May 30, 2005 11:37 AM   Subscribe

An interesting interview with Varg Vikernes. Vikernes, as you may recall, is currently imprisoned for the 1993 murder of Øystein Aarseth (aka Euronymous), with whom he collaborated as bassist on Mayhem's incredible De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (cheesy vocals notwithstanding). It is also widely believed that he was responsible for the burning of Norway's first stave church, which has since been rebuilt. It is arguable whether Vikernes is most notable for the murder, the arson, his band Burzum, his dedication to Ásatrú, or perhaps his fanatical racism. While I find many of his opinions to be reprehensible, his obvious intelligence and the strength of his convictions make him a fascinating, if frequently repugnant, person.

The story of Vikernes and the black metal scene he helped spawn is chronicled in Lords of Chaos, which is a phenomenal read and is recommended even to those who are not interested in the music it focuses on.
posted by baphomet (55 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know a lot of people will take issue with my refering to Vikernes as intelligent. I say, read the interview. Yes, the man has some ignorant opinions, and his racism is clearly unforgivable, but there are many intelligent people who hold absurd, ignorant, or even dangerous opinions. Varg is both very intelligent and incredibly stupid.

Also, I would like to reiterate what an amazing book Lords of Chaos is. The book is superbly written and goes into great detail in all aspects of the controversy and mythology surrounding the events in Norway in the early 90's. The book maintains a journalistic distance from its subjects while being importantly incisive and accurate. I highly recommend this.

Finally, I think someone did a post in the blue a few years back about the aformentioned events, but I could not find it. If someone would care to link to it in this thread I would be much appreciated.
posted by baphomet at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2005

Interview with sculptor Banks Violette here, who is working with Thorns guitarist Snorre Ruch, "accomplice to a gruesome murder in which a musician was stabbed more than 20 times in the back and head." (Reg'-free version here.)

Personally, I like the thought-out electronic side of what I like to call "Norwegian noise" but the heavy metal side is simply thuggish. It's like one-upsmanship when they're trying to outdo each other on the indiscriminate violence, murders and racism. It has nothing to do with the art, no matter how eloquently romanticized.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2005

Alex: I agree with you in many respects, especially as regards a lot of the old school stuff, but some of the newer blackened metal (see Demigod by Behemoth and Death Cult Armageddon by Dimmu Borgir, especially the latter) is not only brutal as hell but is also very artistically challenging (Dimmu recorded DCA with a 43-piece orchestra). Of course, the "tr00 kvlt" people would stab me in the head 23 times for refering you to such bands, but the music they adhere to (like Dark Funeral and Immortal) tends to fall a lot closer to what you're talking about, IMHO.
posted by baphomet at 12:09 PM on May 30, 2005

Thanks for the pointers (and excellent links).

Waiting patiently for jonmc to show up...
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:20 PM on May 30, 2005

Alex - some black metal is all thuggery and racism, sure. But there are plenty of people who play [or listen] to it not because they're interested in the lifestyle, but rather because they like the way the stuff sounds. There's plenty of stuff that goes way beyond the "old school" sounds, although I'd hesitate to call Dimmu Borgir a good representative of innovative orchestral metal. [I could go on and on about some of the great doom metal, orchestral metal, death metal, etc. that I've come upon in the past few years.] Even sticking to stuff that's musically "old school", there's a lot of new black metal being put out these days that has nothing to do with church-burning and murder. From the West Coast, for example, Xasthur, Draugar and Leviathan all come to mind. Even bands like Dark Funeral and Immortal are more about the music and the image [corpse paint, neo-paganism, putting on a spectacle, what have you] than about the kind of really deeply racist stuff Vikernes is into. The Dark Legions Archive has a lot of good reviews, interviews, etc about black metal and other forms of metal.
posted by ubersturm at 1:05 PM on May 30, 2005

It's too bad the Norwegian metal book is too old to mention Gorgoroth's infamous Krakow concert featuring four crucified naked people smeared with sheep's blood. Alas, I am having trouble finding pictures.
Here's one. (nsfw DUH)
posted by Aknaton at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2005

Incidentally, this book was reviewed here in parallel with "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror", by David Frum and Richard Perle. How goofy is that?!
posted by Aknaton at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2005

AlexReynolds : "the heavy metal side is simply thuggish. It's like one-upsmanship when they're trying to outdo each other on the indiscriminate violence, murders and racism."

