True Norwegian Lords of Chaos
The Ultimate Tome on Black Metal has arrived.
Copied over his old Metallica album, Varg Vikernes sent this cassette of the debut Burzum album to Euronymous (who was releasing the album on his label Deathlike Silence) as a preview. Photo: Black Metal Museum Germany.
There have been many printed, visual and audio documents of Black Metal but to my mind the ones that stand far ahead of everything else are the books Lords Of Chaos (Feral House) and True Norwegian Black Metal (Vice).
With the arrival of British music writer Dayal Patterson’s excellent Black Metal: Evolution Of A Cult (Feral House), we have a collection of the best journalism and photo archival work of the lot. It completes the “unholy trinity” of BM books. It is an extremely diligent and well-informed publication that leaves almost nothing out of the history of the genre, containing many previously unreported facts and stories. This is no lazy collection of old interviews thrown together in haste. It is a modern masterpiece of the declining art of music journalism.
VICE: This book is great. I am really impressed by all the new stuff in there.
Dayal Patterson: Excellent. Yep that was the aim.
A lot of these music books are just recollected incidents that everybody knows about.
Yes exactly, there was no point doing that. And I think also that this book gives proper space to the black metal that preceded the Norwegian explosion and directly inspired it.
Did you read the Master’s Hammer chapter? Or the Blasphemy chapter? They're quite an interesting band, lot of character. They kind of gave birth to the whole bestial black metal thing. Probably the first band to resurrect the spirit of all the early 80s bands who had learned to play and moved away from their early Satan-worshipping beginnings… also the first black metal skinheads, and the first black metal band with a black member I think.
While bands like Bathory and Destruction abandoned their primitive Satanic beginnings, Canada's Blasphemy championed utter barbarity in sound and lifestyle.
There’s that joke; my favorite black metal band is Fishbone.
Or Living Color.
A lot of people used to say that. Of course Mystifier are the first black, black metal band.
The VON chapter was really interesting. I didn’t know about that London show where they wore normal clothes and played all the songs too slow and everybody hated it.
I like that chapter too. The whole thing is such a weird story.
But it’s when you get into the Euronymous / Mayhem / Dead stuff that the book is really compelling. There’s been so much written about those guys that I was surprised about how much new information is in there.
People have heard about this bit before but I always wanted to know: the crows buried under the ground that Dead used to put in a bag and sniff before recording vocals: did Dead kill the crows and then bury them?
No, I don't think so. I think he collected road kill.
Norwegian Tesco Express.
Well Euronymous had a shotgun and Dead allegedly used to chase cats into the forest with his knife so…
He was clinically depressed.
Yes. That's my conclusion.
I mean, who isn’t.
But he was the catalyst for everything that happened really. You cant underestimate the importance of him and Euronymous, without them black metal would never have reignited in the same way.
I love the story about Euronymous stealing the Darkthrone albums from the other shop because Helvete didn’t have a proper distributor.
Yes! Well one of his followers actually.
I love the cute little details like that, in this book. I was a big fan of Lords Of Chaos, but this one goes into the minutiae of the daily, kinda childlike worlds of that 2nd wave of BM from Norway.
That was what I wanted really, because I've read SO many black metal interviews over the last two decades, it was quite easy for me to leave out stuff that I knew had been told before. I have made sure to talk about the musical evolution too, and highlight the importance of certain albums and so on. It's really about this 30-year journey, tracking it through the music's evolution, the personalities involved and the cultural changes.
There’s also lot of unseen photos, and photos of bands that I’ve never seen in colour before.
There’s 300 pictures and a lot of them are unpublished or never seen. There are those pictures from the Deathcrush sessions, for example; those three were found by Maniac at his parent's place when he returned there after some time. He had to scan them, I don't know if even the band had seen those.
Maniac of black metal's most legendary band Mayhem, records vocals for debut EP Deathcrush in this previously unseen photo.
The Burzum demo written over the Metallica “Kill Em All” cassette is a great one. Let’s talk about our mutual friend Varg.
And that old Kerrang Cover. That was a fairly significant document / moment in the history of BM.
Well there can be no denying that Varg is one of the most important artists and musicians in black metal's history, even if he hadn't burnt any churches or killed Euronymous. He would have been up there because of the phenomenal impact of his music. Along with Darkthrone, Burzum is surely the most influential black metal band in terms of having an effect on other band's sounds. Every month there's another band that springs up sounding like them, it’s always there, these new bands with sounds taken straight from those first four releases. So he's really important as a musician first of all. And although he's probably not quite up there with Dead and Euro, he's not far off. That Kerrang feature had such a huge impact, and when you read it, it's mainly Varg and Euro talking. This extreme ideology, mixed with the direct action, the religious/superstitious beliefs, and the music. That was just explosive. Literally.
