By Graham "Gruhamed" Hartmann
In the spirit of Black Metal History Month, in this year of our Lord 2011, it's only right that we acknowledge the enlightened souls who have made black metal so important. Of course by this I mean the artists who have committed incredibly hateful, violent and sacrilegious crimes, launching them to worldwide infamy and even critical acclaim. Now I'm not advocating that today's aspiring black metal musicians start assaulting people, but lets be honest, if it wasn't for Varg Vikernes' creepy stare, outwardly racist views and mile-long rap sheet, you probably would have never picked up the first Burzum record. So here it is, the Top 10 crimes committed by black metal musicians! Suck it, Letterman.
10. Church Burnings
Black metal and church burnings are like peanut butter and jelly. They've become so synonymous with each other that the most casual of discussions about the genre will rarely go without a mention of anti-religious arson. Musicians and fans of the Norwegian black metal scene alone, took part in over 50 arsons of Christian churches from 1992 to 1996.
Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes was convicted of four church burnings, including that of the Fantoft Stave Church, an eleventh-century national landmark whose loss galvanized Norwegians. He later used a picture of the burned church for the cover of his EP Aske. (English translation: Ash)
Samoth, guitarist of Emperor, was sentenced to sixteen months in jail after being convicted of church arson in Norway. Jørn Inge Tunsberg, guitarist of Hades (now Hades Almighty), was also convicted for burning down a church in Åsane, Norway, and spent two years in prison.
Faust, drummer of Emperor, traveled to Holmenkollen Chapel with Euronymous of Mayhem and Varg Vikernes of Burzum with the intension of bombing the chapel. When the homemade bomb they put on the altar refused to detonate, they soaked hymnals and Bibles in gasoline and lit them on the altar, burning the church to the ground.
Black Metal musicians might sometimes go to the casino as well, after all, they are just human. However, it is hard to draw a stringent line from a Lemmy of Motörhead for example, who just seems to enjoy a life full of sweet rewards, rather than ideological narrowmindedness. Church arson or bombings surely are severe crimes, that cannot be compared to hours of sin, when a Casino rewards free spins and one may just enjoy himself in gambling.
Church burnings have been praised by many black metal musicians, perhaps most famously by Gaahl of Gorgoroth during an interview with Sam Dunn in the documentary, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, stating:
"Church burnings and all these things are, of course, things that I support 100 percent and it should have been done much more and will be done much more in the future. We have to remove every trace from what Christianity and the Semitic roots have to offer this world."
9. Niklas "Ghoul" Kvarforth
Shining vocalist Niklas Kvarforth has become legendary for his disturbing behavior. His collection of scars from thousands of self-inflicted cuts, misanthropic views and claims that some listeners have actually committed suicide under the influence of Shining's music, have captivated listeners for 15 years and 6 albums of "suicidal black metal." Kvarforth disappeared in July 2006 and rumor was spread that he too had committed suicide. On August 23, 2006 the band posted a statement on their website that they would continue with a new singer named "Ghoul", requested by Kvarforth as one of his final wishes.
At the concert that took place on February 3, 2007 at Diezel in Halmstad, Sweden, "Ghoul" was revealed to be Kvarforth.
The concert was violent in nature, sparking controversy in the Swedish media, with Kvarforth assaulting the audience and the guest vocalists, Attila Csihar and Maniac (Mayhem) and Nattefrost (Carpathian Forest). Razorblades were handed to members of the audience, and one person was kicked in the chest after grabbing Kvarforth's genitals; who was in turn exposed to numerous physical assaults by Maniac. One member of the audience recalls the kicking:
"A couple of songs are finished and Kvarforth is standing with zipped up leather pants and some drunk Swede touches his crotch. Kvarforth looks shocked and shouts 'Don't touch me,' before he kicks the fan in the chest."
8. Gorgoroth's Black Mass in Kraków
On February 1, 2004, during a recorded for DVD concert in Kraków, Poland, the legendary Norwegian band, Gorgoroth displayed sheep heads on stakes, Satanic symbols, a bloodbath using 80 litres of sheep's blood and four naked crucified models on stage. A police investigation took place with allegations of religious offence (which is prosecutable under Polish law) and cruelty to animals. Though these charges were considered, the band was not charged as it was ruled that they were unaware of the fact that what they were doing was illegal, although the concert organiser was eventually fined 10000zł in 2007 as he neither informed the band that it was against the law nor intervened. The controversy led to the band being dropped from the Nuclear Blast Tour and the footage of the concert being confiscated by police. Black Mass Kraków 2004 was finally released completely uncensored in late 2008.
