BURNINGS AND BOMBINGS
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ARSON THAT SET NORWAY ALIGHT
Euronymous made necklaces with bits of Pelle’s skull. He began gifting them to musicians he respected
In 1992 and 1993, Norway was rocked by a spate of church burnings. On 6 June 1992 the 12th- century Fantoft stave church was destroyed by arson. The following year, another seven – in Oslo, Bergen and Vindafjord – were set alight. Varg Vikernes was found guilty for some of the attacks. Yet the burnings continued after his arrest – on 16 May 1994, on the day of Vikernes’s sentencing, two churches were set alight, apparently in solidarity. It’s said that by 1996, there’d been at least 50 churches burned, either partially or completely. The cover of Burzum’s EP Aske ( Norwegian for ‘ ashes’) released in March 1993 is a photograph of the charred remains of the Fantoft stave church. It’s never been confirmed, but it’s believed the photo was taken by Vikernes himself.
The common belief was that Satanism was the motive behind the crimes. Heathen motivations would be a better description. “I am not going to say that I burnt any churches,” Varg Vikernes told the authors of Lords Of Chaos, “but let me put it this way: there was one person who started it. I was not found guilty of burning the Fantoft stave church, but anyway, that was what triggered the whole thing. That was the 6th of June and everyone linked it to Satanism... What everyone overlooked was that on the 6th June, 793, in Lindesfarne in Britain was the site of the first known Viking raid in history, with Vikings from Hordaland, which is my county... They [ the Christians] desecrated our graves, our burial mounds, so it’s revenge.”
Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, a recording that features both Vikernes and his victim Euronymous, has on its cover a photo of Nidaros Cathedral. According to the 2007 movie Once Upon A Time In Norway, the pair had once planned to bomb the album sleeve’s subject matter.
alleged that the adolescent dabbled in Norway’s fledgling skinhead scene.
The young Vikernes loved The Lord Of The Rings. The name Grishnackh would in time be taken from that of an orc in J. R. R Tolkien’s Middle Earth. He enjoyed classical music and was a big fan of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky. At age 12 he discovered heavy metal. Iron Maiden were his favourites. He soon dug deeper into what metal had to offer. There was the Swiss extreme metal band Celtic Frost, while from Sweden there was Bathory, named after the notorious Hungarian noblewoman and alleged serial killer Elizabeth Báthory ( according to the Guinness Book Of Records, the most prolific female murderer ever).
Aged 14, he began to learn the guitar. By 17 he was playing with the Bergen death metal band Old Funeral. Shortly after, and again borrowing from Tolkien ( the word, taken from the “Black Speech” inscribed on
“the one ring to rule them all”, can be
translated as meaning ‘ darkness’), Vikernes formed Burzum, his solo musical project.
Vikernes had another hobby – burning churches. On 20 January 1993, a few months before the Kerrang! cover that sported a young Vikernes on it ( his hair covering all but one eye, and in his hands a variety of weapons ), one of Norway’s biggest newspapers, Bergens Tidende, ran an exposé on the recent bout of torched churches. They blamed Vikernes and other members of the black metal scene.
Later, Vikernes would claim that the whole thing was a promotional construct dreamt up by himself and Euronymous to promote Helvete and increase the popularity of black metal. He was briefly taken into custody. In February 1993, Norwegian music magazine Rock Furore published an interview with Vikernes in which he bemoaned the country’s prison system: “It’s much too nice here. It’s not hell at all. In this country prisoners get a bed, toilet and shower. It’s completely ridiculous. I asked the police to throw me in a real dungeon, and also encouraged them to use violence.”
And somewhere within all of this, Dead died.
DEATH BECOMES HIM
Though he expired just years into his 20s, by the time he died it still seemed like ‘ Pelle’, as his friends were fond of calling him, was well into mortal overtime. Bullied at school, the young Swede was allegedly declared clinically dead before he’d even arrived at puberty. It’s said he ruptured his spleen after one beating.
