Sordid, Disturbing, Darkly Comedic Tales From The Murky Annals Of Black Metal.
Black metal is perhaps the most bizarre, esoteric movement in modern music. The subgenre, a predominantly Scandinavian phenomenon, skyrocketed from the dingy basements of Norwegian black metal bands to worldwide notoriety on the back of a series of disturbing events.
The 90’s Norwegian black metal scene was infamously violent towards Christianity and churches. Did this antagonism originate within the metal subculture, or did it have roots in other movements of the time?
In the early 90s, black metal musicians in Norway were famously anti-Christian, explicitly promoted Satanism and Paganism, and were collectively responsible for a string of church burnings and violence.
Even if you’ve never listened to Norwegian black metal, you probably know about the infamous band Mayhem. Their reputation not only precedes them but lives on through lore.
The original singer, Dead sliced his wrists, cut his throat and, because he was probably not convinced he was getting the job done properly he blew his brains out with a shotgun in 1991. The note that was found next to him started “Sorry about the blood” and continued “Nobody will understand me, but as a brief explanation, I am not human, this is a dream and I am about to wake up” …Their guitarist Euronymous, who discovered Dead’s corpse rearranged his body and took photos. Oh! He would also take a few pieces of his skull to make necklaces, so that the other members of the band could wear them during their shows, like good luck charms. Do you think this is morbid? But, wait, there is more…
Euronymous was subsequently stabbed to death by former friend (and notorious white supremacist) Varg Vikernes of Burzum. His body was found in the stairwell on the first floor with 23 stab wounds—two to the head, five to the neck, and 16 to the back. The band was also linked to the burning of a number of ancient Christian stave churches across Norway.
Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin known by his stage name Dead. Dead was known for his morbid personality and obsession with death. He hoarded dead birds, wore shirts with funeral announcements printed on them, and wore corpse paint. Acquaintances described Ohlin as difficult to befriend or understand. Already intensely introverted and depressed, Dead’s personality and demeanor would only become worse leading up to his death. He participated in self harm on a regular basis and would cut himself during shows. He eventually committed suicide April 1991 at the age of 22.
According to Mayhem bassist Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud, Dead initially sent the band members a small parcel containing a demo tape, a letter detailing his ideas for the future, and a crucified mouse. Although Necrobutcher lost the package itself, he kept the tape which had Dead’s contact details. At that point, Dead moved to Norway in early 1988 and became the new vocalist for Mayhem.
For concerts Dead was known to go to great lengths to achieve the image of death. He used corpse paint to actually appear dead. He would also bury his stage clothes in decrepit earth and dig them up a few minutes before a show to have the scent of fresh graveyard and wear them. He even asked the band to bury him once so his skin would become pale. Dead’s appearance would haunt the band’s history in many years to come.
According to Hellhammer:
During one tour with Mayhem, he found a dead crow and kept it in a plastic bag. He often carried it about with him and would smell the bird before going onstage, to sing “with the stench of death in his nostrils.” He would also collect dead geese, and keep them underneath his bed.
Stian Johannsen “Occultus”, who took over the vocals after Dead’s demise, had said about him that “He did not see himself as a human, he thought he was a being from another world. He had many visions, he believed that the blood was frozen in his veins, that he was dead. He knew he was going to die”.