal lines running consecutively, a technique also used on the unforgettable final number Sonar Dreyri, a testing and hypnotic 11-minute epic centered around a single 2-chord guitar riff.”

Over these 2 chords Gaahl’s vocals become increasingly tormented, culminating in some of the most extreme vocals yet contributed by a black metal band. ‘I did torment the rest of the band with having to play this song over and over again’, laughs Gaahl. ‘I didn’t reveal how I would do the vocals, I just did it mentally until I got in the studio. Due to the lyrics, it’s a double vocal thing there, though it’s in old Norse, so it wouldn’t make sense to anyone now anyway. One of the vocal lines is the original, the other is put in later to make the conversation between the two… well, not characters, it’s a dialogue between one’s self in a way. It’s easier to see this kind of dialogue in the title track, which is the young, impatient one toward the old, patient one. That is a part of my own character, but also what I come from prior to birth. But then we are dealing with my hidden beliefs in a way, and I can’t go into this without confusing people. I’m not a teacher in this form.’

The superb follow-up album Til Minne… (‘In Memory…’) would again feature Gaahl, Valgard, and Sir, along with session musicians Are (on drums) and Egil Furenes, who contributed traditional Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, primarily on Eg Reiste I Minnet. As with Til Et Annet… the album works with a fairly traditional Norse black metal formula while adding small but distinct touches, such as a brief yet surprisingly tranquil break on From This Past and the spoken-word vocals of Steg. Despite the continuity between the 2 records, they would be separated by a gap of almost a decade and it was not until 2007 that the album was released.”

IMAGEM 23. Capa do Til Minne… “It is maybe my favorite album of all time”, atesta o modesto Gaahl!

All the same, an incident involving Gorgoroth/God Seed members and entourage, which apparently left a man hospitalized backstage at Wacken in 2008, was reportedly sparked by homophobic comments aimed at Gaahl. Elsewhere, modeling agent Dan De Vero, whom Gaahl was reported to have had a ‘close relationship’ with, has also reported threats from the black metal community. Nonetheless, Gaahl reports that he has never encountered any hostility regarding his sexuality in person. Whether this comes down to the fact that Gaahl would be an unwise target for aggression, or a sign that the black metal scene is more tolerant than generally accepted, is unclear. Certainly his friendship with Bård ‘Faust’ Eithun presents another level of complexity to an issue that is sometimes presented in black-and-white terms.”

There will be 9 albums, even if the last one is released when I am 90 or something. The 9 is the 9 aspects of the soul or what we now use today as the word ‘soul’. In the Norse speech we used 9 different words for it, the psychology was highly developed, whereas with Christianity it has been reduced to 2 or 3 words. So I’m trying to explain and work on these different aspects with Trelldom. It’s of course difficult as it has escaped our language nowadays. I’m trying to get in contact with it at least. I will probably add something like the closing experimental tracks on previous albums because I want things to be connected, I want to put all the albums in one thread without going chronologically. It should be able to skip back and forth, it’s in a way accidental as to what I pick out and what part of the soul I would work with. It needs to live on its own in a way. But definitely some of the aspects will have to be less wordy—I do see this happening because when I try to contact ‘this’ there are some things which can only be sound.”

IMAGEM 24. O magnético e icônico Gaahl, que ao que consta é, além de tudo, ator!

27 The Opus Magnum: Mayhem Part III

WHILE THE POTENTIAL of the early-nineties incarnation of Mayhem was cut short by Euronymous’ murder in the summer of 1993, the crowning achievement of the man, the band, and in some people’s opinion the genre was completed shortly before his death. Named De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (or as the cover art confirms, Dom. Sathanas, the ‘Dom’ being short for Domini), the album’s title translates as Of Lord Satan’s Mysteries/Secret Rites and was, according to Dead, named after an occult book he discovered.

That it was Dead who came up with the title highlights just how long the album had been in gestation. In fact, the legendary Live In Leipzig album—recorded in November 1990 but released almost 3 years later—had already captured Dead, Euronymous, Necrobutcher, and Hellhammer performing half the album’s 8 numbers, namely Funeral Fog, Pagan Fears, Buried By Time and Dust, and Freezing Moon. The latter track had also been recorded (along with demo number Carnage) earlier that year by the same line-up for the Projections of a Stained Mind compilation on Sweden’s CBR Records, and 3 of the remaining 4 new songs had also been in existence since Dead’s time in the band.

But Dead was sadly no more, and due to the subsequent use of the photos of his body, Necrobutcher had also left the band. This left Euronymous and Hellhammer with a substantial void, one they initially filled with Euronymous’ partner at the Helvete store, ex-Perdition Hearse and Abhorrent/Thyabhorrent frontman Stian ‘Occultus’ Johansen. Providing bass and vocals, Occultus delivered the lyrics in a manner not dissimilar to Dead, both in terms of sound and delivery.”

In fact, after Occultus’ departure it was the Burzum mainman who played session bass while the group rehearsed without a singer, this line-up captured on the popular rehearsal bootleg From the Darkest Past.”

Varg was playing only as a session musician to finish the album and we were talking about getting together again for the 10-year anniversary and doing a show in Oslo.”

Necro.

The Thorns riff on De Mysteriis (on From the Dark Past, and taken from Thorn’s Lovely Children) was something he asked and I said, ‘Okay, of course, I have thrown this song away, do whatever you

want with it.’”

Snorre

Now all the band needed was a voice to finish the album. Ambitiously, Euronymous elected to contact Attila Csihar (best known for his work in the Hungarian band Tormentor and electronic project Plasma Pool) rather than induct one of the many vocalists in his home country. Yet having gone to the trouble of tracking down the vocalist and persuading him to travel to Norway, Euronymous’ preparations for the recording of the vocals seem to have ceased, and arrangements for Attila’s sessions were somewhat loose to say the least. In fact, it would be Snorre who ended up completing the lyrics, and though not contributing any recordings to the finished album, he would also spend time rehearsing with the band while the vocal parts were being worked out with the singer.”