The use of ‘ corpse paint’ – black and white makeup used to create the impression
of being deceased and decaying – is now common among black metal musicians, but it’s believed that Pelle was the first to ever wear it. “Dead actually wanted to look like a corpse,” said Mayhem bassist Jørn ‘ Necrobutcher’ Stubberud. “He didn’t do it to look cool”. Pelle took his desire to look deceased even further, burying his clothes before a show, then digging them up to wear them onstage. Mayhem drummer Jan Axel ‘ Hellhammer’ Blomberg recalled that the singer once asked the band to bury him before a gig. “He wanted his skin to become pale”.
Death was never far from Pelle’s mind. Before joining Mayhem, his first band was named Morbid. Expressing his interest to join Mayhem, he posted Necrobutcher a package with a crucified mouse inside. Many in the scene believed Dead suffered from Cotard delusion, a rare mental illness that results in the affected believing they are already dead.
Pelle would mutilate himself onstage. He kept dead geese underneath his bed, and he once found a dead crow and henceforth carried it around in a plastic bag. He’d inhale the contents of the bag before performances. Then and now, Mayhem were notorious for decorating the stage of their live shows with severed animal heads.
Not that Pelle was the only bandmember obsessed with the macabre. Years later, incensed by a music journalist’s comments, Euronymous’s replacement Rune ‘ Blasphemer’ Eriksen and Hellhammer drove to a slaughterhouse, procured a pig’s head and placed it outside the journalist’s house with a dagger embedded between the swine’s eyes.
And then there was Euronymous himself. Where others in the scene became concerned about Pelle’s fascination with death, it’s alleged by many that Euronymous cultivated it. “I don’t know if Øystein did it out of pure evil,” former Mayhem drummer Kjetil Manheim said in the 2007 documentary Once Upon A Time In Norway, “or if he was just fooling around”. Somehow, along with Hellhammer,
Pelle and Euronymous ended up living together in a house in the woods in Kråkstad where Mayhem would practise. Frustrated by the proximity to each other, Pelle slept in the woods to get away from some synthesizer music he didn’t like but Euronymous did. Euronymous’s response was to charge outside and begin firing shotgun shells into the air.
Then on 8 April 1991, Pelle slit his wrists and throat.
Then, just to make sure, he shot himself with Euronymous’s shotgun. The note found with his body ‘ explained’ he was “not a human. This is just a dream and soon I will be awake”. It opened with the wry line, “Excuse the blood”.
Euronymous found the body, but before calling the police, he walked to a shop and bought a disposable camera. Upon returning, he took photos. “Øystein called me up the next day,” Necrobutcher told The Guardian’s Chris Campion in 2007. “He says, ‘ Dead has done something really cool! He killed himself.’ I thought, have you lost it? What do you mean cool? He says, ‘ Relax, I have photos of everything.’ I was in shock and grief. He was just thinking how to exploit it. So I told him, ‘ Okay. Don’t even fucking call me before you destroy those pictures.”’
He didn’t. Euronymous kept them in a drawer at Helvete.
Somehow one of the photos made its way to Euronymous’s pen pal, Mauricio ‘ Bull Metal’
Montoya, owner of Colombia’s
Warmaster Records. In 1995 it ended up on the cover of the bootleg Mayhem live album, Dawn
Of The Black Hearts.
Euronymous made necklaces with bits of Pelle’s skull. He began gifting them to musicians he respected in the scene. Disgusted, Necrobutcher left the band for the time being.
HELL ON EARTH
Enter Varg Vikernes. “No one knew who he was when he first came to Helvete,” said Faust about the blond, intense new arrival to the scene. “He came out of nowhere, this serious- looking guy from Bergen who doesn’t drink alcohol but milk. It was a party scene.
And he stood out from the crowd.”