Not quite sure to parse this. Are you talking about the musicians, or the music? I can't stand the Dimmu Borgir end of the spectrum, but I'm quite fond of the Mayhem and Gorgoroth music. I'm sure if it came to talking to band members themselves, it would be the reverse.
posted by Bugbread at 2:44 PM on May 30, 2005

AlexReynolds : "Waiting patiently for jonmc to show up..."

Ah, you have to throw in the magic words for that to happen.

"I don't like Burzum, but I like his music. Not as much as I like the music of bands reviewed by Pitchfork Media, but better than that crap by The Ramones. Besides which, I hear Burzum's waxed off all his pubic hair."

That should do it.
posted by Bugbread at 2:49 PM on May 30, 2005

Always amusing to see these strange permutations, thanks for the link. I'm not sure intelligence is the right word - capable of generating idealogical texture, perhaps.

Even his reflections on current world events are regurgitations everyone has heard elsewhere, only here weaved to fit in with this old Nordic religion he follows, which he then amusingly and tragically compares to another religion.

No, not intelligent or particularly enlightening, but he doesn't have to be, to do what he does (make music). His real strength comes from an ability to create artifacts that others can identify with, which he apparently has done.

I'm glad he didn't go into racial issues too much in this interview, because evidently he has no context or experience to really speak on the matter, having been secluded geographically, and secluding himself in so many ways.

Who is this man and where has he come from?
posted by ginbiafra at 2:51 PM on May 30, 2005

While waiting for jonmc to show, you can investigate his recommendations for the proper pharmaceutical accompaniment to death metal in this thread. (I could swear the murder story was posted before, but I can't find it either.)
posted by languagehat at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2005

I might as well point out that Bathory, Dawn of Relic and Old Man's Child are perfectly good examples of black metal that aren't all about burning churches.

Also, "A Night At The Opera" by Blind Guardian is the greatest orchestral metal album ever
posted by cmonkey at 3:58 PM on May 30, 2005

What is it with these Scandinavians and dark metal? Does it have anything to do with seasonal affective disorder? And if so, is there an Alaskan death metal scene?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:03 PM on May 30, 2005

Well, cmonkey, a lot of people reckon Bathory's work - especially Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart - as a big factor in igniting the nationalist, antireligious spirit in the next wave of bands to come along. One Rode to Asa Bay is one of my all-time favorite songs, but I think it woke up a lot of anti-christian sentiment.
Coming up on the anniversary of Quorthon's death in a few days.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2005

Hm...skimming through the interview, I am left wondering how this guy would be particularly different from any outspoken singer in a Christian metal band...?

Apart from the fact that he is into the scawy corpse paint and pagan goddies, all we seem to have here is a reactionary, sexually conservative, anti-feminist racist who is convinced that his goddies are the best (handy that, as it serves to embiggen him) and that everything bad in the world is apparently caused by the mob following false religions, if not being entirely aspiritual.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:21 PM on May 30, 2005

UbuRoivas : "how this guy would be particularly different from any outspoken singer in a Christian metal band...? "

Off hand...different god? Different aesthetics? Direct opposition?

Kinda like saying "How are red and green different? They're both colors, they're both composed of photons."

I understand the point of your comparison, but pretending not to notice the differences seems both arch and a bit silly.
posted by Bugbread at 4:33 PM on May 30, 2005

UbuRoivas: There are only two pics of Varg looking "scary", he quickly distanced himself from the theatrical aspect of the genre. As far as the rest of it goes, I agree, except that Varg is more interesting than the rest because he holds his convictions more strongly than a lot of people in metal do. He put his money where his mouth is, so to speak, when he murdered Euronymous and burned the churches. (P.S- embiggen?)

As far as the Dimmu issue goes, I agree they're not the best example of black metal or even symphonic metal, but they are pretty accessible (note the popularity), so I figured they'd be a good starting point for people not familiar with the genre. Wolfdog named the two records that I would recommend to people looking to get more into the genre, especially Hammerheart, which is a fucking ridiculously amazing album. RIP Quorthon!
posted by baphomet at 4:41 PM on May 30, 2005

Kinda like saying "How are red and green different? They're both colors, they're both composed of photons."

Disagree. Same attitudes, same values, overall. Same narrow-mindedness and dogmatism. Oh, but the gods' names are different, which somehow makes them diametrically opposed...?

Case in point: "what is the meaning of life?"
"well, there was this guy Karl who Thorr thought was great and only Karl could cross the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla" or some such rot. How is that different in form (not content) to any mothy old Moses myth? It is fundamentally identical, but somehow this is thought (by some) to be "cool" because it is dressed up in scawy dungeons & dragons imagery? Gimme a break!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 PM on May 30, 2005

So, collectively, how do we feel about Emperor?
posted by hototogisu at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2005

*taps fingers, taps toes, whistles, waits for jonmc*

Do we need to hear the story about Dead and Euronymous again while we're waiting? Did he or didn't he?

