Kerrang! (UK) - - Carter Brothers -

For many fans of ex­trem­ity, May­hem’s De Mys­teriis Dom Sathanas was, is and al­ways will be the essence of pure black me­tal. Vi­cious, mis­an­thropic and bleakly at­mo­spheric, it traced a bloody blue­print for an en­tire scene us­ing blis­ter­ing tremolo riffs, thun­der­ous blast­beats and un­earthly shrieks, all wrapped up in the murki­est of lo-fi pro­duc­tions.

It would have been re­mark­able enough if that was all there was to it, but the mu­sic it­self was eclipsed by the tu­mul­tuous events sur­round­ing the al­bum.

Be­fore May­hem could even get round to record­ing an al­bum, vo­cal­ist Per Yngve Oh­lin, more com­monly known as Dead, had com­mit­ted sui­cide. In be­tween the record­ing of the de­but and its be­lated re­lease, guitarist and found­ing mem­ber Eurony­mous was mur­dered by bassist Varg Vik­ernes, AKA Count Gr­ish­nackh. Varg was sen­tenced to 21 years in prison for the mur­der and a num­ber of church burn­ings. Guitarist Snorre ‘Black­thorn’ Ruch was also sen­tenced to eight years for com­plic­ity in the killing.

As well as found­ing May­hem along­side orig­i­nal bassist Ne­crobutcher, Eurony­mous (real name Øys­tein Aarseth) owned the ex­treme me­tal record la­bel Death­like Si­lence Pro­duc­tions and the record shop Hel­vete – Nor­we­gian for ‘Hell’. As such, he was the hub around which the early Nor­we­gian black me­tal scene re­volved. The scene has been de­scribed as hav­ing a cult­like core called the Black Cir­cle, although Varg later wrote, “The so-called Black Cir­cle was some­thing Eurony­mous made up… it was nonsense and never ex­isted.”

This was cer­tainly a se­lect and in­ces­tu­ous scene, how­ever, and Death­like Si­lence re­leased, among other things, the fi rst al­bum by Varg’s solo black me­tal project, Burzum.

At­tila Csih ar , who w as brought in t o pro­vide the vo­cals on De Mys­teriis…, re­called, “May­hem con­tacted me in ’91 pretty soon af­ter Dead com­mit­ted sui­cide, but it took a cou­ple of years of writ­ing and phone calls be­fore I went over from Hun­gary to Nor­way to record the al­bum. From his voice I ex­pected Eurony­mous to be a big, tall Scandinavian. Phys­i­cally he was a lot smaller, but he was very im­pres­sive and in­tel­li­gent. He had his strange vi­sions and ex­treme an­tire­li­gious and dark oc­cult philoso­phies. Varg was very smart, too, and they were both very straight-edge. No drugs, no al­co­hol, noth­ing.”

Lee Barrett, founder of ex­treme me­tal la­bel Can­dle­light, told Ker­rang!, “I think the cat­a­lyst for the whole scene was May­hem, and par­tic­u­larly Eurony­mous as a per­son­al­ity. Even at 25 he was a bit older than most of the peo­ple around him and very infl uen­tial. Eurony­mous’ idea was to take the dark­ness that bands had been singing about more lit­er­ally. He wanted to walk the walk rather than just talk­ing the talk.”

That wasn’t the way Varg Vik­ernes saw it. “In 1991, most of the me­tal mu­si­cians in Nor­way be­lieved Eurony­mous was a so-called cool guy, but in mid or late-1992, most of us re­alised that he was not,” he said.

At the start of 1993, Varg gave an anony­mous in­ter­view to Nor­we­gian news­pa­per Ber­gens Ti­dende, in which he claimed to have burned churches and killed a man in Lille­ham­mer. He later claimed to have been pulling the re­porter’s leg, but was ar­rested. Eurony­mous, mean­while, closed Hel­vete as a re­sult of the


pub­lic­ity gen­er­ated by the story, which ran on the front page ac­com­pa­nied by a now-no­to­ri­ous pic­ture of Varg, his face largely ob­scured by his hair and hold­ing two vi­cious knives.

Varg wrote of Eurony­mous’ re­ac­tion, “Pretty pa­thetic, al­right, but by do­ing so, he also made all my ef­forts more or less point­less. I spent six weeks in cus­tody be­cause of that, and all he did was to close down the shop!”

Ten­sions were sim­mer­ing, and in March ’93, Ker­rang! ran a cover fea­ture de­pict­ing a scene that was al­ready de­scend­ing into chaos. There had al­ready been a spate of well-pub­li­cised church burn­ings and, while it had not come to light at the time, Em­peror drum­mer Bård ‘Faust’ Eithun had stabbed a gay man to death in a for­est.

The most no­to­ri­ous act was still to come, how­ever, when Varg and Snorre drove from Bergen to Oslo on the night of Au­gust 10. Snorre stayed down­stairs while Varg went up to Eurony­mous’ apart­ment.

Varg has claimed that Eurony­mous had been threat­en­ing to kill him, say­ing, “Ac­cord­ing to his ‘friends’, the plan was to… knock me out with a stun-gun… drive into the coun­try­side, tie me to a tree and tor­ture me to death while video­tap­ing ev­ery­thing.” Varg fur­ther claimed that he drove to Oslo that night to break con­tact with his one-time band­mate, and that he acted in self-de­fence when Eurony­mous at­tacked him (“I killed him when I knew he had plans to tor­ture me to death,” Varg wrote). What­ever the truth, the con­fronta­tion ended with Eurony­mous’ death from stab wounds. His body was found on the steps out­side his apart­ment with 23 sep­a­rate cuts.

“It’s al­most a Franken­stein story where he’s killed by his cre­ation – I still be­lieve that, with­out Eurony­mous, there would have been no Burzum,” said Lee Barrett.

The de­tails of that night and the mo­ti­va­tions be­hind the killing might be shrouded by claim and counter-claim, but what is cer­tain is that it was the cen­tral act in the most shock­ing pe­riod of me­tal’s his­tory.


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