Faust, it should be noted, is a convicted murderer. While visiting family in Lillehammer, he stabbed a gay man named Magne Andreassen in the Winter Olympic Park 37 times, then kicked him in his head repeatedly until he died. “This man approached me,” Faust told
Lords Of Chaos. “He was obviously drunk and obviously a faggot. It was obvious that he wanted to have some contact. Then he asked me if we could go up to the woods. So I agreed, because already then I had decided that I wanted to kill him, which was very weird because I’m not like this”.
Initially it seemed like Faust had evaded punishment, despite confiding in Vikernes and Euronymous about what he had done. For a while, the open secret within the Helvete crowd concerning his crime, and that he’d seemingly gotten away with it, seemed to empower the group. With hindsight, many present within the scene, as well as outside commentators, have said this murderous episode – and the introduction of Vikernes to the circle – is key to understanding the exacerbation of the bloodshed to follow.
In 1994 Faust was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was released in 2003 after serving nine years and four months.
Initially, Vikernes and Euronymous were close. It was an obvious union – if one with a shelf life. Vikernes and Euronymous were both hyper- enthusiastic about this new music they were both at the nucleus of creating. Euronymous offered to release Burzum’s music and offered him a role in Mayhem. Where they differed was that, while they both proclaimed to be evil – being so was a badge of honour within the scene – Vikernes had more claim to this title, and Euronymous was just pretending.
At some point all music scenes always end badly. Take any group of young, creative, developing people, throw in the issue of ego, and chances are fallouts will occur. Add weapons to the mix, nationalistic fervour, testosterone, mental illness, insecurity and a fledgling belief in Satanism, and it’s a recipe for disaster. There are only two people who will ever know the specifics as to why Vikernes decided to murder Øystein Aarseth. One of them is dead. The other insists it was for reasons of self- defence. This claim is often disputed, but it should be noted that Euronymous was known within the black metal scene for sending death threats to anyone he had the slightest of disagreements with.
Vikernes actually claims that Euronymous intended to tie him up and torture him to death with a stun gun, and capture the act on video. “If he was talking about it to everybody and anybody I wouldn’t have taken it seriously” he said. “But he just told a select group of friends, and one of them told me”.
What is commonly accepted as fact, is that on the evening of 10 August 1993, Varg Vikernes and Snorre ‘ Blackthorn’ Ruch – the guitarist in the influential Thorns, then staying with Vikernes after fleeing from the threat of being committed to a mental institution – got in a car and drove from Bergen to Oslo, to Euronymous’s flat. When Aarseth
that same month saw the release of mayhem’s album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, featuring the victim on guitar and killer on bass
opened the door of his fourth- floor apartment at around
4am, he was in his underwear. There was an altercation, and Vikernes stabbed Euronymous to death.
Blackthorn played no part in the killing. He stood outside and smoked. Yet, like many details surrounding the crime, there is debate as to how much the guitarist knew prior to getting in the car. Vikernes claims Blackthorn only came on the journey because he wanted to show Euronymous some new guitar riffs he’d written, and that he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Blackthorn claims Vikernes pressured him into accompanying him. “I was neither for nor against it” he later said. “I didn’t give a shit about Øystein.”
Vikernes claims the majority of Euronymous’s wounds came from being punctured by glass broken during the fateful encounter. On the way home from Oslo to Bergen, Vikernes stopped at a lake, washed and discarded his bloodstained clothes.
“In all honesty it seemed a bit silly and comedic until the murder of the homosexual man in Lillehammer, and of Euronymous,” said Kerrang!’ s Paul Elliott. “Everything very quickly spiralled out of control.”
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
Vikernes was arrested in Bergen on 19 August 1993. Faust and Blackthorn – who would receive eight years for being an accessory to murder – were also taken in for questioning. Everyone ratted on each other, everyone talked. Everyone but Vikernes, who viewed the fracturing of loyalties with distain.
