Black Metal Murder
Insider story of a deadly Nordic music rivalry
The shop was so dark you couldn’t see your own hand stretched out in front of you. Burning candles made it feel more like a crypt than a store. The windows were blacked out. The walls were covered with the same dank, gloopy paint. Upon them hung a variety of medieval weapons and a few posters advertising metal shows. Out front, on the door to the street, the word “Helvete” was painted in blood red. This was the Norwegian word for Hell, descended from the Norse ‘ Hels Viti’, meaning ‘ Hell’s Punishment’. In time the name would come to be prophetic.
In the window was a tombstone made out of polystyrene. In the basement the words “Black Metal” were daubed upon the walls. This was a phrase lifted from the title of the really rather silly but hugely influential British band Venom’s second album. Everyone who frequented or hung around the shop used it to describe this new kind of heavy metal they were all so influential in creating. Raw, brutal, fast – but actually quite beautiful in places: glacial, in thrall to nature and old history.
Legendary British music writer Paul Elliot was working as news editor of the British rock bible Kerrang! at this time. Excited by the music they were hearing lurch out of the scene that revolved around the shop, fascinated even more by the rumours of bad behaviour that were surrounding the music’s creators, on 27 March 1993 the weekly magazine decided to share the story of what was happening in Norway via their magazine cover. “Arson… Death… Satanic Ritual…” roared the strap. “The Ugly Truth About Black Metal”.
“Looking back on it now, it was the most shocking story ever featured in Kerrang!” remembered Elliot. “What was going on made for good copy for the magazine and the bands benefitted from the exposure we gave them. Our story was sensational but not to my mind sensationalist given the seriousness of the crimes committed. Some great music came out of that scene and era. But it will always be remembered for the insanity and brutality of what those impressionable young men descended into.”
Without Helvete, there is no black metal. The Oslo record shop was where ‘ The Black Circle’ or the ‘ Black
Metal Inner Circle’ would meet. A silly club name, more ominous than it sounds because of the events that would transpire, it was a group that included members of the black metal bands Mayhem, Emperor, Burzum and Thorns. They all had an interest in Satanism, but really their core interest was in pissing people off. At the heart of it all was the shop’s founder, Øystein Aarseth. He was better known as ‘ Euronymous’ – guitarist, scene leader and a founding member in the band Mayhem. From the shop, Euronymous ran his record label. Its name? Deathlike Silence Productions.
Members of the group made Helvete their home from time to time: sometimes Euronymous, sometimes Emperor guitarist Tomas ‘ Samoth’ Haugen. Emperor’s drummer Bård Guldvik Eithun, also known as ‘ Faust’, combined living and working in the shop. And then there was Varg Vikernes, also known as ‘ Count Grishnackh’. In 1991, Euronymous’s band Mayhem found themselves short of a bassist; 22- year- old
Per Yngve Ohlin, nicknamed ‘ Pelle’ ( but far more commonly ‘ Dead’) would take his own life on 8 April of that year. It resulted in a reshuffling of the band’s personnel. And so Count Grishnackh and Euronymous came to be in the same band, if not quite ever bandmates.
Just over two years later, on 10 August, Euronymous would be found on stairs leading to his apartment. He’d been stabbed 23 times in the head, neck and back. Count Grishnackh was responsible.
THE COUNT COMETH
Born in Bergen on the west coast of Norway, Kristian Vikernes – as he was then known – came into the world on 11 February 1973.
When he was six, his family moved to Iraq. His mother worked for an oil company, his father for Saddam Hussein’s government in Baghdad, developing computer programs. He had a brother, 18 months or so his senior. Once the family had arrived in the Iraqi capital, the Vikernes family quickly
Euronymous would be found... stabbed 23 times in the head, neck and back. Count Grishnackh was responsible
learned that Bagdad’s English school couldn’t accommodate the young Kristian. But the Iraqi elementary school could.
Many years later, Vikernes would tell Didrik Schjerven Søderlind and Michael Moynihan, authors of 1998’ s Lords Of Chaos ( the seminal – if editorially biased – account of the early Norwegian black metal scene) that it was this experience that led him to become “aware of racial matters”. Corporal punishment was a fixture of his new school. One day in class, Vikernes called a teacher a “monkey”. He wasn’t slapped. Empowered by a belief that the teachers “didn’t dare to hit [ him] because he was white,” the young Vikernes began to foster warped opinions about racial superiority. Allegedly, his father had a swastika flag on display at home. His mother – he again later told Lords Of Chaos – expressed concern her son might bring home “a black girl”. His parents separated when he was 11. Though he maintained a relationship with his mother that remains to this day, his father had faded from view long ago.
Vikernes’s beliefs, and his interest in white supremacy, never went away. Before his involvement in black metal, it’s
Dead ( left) and Euronymous in full corpse paint right Øystein ‘ Euronymous’ Aarseth was at the centre of the black metal scene, until his murder on 10 August 1993below A young Varg Vikernes on trial. He would later be sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum punishment in Norway
right Watain, a Swedish black metal band formed in 1998, prove that black metal is still alive, even if many of its founding fathers are not