Attila was a really nice chap, he came up here with his girlfriend and we hung out. He smoked a lot of pot during the recording sessions to get in the mood I remember, and that was kind of funny ‘cos we were like, ‘Is this good or is this bad?’

S.

and I was told that I was Dead’s favorite vocalist, which was an honor. I think we were talking about me joining the band, he wanted me to move to Norway but I said I had to finish my studies.”

Atilla

Though seemingly a long-running plan on the part of Euronymous, the decision to use Attila was certainly a surprise for many in the Norwegian scene. After all, not only was he surrounded by an abundance of local talent, but many of the vocalists in the country actually knew the songs on the forthcoming album inside out due to an instrumental tape that was making the rounds, a point Grutle of Enslaved recalls with a smile.”

He sings like a sick priest, he sings in Latin, with an accent, it’s incredible!”

Euro.

There’s no doubt that Attila’s spirited performance has proven to be a defining factor of the record and in some quarters a controversial one. Deviating from the more traditional approach of his Tormentor days, the vocalist adopted a more demented and theatrical style, incorporating a noticeably drawling delivery and lurching creepily from screams and rasps to an almost operatic form of singing that made a feature of his distinctive Hungarian accent. It was a bold step that spoke of confidence on the part of the long-absent band, and one that stemmed directly from the freedom Euronymous had allowed the legendary vocalist in his performance.”

While Euronymous’ preparations for the vocals were minimal, his vision for the rest of the record was absolute and saw him leaving nothing to chance, particularly in terms of sound and acoustics. ‘Euronymous had specific ideas about each instrument and he had specific ideas about echoes,’ recalls Attila. ‘The drums were recorded in a huge concert hall, solos were recorded in a room and he was moving round all the time and saying, Okay, there we have it. If you listen to records from the time and then De Mysteriis you hear the production is far and away better than anything else.’

A lot of the guitars were done with closed miking, but all of the stuff with reverberation on the record was done with a Marshall stack and one microphone in a huge room, the main hall, and we were just moving about until we thought, ‘Ah, this is it.’ You find the sweet spots then you start working and you can’t play that sort of loud music during daytime because the place is full of people, so we did that kind of stuff at night. You really needed thorough planning, you needed mix-downs—think about it, you only had 16 tracks and at times you’re using 9 on the drums.”

Pytten

It wasn’t only the drums that would require large numbers of tracks. In fact, a crucial ingredient in the creation of the album would be the repeatedly multi-tracked guitars, which create a huge (yet suitably icy and treble-heavy) wall of sound, a perfect backdrop for the dynamic percussion and the minimal approach of the bass lines. It’s an approach that certainly separates the record from the thinner-sounding efforts of many other Norwegian acts during this period.”

Unlike a lot of people within Norwegian black metal he was using a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall head and that’s a very traditional rock sound. But he was really conscious about how it should sound, so he was telling me what he wanted and I was using my skills to produce it. Lots and lots of hard and serious work. Sometimes you were getting extremely tired and you wanted to go home, but when you looked at what you’d been doing you’d think, Okay, it was worth it.”

And so it proved. Sadly Euronymous would never see the pressing of the finished masterpiece he had worked on for so many years, his murder occurring just prior to the original release date.”

The record’s release was ultimately postponed, as the parents of the guitarist had requested that Varg’s bass lines be removed, a point that Hellhammer initially agreed to but ultimately decided against. To this day they remain, simply lowered in the mix and without credit to Vikernes.”

It was a book that inspired Dead to write the lyrics, but he is not around to answer that question and I never saw the book myself. If other people feel this is Satanic music, maybe it is. This is the great thing about art, you make it but other people can find other things in your art that you don’t see yourself or that you don’t think about yourself when you make it or perform it.”

N.

Finally issued in the middle of 1994, the album would be the final release on Euronymous’ Deathlike Silence Productions. While the group’s stellar reputation and macabre backstory would have been enough to guarantee attention, even objectively speaking it was a milestone in the black metal scene and hailed as a classic upon release. The long-delayed Live in Leipzig the previous year meant that 4 of the 8 songs were already familiar to fans, not least Freezing Moon, which arguably remains the most iconic song in Mayhem’s back catalogue, its aura of despair still unparalleled in the band’s catalogue or indeed anyone else’s. Elsewhere Euronymous’ own composition techniques were married to the snaking discordance of Snorre’s writing style on newer songs such as Cursed in Eternity and From the Dark Past. Masterminded by Euronymous, but with the close link to the Dead/Necrobutcher/Hellhammer lineup, the record is aggressive, cold, detailed and single-minded, and testament to both a new era of brilliance for the group but also the delayed realization of its previous line-up’s work.”

I read it in the papers. I only had the phone numbers for Varg and Euronymous and both the numbers didn’t work, so I thought the guys were on holiday. Then I read the news in a Hungarian version of Metal Hammer and I thought, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Atilla

28 The Beast Reawakens: Mayhem Part IV

Necrobutcher and Hellhammer (…) looked to an ex-member, Deathcrush vocalist Sven-Erik ‘Maniac’ Kristiansen, with whom Necrobutcher was still in close contact. No longer living in the mountains of Telemark, he had moved to the country’s capital and was working on several musical projects, including one called Status Fatal, which he describes as ‘in the vein of a helpless Joy Division.”

