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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Satanic Pandas of Norway (Mighty Lambchop's Heavy Metal Nails # 9)

Warning: This post contains discussion of Satanic/Occult themes as well as violence and murder that some may find offensive. Again, these themes do not reflect the philosophies of the author and should not be discerned as such.

Good day!

Today we continue our discussion of Black Metal and focus on the "second wave" that originated from Norway.


Photo book by Peter Beste

Oh dear, Norway. The Black Metal scene that sprung from that lovely country is both infamous and legendary. The music is only one part of the equation. There are tales of suicide, murder, church burning, Nationalist Socialist ties, death threats and prison sentences. It is so outrageous that countless books have been written and documentaries filmed just trying to make sense of it all.
Here in the U.S., we tend to see Scandinavian countries as indistinguishable from one another and full of exceptionally beautiful, happy, healthy, gentle and well educated people. Myself, I recall when this scene began making waves I wondered if perhaps something was lost in the translation. Like maybe they thought Venom and Mercyful Fate were really serious about the Satan thing.
But I found myself amused and interested in the whole scene and it's been a source of mirth over the years.
Especially the corpse paint. I love corpse paint.
Norwegian Black Metal has transcended scene and become its own genre as well as contribute in some meaningful and not so meaningful ways to metal culture. 

I will do my best to sum this up because there is so much and it would take weeks to try to tell the story adequately. I will be focusing on very important bands of the scene, listing some of the crazy tales and then wrap up by showing where Black Metal has evolved. Hope you're ready to explore misanthropic, nihilist music performed by misanthropic people.


Mayhem

Black Metal in Norway was heavily influenced by Sweden's Bathory and Switzerland's Celtic Frost as well as Death Metal. Norwegian Black Metal was a backlash against what Death Metal was becoming in the 1990s and a deeper journey into the Satanic themes of the first Black Metal Wave. 
Mayhem was the band to start the revolution and the center of the insanity to ensue.

Mayhem was formed in 1984 in Oslo. The band had a lot of lineup changes but we will focus on founding member Oystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. Aarseth is by the far the single most important figure of the scene, having founded indie record label Deathlike Silence Productions, record store/gathering place Helvete and being the mastermind of the whole scene.
Euronymous was the epicenter of the scene and influenced almost of the ideology therein. He envisioned Black Metal that was truly an expression of Satanic ideology and not entertainment. Black Metal was a way of life and not necessarily a style of music. Euronymous was quite the shit stirrer with self aggrandizing behaviour, encouraging acts of vandalism and sending death threats to Swedish Death Metal musicians. In spite of Euronymous being a super classy guy, he helped to innovate the Black Metal sound with his style of playing and riffing.

Though Mayhem had gone through some lineup changes, they found a singer who made a huge impact on their music with his lyrics and altogether bizarre persona. Per "Dead" Olin, was a Swede who was utterly fascinated with death and dying due to a near death experience as a child. Dead was one of the first to wear corpse paint and the shows were known for all kinds of antics like throwing pig heads into the crowd and Dead cutting his arms on stage. 
 In 1987 the band began writing and recording what was to become one of the most influential Black Metal albums of all time, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. That album actually was not released until 1994 and by that time both Euronymous and Dead were both deceased.  (The vocals on that album are actually performed by Attila Csihar since Dead had committed suicide before he could record his vocals.)

BFFs 4-EVA!

In 1991, Dead committed suicide by shotgun in the house he shared with Euronymous. It's important to discuss because of the aftermath. The story goes that Euronymous came home and found Dead. Before calling the authorities, he purchased a disposable camera and took photos. He also took fragments of Dead's skull to make into necklaces, some of which he gave to other members of the scene. The photos later made their way on to the cover of a bootleg live album, Dawn of the Black Hearts. (The photo can be easily found but I will not link to it. It's not only gross but it is highly exploitative.)
Because that's what you do to honor a friend, desecrate their body and exploit their death for publicity.
It's said that this is when Euronymous became more extreme in his philosophies and led the scene to the obsession with evil and Satan. Um, yeah.

Fast forward to 1992 and Euronymous has himself a nice following and is making a name for himself in metal. At this time he became friends with a kid named Varg Vikernes who he invited to play bass with Mayhem and offered to release Vikernes' solo recordings. This was a collaboration that was not to end well.

Varg Vikernes of Burzum


Kristian "Varg" Vikernes was from the city of Bergen who began a one man band called, Burzum. Despite being a complete asshole, Vikernes was a talented musician in his own right and made his own important musical contributions to Black Metal. His partnership with Euronymous gave him great publicity and found the release of his first album. Vikernes was influential himself in the scene, often putting into action the extreme rhetoric Euronymous spoke of. Thus in June of 1992, a wave of church arsons spread around Norway until 1995. Masterminded and participated in by Euronymous and Vikernes.
But the happy fun times were short lived. Euronymous was not enjoying the ridiculous "anonymous" interviews that Varg was giving to the press and it was causing a lot of unwanted attention from the authorities. And this is where the story becomes convoluted.

This fact is clear: Euronymous was killed on August 10, 1993 by Varg Vikernes. However, the reasons why are not. There's conflicting stories and outright lies as well as a bit of revisionist history. A short list of the many given reasons are:
1. Financial dispute between Euronymous and Varg.
2. Power struggle between the two to lead the so-called "Black Circle."
3. An attempt to outdo the murder committed by Bard Eithun in Lillehammer the previous year.
4. It wasn't a murder exactly but self defense because Euronymous had been plotting to kill Vikernes. Kill or be killed and all that.

