Norwegian Black Metal

The closest I have ever gotten to liking anything that might be construed as heavy metal was the hard rock of the 1970s like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and maybe the first or second outer rings into the 1980s like Motorhead. These were bands still rooted in the blues somewhat. And even Lemmy provides some semblance of melody and swing.

I started to lose interest in most of the stuff that came after around 1980. There was all the hair metal that meant nothing to me. I even include Halen in this category. Am I supposed to differentiate between Def Leopard, Rush, Iron Maiden, and such? I mean, I know Rush is more prog, DL is more pop, Maiden more hard rock. I don’t know. But mostly, I just never cared much either way.

And then there was all the thrash of the late ’80s/’90s, which sounded like very suburban kids taking the worst aspects of hardcore and metal and putting them together. But like Dylan sang, “don’t criticize what you can’t understand…” OK. I am just talking here. No critique. Just not for me. I remember being at one show at the Ritz in NY around 1986, with Celtic Frost and the Cro Mags playing together. I liked the energy of the latter and thought the former were unintentionally (apparently) hilarious. But neither was my cup of tea per se.

Later on, when we started playing festivals, we would witness such bands as Sepultura. That was some scary shit. I found it interesting. This Brazilian… I dunno, death metal band? It was all slow and low and guttural, like monsters in my nightmares. It was just so different and fresh sounding to my ears — and eyes; what a sight! But after a couple of songs, it was time for the beer tent.

But in the past few months, I have seen a few very interesting documentaries about three very different metal bands. Anvil! The Story of Anvil was just a beautiful film about being in a band, struggling to make it, dedication, and personal relationships. The fact that I cared nothing for their music, and still don’t, but still loved the film is testament to what a great piece of storytelling it is.

Then Tom Maginnis recommended seeing Iron Maiden Flight 666 Again, I care nothing about the music, though with this film, I really developed an appreciation for the musicianship and talent of the individuals. But again, the music was the least interesting part of the movie for me. Here is a story 180 degrees different than the Anvil movie. Iron Maiden are huuuuuuuge worldwide. This in and of itself was not a revelation. But it was the scope of worldwide adoration and the cult of their fans that was astounding. And the joy of the band members, their good fortune and modesty, their acceptance of each other, and the family aspect of the band makes for compelling stuff. The spine of the story is that they decide to pack everything — crew, band, equipment — into one 757 jet and hit all the more remote places that they rarely, if ever, got to play due to financial reasons. And the lead singer pilots the plane.

I’ve also been hearing a bit of noise about Norwegian Black Metal and today an article about a new documentary appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe. Trailer, here. So I went to Youtube and found this really interesting documentary about one figure of this genre. It makes for an intriguing and compelling film. I watched all five parts in succession and recommend the same for you and would be interested in reading some comments:


10 thoughts on “Norwegian Black Metal”

  1. .: I will try to watch the five segments shortly, but wanted to let you know about a documentary called Until The Light Takes Us (if you haven't heard of it). I haven't seen it, but it's a 2009 film about Norwegian black metal. It's on my list of films to see, just to get a better understanding of a genre I find kind of creepy and bizarre at the best of times.

    Until The Light Takes Us

  2. .: Busted. I did read the post, but didn't click on that link. Where you wrote about the YouTube documentary you found and posted here, I lazily assumed you were linking to the article about it as well. A lame-ass excuse, but the truth. I apologize. I DO read the posts, I hope you know that. They are important to me.

    That said, I agree with you about the Anvil documentary. I never cared for their music, but applauded them for sticking it out, and now there appears to be some redemption after all those years.

    Again, sorry.

  3. Bill, I don't see a link to the 5-part doc. Did you mean the VBS one called "True Norwegian Death Metal"? I recently watched that – amazing! Of course, it made me dive headlong into reading more about that whole scene, deep into the night. I actually had nightmares afterwards (really!). I wish I hadn't opened that door…

  4. blergh. Didn't see the embedded video because I was reading on my iphone. That is what you meant! How do these guys get touring visas?

    BTW, Gaahl has since come out of the closet and is also doing some fashion design (seriously).

  5. Hey Mike, yeah, that's the one. I had not heard that about Gaahl. But, the whole thing growing up out there in isolation the valley, one of only two kids in the school, the other of which killed himself at 18 — astounding. I had not really been aware of VBS TV either. There are some interesting things there.

  6. OK…I watched the full video on VBS last night, and it was (and is) very weird indeed. Gaahl is creepy, strange, an anomaly of sorts. He notes that to play black metal for real, one needs to be a "warrior". What does this mean exactly? We'll never know the truth about his convictions for the violent behaviour.

    The final 5-7 minutes of the walk up the mountain was nerve-wracking to watch. He wouldn't tell them where he was taking them, it seemed to get colder, they weren't dressed for it, etc., and they end up at his grandparents' cabin. Was this to highlight his life of isolation? And what of the poor schmuck cameraman filming all of this?

    I couldn't process the information that his house didn't have plumbing. I mean, wtf, seriously? But he has a nice wine collection. Sheesh.

    Bill, you said you saw Sepultra perform. I've never seen a black metal or death metal or speed metal band perform, I have no interest in the music. Listening to the short segments in the film, it sounds like grinding industrial noise over top of – well, I don't know HOW to describe the "vocals". Does anything resembling melody ever actually happen in a black metal vocal? It sounds all gutteral (sp?) and such. How do they "write" this stuff? It's a complete mystery to me.

    I don't understand it either, so I won't judge it, but Gaahl is truly a one-of-a-kind character.

    I'm now going to make time to watch Until The Light Takes Us. And I see Gorgoroth continues on, and will be playing a few festivals and such this year.

    Thing is, I have always wondered if the bands in these genres were really just faking it – not really believing in the Satanic shit and such, but playing along for kicks and a few bucks. Take GWAR for example. Those guys have appeared on the Joan Rivers show, for chrissake. Maybe some of them DO take the devil stuff seriously. Who can tell for sure.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this up, and for letting us know about VBS-TV; I was not aware of it until you posted the link to it. (And I promise to fully READ the next post, and the next post…)

    Peace. – Randy

  7. Bill-was suprised to see this here, so just a few thoughts. I have a pretty varied taste in music. Metal has come back into play with me for the last few years. I don't like death metal, but Anvil and Maiden have a lot more melody than that genre. I saw Anvil play in a movie theatre in DC after the doc, and Iron Maiden on their last tour in an outdoor mega-"shed". Both rewarding for different reasons. Don't miss The Scorps on their farewell tour, they rock the house!

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