The following year the line-up was completed thanks to teenage guitarist Rune ‘Blasphemer’ Eriksen, who lived outside of Oslo and only had a marginal connection to the black metal scene. Originally discovering heavy metal via his older sister and her metal-loving boyfriends, [haha] he had developed a passion for the technical late-80s thrash of outfits such as Slayer, Holy Moses, and Coroner. He was also a fan of death metal and had even started a band playing Obituary covers, releasing a demo in 1991 and playing a handful of shows the same year, including one with Kreator. Though not a particular fan of black metal (he explains that Rotting Christ’s Thy Mighty Contract was one of the few examples he favored) he had gravitated to the Oslo scene out of a hunger for greater extremity. He eventually crossed paths with Hellhammer, who invited him to participate in another of his musical projects, a post-Mortem act called Descended, from which guitarist Steinar ‘Sverd’ Johnsen had just been kicked out.”

IMAGEM 25. A formação estável do Mayhem, 11 anos junta após a morte de Euronymous.

So I met up in the Mayhem rehearsal room. I think it was Mortem, we did a couple of tracks, but then a disaster happened so I kind of fled the city. It was me and the vocalist, we were drunk and somehow managed to trash the rehearsal room. I think someone had broken into his equipment box and we went totally nuts and started trashing stuff and that led to my departure from the scene for a few years. There was a lot of bad blood of course, and people were… not threatening but, like, Hellhammer said I managed to ruin his bicycle and was very pissed off. It’s kind of funny and absurd now.”

Blasphemer – essa aventura aconteceu bem antes de 1994, o que explica Blasphemer ter podido entrar na banda de forma fixa neste ano marcante para o BM

I kind of isolated myself and tried to start a black metal band with some childhood friends from school. I was playing drums and we did that for a year and a half and were about to record a demo, but before we managed to do that Hellhammer got in touch with me again and said, ‘Hey, long time no see, would you like to join Mayhem?’ I thought, ‘What the fuck is this?’ but my heart was already there, I wanted to get more into this extreme stuff and really go for it. And at 18, you don’t give a fuck about anything, you just go for it. So that’s what I did.”

The move to resurrect the band initially proved universally unpopular, and fanzines bemoaned the decision to bring back the band in the absence of Dead and Euronymous, a point that Maniac admits made him hesitate. ‘I was very reluctant, but when I heard Blasphemer play all doubt was surgically removed. That’s how I embarked on a roller coaster of cutting flesh, bloody pig heads, alcohol, misanthropy, and the guitar riffs of a genius. I think most people wanted Mayhem to remain buried. But Mayhem is still there. I am sure a lot of these people are not.’

There was a lot of crap actually. I think Hellhammer got more shit than me. I mean, it was not like I forced my way into the band—I was asked and I accepted. I remember a couple of times when we were out he would end up in discussions, kind of defending why he did this. People were not that convinced and were certain that we would do this to go out and earn as much cash as possible. But with time it sort of bounced off because we did nothing. I mean, I joined in October ‘94 and we did not play until ‘97, we were just rehearsing all the time. (…) We felt that the only way to shut their face was to release good shit… That’s why we rehearsed for 4 years.”

Blasphemer & O nascimento do “Technical Black Metal”?!?!

I’m not sure why it took so long, we were only doing weekend rehearsals and I was still living where I was raised, I was still at school so I was living partly at the rehearsal room and going back home 60km from Oslo. And weekend rehearsals meant beer of course…”

It was not until the summer of ‘97 that the band made their official return, thanks to a live show in Bischofswerda, Germany. Though hardly their finest performance, it marked their first appearance abroad since their eventful 1990 tour of East Germany and Turkey, during which they had not only recorded Live in Leipzig but played the first black metal show in Asia, in the Turkish city of Izmir, despite police interruption.

The first new Mayhem release was also issued in 1997, a 2-track single making its way into the hands of attendees of the comeback show, as well as some of those at the London show later that year. Featuring a cover photo from 1987 that Euronymous and Necrobutcher had originally intended for the cover of Deathcrush, it was limited to 500 copies and consisted of a rerecording of Necrolust and an exclusive version of the new song Ancient Skin. Now signed to UK’s Misanthropy Records—a decision that raised eyebrows, since the label was most famous for having Burzum on their roster—Mayhem followed this a few months later with the EP Wolf’s Lair Abyss.

Featuring 4 songs along with an electronic intro track, the opus remains one of the band’s most intense recordings. Frequently high-paced, it is a mass of distorted bass, searing guitars, and blisteringly fast but detailed percussion, all topped off by the inhuman screams of Maniac. Retaining the single-minded and often linear fury of De Mysteriis, the EP is nonetheless more technical and calculated, with unusually complicated drum patterns and guitar work breaking up the furious assaults.”

When you rehearse old songs as often as we did in those early years you begin to understand the patterns, and I think subconsciously I wanted to have some of the similarities from De Mysteriis. But at the same time it has this weirdness, the weird timings, ‘cos I was always into that technical side. It was a combination of what I did and the older Mayhem stuff.”

B.

It was clearly aggressive people playing aggressive music. Negativity, drinking a lot… a bunch of pissed-off guys, you know? Hellhammer was the only one who had a job—he was working as night guard so it didn’t collide with the rehearsals—so we were poor, piss-poor ‘cos we didn’t do anything else but the band.”

Necrobutcher

We actually recorded in a really good studio with a producer who was a member of TNT. We listened to it afterwards and realized we’d recorded it too fast, it was too aggressive, so we had to go back to Farout Studios in Oslo and record several of the songs again.”

