The Music of Burzum and the
Writings of Varg Vikernes

"The Lords of Black Metal: Scandinavian Satanists Go Beserk"

High Society Magazine article

Come on, admit it, after seeing "Claudia" cavorting around:

the last person you expect to see here is Varg:

but then truth is often stranger than fiction (I will refrain from the obvious "what is the world coming to" joke).

The article itself is written by Michael Moynihan (he of Lords of Chaos fame) and quite frankly I suspect he thought we wouldn't find it (think again) – the article is considerably more sensationalistic than Lords of Chaos . Nevertheless it is an amusing read, as long you take the "facts" with a pinch of salt.

"The Lords of Black Metal: Scandinavian Satanists Go Beserk"

by Michael Moynihan

Popular music isn't what it used to be. Rock 'n' roll, that bastard son of Rhythm and Blues, no longer bears much resemblance to its quaint beginnings with the likes of Bill Haley and Buddy Holly. Conservatives argue that the volatile history of Rock parallels the erosion of Christian virtues and family values, while pop-culture commentators view it as a healthy quest to push the envelope of artistic expression in search of unfettered freedom. Either way you cut it, rock continues to splinter into a myriad of subcultures, some of which – Heavy Metal, case of point – have been altogether marginalised out of the mainstream. The result? Black Metal, an extreme form of "music" which makes Marilyn Manson look like Guy Lombardo.

Black Metal is quite possibly the first genre of music to be forever overshadowed by the extra-musical activities of its protagonists. In the case of Black Metal in Scandinavia, the activities included multiple bloody murders, shotgun-suicides, and hundreds of torched churches across Europe. Strangely enough, these horrible and violent crimes finally reached their apex in the social-democratic wonderland of Norway, home of snow-flaked sweaters and endless of processions of young, smiling blonde, blue-eyed ski queens.

Black Metal's hyperspeed noise isn't uniquely Scandanavian, but it reached an undeniable and fiery intensity in those icy lands. Its roots can be traced all the way back to the dawn of the 1970s. Black Sabbath planted the evil seed and fertilised it with gloom; the black clouds have hovered over Metal ever since. By the '80s, the mantle had been passed to others and carried into outright Satanism. Most notable are England's Venom, who took every Metal and Satanic cliché and multiplied them to infinity. The result was high camp, but with strong appeal for rebellious 15 year olds pissed off at their parents and pastors. Venom's dedication to the Dark Lord was nothing but a gimmick for lurid lyrics and symbols to slap on their albums, for in reality they were little more than beer-chugging rockers out for big-titted groupies and harmless fun.

In Norway, however, something were lost in the translation and no one got the joke. Venom's tongue-in-cheek shenanigans were swallowed whole and became the inspiration for Norwegian Black Metal. Norway's trend-setter in this regard was Mayhem, an Oslo band under the tutelage of guitarist Oystein Aarseth, aka "Euronymous" (he claimed it was Greek for "the prince of Death). All things grim became a serious obsession for Euronymous and his bandmates, particularly vocalist "Dead" – with whom he shared a house. Mayhem began to elicit underground praise for their cacophony, but internal relations were strained, and it was only a matter of time before Dead reached the end of his tether. On April 8th, 1991, Dead decided it was time to live up to his name and attempted to slash his wrists with a kitchen knife. Finding this unsatisfactory, he picked up a shotgun and promptly blew the top of his head off. Ever a polite young boy, his suicide note simply read: "Excuse all the blood".

Such devastation might've spelled the end of any other band, but for Mayhem it was instant credibility. Having declared that "true Black Metal" must spread fear, evil and pain, how could Euronymous complain when an enlightened soul like Dead embraced the ultimate self-destruction? Thus when Euronymous discovered his bandmate's shattered body, he photographed the corpse for an album cover and collected pieces of the skull to make into jewellery. He even tossed a few bits of brain into a stew pot on the stove so he could add "cannibal" to his personal Black Metal resume.

Suicide was commendable but introverted; the Black legions needed to focus their hatred outward. They considered themselves foot soldiers in an unholy war, so the church was the obvious target. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly who first suggested the idea of torching the local church, but it was probably Varg Vikernes, a young Black Metaller from the coastal city of Bergen. Raised on a diet of J.R.R. Tolkien and Mayhem, Varg greatly admired Euronymous. When Euronymous started his fledging record label called Deathlike Silence, Varg's band, Burzum, quickly inked a contract with him. Black Metal's ranks began to swell, and Euronymous opened a shop in Oslo.

Bestowing it with the name "Uheivete" (Hell), it was here Euronymous held court before the youngsters new to the scene. Varg would visit him occasionally from Bergen (an eight-hour car drive from the west) and sleep in the cellar of the shop, which doubled as a dark boudoir – fucking girls picked up during the weekend pubcrawls. Varg presumably frowned on such frolicking – he later described the Oslo scene as a rampant "cesspit of drunken clowns and skanky groupies".

