Norway enjoys a reputation as some sort of liberal utopia. Yet in Black Metal it produced the most nihilistic, deadly music genre of all. Sophia Deboick reports
On a June morning in 1992 Bergen’s Fantoft Stave Church, an 800 year old priceless symbol of Norway’s Christian heritage, lay burnt to the ground.
Nine months later, the ominously-titled EP Aske (Ashes) was released by Burzum. Its cover showed the charred timbers of the church standing against the skyline and the final track, A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit, lamenting the pagan past, hinted at the motivation for the crime.
Burzum was the solo project of 20 year old Varg Vikernes, who, two years later, would be convicted of three other church burnings and the murder of fellow musician, 25-year-old Øystein Aarseth.
White supremacist Vikernes became a celebrity criminal, one of many who have used their notoriety to promote a poisonous right-wing ideology. But his crimes did not stand in isolation. Forty-three more such church arsons would be attempted before the end of 1995 and violence haunted the Oslo-based black metal scene that Vikernes and Aarseth were part of.
That scene produced some of the most disturbing music ever committed to tape, but also foreshadowed the recent renewed embrace of the far right by disaffected, latently violent young men looking for a legitimating philosophy to validate them…
The New European, 26 October 2017, pp. 42-43.