During my best performances I think I managed to be in another world. I was not in the presence of an audience but a black vibrant light. My worst performances are best forgotten but unfortunately they are very vivid. Drunk beyond humanity. The cutting was directly inspired by Dead, especially after patching him up after the gig Mayhem played in Jessheim (Norway). I realized back then that he actually went to other worlds, and years later I wanted to go there myself. But I think my worlds were different from his. An ecstasy hidden in a religious veil. And in general I hated religion. I still can’t believe how I got there. I hated religion so much yet every time was like a revelation. Today I know how to get there perhaps because I might have achieved a spirituality lost to me in the past. Mainly thanks to Dissection and Watain. But anyway the cutting turned into a freak show where the audience wanted to see it more than they wanted to listen to the vocals or the lyrics. I don’t think any of them understood anything, except maybe one percent of them.”

The band would demonstrate their onstage proficiency on their next official album, a live opus recorded in Italy in late 1998 and released in 1999 under the title Mediolanum Capta Est, intended to mean ‘Milan is captured’. Though it was never going to topple the raw brilliance of Live in Leipzig, the record nonetheless remains an intense and rewarding experience, particularly notable for its guest appearance by Attila.

Far more significant was the band’s 2nd full-length, which arrived midway during the following year. Titled Grand Declaration of War, it was divided into Parts II and III, and presented as the second and third chapters of a bigger work that had begun with Wolf’s Lair Abyss, the opening track even beginning with the same riff that closed that EP. But it was there that any similarities ended, the music and lyrics taking a bold step away from conventional black metal. A complex concept album with a somewhat futuristic aesthetic, Grand Declaration saw the band taking the unusual step of entrusting all songwriting duties to their newest member, who went on to oversee every facet of the record’s creation.”

Wolf’s Lair Abyss was a bit more free. I was pumping out the riffs that I had and people just hooked onto it and played along. After that I became more fussy with the drum patterns and had a lot of ideas that I would tell to Hellhammer. The other guys were very happy about it and who wouldn’t be—one guy to sit at home and do all the work? (laughs) I think they just realized I had a fucked up thing going. I didn’t get any complaints so I just continued almost without any interference. That’s how I write music—I am probably a demanding musician to work with and I guess will always be, ‘cos I have very strong opinions: it’s not just a riff, it’s so much more, it’s a very spiritual thing.”

Making use of guest appearances by Ulver programmer Tore Ylwizaker, Øyvind Hægeland, the vocalist of progressive metal outfit Spiral Architect, and co-writer Anders Odden of Cadaver and Apoptygma Berzerk, it was these tracks in particular [with electronics] that polarized listeners. While many critics applauded the record for its forward-thinking nature, for other fans it was a vindication of earlier suspicions regarding the band’s return, with some feeling that the band had moved too far from their core sound.”

People fucking hated it, they said we had turned into a shit band. They said, ‘This doesn’t sound like black metal should sound, shit like that. But years later it seems people love that album and I really fucking appreciate it myself.”

Necro.

But it was in the air, there was so much experimentation going on so sooner or later I think that had to happen… Actually later a German guy wrote 50 to 60 pages on one song… it was an academic paper teaching techniques and stuff. It was heavy reading, I don’t think I got all the way to the end, but it was very cool, like a recognition outside of what a black metal album could do, a small victory.”

Necro.

While the impressive and complex musicianship proved a defining factor of the album, the songs also placed particular emphasis on Maniac, his distinctive screams now coupled with clearer vocal declarations, which often acted to push the heavily Nietzschean narrative forward. Written entirely by the vocalist, the lyrics were as in-depth and uncompromising as the music, the result of an intense partnership between the two men.”

I would say that there is not an ounce of spirituality; the lyrics deal with the end of this world and the beginning of another, but only through scientific destruction and harsh scientific reality. It is very inspired by Nietzsche, although in retrospect I think that Nietzsche was rather spiritual, so I think what I took from him was suited to my approach on how I perceived the world. I am proud of this album but I could never repeat it and my worldview is very, very different now.”

The authoritarian nature of the record’s lyrics, which frequently rallied against peace, weakness, and stagnation, was mirrored by a wider exploration of totalitarian imagery and themes during this period. Hellhammer had already raised eyebrows due to a number of choice comments on the subject of race and an apparent fondness for swastikas, but the band as a whole had also been provoking the public’s sensibilities since Wolf ’s Lair Abyss (the Wolf’s Lair famously being Hitler’s military headquarters), making use of the SS Totenkopf (skull and crossbones) and other historic Nazi imagery on merchandise.” Como eu suspeitava: o antípoda de Nie.

From the start when we called ourselves Mayhem it was about exploring the dark side of everything, negativity, developing into war, torture, crimes against humanity. So when you put all these bad things together with bad psychological thinking and then you use symbols like the upside down crosses in the logo, to go a step further would be swastikas and stuff like that. [Not at all!] Not swastikas, but stuff in that vein like the Totenkopf, a lot of bands used that. The path of exploring the darkness doesn’t necessarily make us into Nazis. Or Satanists; none of us”

Blasphemer, whose provocative side project Mezzerschmitt—also featuring Hellhammer (…)” Curiosamente, as letras da banda são classificadas como ‘anti-totalitarian’ no metal-archives!

In the midst of this came 2004’s Chimera, whose title, Blasphemer explained to Crypt, was chosen to convey that ‘the world, its content and all common understanding is nothing but an illusion’. Musically it was once again a change of tack, maintaining the complexities and stop/start structuring of its predecessor but proving a far more aggressive, traditional black metal record. Maniac’s vocals also proved unusually guttural, a far cry from the spirited eloquence of the previous album.”

Narcotics were not entirely new to Mayhem—indeed, as Kvikksølvguttene [CAPÍTULO 16] the members had famously created a pentagram out of 12g of cocaine for their sleeve art—but by now drugs and general excess were threatening to pull the band apart, their live performances suffering as a result. Maniac was now visibly inebriated during many shows, something that caused arguments and even physical conflict between him and Blasphemer (who apparently kicked the singer down a flight of stairs), himself in the midst of something of a chemical haze.