7. Mayhem Vocalist "Dead" found… uhhh… Dead
On 8 April 1991, 22-year-old Mayhem vocalist, Dead, committed suicide in the house owned by the band. He was found by Euronymous with slit wrists and a shotgun round to the head. The suicide note left by Dead merely read "Excuse all the blood, cheers," and included an apology for firing the weapon indoors. Upon finding the body of his bandmate, Euronymous, instead of calling the police, went to a nearby store and bought a disposable camera to photograph the corpse. One of these photographs was later stolen and used as the cover of a bootleg live album entitled Dawn of the Black Hearts. I haven't posted the picture due to its disturbing nature, but if you don't have a weak stomach, you can see the album cover here.
Although suicide technically is illegal, this isn't why this particular incident made this prestigious list. Rumor has it that Euronymous cannibalized his deceased friend, making a stew with pieces of Dead's brain. Euronymous also reportedly made necklaces with fragments of Dead's skull, which is now known to be true. Euronymous also claimed to have given these necklaces to musicians he deemed worthy within the metal community.
While alive and touring with Mayhem, Dead would go to great lengths to achieve his trademark realistic corpse-like image, Dead would bury his clothes before a concert and dig them up again to wear on the night of the event. According to Mayhem drummer Hellhammer:
"Before the shows, Dead used to bury his clothes into the ground so that they could start to rot and get that "grave" scent. He was a "corpse" on a stage. Once he even asked us to bury him in the ground – he wanted his skin to become pale."
During one tour with Mayhem he found a dead crow, which he collected and stored in a plastic bag. He often carried it around with him and would smell the bird before performing, in order to sing "with the stench of death in his nostrils."
6. Jef Whitehead Charged with Sexually Assaulting Girlfriend with Tattoo Gun
Number 6 is this list's most recent crime, which was allegedly committed in January of this year. According to the Chicago Sun Times, multi-instrumentalist Jef Whitehead (Lurker of Chalice, Leviathan) was accused of raping his girlfriend using tattoo tools while working as a guest artist at Taylor Street Tattoo in Chicago. (Update: Whitehead was cleared of all charges and sentenced to two years probation) Jef Whitehead, 42, allegedly choked and beat his 26-year-old girlfriend unconscious by banging her head against a wall in the early hours of Saturday, January 8th. When she regained consciousness and discovered she had been sexually assaulted with the tattoo tools, Whitehead then allegedly knocked her out again. When Whitehead's girlfriend regained consciousness once again, she found herself lying the street outside the parlor. A heavily-bearded and tattooed Whitehead was dressed all in black as he appeared before Judge Israel Desierto Sunday morning, wearing a hooded sweater with the words "Stop the Madness" printed on it, he was ordered to be held on bail of $350,000. He has yet to be convicted or sentenced.
Whitehead, aka "Wrest", is a highly regarded black metal musician who collaborated with Nachtmystium and Sunn O))), and is a member of the band Twilight alongside Aaron Turner (Isis), N.Imperial (Krieg), Blake Judd (Nachtmystium), Stavros Giannopolous (The Atlas Moth), and Sanford Parker (Minsk).
5. Stalaggh Abduct Mental Patients for Projekt Misanthropia
Stalaggh were a black metal/experimental noise group who took their name from the German word "Stalag" which was a WWII concentration camp. The extra G and H stands for Global Holocaust. In an anonymous interview, the collective claimed that the real names and faces of the members involved will never be revealed and they will never perform live. Stalaggh have found a small cult-like fan base due to the fact that they actually have mental patients do the vocals for their albums. One particular "guest" vocalist was locked away for brutally stabbing his own mother over 30 times to death at the age of 16. One of the "musicians" was almost murdered by another mental patient who reportedly had uncontrollable homicidal urges during the recording process. According to the band, he sounds of the attempted murder were caught on tape.
Allegedly, one of Stalaggh collective worked at the mental institution where they acquired their guest vocalists. Through this connection, they were able to abduct 7 patients for the recording of Projekt Misanthropia. The collective stated:
"The reasoning for recording the mental patients is because the band really wanted the hatred and painful emotions to be REAL and truly felt. Also we wanted to recreate the situation of the Stalag concentration camps in sound. The next recording was the vocals session which took place in the chapel of an old monastery that was no longer in use. The acoustics and atmosphere of that chapel were perfect for recording the howls and screams of the mentally insane. It was very hard to get access to that chapel, but we told the owner that we were doing this as a kind of scream therapy for the mental patients and finally he gave us permission.”
