In 2021, Mayhem was inducted into Norway’s Rockheim Hall of Fame with the crossover artist Casino Steel and the pop/ska duo The Monroes. Rockheim is a national museum, which is located in Trondheim, that is dedicated to pop and rock music from 1950 onward. The ironic fact that Mayhem now shares a place of recognition beside bands like A-ha and TNT should be enough to make you crack a wry smile. The news that Mayhem had been selected by a jury of 250 insiders to receive this honor was announced in March 2021. Last year’s ceremonial proceedings were recorded on September 8th and 9th.
The events were first aired in the form of a 60-minute program on the evening of December 29th (CET) on NRK1 — the main television channel of the government-owned Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The show was hosted by the American-born musician Thomas Seltzer, a.k.a. “Happy-Tom” of Turbonegro. (“Necrobutcher,” Jørn Stubberud — Mayhem’s bassist and co-founder has known Seltzer since 1983.) Seltzer’s statement that Mayhem is perhaps Norway’s biggest cultural export since Hamsun, Grieg, and Munch may sound like bombastic flattery. Yet, this is actually a claim that is made quite frequently. It has even been said that modern Norwegian diplomats sometimes study the rudimentary history of black metal in order to better fulfill their job descriptions. Since Mayhem was formed in Ski in 1984, they have arguably become the most revered black metal band of all-time.
At the induction ceremony, Necrobutcher was accompanied by his current bandmates — guitarist “Ghul,” the British-born Charles Hedger; guitarist “Teloch,” Morten Bergeton Iversen; and drummer “Hellhammer,” Jan Axel Blomberg, who has been a member of Mayhem since 1988. The group’s Hungarian-born vocalist, Attila Csihar, was absent, however. Mayhem’s four instrumentalists watched an all-star lineup perform their classic song “Freezing Moon.” You can see Teloch snap a few photos on his iPhone while Gaahl steals the show in the video below. Gaahl, who is also a gallery owner and painter, certainly has the spellbinding stage presence of a true artist. The ex-Gorgoroth singer is joined by Cadaver’s Anders Odden, Emperor’s Samoth and Trym Torson, as well as Thorns’ Snorre Ruch, who created some of the riffs for De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994), rearranged the lyrics into songs, and rehearsed the songs with Attila. (Snorre, who once acted as a second guitarist for Mayhem, almost became a permanent member of the band in the ’90s. Sadly, Snorre would be arrested instead for driving with Varg Vikernes to Oslo where his companion would kill Euronymous. Varg, however, has alleged that Snorre simply wanted to show Euronymous his riffs.)
This one-off supergroup rendition is especially meaningful in light of the fact that the lyrics to “Freezing Moon” were written by Mayhem’s former vocalist “Dead,” Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin, in 1988. Pelle’s studio version was released with “Carnage” as part of a compilation album some time in 1991 by the Swedish label CBR. It included Pelle’s ex-Morbid Lars-Göran Petrov and Ulf Cederlund in Entombed as well as his friend Thomas Lindberg in Grotesque. Mayhem released Pelle’s “Freezing Moon” and “Carnage” as a single in 1996. Live in Leipzig (1993), which was recorded in 1990, is another great example of “Freezing Moon” with Pelle’s vocals. During the documentary Det Svarte Alvor (1994), Hellhammer alleged that “Freezing Moon” “is supposed to make people listen to the song and commit suicide” after emphasizing that “He [Dead] was a pretty special man.” During an interview for Slayer Mag, Dead, on the other hand, simply told Evil from Marduk: “Mostly they [the future De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas lyrics] deal with how I feel when I wrote them.” Although the 22-year-old Swede committed suicide on April 8th, 1991, the innovator and muse forever altered Mayhem’s essence as well as the course of black metal as a whole.
