This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
Scary Movies: True Norwegian Black Metal
There’s certainly no shortage of seasonally creepy movies to choose from, from the cartoonish to the sickeningly realistic, whatever floats your boat. But if you prefer all your eggs in one basket - cartoonishly evil violence in documentary form – prepare to stay glued to the computer screen for half an hour.
We all knew kids who were just a little bit TOO INTO heavy metal. Kids who wore Motley Crue make-up to class, spray-painted upside down crosses on the bathroom wall, and wore their “Jesus Was A Cu*t” t-shirt to the prom. They terrorized the lunch money out of the grainier kids and scandalized the church ladies, but were ultimately harmless. They have this kind of kid in every country under the sun where there’s a lot of Christians, and for some bizarre reason they especially have them in Norway.
Starting in the early 1990s, the Norwegians started taking the Satan shit a little bit more literally than most. With a pile of corpses, burned-up churches, blown-up buildings, and grave desecrations on their respective records, even Slayer wouldn't call them poseurs.
The most fascinating and exhaustively researched document about this scene, Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind's Lords of Chaos, splits its pages between true crime and spiritual dissertation. Talk about the music is secondary, which is appropriate since most of it's not that musically interesting. But the music is secondary to the message, and all of these dudes can rap on message for days.
At the center of the action is one Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grishnackh, aka the one-man band Burzum, aka murderer, church burner, prison escapee, outspoken racist, and inspiration to anti-Christ types the world over. Though considered a Manson-like boogeyman in his homeland, he could be released as early as this coming April. If homicidal entertainers become trendy in America, say if they had their own reality show, and he found guys willing to share the tour bus, a Burzum slot on the second stage of Ozzfest might be imminent. Although I'm not sure what the patrons would make of his moody, ethereal, more-new-age-than-metal music.
But the sound remains the same for most of the other folks on the scene, an amazing number of which are still around and touring America. One of these bands is Gorgoroth. I could see Gorgoroth playing Ozzfest, and I'd bet a million dollars that no matter what kind of shit they pulled, they would NOT have eggs thrown at them at any point.
The band started in 1992, continues today with one original member, and the thing they had in spades from day one was a knack for noms de plume. Check out this roster of former members: Goat Pervertor, T-Reaper, Tormentor, Grim, Pest and Hat. For some reason that last one is the creepiest of all.
Today, Gorgoroth has risen to the point that lead vocalist Gaahl has been referred to as "the most despised man in Norway. VBS.TV decided to hang out with these guys and the result - True Norwegian Black Metal - is the first good documentary yet to be produced on this highly documentable scene.
The band's onstage exploits nearly got them arrested for religious offense in Poland. Current bassist King Ov Hell describes the scene: "We had a lot of sheep skulls, as well as sheep heads on poles all along the front of the stage, and four crosses, and on the crosses was two naked men, hooded, and two naked hooded women." After a pause, he adds, "covered in blood."
Their offstage activities - including an aggravated assault involving the prolonged torture of a man ultimately forced to drink his own blood - have led to a reputation where no one in town, not even the police, will speak on record about these guys.
With all this colorful back story, it's easy to question WHAT THE FUCK were the producers thinking when they spirited out to spend several days with Gaahl in the tiny mountain village of Espedal, where every house is owned by a member of his family and civilization is at least twenty minutes' drive away.
Correspondent Ivar Bergland: "We are the first-ever journalists to be here, and I am quite honored to be here, but I'm actually feeling quite scared."
Gaahl turns out to be a merry old soul as their encounter begins, breaking out fine wine, showing off his paintings (which aren't bad), and waxing poetic on the "true God" of his own willpower. After a day of hanging out, he pulls each crew members aside and gives them a critique of what they should change about their lives, which they declare to be mind-blowingly "right on".
But eventually talk gets to those nasty criminal charges, and no one in town, not even the police, will talk on the record about the guy. He eventually gets a journalist who appears as a blur to detail them; essentially, extreme torture of the Hostel variety. Gaahl himself simply claims self-defense but admits, "It is like a painting. You don't stop until it is... finished."
I won't spoil the ending, except to say, it made me glad I was not working for VBS.TV when this was filmed, because I probably would have gone with and severely regretted it.
(Photo of Gorgoroth courtesy of LienCF via Flickr)
You can watch True Norwegian Black Metal in its entirety right here: