Tracker Pixel for Entry

The original: Norwegian black metal

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Music | August 3rd, 2017

By Kaycee Boe and Rachel Levy

For many people, black metal is as synonymous with Norway as snow and fjords. Imagery of young men with dark painted faces burning down churches and causing trouble in the grey Norwegian winters often comes to mind. The legacy of black metal draws fans from all over the world, who hope to learn more about the history and find out if the music they love still exists in Norway today.

Many are interested to find that black metal only existed in a small community throughout the 1990’s, and may not be as prominent today as they hoped.

Anders Odden, 44, has been around the black metal community since the genre was born. He was drawn into the black metal world when he was only 13. Living on a farm created an isolated universe for him that drove him to create.

“You basically don't have any friends around so you can turn to music or something else to get busy or get inspired,” Odden said. “That was my case, and the case for many others actually.”

In 1988 Odden formed Cadaver, which he says was the first death metal band in Norway and first band to sign with a label in the U.K. Now, Odden plays guitar and bass in multiple metal bands, including influential and major label black metal band Satyricon. He has watched black metal grow and evolve from its inception.

The black metal community was small throughout the 1990s. According to Grete Joanne Neseblod, co-owner of Norway’s black metal music shop and museum Neseblod, most of the culture was centered around 15-20 key people. Bands such as Odden’s communicated by meeting in each other’s rehearsal rooms and trading tapes.

“I got like 10 letters a day from people everyday at the peak of it - magazines and tapes and demos and contacts around the world,” Odden said. “It was inspiring to be a part of a world movement that was very unique and that nobody knew about.”

As with many extreme music genres, black metal was never meant to blow up. It was born in Norway’s underground, and according to Odden, it wasn’t supposed to leave the underground.

“Back then, nobody cared really,” Odden said. “That’s the thing that people don't understand, it didn't get any attention in music magazines. At the time, most people were into grunge or more polished American stuff.”

It was anti-establishment attitudes and authenticity that drove the genre forward.

“These were just young people who were 16 to 17 years old who just wanted to do something really new,” Grete Joanne said. “They had these guts because in the beginning, people thought that it was weird and strange.”

The brutality that is often associated with black metal came later, when Varg Vikernes of fellow black metal band Burzum attracted media attention through what Odden refers to as publicity stunts such as the burning of churches. Odden believes that artists like Vikernes hurt the genre musically.

“People doing this were really looked upon as animals in society for a really long time,” he says.

While black metal may have been known for being filled with tales of arson and murder, that is no longer the case. According to Odden, the legacy of the genre is much more prominent than the scene ever was. This is a common perspective on black metal culture in Norway.

“I think the history of it draws people in,” Kenneth Neseblod, owner of Neseblod records, said. “The murder and all the mystique around it. They want to see how dark and evil it all is, but it was more back then than it is now. It is not so dark and evil anymore.”

Peter Beste, who has been studying black metal for years and published a book on the subject, notes that many artists no longer stand by the aspects of black metal that made it so brutal.

“It’s part of the sensationalistic story of it,” Beste said, “but it isn’t really the essence of it.”

Through exposure and developments in production, black metal has transitioned to a more mainstream genre.

“Black metal is more clean, it’s not so underground now,” Kenneth said. “But you have some of the same people who still play in the bands and are pretty dark.”

Fans and those who have followed black metal notice this as well.

“I think the best Norwegian bands are, like, Mayhem and Emperor,” says Sanvik, a young member of the black metal community.

As for Odden, he is currently touring internationally with Satyricon. However, while they may be touring at a more professional level, Odden notes that there is still an edge to their music. For them, their music has changed, but it still fits their definition of black metal.

“For us, it’s about the vibe and how we think it should be, not how others define it,” Odden said. “We are defining what black metal is to us, and we never care for other people’s definitions.”

As for the fans, most will agree that the black metal and metal communities are very tight knit.

“They like to wear the clothes and the patches to show that they are outside of society,” says Grete Joanne, “but also that they are a part of something.”