4. Silencer's Nattramn Attacks 5-year-old with Axe
This next crime has been widely debated as to whether it is fact or a black metal urban legend. Nattramn of Swedish black metal outfit, Silencer, has been the subject of many rumors, such as cutting off his own hands during a recording, only to personally sew pig's feet onto his bloody stumps. That rumor was created by the circulation of this photo (to the right) which is one of the only known photographs of Nattramn – his face has never been revealed. This story may not be as bizarre as the last one, but it's much more disturbing. Allegedly, Nattramn randomly drove an axe into the skull of a 5-year-old girl in 2001, failing to kill her by mere millimeters. As police arrived on the scene, he attempted to commit suicide-by-cop by shouting "Kill me! Kill me!" with the axe still in his hands. The cops distracted Nattramn using police dogs while another officer snuck up behind the crazed musician and brought him down. Nattramn was committed to the Växjö Psychiatric Ward, where he stayed for the next 5 years. Nattramn was offered to write and record music as therapy and rehabilitation during one year – a project he named Diagnose: Lebensgefahr.
The label Humani Animali Liberati claims to be the central hub of all things Nattramn, stating:
HAL is the only official forum for all news and non-news concerning Nattramn, Diagnose: Lebensgefahr and Silencer. Nattramn has no affiliation with myspace, facebook or any other useless communities. Do you want reliable information? Do you want the truth? – VISIT HAL
Hunt down the betrayer! Rape the impersonator! Kill the impostor!
HAL claims that Nattramn will be releasing a book called Grishjärta or "Pig's Heart," in the near future, which will consist of poetry, short texts and lyrics, both in Swedish and English and goes back as early as 1994 until today. Additionally, each copy will be personally signed by Nattramn accompanied by photographs of the infamous musician.
3. Faust of Emperor Stabs Gay Man to Death
Bård G. "Faust" Eithun, former drummer for second-wave black metal pioneers, Emperor, was convicted for the murder of Magne Andreassen, a gay man, by fatally stabbing him in Lillehammer, Norway on 21 August 1992. Faust was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment but was released in 2003 after serving nine years and four months. After his release, Faust has avoided any criminal activity and is presently drumming for Scum and Blood Tsunami, while acting as the main lyricist for Zyklon.
Some in the media speculated that the murder was related to black metal, satanism or fascism – Eithun later stated in an interview, "I was never a satanist or fascist in any way". Jørn Tunsberg of the band Hades Almighty also claimed that the murder was "an impulse killing" and that "it had nothing to do with black metal". Kjetil Manheim was a friend of Eithun at the time, and later remarked "the situation that Faust was in wasn't a good experience. He felt that he was attacked. He was in shock".
The metal world has been strangely quiet about this particular murder, which is odd due to the fact that many black metal musicians are able to build self-sustaining fan bases on a foundation of infamy. Perhaps his pure talent and involvement in one of black metal's most successful bands is enough to wipe the slate clean. Or maybe it's due to his reclusive demeanor and refusal to sensationalize the crime. (Unlike Varg Vikernes, who you'll be reading about shortly) Either way, Faust has been re-accepted into the metal community and has yet to stab anyone else… probably.
2. Gaahl's Assault and Torture Convictions
For those of you playing at home, this is the third time former Gorgoroth vocalist, Gaahl, has been mentioned in this Top 10 list – and why shouldn't he be? This time however, he did much more than advocating the burning down of churches or playing Hannibal Lecter with a glass of wine.
In 2002, Gaahl was fined 158,000 NOK ($26,963) and sentenced to one year in prison without the possibility of parole after an episode of violence where he assaulted and tortured a 40-year-old man for several hours at a party. "I wanted to leave," the alleged victim told the court. "What I did was react verbally to a situation which I perceived as threatening." When the 40-year-old man tried to leave the party, the defendant allegedly blocked the exit by standing in the doorway. Immediately after that, the alleged victim felt a hard hit on the back of his head.
"From the moment I got hit, I thought to myself that this was the end. It was as if I could view the whole situation from the outside: Now I'm dying."