Oh, and those pictures of the Gorgoroth show are laughable pretention at its best. Not Safe for Work or anything, really.
posted by jokeefe at 4:54 PM on May 30, 2005

Well, cmonkey, a lot of people reckon Bathory's work - especially Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart - as a big factor in igniting the nationalist, antireligious spirit in the next wave of bands to come along. One Rode to Asa Bay is one of my all-time favorite songs, but I think it woke up a lot of anti-christian sentiment.

Fair enough, but their lyrics certainly aren't as bad as Darkthrone's or anything.
posted by cmonkey at 4:55 PM on May 30, 2005

baphomet - embiggen is a perfectly cromulent word. It means roughly "to make bigger". I also plead total ignorance of who exactly goes over the top with the makeup and costumes, and stand corrected. Nevertheless, isn't the theatricality merely an outward expression of the general imagery & symbolism used in this genre?

bugbread - point taken, btw. I guess my stance is that red is much more like green than it is like tropical rainforest, memories or walking.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:58 PM on May 30, 2005

Waiting patiently for jonmc to show up...

I've been away in the hills of Central Vermont for three days celebrating my grandparent's 60th anniversary, and they're the type of people who refer to a computer as "la scatola magica," so I've been indisposed. Good ti know I was missed.

But to the subject at hand, Vikernes and his ilk's Satan talk (not to mention their reprehensible behavior and racism) always freaked this good lapsed Catholic boy out a bit, even if some practicioners of black metal (Emperor for one) have cranked out some musically interesting stuff.

the heavy metal side is simply thuggish.

I'm not going to defend Vikernes (no matter how fascinating a read Lords Of Chaos, but there's definitely more to Metal -even at it's outer limits-than mere thuggery. I once wrote off electronica whole hog, but have come around. There's gems buried in every genre, IMHO.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on May 30, 2005

> Also, I would like to reiterate what an amazing book
> Lords of Chaos is

I have to say, I didn't find it so. I was surprised not to, because I thought it was a very interesting subject and as such had huge potential, but I felt the authors were too taken with their access to what was clearly a hot subject, and as a result, lacked an intelligent critical distance to the issue.

I much preferred this book -- and the music was better as well. :-)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:01 PM on May 30, 2005


I understand what you're saying, and basically agree. It was just the rhetorical gambit ("How are they different?") that provoked the response. If you'd just said "They're pretty much the same", I would have wholeheartedly agreed from the start. But no worries.

hototogisu : "So, collectively, how do we feel about Emperor?"

Collectively, we probably like them. However, personally, I like Darkthrone (yeah, so sue me), Mayhem, and Gorgoroth much more.
posted by Bugbread at 5:02 PM on May 30, 2005

I like Emperor, but I'm a product of an earlier era in Metal history: the days of early Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Preist, Venom, Raven, Slayer, Motorhead, Napalm Death, Accept, etc. I think the principle problem with the Norwegians is that they took the whole violence and darkness trip about 20 megatons too seriously. The violence is metaphorical, Bjorn. Yumpin' Yiminy.
posted by jonmc at 5:08 PM on May 30, 2005

I just have a hard time imagining anyone who looks like KISS performing any violent behaviour. I'm aware that KISS was considered scary in its day, but they just look so cute and silly now.
posted by Bugbread at 5:10 PM on May 30, 2005

I'm aware that KISS was considered scary in its day, but they just look so cute and silly now.

Only fundy ministers ever considered KISS scary. Their fans saw them as Gene & Paul intended: a comic-book superhero fantasy combined with good loud, fun [emphasis mine] rock and roll. Their progenitors, Alice Cooper & The New York Dolls, were more genuinely scary, but even their violence and genderbending was more about finishing off the pastoralism grown stale of the hippie years.
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on May 30, 2005

I have to say, I didn't find [the book interesting]. I was surprised not to, because I thought it was a very interesting subject and as such had huge potential, but I felt the authors were too taken with their access to what was clearly a hot subject, and as a result, lacked an intelligent critical distance to the issue.