Inside Vikernes’s home, police discovered some 3,000 rounds of ammunition and 150 kilograms of explosives. It has long been suggested that Vikernes intended to obliterate the anarchist, anti- fascist Oslo squat Blitz House, although he denies this. “I was getting [ the explosives and ammunition] in order to defend Norway if we were attacked any time,” he said during a 2009 interview with the Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet. The headline of that article declared, “The Count Regrets Nothing”.
The trial began the following year, on 2 May 1994. Vikernes was represented by the eccentric Stein- Erik Mattsson ( as well as working as a lawyer, Mattsson was once director of the Norwegian Curling Association and editorin- chief of the pornographic magazine Alle Menn). Decades before the atrocities committed by Anders Breivik, Vikernes quickly became Norway’s most notorious fiend.
On 16 May 1994, Vikernes received Norway’s maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment for the murder of Euronymous. He was also deemed guilty of committing arson on three churches, the attempted arson of a fourth, and for stealing and storing 150 kilograms of explosives. Vikernes only confessed to the theft and storage of the explosives. The same month also saw the release of Mayhem’s album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which features the victim on guitar and killer on bass. Euronymous’s family had pleaded with Mayhem’s drummer, Hellhammer, to remove Vikernes’s bass tracks from the recording. He ignored the request. “I thought it was appropriate that the murderer and victim were on the same record,” he said. “I put word out that I was re- recording the bass parts, but I never did.”
Vikernes served 15 years of his sentence and was released on 22 May 2009 on probation. He now resides in France with his wife and children. Other than being convicted for inciting racial hatred against Jews and
Muslims in 2014, he’s lived a relatively low- key life.
He blogs and makes music. In 2013 he was arrested on charges of planning to commit terrorism after his wife bought four rifles, but it was later found that she owned the correct permits.
It seems Vikernes has too much to lose to be plotting mass murder. In 2015 he even released his own tabletop fantasy roleplaying game, based upon “European values, geography, ( pre-) history, mythology, traditions and morals”.
In Oslo, Helvete still stands, though it’s now called Neseblod. It’s now as much a black metal museum as it is a record shop. On the wall hang props from
Burzum photoshoots, a sheet dotted with
Euronymous’s blood. In an article written by the journalist Matt Bacon from Metal
Injection, posted in 2016 upon paying pilgrimage to the site, the owner of the new shop had remarked, “All we are really missing is Dead’s body to hang up with all the other stuff.”
Aske, The co ver of Burzum’ s EP released in Marc h 1993. The photograph is of wha t remained of the F antoft sta ve c hurch after being set alight
right Dead, smothered in makeup to look like a corpse, in a photo taken from Jørn Stubberud’s The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984- 94 above- left Holmenkollen Chapel in Norway. Vikernes and Faust were tried and sentenced for committing arson upon it in 1992. Euronymous participated too, though death saw him escape that sentence. The church was restored in 1996left Founded in 1982, the anarchist, communist, socialist commune the Blitz House was allegedly a target for Vikernes
above- left Mayhem founding member Jørn Stubberud, aka Necrobutcher, is now Mayhem’s only remaining original member, after reforming the band following the 1993 murder of Euronymousabove- right Vikernes during his trial in Norway in 1994, alongisde lawyer Tor Erling Staff. Vikernes claimed he acted in self- defence, but a 14- day trial saw him given the maximum sentence possible under Norweigan lawopposite- top Vikernes was arrested at his home in central France in 2013 along with his French wife. He was suspected of planning a major terrorist act, although he was released without being charged 48 hours later for lack of evidenceon The or iginal member s of Ma yhemseen tour ( circa 1990). Dead can ber ight) just behind Necrobutc her ( second
The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984- 94 by️Jørn Stubberud, published by Ecstatic Peace Library/ Omnibus, is available for purchase now. Varg Vikernes in pr ison. the Atend of 1994, Vikernes wrote a book entitled Vargsmål( in English, ‘Varg’s Speech’), to ‘ def end’ himself against “all the media lies”