The 40-year-old told the court of increased use of violence as the night progressed. He claimed to have no recollection of how long it took for the entire episode to transpire, but he indicated that it "seemed to last for a very long time." The victim also claimed that Gaahl began to collect the man's blood in a cup, adding that Gaahl threatened to consume the blood, quoting,
"I'm going to sacrifice you, I'm going to drink your blood."
During his sentencing, the court wrote that Gaahl's use of violence was "extremely raw and brutal," adding that there was no "clear motive" for the assault. Under normal circumstances, Gaahl's previous conviction would have carried a sentence of 90 days in prison, but due to the severity of the crime, the singer was sentenced to 12 months behind bars. During his court appearance, Gaahl was reportedly dressed in black and wore a plethora of Satanic symbols.Gaahl spent another nine months (of a fourteen-month sentence) and was fined 190,000 NOK ($32,424) in 2006 for torturing another man for six hours. Gaahl maintains that he was acting in self-defense, claiming:
“I was the one who was attacked, but they think I punished him too hard. As I always say, when people cross my line… then I will be the one to decide what their punishment will be.”
1. The Murder of Euronymous
On 10 August 1993, Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes travelled from Bergen to Oslo to meet Mayhem guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. What would ensue that night would become the most discussed, debated, interpreted and infamous crime in the history of black metal. A confrontation occurred in the apartment of Euronymous, resulting in Vikernes brutally murdering Aarseth by stabbing him a total of 23 times – two to the head, five to the neck, and sixteen to the back.
The true nature of the murder has been variously described as a power struggle between rival leaders of a satanic circle, a conflict over a girl's affection, or a dispute over a record contract. Vikernes himself contends "that Aarseth planned to kill him and that he was striking first in self-defense". On the night of the murder, Vikernes claims he intended to hand Aarseth the signed contract and "tell him to fuck off", but that Aarseth attacked him first. Additionally, Vikernes defends that most of Aarseth's cut wounds were caused by broken glass he had fallen on during the struggle, rather than multiple stab wounds. After the slaying, Vikernes drove to a nearby lake to dispose of his bloodied clothes before returning to Bergen. Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum sentence in Norway. The moment the verdict was read, Varg reacted with a devious and evil grin – an image that has become iconic within metal circles.
Vikernes has offered his side of the story with a lengthy account on his website:
"According to his "friends" the plan was to meet me, knock me out with a stun-gun, tie me up, and put me in the trunk of a car. He would then drive into the countryside, tie me to a tree and torture me to death while videotaping everything. My reaction to this was naturally anger. What the Hell did he think he was? The same day I decided to drive to Oslo, hand him the signed contract and tell him to "f*** off", basically, and by doing so take away all the excuses he had to contact me ever again.
Euronymous was waiting for me in the entrance, looking very nervous, and I handed him the contract… After a few seconds, he jumped from the floor and dashed for the kitchen. I knew he had a knife lying on the kitchen table, and I figured that "if he's going to have a knife, I'm going to have a knife too".
I jumped out in front of him and managed to stop him before he got his hands on the kitchen knife. At this point, he had shown his intentions, so when he ran for the bedroom I figured he was going for another weapon. He had some weeks earlier told some people that he would soon get the shotgun back from the police (used by "Dead" when he shot himself), so I figured that was what he was going for, or he was going for his stun-gun. (Although he actually didn't have a stun-gun or the shotgun in his apartment, I didn't know that.) I gave chase, stabbed him, and was a bit surprised when he ran out of the apartment instead. It made no sense to flee and it made me angry to know that he had started the fight, but the moment it didn't go his way he decided to flee instead, instead of fighting like a man. Such is always something I have disliked strongly.
I finished him off by thrusting the knife through his skull, through his forehead, and he died instantaneously. The eyes turned around in his head and a moan could be heard as he emptied his lungs when he died. He fell down to a sitting position, but the knife was stuck in his head, so I held him up, as I held onto the knife. When I jerked the knife from his skull he fell forward, and rolled down a flight of stairs like a sack of potatoes – making enough noise to wake up the whole neighbourhood."
During his time in prison, Vikernes recorded two albums (Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf) using only a synthesizer, as he was refused access to a guitar, bass or drum kit. After numerous denials of parole, he was finally granted freedom from prison in 2009, after serving 15 years of his 21 year term. On 24 May 2009, Vikernes was released from prison on probation. Since his release, Varg recorded Belus, which received mixed reviews from fans and critics. Fallen will be the eighth studio album by Burzum, which is set to be released on March 7, 2011.
Read all of our articles on Black Metal History Month