Real Crime - - Varg Vikernes -

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.


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.


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.”


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”

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