I didn't like it either, though my response is kinda the opposite. I agree that it is a fascinating subject, and compared to that I thought the book was dry, dry, dry. IMHO the tone ought to fit the topic.
posted by scratch at 5:16 PM on May 30, 2005

I must say that Opeth is my favorite example of "Black Metal" with all the intricate compositional skills and none of the posturing and holy-war baggage. The quotes are there because... maybe you just can't be True Black Metal without posturing and holy-war baggage.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:03 PM on May 30, 2005

As the most evil scandinavian on Metafilter I hereby take it upon myself to declare Satyricon's Mother North to be the best black metal song and Dark Funeral's Diabolis Interium the best album.

Fun tangent: Last weekend, the Swedish minister of culture was spotted at a gig with satanist rockers Dissection, who's singer just got out after serving a 7 year murder sentence. The minister described the experience as "much fun".
posted by mr.marx at 6:09 PM on May 30, 2005

I also have to mention Orphaned Land - another twist on the orchestral metal style. Century Media has videos for two of their songs on the linked page. It actually plays off what Ubu is saying in a way; much as the Norse bands have taken the folk songs and legends and forged them together with metal, these guys have taken much of the same metal vocabulary and blended it with an entirely different mythos, and diffierent folk-music heritage. Fascinating stuff.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:14 PM on May 30, 2005

Wow. Black Metal on mefi! What a day!

As for the original post, Varg is one interesting dude, to say the least. I try not to pay attention to much to his beliefs (or that of many black metal artists) but suffice to say, Varg's ideals change as quickly as the wind. He backtracks alot of what he says and believes often, so I never really know what to believe about the guy.

His music, on the other hand, is incredible. As Burzum, he has this sound that is just very odd and compelling. "Filisofem" is one of the heaviest records ever recorded, in my opinion.

I've been a fan of Black Metal for a few years now, and can't really explain what my attraction is to it at all. To me, metal is some of the most exciting music being played these days.
posted by punkrockrat at 6:25 PM on May 30, 2005

He's a little nazi, plain and simple. He's smart enough to read good books, but too shallow to understand the meaning.

I can't stand people like him.

Even though I share some of his ideologies and concepts, ultimately he is a racist pig.

Maybe, just maybe, he'll wake up someday and see himself for what he is.
posted by rougy at 7:39 PM on May 30, 2005

Wolfdog - Opeth comes closer to prog metal than black metal a lot of the time, especially on the more recent releases. Good stuff, but it's musically pretty different from straight-out black metal. The bands I listed above (the west-coast bunch of bands - Draugar, Xasthur, Leviathan, Crebain, Weakling, etc) play stuff with a little less 'baggage' than the old Scandinavian crew, though the sound is old school. I don't think the posturing or whatever has much of an effect on whether or not the sound is interesting - I like Mayhem and Opeth both, but for different reasons. The Meads of Asphodel play black metal that often has Middle Eastern melodies, though they tend more towards the metal and less towards the orchestral/ambient than Orphaned Land. (Albums can be orchestral and still way heavier than Orphaned Land's stuff - Tvangeste comes to mind, or Dark Lunacy, or in a different way, Therion.) Speaking of folk-metal, there's lots of it - Cruachan, Finntroll, and In Extremo are three of my favorite (Celtic, Finnish and medieval metal, respectively.)

Of course when it comes to purchasing music, I find myself in a bit of a bind - while I like the music that some very vocally racist bands/musicians make, I'm not sure I want to support them financially. Downloading mp3s and buying used CDs can be a sort of solution, I suppose, but I'm still not entirely easy with the idea of listening to [or giving radioplay to] people who support things I'm very against, even if they make good music. Ah, well.
posted by ubersturm at 7:40 PM on May 30, 2005

guy from band i'm obsessed with said it best

> did you read lords of chaos?

i made it halfway through. i thought those guys were a bunch of candy
asses, that varg guy sitting in prison saying, "oh, i am so mad, they took
away my computer." let's put him in prison in arkansas with his long
hair and his little, girly mouth. imprisoned death metaler with a fucking
computer... what he needs is about ten brothers to show him what's what.

posted by angry modem at 7:58 PM on May 30, 2005

"My love for you is like a truck, berserker! Would you like some making fuck, berserker!"
(Did he say 'making fuck'?)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:07 PM on May 30, 2005

"yummy yummy yummy,
i got love in my tummy,
and i feel like lovin' you!"
posted by quonsar at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2005


I'm aware that KISS was considered scary in its day...

posted by quonsar at 9:02 PM on May 30, 2005

"Living Colour is my favorite Black Metal band"
-Anal Cunt
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:25 PM on May 30, 2005

Thanks all for making this an interesting thread, I'm glad it's possible for people on the internet to discuss metal without flaming.