For young fans Emilie Sandal and Jone Hoftun, who sit on a hillside at Tons of Rock Festival clothed in band t-shirts and high tops, the metal community in Norway could be described as united and also surprisingly, friendly.

From an onstage perspective, Odden says that black metal fans are generally quite mellow. “Metal fans never approach you like a crazy person,” Odden said. “If they recognize you from a band they approach you very politely. They just want to talk to you about music.”

People still come from all over the world to Norway to see where black metal started even though the genre has moved more towards other countries. Black packers, as they are called, travel to Norway to visit many of the spots where black metal formed.

Up until 2012, Odden conducted a black metal tour during Inferno Festival, a black metal festival held during Easter each year. Black packers would take a bus to Neseblod Records, a record store once owned by Mayhem’s Euronymous, then to Holmekkon to see the church burnt down by Varg Vikernes.

“I think it’s strange for them to come here to realize it’s quite normal people doing this,” Odden said. “I don't know what they think, that people live in cages or in caves or in castles, people have all kinds of weird expectations, so it says more about them than the reality.”

Kenneth also notes that some black packers may be disappointed to see that the people of Norway aren’t actually walking the streets in corpse paint.

People from all over the world heard about everything black metal bands did in the 1990’s and believe that all black metal bands were alike. According to Odden, the point of the tours were to teach people about the background of black metal and what really went on during that time, how it was not all church burnings and satanism.

“They are really interested in that,” Odden said. “Somehow they were caught up in the myth of it so if you try to tell them how it really was, you can’t really get their heads around it, so I stopped doing it.”

While to outsiders, it may seem that black metal is still an integral part of Norwegian culture, the general consensus is that the genre lives mainly in its legacy.

“The people that are in the original bands are still making new music,” Odden said. “We’re just going to continue on our paths regardless of what’s going on.”

Kenneth Neseblod agrees. “A lot of the music was invented in Norway by black metal bands,” he said. “They were the first to start black metal, but there’s not so many people who are very black metal anymore.”

Recently in:

FARGO - Fargo police responded to a domestic dispute on Wednesday approximately 11:30 p.m. at 3101 32 Street South. After issuing commands for the male involved, Orlando Estrada, 28, to exit the apartment, Estrada reportedly…

South by Southwest in Austin Texas, where does one even begin to say how it inspires, invigorates, and exhausts--but in the best way possible. We spent two weeks at SXSW this year working and playing. In that time we had a chance…

Thursday, March 29, 6-7:30pmMake Room, 17 8th St S at Main AveThey love indigo, a natural plant that produces the bluest of blues. Come and learn how to use indigo in dyeing, and practice the art of Shibori (Japanese tie-dye) to…

As we eke out our final hours in Austin, the quiet is almost stifling. It’s the combination of a collective citywide sigh of relief after the storm that was SXSW and the anxiety and uncertainty of the anonymous package bombings…

Why is our life expectancy dropping?We don’t grow bananas in this country but we are rapidly becoming a banana republic. Because of prescription and illegal drug deaths, a firearms death rate 25 times any other developed country,…

Although the temperatures were sub zero last Sunday, the crowd and competitors were certainly on fire at the Holiday Inn in Fargo for the 5th Annual Bartenders Battle.This event has become a highlight of the year for the service…

I had heard rumblings among the small but close-knit service industry folk in Downtown Fargo. Eric and Sara Watson were looking to sell, but it wasn’t until this morning that a phone call and email were sent my way and I was…

In Fargo, we are certainly used to long, cold winters, but that doesn’t make us any less anxious for them to end with each coming spring. The arrival of warmer weather means longer days and finally being able to see green again…

A captivating lead performance by Lene Cecilia Sparrok anchors the stout and handsome “Sami Blood,” winner of the award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Fargo Film Festival.Set principally in the 1930s, director Amanda…

In my tenure at the High Plains Reader, I have devoted a lot of column inches to promoting the local music scene of the Red River Valley. However, I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t also bring your attention to another…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“The thing to fear from the Trump presidency is not the bold overthrow of the Constitution, but the stealthy paralysis of governance; not the open defiance of law, but an accumulating subversion of norms; not the deployment of…