Scandinavian Black Metal distinguished itself with a most peculiar form of Satanism which owed little to the well-known teachings of Anton LaVey, spelled out in his best-seller The Satanic Bible. Black Metal theology was the evil flipside to Christianity of the most puritanical sort. Satan existed as a literal god whose favour could be gained by perpetrating all manner of foul, criminal behaviour on Earth.

How did they arrive at such an ideology? Here's where things get strange. In 1989, exactly when Norwegian Black Metal was coagulating into existence, there were few pointer available on how one led a "Satanic" lifestyle – certainly the cartoonish lyrics of a Venom lifestyle didn't provide enough of a blueprint. Then, suddenly, newspapers headlines exploded with revelations of a nation-wide Satanic conspiracy of sacrificial murder, blood drinking, and other horrors. These same stories had made the rounds in the United States and the United Kingdom a few years prior, only to be thoroughly debunked and discredited by sources no less than the FBI. The tales were little more than fundamentalist propaganda (the roots of which go back to the middle ages).

The "Satanic conspiracy" fable was replayed in other countries like Norway and Sweden and spread quickly via sensationalist journalists in cahoots with Oslo vice cop Willy Kabbhaug, a closet fundamentalist who claimed that police had substantial evidence for a wide-spread Satanic cult network in Norway. In all probability, it was though these lurid newspaper tales that the Black Metal kids picked up their notions of Satanism, and proceeded, a few years later, to act out similar behaviour for real. Ironically it was recently discovered that Kabbhaug himself had been sexually molesting kids in his neighbourhood, and was even captured on videotape exposing himself to his next-door neighbour's daughter. But we digress…

On June 6th of 1992, someone torched the medieval wooden church in Bergen, a national historic monument. It's strongly suspected the match was lit by Varg Vikernes. Seven other churches went up in flames shortly thereafter. In an unwise publicity gambit, Vikernes told the local newspaper he was connected to a group responsible for the church arsons. He was hauled down for police questioning, but there was not nearly enough evidence to keep him in custody. He was released.

Churches continued to topple and steady police attention was directed to the bizarre Black Metal scene during that following year. Euronymous was forced to shut down the record shop in the wake of the bad publicity. Things had, quite clearly, gotten a bit out of hand. A standard had also been set, and in scene where everything was measured in terms of "evil" and "extremity", the stakes were now high. Church burnings became almost commonplace. Who would dare take things to the next level?

Bard Eithun, alias "Faust", was the man for the job. He published a fanzine and drummed for the aspiring band Emperor. Faust was particularly taken with the idea of murdering a fellow human being and the opportunity presented itself in the form of Magne Andreasson, an unfortunate homosexual he crossed paths with strolling through the park one night in August of 1992 in Lillehammer. Andreasson allegedly approached young Faust with the hopes of some furtive buggery; he ended up penetrated instead with 37 frenzied stab wounds. Faust then fled the gory scene completely covered in the blood of his victim, but would not be caught for over a year.

During this time Euronymous and Vikernes, once co-conspirators in nurturing the nascent Black Metal scene, had become estranged. This may have been due to money (Euronymous owed Varg substantial royalties), sex (some allege Euronymous made off with Varg's girlfriend, although Vikernes vehemently denies this) or plain old mutual jealously. Whatever the reason(s), Vikernes had lost any faith in his former friend. When he heard Euronymous had plans to abduct him and torture him with a cattle prod, he decided to make a pre-emptive strike. On August 10th, 1993, Vikernes reportedly drove all the way to Oslo and rang Euronymous' apartment building buzzer at 4am. Euronymous reluctantly let him in and Varg ran up the stairs. Euronymous opened the apartment door while still in his underwear. A struggle ensued. The chase erupted to the stairwell, with Euronymous barefoot and half-naked attempting to elude Vikernes, who by this time had pulled a knife. He connected with a few stabs to Euronymous' back before they ended up face-to-face on one of the landings. At that point, Vikernes asserts, "he died from one stab to the head.. through his skull. I actually had to knock the knife out.. I hit him directly into his skull and his eyes went boing! And he was dead".

It took the police less than a week to arrest Vikernes for the murder of Euronymous. By this time, Black Metal was making international headlines. The resulting trials turned into a Who's Who of the genre's personalities testifying one against another, often incriminating themselves in the process. The final scorecard: a 21 year jail sentence for Vikernes for murder and church arsons, 14 years for Faust, and lesser terms for a handful of others involved. On the day Vikernes was sentenced, two more churches were set ablaze – presumably as gestures of support.

The Norwegian scene was racked by the jailing of its key figures and the deaths of others, but a second generation of bands arose. Varg Vikernes downplays his delvings into Satanism, and now maintains the church burnings were initiated in order to pave the way for the return of the pre-Christian Nordic gods such Odin and Thor. He justifies the slaying of Euronymous by saying his victim was a communist and gay (Varg recounts how he found a shit-stained dildo in Euronymous' dresser once).

Whether the saga of Norwegian Black metal is over is anyone's guess. In any case, the music remains popular.