I remember I overdosed 2 times in the same day with amphetamines, so it was just a very unhealthy thing, always alcohol every occasion, every interview, all the time, even recording. I felt it was more important to be out partying and doing fucked up things, I could not focus. I was not happy with anything and I wanted to be numb. The band at this time also began to get a bit fractured and it was not the best relationship, at times it began to feel like a burden… I wanted for us to be a really good live band but you know it was Maniac who was out at that time and that was his last tour. It was on the cards really, he didn’t enjoy being on stage and it was obvious to everyone.’

Blasphemer

Today I would say I was kicked out, and I understand why. Blasphemer is a musical genius whilst I am a mere musical laboratory accident. He knew where, and how, to guide me, but in the end my alcohol abuse was too much even for him. I think he was patient with me for much longer than… (he cuts off the sentence knowingly)

Maniac”

He was too drunk onstage all the time, forgot all the lyrics, sang in the wrong places. So after he fucked up the world tour we said, ‘We

can’t carry on’… From ‘97 to about ‘06 I would say we were full-throttle, maximum liquor, drugs, craziness on tours; the last few years we kind of toned down this self-destructive thing. There’s a progression when you wake up after being drunk for too many years, it’s good to be awake.”

Necrobutcher

After departing the band, Maniac would go on to form Skitliv, an impressive outfit blending doom and black metal with electronic elements. Mayhem meanwhile would once again look to their past in search of a replacement, just as they had done after the band’s collapse in 1993. While Attila had been inactive for some years following the aftermath of De Mysteriis, he was now fronting Italian cyber black metal outfit Aborym, and having earned a reputation as something of a black metal legend, was also guesting with a wide range of bands such as Anaal Nathrakh, Keep of Kalessin, and drone act Sunn O))). It wasn’t long before he was rejoining the group that had helped to make his name.”

The results of this collaboration would surface on the 2007 album Ordo Ad Chao, a twist on the Freemason motto ‘Ordo Ab Chao’ or ‘Order from Chaos’. Like 2000’s Grand Declaration of War it was conceived via intense collaboration between vocalist and guitarist, and based around a carefully conceived concept, with Attila handling all lyrics and Blasphemer writing all the music in the studio, even going so far as to record the basslines on all but one song.”

That album went a little bit over the top, a lot of riffs and changes, there’s a lot of details there that people don’t see. Actually I don’t think I ever worked as much on any lyrics, I tried to make it cryptic but every lyric had a meaning, I could talk for hours on the connections between songs and so on. The intro and the last song connected, it’s like a frame, then the first 3 songs are more like an outer perspective and the next 2 an inner perspective. And it’s on 3 levels; nature, society and religion. (…) people would think it was very chaotic, but it’s very organized.”

B.

Murky and bass-heavy, it is a swampy and inaccessible listen, revealing its mysteries and rewards only with considerable patience from the listener. Once again using unusual time signatures and song structures, the riffs and melodies are obscure even by Mayhem standards, and the production—courtesy of Attila and Blasphemer, the album being engineered and mixed by Arcturus’ Knut Valle—saw the processed approach of earlier releases replaced by a sound as undeniably organic as a hunk of rotten meat. Even Hellhammer’s percussion had undergone a radical transformation from its usually ultra-precise approach, having been recorded in just a few evenings, with only kicks being triggered and no equalizing whatsoever.”

I set it as my goal to make the most negative piece of shit ever. We came up with this crazy concept that was perfect you know, it was all about questioning everything, basically what I wanted to do with the music was very on the border where people stop calling it music, everything was chaotic, hypnotic, acid-like. I think we managed something pretty unique on that album. It was more about exploring guitars and getting the ugliest possible riff out. Of course it had to be good, but it was more like a science of the music, trying to get it to absorb itself in terms of negativity.

Blasphemer

While much of the band’s fan base were excited to have Attila back in the fold, it was already clear that pleasing the tastes of Mayhem traditionalists was still a long way down the band’s list of priorities. Ordo Ad Chao, though undeniably black metal, was nonetheless just as avant-garde and experimental as Grand Declaration, a point the band’s live shows soon began to reflect. Central to this was Attila, who quickly turned the aesthetic of the genre on its head with a wide array of costumes that saw the frontman plastered in trash, singing from a sack, adorned as a tree, dressed as Bugs Bunny, appearing in a mock kitchen as a chef, and even wearing a dead pig’s head, among other outfits. The pig’s head drew some inevitable criticisms, though the singer was quick to point out that he himself was a vegetarian and very interested in nature (incidentally, if you ever want to talk with someone on the marvels of insect or deep sea life, Attila is your man).”

I guess the bunny was one of the more challenging ones but also Hole In The Sky festival where they wanted to do an interview and I had this mummy costume, so I thought, Let’s put it in a bizarre thing, make it the stage thing, the mummy gives an interview…, and we did it during the interview between 2 songs. To do this is extremely challenging and from challenges you learn, this is the way to step forward. I don’t even understand always why we do it!”

A.

EU QUERO ACREDITAR NO MULDER DO BM: “I think something is coming from outside, that there is knowledge out there. Like birds that have a map in their head or fishes, they don’t get lost, and in a similar way I think we can connect to this knowledge. I think we have an ability to hook on this information and that’s one of my goals in life; to understand that, and more and more I am looking to the ancients. People talk about the evolution of civilizations but if you look to the ancients they were able to make structures that we can’t make today, such as Baalbek in Lebanon.” A.

in late 2008 Blasphemer quit the band primarily to concentrate on Ava Inferi (a gothic/doom metal band based in Portugal, where the guitarist had moved just before recording Chimera) and black thrash outfit Aura Noir.”

