Black Metal Mur­der

In­sider story of a deadly Nordic mu­sic ri­valry

Real Crime - - Front Page - Words James McMa­hon

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.


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

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