Listen, I love banging my head and getting down with the sickness as much as the next hesher, but I gotta say, as far as the the dudes in Norway’s black metal scene are concerned, I’m out. I cannot hang with these motherfuckers. They’re like metal, gangsta rap, the Manson Family and a Lars Von Trier movie all wrapped up in barbed wire, dipped in shit, set on fire and stuffed like an apple of pure evil into the mouth of a rotting severed pig’s head. When it comes to metal, Norway don’t play.
Read our interview with Mayhem guitarist Teloch (posted 6/13/14)
At the heart of the whole black metal scene—and if you’re not familiar, this long but very excellent article will get you up to speed—is a band called Mayhem, who have somehow managed to stay in business since 1984 despite enduring a suicide and a murder before they even released their first official album. The suicide happened in 1991 and involved an ill-fated lead singer named Dead who blew his brains out with a shotgun and left a note that read (roughly translated): “Sorry about all the blood, rock on.” The murder went down two years later and involved two members of the band—the victim, a guitarist named Euronymous, and the perp, a bass player named Varg Vikernes. That’s the dude’s real name, by the way. Euronymous’s real name was Øystein Aarseth, which is actually cooler than Euronymous. Apparently pretty much everyone in Norway has a name that sounds like they could be in a black metal band. [Correcton: Varg’s birth name was actually Kristian Vikernes. Which still sounds pretty badass.]
At this point, you’re probably thinking: Big deal! Singers are an emotionally delicate bunch who off themselves all the time, and I’ve wanted to kill that preening asshole of a lead guitarist in my garage band for years. Where’s the weird come into it? Well, stay tuned. We’re just getting to the good stuff.
First: It’s important to note that when Euronymous found Dead’s body (and by the way, when your lead singer decides that his stage name is gonna be “Dead,” that might raise a red flag, no?), his first action was not to call police or paramedics, but to break out his camera and snap a few pics. One of which found its way onto a “bootleg” Mayhem album called Dawn of the Black Hearts just a few years later. Wanna see it? Of course you do, you fucking sicko. Classy, right?
It’s also rumored that Euronymous and the rest of the band made a stew of Dead’s brains and turned fragments of his skull into necklaces, although that’s all probably just a rumor. Probably.
Next: It’s also important to note that when Varg Vikernes was convicted of murdering Euronymous, he was also convicted for his role in a series of church arsons, which were allegedly carried out by a band of black metal Satanists. One of the destroyed churches was over 800 years old. Like I said, Norway don’t play.
Oh, and this is a nice little detail: Mayhem’s first album after Euronymous’s murder, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, still featured the bass tracks laid down by his killer. The band’s drummer, Hellhammer, had promised Euronymous’ family that he would personally re-record Vikernes’s bass parts, but he never did. “I thought it was appropriate that the murderer and victim were on the same record,” he later said.
You will not be surprised to learn that De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas remains the band’s most famous and most acclaimed album. That excellent article from the U.K. Guardian I mentioned earlier calls it a “creepy masterpiece.” How much of the creepy is from the music and how much from the backstory, I’ll let you decide.
What might be the weirdest thing of all about Mayhem is that a.) they’re still together and b.) no one in the band has killed himself or anyone else since (that we know of). Since Euronymous’s murder and the release of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, the thing they’re probably most famous for is decorating the stage at their shows with severed pig’s heads, which they usually toss into the audience at the end of the night. One time they used a sheep’s head instead, which are apparently more dangerous than pig’s heads in projectile form, because this particular sheep’s head struck a kid in the audience and fractured his skull. Oopsie.
Here’s a 2004 live video of the band performing one of their best-known songs, “Freezing Moon” at some big outdoor festival in Europe, pigs heads and all. The vocalist in this particular clip is a dude called Maniac, who was actually kicked out of the band shortly after this show because he suffered from stage fright and had to get wasted before he could perform. The guitarist in the clip, a guy called Blasphemer (yeah, this band goes through a lot of singers and guitarists), allegedly fired Maniac after one particularly drunken performance by kicking him down a flight of stairs. Considering what some of the other guys in this band have been through, we’d say Maniac got off easy.
- Mayhem official site
- Mayhem on MySpace
- The True Mayhem, Black Metal Legends (fan site)
- Mayhem catalog on Amazon.com