Archive for the ‘Mayhem’ Category

[WATCHED: March 19, 2011] Until the Light Takes Us

Soon after finishing Lords of Chaos, I heard a radio interview on the Sound of Young America with the directors of this movie (which is about the same black metal scene in Norway).  I finally got around to watching the film, and I’m really glad I did.

It covers much of the same terrain as Lords of Chaos (although the book covers much more stuff), but what’s cooler about the movie is actually seeing these guys talk to you.  And seeing how “normal these guys are.”  The two “stars” of the movie are Fenriz from Darkthrone and the main man in the scene, Varg Vikerens.

In the radio interview, the directors talked about the way they structured the film. And, I’ll reveal a bit of that.  So if you don’t know this particular fact, I’ll give the next line as a spoiler alert:

SPOILER ALERT: (Highlight the blank space to read it) Varg is in jail for murder and for the burning of several churches and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

They don’t reveal this information until very late in the film.  So when we first meet Varg, he is a clean cut, handsome man in his late 30s.  He is in jail (although not explicitly stated, it is clear he is in jail).  And he is talking about the Norwegian black metal scene.  Vikerens formed the band Burzum in 1991.  He later joined the band Mayhem.

Mayhem is at the center of the black metal controversy.  The singer of Mayhem, Dead, killed himself with a shotgun.  The guitarist Euronymous found him and took pictures of him (one of which was used as a bootleg album cover–ewww) before calling the police (and it is believed he took some “souvenirs” from the scene).

Vikerens talks about growing up in idyllic Norway, which is peaceful and beautiful–but he undermines all of that by talking about the fairly typical suburban ennui that kids face.  Of course, in Norway it surfaced in violence and death.   Later, he talks about Christianity and how when it came into Norway there was no respect for the Norwegian culture.  Christians built churches on top of ceremonial grounds.  And it seems that he and his mates became very interested in Norwegian folklore and avenging the wrongs done to it. (more…)

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I bought this disc when I was living in Boston and I immediately fell for it.  I seem to recall I was doing a lot of driving at the time, and this mix of extreme metal, orchestral accompaniment and twinned vocals was very captivating.  It was also really fun to play very loud on a dark highway.

I’d read a very good review of this disc that claimed it was a big step forward in styles of thrash/black metal (and if you Google reviews for this album they are pretty universally great).  The disc is exemplified by the track “To Mega Therion” which is almost entirely a full choir singing what I guess is the chorus.  The verses are populated by a guy screaming in a guttural voice who is answered by an almost mechanically twinned voice which sounds great but is even harder to understand.  Follow this with a beautiful piano (!) solo not unlike something Randy Rhoads put together for Blizzard of Oz, and add a pounding double bass drum all the way through (truth be told the album could be a little heavier in the bass) and you get a crazy mix of styles which is catchy and creepy at the same time.

It’s hard to match a song like that.  And, admittedly, the band doesn’t quite manage to do so, but the rest of the album keeps up this orchestral death metal throughout.

Reading about Therion has taught me that this album is something of  touchstone for a new genre of metal, called variously symphonic or operatic metal (I suppose we have this to blame for the Trans Siberian Orchestra?).

In addition to the choirs and guitars there are a lot of keyboards. They are disconcerting when you’re thinking death metal and yet really they add an even fuller sound, even if at times they are not as grand or powerful as anything else.  At times the album seems cheesey, but that may have more to do with thirteen years distance than the music itself.

Anyone who has seen The Exorcist knows that choirs can be spooky.  And when you mix it with the heavy guitars and guttural vocals, you get a really cool sinister yet catchy (and possibly uplifting) album.  There are certainly a lot heavier albums, but this one is pretty stellar.

[READ: Summer of 2010, finished December 12, 2010] Lords of Chaos

My brother-in-law gave me this book for my birthday this year.  I was familiar with it as it is fairly well-known in heavy metal circles as a fascinating read.  And so it was.

This book is basically a history of black metal in Norway and how some bands’ antics went beyond music into burning churches and even murder.  The authors present a pretty neutral account of the story.  They let the main participants (criminals) have their say and the interviews don’t comment on their answers, they just let them tell their side of the story.  The authors also know a lot about the music scene.  Of course, in the end, the authors (thankfully) disapprove of the violence.  It makes for an interesting and somewhat conflicting read. (more…)

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