Some thoughts on black metal and Until the Light Takes Us

I watched a surprisingly good documentary about Norwegian black metal, called Until the Light Takes Us. Its goal seemed to be to tell the truth about what happened in the small black metal community in Norway in the early 1990s, and I think this was the first account on it that actually told what happened through the people who were involved, instead of through media representations of it. Media was responsible for labeling the people behind these crimes as satanists.

This was the first time for me to see an interview with Varg Vikernes, the "notorious" Count Grishnackh of Burzum who was among the first ones to start burning churches in Norway, and who then eventually murdered Euronymous in 1991. Yes, he is insane, but not as insane as I thought, and he's not a "satanist". He didn't burn the churches for the sake of Satan, but because in his view Christianity had killed the original Norwegian pagan culture. One of the churches he burned had been built on an ancient pagan worship site, which to him was a sacrilege. So he just basically did what the Christians had done before to the original culture.
I'm not defending him. I don't believe in violence and destruction. And above all, I cannot in any way understand why he killed Euronymous, no matter how bad Euronymous himself had threatened to kill him. Obviously we cannot know how threatening the actual situation was at the time, and whether Vikenes had other options for self defence than to stab Euronymous to death. (Run away, run away!)

Overall, I find a lot of the things the true black metallers have done and still do rather distracting. Faust, Emperor's (and many other bands') old drummer, also killed someone (in Lillehammer in 1992). I don't think he's particularly proud about that, though. Hellhammer's (drummer of Mayhem) comments for the murder, in the documentary, were, "I really honor him for that." When Dead (singer of Mayhem, originally from Sweden) killed himself with a shotgun, Euronymous found him and the first thing he did was to TAKE A PICTURE. That picture then ended up being the cover of a Mayhem bootleg live album (Dawn of the Black Hearts). How fucked up is that?
Self destruction seems to be very popular among black metallers. A modern artist called Bjarne Melgaard was also featured in the documentary for his art exhibition on black metal. His work was impressive, in my opinion. But. As a part of the exhibition, at least on one occasion, Frost (of Satyricon) did some sort of performance for the audience, in which he played with fire, destroyed a sofa with a knife and then slit his wrist, and his neck, and lay on the sofa bleeding. And then the audience applauded. Art?
(Reminds me a little bit of Jumalan teatteri, a group of Finnish actors, who caused a scandal in the late 1980s by throwing, among other things, feces into the audience. ART, again, I ask?)

Musically, I like black metal to some extent, but what Varg said at some point in the documentary explains pretty well why I don't necessarily enjoy all of it. I don't remember which album he was talking about, probably one of the first Burzum albums, but he stated that since he wanted to rebel against good production and all that shit he used the worst possible equipment he could find to record the album. So, for instance, he used a headset as a microphone. Lol. That says it all. If their goal in music is to sound as crappy as possible... hmm, I guess it truly is the perfect way to clear out all the mainstream hifi-snobs (like me) from the audience. Congratulations, you have succeeded! To me the music and how it sounds matters more than the ideology and thoughts behind it all.

But even Burzum is not as bad as it could be. I love the ambient albums :D

(I think that was a good joke.)

I tried to listen to Darkthrone's Panzerfaust and it was verging on horrendous.
...But I guess I don't have enough black metal experience to make such judgements. I don't hate all of it - I like for example Satyricon and Emperor, but still, I'm more likely to listen to Dimmu Borgir and this kind of stuff than early 1990s Norwegian black metal. So for me the production has to be on a decent level. How can you distinguish if the shit is good or not if the production sucks? I don't get it.
Anyway, I would like to listen to more of these crazy bastards to understand black metal because it's an interesting phenomena. Among those crazy bastards is Gaahl of formerly Gorgoroth. He/the band wasn't on Until the Light Takes Us, but I saw another documentary on Gaahl alone, and jeez is he a true artist. And how ironic - he's real name is Kristian.


I guess related to the rebellion of black metal I can well understand why for example Fenriz of Darkthrone, who was also featured in the documentary, was so disappointed to the fact that black metal has now become this huge trend. (I wonder why he agreed then to be in such a big role in the documentary.) As black metal became commercial, its original idea of rebellion was lost. I'm sure to him and the other "originals", phenomena like the Vegan Black Metal Chef and the Black Satans (mwahahahahahaha), and websites like this, which incorporate humour into black metal, are just sacrilegous abominations. Well, what can you do about it? How can you stop something of becoming popular? Would black metal be as popular as it is today without all of the media attention of the early 90s?

Here's the trailer for Until the Light Takes Us. I warmly recommend watching it. I mean, the whole documentary, not just the trailer. But watch the trailer as well.

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