I cannot motivate myself to play fast music anymore. It was not overnight, it started with the drugs shit in 2003 and I think I reached a low period of my life in 2005 and 2006 and I put a lot of effort

into making Ordo Ad Chao and all the things that had built up went into that.”

ISSO é black metal, rapaziada – feito com o próprio sangue!

Since then the group has played countless territories in various continents, even returning to headline a festival in Turkey in 2011, a country the band once vowed never to return to. As always they work on their own timetable but given their illustrious and complicated past, it would be a confident man indeed who would dare predict what the future holds.”

29 Cradle of Filth: Black Metal Enters the Mainstream Part I

FEW THINGS provoke as much contempt within the underground of any subculture, musical or otherwise, as ‘selling out’, but in black metal circles such disgust has been elevated to an art form. In fact, even in a book filled with Satanism, extreme politics, misanthropy, church burning, and murder, the inclusion of the following bands may well be the most controversial subject for black metal fans. Yet while some will lift their noses, the rise of bands such as England’s Cradle of Filth and Norway’s Dimmu Borgir—the two most successful acts to have emerged from the movement—is not only an important part of the genre’s history, but has arguably provoked even greater extremity from the underground.”

Fucking Hell! I have no words… this is the ultimate! Brutal, Original, Melodic, Atmospheric… This is among the best Black Metal recordings ever!”

Quote from Samoth of Emperor used on flyers for the band’s debut album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

Almost as soon as their debut album was released, Cradle of Filth became the most visible face of the black metal scene, a position they held for many years while nonetheless evolving toward a style that would be more accurately described as extreme symphonic, or extreme gothic, metal. Like their peers, the band’s sales during the early 90s were dwarfed by the more successful death metal bands of the period, but when success did arrive, it did so dramatically. Indeed, the band have gone on to sell millions of albums, a feat that has made them arguably the biggest extreme metal band aside from Slayer (depending on your definition of ‘extreme metal’), and one of the more successful heavy metal bands generally.”

Of course, back in 1991 when the band formed, there were few who would have believed that such good fortunes could await, including 18-year-old frontman Daniel Davey. Born and bred in Suffolk, England, the young vocalist had discovered metal some 6 years earlier when a friend gave him a mix tape featuring the likes of AC/DC, WASP, Plasmatics, and Anvil, as well as Slayer, whose song Evil Has No Boundaries was by far the heaviest thing he had ever heard.” “This musical journey collided head-on with a long-running interest in the dark side that had begun as a child with John Landis’ music video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and eventually evolved into a fascination with Wicca and the occult.”

and Suffolk, the environment I was brought up in, was kind of ingrained with myths and witches. When I was at school a couple of my girlfriends were practicing Wicca and witchcraft—it was just harmless fun, but it all rubbed off. A lot of people into these things are outsiders, sitting in the corner drawing pictures of their teacher being garroted, but it was nothing like that… Having lived in a house that Matthew Hopkins the Witchfinder used to stay in… the essence of the place had that kind of vibe to it.”

Thrash metal had only just developed from metal, bands like Napalm and Carcass were viewed—and were—grindcore/crust punk bands. The term ‘death metal’ hadn’t even been heard at that point. We had a friend that used to buy all sorts of records from London store Shades and he came back with Entombed’s Left Hand Path and Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back to Life. As soon as that Entombed record was put on we were all like, ‘Fooooooooook!’ It blew our minds. Then Dani got Deicide by Deicide and we were completely in awe of it all. The whole death metal scene was starting to happen and Dani and I just knew we had to do something ourselves, hence the formation of the band.”

Paul Ryan

IMAGEM 26. Dani Filth, Paul Ryan (topo), Paul Allender, Robin Eaglestone e William ‘Was’ Sarginson à frente.

1992 saw the creation of 2 demos (Invoking the Unclean and Orgiastic Pleasures Foul), a rehearsal tape (The Black Goddess Rises), a split with UK death/grindcore outfit Malediction¹ (called A Pungent and Sexual Miasma and featuring a mix of demo, rehearsal, and live tracks), as well as an aborted album entitled Goetia and finally the demo that clinched their signing, Total Fucking Darkness.”

¹ O nome de 20 bandas, pelos meus cálculos preliminares!

The first demo was a lot like (seminal American death metal band) Master, Dani recalls, but we were also a big fan of experimental death metal like Edge of Sanity.”

Dani

Indeed, the atmospheric and orchestral side of the band would develop into a defining characteristic, the group taking influence from the epic melancholy and romance of the UK’s death/doom scene that was exploding at the time with bands such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Decomposed, and Anathema.”

We were almost part of that clique, that dark gothic movement in metal. It was a very dark atmosphere, a Charlotte Brontë atmosphere, almost aristocratic, what with Anathema harking on about ‘lovelorn rhapsodies’ and so on. We were really into the classical mythology of England and it felt very real. We were based in the spiritual homeland of witchcraft in England, so it had this pagan vibe attached to it which we just called ‘graveyard music’. We were big literature heads, we were really into Bram Stoker, XIX century authors, and penny dreadfuls. You also had movies like Coppola’s Dracula, Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Interview with the Vampire, there were a lot of things that were coming out that added to the overall influence.”

then Darkthrone came along and sort of revived all those memories of Bulldozer and Razor, those thrash bands that used to dress up with eyeliner and stuff, and it felt cool and right for us. (…) The Deicide and Morbid Angel debuts had also swung it… I think that’s where part of the direction of black metal came from. A lot of people will think it’s bollocks, but I think the thing that started to divide black metal was Deicide. Even though it was Florida death metal, the aesthetics behind that release started the whole black metal thing again. It was a big influence. Everyone I was hanging around with at the time was listening to that and Altars of Madness. The thing with Bathory is that suddenly everyone was like, ‘What’s your favorite Bathory album?’ but there was a big gap between that and the later stuff. If that was such a big influence then why did things not kick off straightaway rather than in 1991 when it all really began again?”