UbuRoivas: These guys are the ones who go over the top. Everybody should check out this site, it's hilarious.
posted by baphomet at 11:30 PM on May 30, 2005

He destroyed a beautiful church.
posted by fire&wings at 7:34 AM on May 31, 2005

bugbread : "I'm aware that KISS was considered scary in its day..."

Ok, apparently I thought I was aware of it, but I was mistaken.

What about Ozzy? Was he considered scary in his day, or is my historical knowledge totally fucked up?

fire&wings : "He destroyed a beautiful church."

It got better!
posted by Bugbread at 8:35 AM on May 31, 2005

Okay, so where do I download some of Vikernes' music?

Oh, and thanks for that link, baphomet. Hilarious!
posted by sveskemus at 8:56 AM on May 31, 2005

This guy briefly reviews"Lords of Chaos"as part of an in depth article"Counter Culture Fascism" very scary indeed
posted by hortense at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2005

Odd, I was just discussing Scandinavian Black Metal with a co-worker the other day (No kidding!). I told him that if he could get past the lyrics and "vocal stylings" of some of the bands he would find that there are some rather talented musicians working in that genre. I recommended he ease into the Nothern European scene with something a little easier on the ears like In Flames or Children of Bodom. I'm a metalhead going back to the early 80's and it took me a while to appreciate some of the "newer" bands but I find myself liking them more and more. I still don't really care for Mayhem (but I love Vader's cover of "Freezing Moon") and I find Burzum to be of uneven quality at best (I guess I shouldn't expect too much from a guy in prison with a Casio keyboard) but the music is better than most people would expect.
posted by MikeMc at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2005

At War with Norway: For All Your Burnt Churches, What Have You Learned? Nothing. (previously discussed on MeFi, I think).
posted by kenko at 9:15 AM on May 31, 2005

I went to see Mayhem when I was at Roskilde Music Festival in 2001. They had 6 flamethrowers at the front of their stage and they started their concert by firing them off and continued to do so throughout their set with rather measured abandon, but that's Norwegians for you.

It's the geekiest thing I've ever seen.

I wandered away after a bit to go see Modest Mouse.

I hung around a lot of these sorts of types (I'm Icelandic) back in the day. Nothing so extreme, but they were, almost without fail, geeks in their youth. Many of them still played Magic: The Gathering and did other suck classic geek-style things.

My favorite has always been Dimmu Borgir (which means, in case you were curious, Dark Cities) though to be honest I stopped paying attention some time ago.

Norway is weird. It once was described to me as so boring that people started using heroin because there's nothing else to do.

Also, I can't believe nobody's mentioned Atom and His Package's Me and My Black Metal Friends. His description of the country is in a similar vein: "In the mountains of Norway, where the weather is cold, there's nothing to do, except kill each other, and play guitars in the snow"
posted by Kattullus at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2005

Yeah they're geeks, yeah the costumes are retarded, the politics can be a pain in the ass, but sometimes you've just got to scorch your fucking speakers, and Black Metal always does the trick. And I agree with MikeMC, there is some amazing musicianship going on there - at that volume and speed you're in a whole new world of sound. Not quite Grindcore, but what is?

Thanks for band reccos throughout the post.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2005

I heard around the watercooler that Varg is interested in building a church from the remnants of previously burnt Norwegian churches.

I would love to hear him chat with Genesis P. Orridge on the role of modern paganism in western culture.

The new Enslaved and Darkthrone albums are pretty amazing, although Burzum's "Filosofem" and Mayhem's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" still top my list.

oh and sveskemus, has some free Burzum samples, but my work won't let me provide a link at the moment.
posted by hellbient at 12:36 PM on May 31, 2005

theinsectsarewaiting: I was at that same Mayhem concert at Roskilde 01. I, too, thought it sucked and left to see something else.

hellbient: Thanks for the link. Great acronym! Didn't particularly like the music, but it was frustrating to read the article without ever having heard the music.
posted by sveskemus at 3:11 PM on May 31, 2005

If anyone's still reading - I think this Immortal video could be my favorite of all time. It takes forever to download, and If you don't like the music, you'll still die laughing.
posted by hellbient at 4:57 PM on May 31, 2005

this immortal video.
posted by hellbient at 5:11 PM on May 31, 2005

hellbient : "this immortal video."

I just had a netgasm.
posted by Bugbread at 8:39 PM on May 31, 2005

Make-up wearing men running around in the forest. Alright!
posted by sveskemus at 5:59 AM on June 1, 2005

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