For me, and I’m old, that was like the last time that metal music was even remotely scary to me. That church burning / murder wave of NBM. I’m just in love with how legit and totally crazy and bad they were.
Yes, and of course that issue of Kerrang, coupled with some other things, turned (second wave) black metal into a worldwide phenomena.
And then I remember seeing Immortal playing London Astoria 2 in like 2003 or something and it was just comical to me.
Well Immortal always had that element to them. In that sense they were perhaps closer to Venom than Mayhem. Larger than life, slightly tongue in cheek.
Who has come close to Varg / that wave of NBM in terms of legitimately disturbed and reprehensible behavior; ie murder and church burning and what-not.
I guess the next scene that ignited was Poland, and that was very much inspired by Varg and also Euronymous. And that took a similar path, but with all the political and racial overtones that Eastern Europe sometimes presents.
Those NSBM bands just make me laugh, and not in a good way. Just their level of "you'd be the first against the wall" is so ridiculous to me.
There is that contradiction of course and that goes I guess for all these sort of apocalyptic or totalitarian groups. I think that's even more true of Industrial music.
Like, you guys couldn’t work in a factory, let alone a factory that makes sex-related apocalyptic robots.
Well yeah, I have to say in the early and mid '90s, there was a feeling that this was something that could have a bigger effect on the world perhaps. Well actually I guess it did had a bigger effect on the world than anyone expected, because now black metal has reached the mainstream. Yesterday I saw Travis from Blink 182 dressed up as King Ov Hell.
Speaking of eyesores, I saw Mortiis' first UK show at the Elektrowerkz in Islington. I met him beforehand. It was a bit weird. He “disemboweled” a girl on stage or something and then ate piece of meat in this cage. In your book the stories of him at the parties the NBM scene would throw, with him sticking needles into the bone of his arm are pretty amazing.
Yes, driving spikes and so on. Well there was a lot of craziness back then. There still is actually. Black metal still attracts very extreme people.
Where is the current craziness tho?
A lot of places. I mean you can see that even in the more mainstream side of black metal, bands like Watain and Gorgoroth, and Shining. I mean the first black metal bands to get big were Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, and it made a certain amount of sense because they had a more accessible sound. They harnessed these gothic elements with lots of synth, female vocals in Cradle's case. And those bands are still popular, no doubt, but now black metal is an established enough music form that bands can get big (relatively speaking) and play pure black metal (relatively speaking!). Gorgoroth are totally uncompromising in their sound, Watain in their message.
An early '90s flyer advertises one of black metal's more iconic and enduring acts, Norway's Gorgoroth.
Man, I saw Cradle of Filth at Astoria in like 2002 or something and it was like goth Tiswas or something.
Well there is that entertainment element we talked about before…
They went way too far down the path of "sexy Dracula".
Yeah, they took a more Hammer Horror/Hellraiser/Tim Burton route later and now you couldn't call them black metal, they don’t call themselves that. But despite a lot of revisionism, it shouldn't be forgotten that the early releases WERE considered black metal at the time and moreover, quite a few big name Norwegians were/are in appreciation.
Shining is a really interesting group.
Shining is of course this fascinating paradox. It's like The Doors of black metal really, and I think Jim Morrison and Niklas Kvarforth are not quite so far apart really. On the one hand the musical ability is undeniable…
A black metal Jim Morrison? Niklas Kvarforth exorcises one of his many demons. Photo: Ester Segarra.
They have an almost Poison Idea vibe? Or is it more Motley Crue, or are both those way off target?
Well, maybe more Poison Idea, but I think Jim Morrison is maybe the best comparison. This charismatic, self-destructive, sociopathic guy leading these very talented, relatively straight-laced musicians into situations of chaos. And like Morrison he is very extreme on substance abuse, sex, has a troubled relationship with his parents etc. And there’s another paradox, Niklas tells me he wants Shining to be this huge metal band. Like a black metal Tokyo Hotel I think he says in the book. Or Opeth at least. But then all the songs are about suicide and the band is encouraging suicide, so it’s completely un-commercial in that sense.