ESMURRANDO VARG VIKERNES: “all these first-generation bands did one or two Satanic albums then went off and sang about the forthcoming nuclear holocaust or something. That’s what I liked about the black metal movement, the experimentation which has now gone. I think it was more occult-based, and then it became colder and more necro later, and then everyone associated it with the icy north and the Nordic warrior and stuff like that, which I never considered. When I listen to Don’t Break the Oath or Infernal Overkill, that’s not what comes across.”

The studio wiped the tapes, as once recorded, the label changed their minds and wouldn’t pay! We had no money to pay for it ourselves so they binned it. A real tragedy that. From what I remember it was all in the death metal/grind vein. Part of Devil Mayfair was actually played backwards on the 3rd demo I believe.”

Ryan

As promising a listen as Total Fucking Darkness was, the official debut that emerged the following year, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, more than overshadowed it. Maintaining the fast, aggressive passages and catchy riffs, the iconic full-length poured even more emotion into the atmospheric sections, the synths now far more central to the band’s sound with several haunting instrumentals included. All the same, the synths are used in a more minimal fashion than on later records, rarely multi-tracked and mainly focusing around organ and piano parts, and this—combined with a clear but rather thin production—results in a uniquely esoteric feeling of mystery and depth, as if the recording had somehow been recovered from the dusty crypt of some ancient undiscovered temple.”

The dynamics of the band’s sound also increased notably with this release, thanks to Dani’s varied vocals, alternating between high-pitched screams and deep growls, and memorable spoken passages delivered by female vocalist Andrea Meyer, guest vocalist Darren White of Anathema, and Dani himself. The result was an album with a violent raw black metal feeling in parts, but one that also managed to further the evolution of symphonic black metal thanks to an air of genuine majesty and mystery. With its unusually sensual undercurrent and references to doomed romance, it also largely justified the tag of ‘gothic black metal’, though Dani is understandably keen to qualify that categorization.”

It’s gothic as in the melodrama, the architecture, the literature and the period, rather than the music of the 70s and 80s, which I couldn’t stand. I loved the look of the bands but the music was shit, without the drive of the guitars it sounded lackluster. There were exceptions like the Sisters of Mercy, (whom the band would later cover) but it was more the imagery.”

With all music credited to Cradle of Filth, the making of the record seems to have proved inspiring for all members concerned, and saw the writing shift from the Dani/Paul powerhouse to something approaching a group dynamic.”

Remaining a 6-piece, the album saw the introduction of Nick Barker on drums, replacing Darren Garden (who is not, as many fans believe, merely a pseudonym for Darren White), and short-lived second drummer William Sarginson. ‘Darren as far as I remember had a lot of pressure from his parents and I think just lost the will to keep doing it’, Paul recalls. ‘We were sad to see him go, he was a great guy, younger than us and very, very funny… a great drummer too.’

Despite the popularity of Principle, ‘commitment issues’ would soon come to haunt the band. Propelled by their success, they headed to a Birmingham studio in January 95 to record the follow-up. Entitled Dusk… and Her Embrace, it was a recording that, like Goetia before it, would not see the light of day in its original form, at least at time of writing. With much of the album recorded, the band was hit by a rift that literally split them in half, the Ryan brothers departing along with guitarist Paul Allender. The 3 would soon form The Blood Divine, a band that expanded on the gothic and atmospheric elements of Cradle but largely removed the more identifiable black metal traits. Also in the group was the aforementioned Darren White and drummer William ‘Was’, briefly a member of Cradle and also of Solemn¹ and December Moon, Robin Eaglestone’s black metal side project.”

¹ A banda só gravou 2 demos.

Robin himself would also end up leaving Cradle for a spell [?] during the creation of the original Dusk, temporarily replaced by one Jon Kennedy. [!] Jon in turn would then return to Wales and his band Daemonum, who soon changed their name to Hecate Enthroned and for a time offered some competition to Cradle thanks to a similar sound and a high-selling debut. Complicated isn’t the half of it.”

UMA HISTÓRIA CACOFÔNICA, EN EFFET! It was very Emperor-inspired I guess, ponders Dani of the original Dusk, which your author was lucky enough to hear and which unsurprisingly has more than a hint of Principle about its delivery and minimal synth work, but because of the way it had been recorded we weren’t totally happy with it and that was a bartering tool to then get us off Cacophonous—offer some new tracks from that. So they held on to those masters and we bastardized them and rerecorded them for the proper Dusk album which we won the right to release. All very incestuous!

Recruiting guitarist Stuart Anstis and a keyboard player called Damien Gregori (real name Greg Moffitt), the band crafted their last Cacophonous offering, namely Vempire… Or Dark Faerytales In Phallustein. Technically an EP but totaling 36 minutes in length, Vempire immediately stands out as a much bigger and more symphonic experience. Both the female vocals and synths (primarily performed by Greg, with additional work by Academy Studios’ Keith Appleton on the song She Mourns A Lengthening Shadow) are more prominent, a point underlined by the anthem-like revisiting of Principle track The Forest Whispers My Name.”

When I joined Cradle I could barely play—it was one of those ‘learn on the job’ scenarios that you hear about but never believe actually happens.”