Wow. That is just crazy. You just can't get worse than that. Really. 
The outcome found Varg being sentenced to the maximum term for murder and imprisoned. Lots of other people in the scene were busted for their own part in the arsons as well as other sundry not so nice activity.
Mayhem still managed to continue their career. They broke up briefly but came back together in 1995. Mayhem's put out some damn fine recordings and still find themselves causing bits of controversy albeit much tamer kinds. (Like destroying hotel rooms or having a fan sue them for receiving a skull fracture from being hit with a sheep's head. The usual stuff.)
Varg Vikernes was paroled in 2009 and continues his work with Burzum. He's a douche who has been aligned with racist organizations and is best not being paid much attention to. Not that I feel strongly about it.
All of this business really cooled the scene in Norway but thanks to much of it happening pre-Internet and early Internet, the scene lived on in the rest of the world. That really locked in the infamy and frankly, you'll never see anything quite like it again. The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh.

My picks for Mayhem:
Deathcrush
De Mysteriis Dom Sathana - I especially like The Freezing Moon.
Grand Declaration of War - This was an interesting departure and I feel very well done


Now we talk about my very favorite band of the Norwegian scene. They make me so happy.

The one and only Immortal.



Immortal was founded in Bergen in 1990 by Abbath and Demonaz. The band began as straight up Death Metal until being influenced by Euronymous, Bathory and Celtic Frost. Then, they became a Black Metal band. We are so grateful they did. Nowadays, they perform more a black/thrash hybrid but they are still tight.

So here's the thing with Immortal: their look. Look at that photo above.
Now watch this video:



Poor Immortal. They've been the butt of jokes because their image is so over the top. BUT. They are a really great band. For real. Immortal differed from some bands because the lyrics were less Satanic Misanthropy and more fantasy. Especially when creating the realm of Blashyrkh. ( I had to link that video.)
Anyway, their lyrics were more battlelore and demons in the frozen forests of Norway.
They've grown to appreciate the humour that's come their way especially since most of it is produced by the fans. Here's a nice roundup of Immortal vs. the Interwebz on Know Your Meme.
Some you may remember from my own posts: HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. I like Immortal in party hats...
Immortal disbanded ever so briefly in 2003 but cam back together in 2007 for a reunion and soon after on a permanent basis The lineup has held up pretty well in spite of Demonaz no longer able to play the guitar but continues to write for the band. There have been a few additions and subtractions but not like some bands and their revolving staff. Bob love Immortal.

My picks for Immortal:
You have to listen to At the Heart of Winter and Sons of Northern Darkness. Those are their masterpieces.
But, I am partial to Blizzard Beasts since it was the first Immortal CD I bought.

Let's move on to some nails then.

 Nail art ist krieg!

 That is one grim thumb.

My nails are tro0.


The details:
Base is Pure Ice Platinum Base Coat and corpse paint is Kiss Nail Artist Pen in Black.

I know, I did corpse paint nails before. I think these are even better. The nail art pen by Kiss works so much better for me than a striper. I have much more control.Plus, my Satanic pandas are much more friendly and cute. For my pinkie, I used the word "kvlt" (it's pronounced CULT) because my nails totally are.
Basically, "kvlt," and "necro" are two of the highest compliments one can pay in the Black metal world.>
My other shout out was noting that nail art ist krieg. Ist krieg means "is war," in German. That is taken from Black Metal Ist Krieg by Nargaroth. It soon became a meme of its own with photos of guys in corpse paint doing everyday things with the caption of "_____ ist krieg."
Now you know.

What have we learned here today? Well, the Norway scene was innovative and intense and sometimes dangerous. But, they made Black Metal into more than just music. That's an accomplishment that you will not see again.
So what's going on with Black Metal now? Still going strong but much tamer. Several of the founders of the Norway scene have since gone on and shaped Black Metal into something new. And there are a few American bands who are making great Black Metal.

Bands to check out:
Many of these bands have matured and developed a new sound and I recommend checking out their back catalog as well as their current offerings.
Emperor - Disbanded but a trailblazer in the Norwegian scene.
Ulver - They're quite progressive.
Nachtmystium - American psychedelic Black Metal.
Behemoth - They've become more of a Death Metal band but still great.
Gorgoroth 
Rotting Christ - From Greece, now more a Gothic Metal band but awesome and one of my very favorites.
Enslaved
Dimmu Borgir - I don't care. I love them. One of the early acts to use symphonic elements.
Agalloch - from Portland, OR. Very progressive and cool though I much prefer seeing them live than listening to their studio work.
Darkthrone - They've morphed more into a Black Metal version of Motorhead but they are pretty rad.
I really like Fenriz.


Books and Documentaries on the scene:
Until The Light Takes Us
Lords of Chaos - Highly disputed book but a really great read. Now being made into a feature film.
Satan rir media - Norwegian documentary
True Norwegian Black Metal - Covers Gaahl of Gorgoroth mainly. Dude is  a weird cat but bravo to him for coming out.

Be aware that are a good number of Black Metal bands that have ties to Nationalist Socialism.Those guys are assholes.
That will certainly do it for this edition. Hope this gives some insight to Norwegian Black Metal.
I thank you for coming by and I hope you have a "grim" and "frostbitten" day.



6 comments:

  1. I love this so much I don't know what to do with myself. Can you come give me a manicure?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sarah! Glad you like it. I'm no no nail tech but heck yeah I'd do your nails.

      Delete
    2. Are you near DC? Or are you going to BlogHer?

      (I am writing about this right now.)

      Delete
    3. Sadly that's a no to both questions. I live in Oregon and I don't have the funds to go to BlogHer. Wish I could though.

      Delete
  2. My mum has True Norweigan Black Metal, these nails are so awesome!

    ReplyDelete

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