Before Gaahl’s “Freezing Moon,” Mayhem was so kind as to remain seated for the duration of a rather off-beat cover of “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” by an Oslo-based “no wave,” noise duo called Deathcrush. The group’s name is borrowed from Mayhem’s song and EP 1987 EP by the same name. Deathcrush was first released as a demo. The EP is known for the first edition’s bright pink sleeve, which came about as a result of either the malice or the negligence of a Dutch company. In any case, the pressing mistake is a great example of Mayhem’s ability to make lemonade from lemons. Deathcrush was recorded at Creative Studios in Kolbotn, where Darkthrone would later record A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992) — a work that has been exhibited in the National Library of Norway since 2020 — and Under a Funeral Moon (1993). In The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984-94 (2015), Necrobutcher revealed that he brainstormed the titles “Deathcrush,” “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” and even “Necrolust” on a very cold night in 1986 while he was staying with his grandmother.
During the Rockheim Hall of Fame 2021 special, a clip is included wherein Thomas Seltzer presents Necrobutcher with an Honorary Spellemann Award, which is technically for the year 2020. This Norwegian Grammy meant for the whole Mayhem camp. (In 2007, Mayhem was selected as a Spellemann winner Ordo ad Chao. Necrobutcher and Hellhammer accepted their award on February 2nd, 2008.) Seltzer also interviews the Mayhem clan in Rockheim’s very own reconstruction of the “Henhouse,” Mayhem’s famous rehearsal space and abode, which originally belonged to Necrobutcher’s grandfather. Necrobutcher penned (through his ghostwriter) in The Death Archives: “There hadn’t been chickens in there since the mid-Seventies but when we started to rehearse there in 1989 chicken shit rained down from the cracks in the ceiling because of the vibrations from the music. We went out and bought a bunch of sheets and stapled them to the ceiling to avoid being covered in shit.”
In his book, Necrobutcher also recalled that while he was transporting the Henhouse’s couch to Rockheim in a rental truck, he stopped along the way to rest. He curled up on the couch in a sleeping bag, but some of its springs broke during the night because it had been partially eaten by mice. Necrobutcher stated that even after the museum cleaned this four-legged time machine, it still reeked like the old days.
You can see Hellhammer, Teloch, and Ghul sitting on this very relic as Seltzer asks Mayhem why listeners from all over the world are able to relate to black metal. Ghul eloquently responds: “Because it represents an expression of a side of human nature, which… some people are forced to confront more than others. And I think that when you are forced to confront that side of your personality or that side of life, it helps to have an artistic reflection of it…. It’s like a therapeutic effect to help you to deal with it… We are very helpful.” Teloch concurs that black metal is an outlet for aggression as well as his own personal method of therapy. Because Mayhem has done Scandinavia an enormous public service, it is not surprising that the band’s story was told in the 4-episode mini-series Helvete: Historien om norsk black metal (2020), which also features artists like Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto and Satyricon’s Satyr.
As we celebrate Mayhem, we also remember the contributions of Necrobutcher’s fellow co-founders, the late guitarist Euronymous and drummer Manheim, who is, fortunately, alive and well. (For a real surprise, you can find footage of these two playing with their experimental side project L.E.G.O. in 1986. The pair, like most of Mayhem’s members, certainly had broader taste in music than new fans might expect. Among his many accomplishments Manheim would go on to work with Euronymous’ hero the late Conrad Schnitzler, a German avant-garde musician, in Big Robot.) Currently, Manheim is putting his talent to good use as a member of the group Order with Anders Odden, Stu Manx, and Billy Messiah — Mayhem’s “original” vocalist. The flighty frontman sang at their first gig, filled Maniac’s weak spots on Deathcrush, and then tried to join the band after Maniac departed for a second time in 2004 only to receive the following reply from Necrobutcher: “Twenty years too late.”
All the same, Mayhem has committed to proving that their “past is alive” by enlisting Messiah and Maniac, who have both appeared onstage with their old crew on occasion, as guest artists on the EP Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando, which was released last July. Let’s take some time today to appreciate all of the musicians who have helped carry the inverted Mayhem cross through the decades.