Damien ‘Greg’

The follow-up, released later the same year on the much larger Music for Nations, was the long-delayed Dusk… and her Embrace. Despite featuring pictures of new guitarist Gian Pyres within the sleeve, the album was created by the same key line-up as Vempire. The only notable change was that female vocals were now handled by ‘Lady Jezebel Deva’, born Sarah Jane Ferridge, who would go on to become a fixture in the band, both live and on record. Despite challenges in the studio and tensions within the group, who were balancing work with an increasingly voracious appetite for hedonism, the album proved a highly successful venture.”

To the original collection of songs we added Humana Inspired to Nightmare, which I wrote in the studio, and Malice Through the Looking Glass… to me, that song is that line-up of Cradle at its best, working together in at least some semblance of harmony. As for the other material written by the original line-up, well you can’t argue with it, can you? I think we did it immense justice and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of a truly great British metal album which I still think is the best thing Cradle have ever done.”

G.

Despite the more gothic air, however, the album’s closing moments harked back to black metal’s beginnings, thanks to a piece of spoken word from none other than Conrad of Venom.”

I’d already checked out the band so I knew what they were all about. The problem was I’d just had an operation to remove nodes from my throat, so I wasn’t able to do any singing for a while and Dani had wanted me to come down and do a dual vocal. I said, ‘I can do a spoken part similar to what I do on At War With Satan, but I can’t do any volume singing,’ and they were happy with that. It was just good to go down and meet these young kids who had this great vibe about them and who were totally into what they were doing.”

Cronos

We were crammed into this little house in suburban Birmingham and then Cronos appears and starts telling us all these great tour stories. He was the rabid captor of bestial malevolence that I had named my pet rabbit after and worshipped and we were sat there with some cheap wine! But it was cool and lent a magic to it and kind of tied what we were doing with what Venom and Angel Witch were doing, another massive strain of black metal.

Dani

In the intervening years, history has been rewritten by metal fans, to some extent at least, regarding Dusk… And Her Embrace’s association or disassociation with black metal, but it’s worth remembering that the album was generally regarded at the time to be a part of the genre, albeit the more commercial end of it, a point highlighted by tours with other rising bands of the scene such as Dissection and Dimmu Borgir. That said, the band was now indisputably breaking away from their peers, and Dusk ended up with reported sales of around half a million records, about 25 times that of their debut and a truly astonishing feat.”

There was a lot of opposition, I remember Dave Mustaine branding us a ‘gay band’ around Dusk but we knew what we wanted to do, and more money meant bigger budgets.”

Dani

Like the band’s album sales, shirt sales were also thriving, with a number of controversial designs increasingly visible—not least the iconic Vestal Masturbation shirt, which features a topless nun masturbating with a cross and a back print declaring ‘Jesus is a Cunt’. Not one for first dates or job interviews then.”

People looked at us as being a bit gothic and sensuous, so we did something like that. My then-girlfriend—now wife—posed in a blacked-out room in my house, and then nowhere would print it. She was actually working at a T-shirt printing place but they were having none of it. In the end we had to go to a place in a tiny little village that was printing up like flags and stuff!”

D.

People were younger and a bit more naïve and perhaps, dare I say, a bit more imaginative because of it. There was a sense back then of rallying toward a collective goal. It was all black and white, it was all bad photocopies. I think it was the first Burzum Aske t-shirt that had Grishnackh on the back and it was so badly taken it actually looked like he was a towering Vampiric overlord, when in actual fact it was just a shit picture. It became mysterious because it was all rumor.”

D.

The moment passed about 8 or 9 years ago, there are still good albums and good bands, some of the best albums have been released long after that date, Craft’s last record for example, but I think the scene has burned itself out and maybe it’s for the best. Maybe that nucleus has been demolished by a hammer blow and now all these little pieces are forming themselves again and have maybe spread further afield and become bigger and better, but I think that original feel has died. But maybe that’s just me getting too old!”

30 Dimmu Borgir: Black Metal Enters the Mainstream Part II

FORMED IN THE SUMMER of 1993 by a trio of 17-year-old musicians—Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen), Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud), and Tjodalv (Ian Kenneth Åkesson)—Dimmu Borgir rose from the black metal scene that was by then well underway within Norway. Shagrath and Tjoldalv were old friends, having grown up as neighbors and schoolmates in the small town of Jessheim, and the 2 had met Silenoz around 90/91.”

Taking their moniker from the dramatic volcanic formations in Iceland known as the Dimmuborgir (meaning ‘dark cities/forts’), the band can probably take some of the credit (or perhaps blame) for kicking off the trend of unwieldy black metal band names, a tradition still going strong today.”

Indeed, though the trio had taken their first inspirations from 80s pioneers such as Celtic Frost and early Norwegian acts (as evident in recordings by Shagrath’s first band Fimbulwinter), the trio soon found their music unconsciously echoing an influence from those Norwegian groups who had shifted toward a more mysterious, melancholy, and atmospheric approach through the use of keyboards.”

Our mission is the deepest sorrow and total loss of happiness… We want to make people understand that it is best to put an end to their misery. We like to think that our music is the one little thing that can push them off the edge.”

Sh.

We figured out pretty early on that we would have a specific sound and expression. We saw other bands were experimenting with keyboards—Emperor, Enslaved, Gehenna—so it was kind of natural for us to pick up keyboards and try to incorporate that, as it was an element that was not heard much in that type of music. It was just done in the background, but once we started using keyboards we found we could incorporate them as a proper instrument and a tool for writing songs. I guess atmosphere was the main ingredient in everything we did, that’s been the red thread throughout our career.”

Sil.

By early 1994 the band’s line-up had expanded to a 5-piece, with Tjodalv playing guitar, Silenoz contributing guitar and vocals, Shagrath playing drums, Brynjard Tristan (Ivar Tristan Lundsten) on bass, and on keyboards, one