Our Triumphant Return

Things have been a little slow around the bunker for the last few weeks, at least so far as our media activities are concerned. Which is not to say that they have been slow in general. We’ve both been involved in a number projects related to our immediate survival, as well as projects of a more elective nature. The Captain seems to have taken a mate from among the tribes that wander the hoary northwestern forests. I don’t know what he had to pay as a bride price, but I did seem him collecting ears from his fallen enemies over the last couple of months, so maybe that had something to do with it. In any case, the two of them have been sequestered in some far pod of the complex for the last few weeks, involved I suspect in the performance of some sort of extensive blood ritual.

Be that as it may, we need to get back down to business. We have a whole bunch of stuff backlogged for review. I should start working through this tomorrow, but until then I thought I might lay out a little something for your edification.

Readers of my posts will know that I have an interest in black metal. This is more historical than anything else. It was in the early 1990s that I first heard Enslaved’s Hordane’s Land 12″ and the first releases by Emperor. I still remember my shock at hearing Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky after hearing Soulside Journey a year earlier. But as a long time devotee of the hardcore scene (with which I had been involved for ten years by that point), it seemed perfectly natural that the extreme metal scene would move in the direction of a more primitive approach. Back in those days the bands mostly seemed pretty apolitical, although as things went on their fascination with their “Viking heritage” often mutated into extreme nationalism of a particularly idiotic sort. It’s hard to think of any utterance less convincing than Fenriz’s claim that they didn’t intend any political implications by putting the phrase “Norsk Arisk Black Metal” on the back of the Transylvanian Hunger LP.

As time has gone on, I’ve found the emissions of the increasingly commercialized black metal industry decreasingly interesting. But as a historian, I am fascinated by the early history of the “movement” (if such it can be called). The available historical material is very uneven. The release of Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind’s Lords of Chaos in 1998 was exciting although somewhat blighted Moynihan’s underlying politico-social agenda. More recently, Until the Light Takes Us, a documentary film made by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell, provided a lot of interesting material on the dynamic between two of the most important early figures in the Norwegian black metal scene: Kristian “Varg” Vikernes and Gilve “Fenriz” Nagell.

Now that a bit more time has passed since the seminal events surrounding the early history of black metal (the murder of Euronymous, the church burnings, the trial and imprisonment of Vikernes, etc) a bit more complex and nuanced historical account is increasingly coming into view. I’ve recently seen two documentaries produced in the last six years or so on the history of Mayhem, both of which feature several of the most important figures involved with the band (including Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud and Kjetil Manheim but not the nutty and self-promoting Vikernes) tell the tale of its earliest history. The testimony of Manheim, who left Mayhem after the release of the Deathcrush and now works in the noise scene, is particularly compelling. He seems to be one of the few people involved in that milieu who wasn’t a complete nutter, and his portraits of Euronymous, Per “Dead” Ohlin, and Vikernes illuminate the early history of the scene in important ways.

For those with an interest, here are the relevant links:

Once Upon a Time in Norway: The History of Mayhem (2007) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h9XzRdFIhc

Pure Fucking Mayhem (2008) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Qoj9ViExY

For those wanting a broader perspective on black metal, this documentary has interviews with people from Naglfar, Gorgoroth, Bloodthorn, Dark Funeral, Rotting Christ, Enslaved, Ulver, and Impaled Nazarene, as well as some less interesting folks. Lots of good information and ruminations on the cultural meaning of the form, but the live footage is not all that super.

Black Metal – The Norwegian Legacy (2008) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lDztQkk0_4

Ok, that your lot for now. We’ll be back in the next day or two with stuff that doesn’t involve listening to a bunch of right wing asshats.

Magadh

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