I dunno, a lot of commercial music makes me want to commit suicide. Wahey! How about Les Legion Noir, the French BM movement.
Yes! It was the polar opposite and one of the most secretive and anti-commercial movements in music. They were a French circle of young musicians who were totally inspired by what had happened in Norway and took their cues from bands like Emperor, Mortiis, Darkthrone and 80s groups like Bathory. But while Norway found fame and slowly grew, The LLN was determined to keep things in the same secret manner that Euronymous had once spoken of, but deemed impractical. And of course it was impractical. Most of those releases were only given to people that were trusted. The fact that they are available for us to hear now is largely because people betrayed them and shared or bootlegged them.
But a lot of those guys have just vanished because all they had was pseudonyms and grainy photos. Like Euronymous, they also sent death threats (and dead rats) and so on, but they also created some of the best black metal ever made.
Does LLN still exist?
Probably not. And they'll never be anything like that again I believe, where people can be so anonymous and secretive. At least it would be very hard. There are some great pictures of some of those band in the book.
No… well one of Meyhnach as he is today. I mean getting pics that are printable of LLN is hard enough, let alone unseen ones!
I always use the term 'French heavy metal', in the context of music that the world doesn’t need. When anybody ever mentions things like white British people rapping, I’m like: “It should be banned. Do we have heavy metal from France? I don’t think so.”
So where is BM gonna go now?
Everywhere it seems! Black metal is just expanding and expanding.
But are we ever gonna get another Helvete / Euro / Varg?
Well the question is, could there be another black metal revolution in an internet age? I don't think there will be another Helvete scene in that sense, but there will be circles of crazy devotees again, no doubt. But that Norwegian thing was a one off in terms of time and place.
One thing your book talks about is the level of drink and drug abuse in the scene. Seems quite high.
Well I actually think it’s quite low for a youth music scene.
Well, compared to gabba, or '90s Oasis concerts.
It became higher later. I mean hardcore aside, how many young music scenes had musicians talking badly of drink and drugs? People like Varg and Mortiis did…
Well there are parallels.
Both are full of crazy people.
And then came Mysticum, who did EVERY drug. They were from Asker, Norway, so they stood out even more, because of the Norwegian scene being (publically) quite puritanical. With their heroin imagery and PCP, LSD and cocaine references... and their black magic mushrooms.
Drugs, Sex and Satan: Cerastes of Mysticum on tour in 1996. Photo: Nihil Archives.
You end the book saying something which maybe mildly contradicts what you just said about BM just getting bigger and having no limits etc.
About how nobody has surpassed records like Filosofem or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas “or for that matter, Welcome To Hell.”
Well, creatively that is true I think, but that’s not to say that bands aren’t still reaching those heady standards. But I'm not sure any band could exceed those records, maybe once or twice a lifetime. All music is like that perhaps.
These records you mention are like the Revolver, Pet Sounds and the Exile on Main Street of BM.
Yes, or It Takes a Nation of Millions or Doggystyle. Nothing has really surpassed those two in that field really and 20 years has passed.
Did anybody try and do a rap / BM collaboration?
That's a horrible idea, but probably.
Somebody in France or LA…
I mean there are limitations, but having said that I think black metal is actually one of the widest music genres out there. That’s partly what the book is about. The genre has spread into so many different directions. Compare Mercyful Fate, Gorgoroth, Blacklodge, Fen, Vlad Tepes, Negura Bunget, Fleurety, Sigh, Dødheimsgard, for example. It covers such a huge musical spectrum. Of course there are kids who think black metal has to sound like Mayhem, Darkthrone or Burzum.
But those bands appeared ten years into the game, because Norway was the reinvention of BM not its invention. It all starts with Venom really. And black metal is like this ongoing conflict between conservatism and innovation.
Sounds like a David Cameron line.
That’s not a good sign.
He’s probably quite into the Polish Black metal scene.
Or vice versa.
Preorder the book directly from the author, signed, stamped and numbered with an art print of an 'alternative cover'. You can also pick up the limited fanzine Black Metal: Prelude to the Cult, a collection of mostly unpublished interviews by the author that didn't make it into the main book (including MAYHEM, ARCHGOAT, CLANDESTINE BLAZE, TAAKE, GORGOROTH, IMPALED NAZARENE, BEHERIT, 1349/SATYRICON, MANIAC/SKITLIV, ENTHRONED, HORNA/BEHEXEN, SIGH, MARDUK, HADES and more.
Follow Andy Capper on Twitter - @andycapper