My idea of a Norwegian was always some cheerless Social Democrat in a knit sweater whose greatest joy in life was comparing the price of beer in Prague (cheap) to the price of beer in Krakow (even cheaper). Then I read the just-released new edition of Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, a cult classic that first appeared in 1998.
Dude. No, seriously. Du-hu-huuude! All I can say is that Norway fuckiiin’ rocks!
Lords of Chaos chronicles the rise of Black Metal, Norway’s extremist contribution to the underground metal scene in the late 80s and early 90s. What made Black Metal so exceptional wasn’t just the speed and thrash of the music, the violence of the lyrics or the amount of corpse-paint that its death-obsessed members wore, but rather the number of real corpses and smoldering churches that the movement left behind.
The rise of the Black Metal movement in Norway is a case of humorless dirtheads taking a joke way too seriously. The joke was Satanic rock, which Lords of Chaos skillfully traces from its early origins in Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Coven (who transformed from performing black masses on stage to perpetrating the weepy hippie hit “One Tin Soldier”) to metal’s second big wave in the early 80s and the rise of kitsch Satan-rockers Venom. To our modern eyes, Venom looks the spitting image of Spinal Tap during their Smell the Glove phase, but to dirtheads who didn’t know any better, Venom was the long-sought embodiment of evil. It was from the Venom branch of evil-metal that all of metal’s more violent, “evil” forms descended, including Black Metal.
The point of Satanic rock was to scare the Normals while fucking with the minds of its pimple-faced, predominantly male (nerdoid) audience, who needed to create a counter-world, with counter-morals and counter-aesthetics, to empower the nerdoids against the cooler, more successful jocks. But metal had its rivals for the hopelessly angry nerdoid: punk, hardcore and metal’s own competing mutations. The competition forced metal’s leading edge to metamorphose into harder, faster and more violent forms, reaching its apex with the rise of Death Metal in the mid-80s. Death Metal was as violent, Satanic and musically inaccessible as metal could go, or so it seemed.
And here is where Norway, the comic straight-man character in this dumb, bloody saga, comes in. Norway is not only a completely humorless society (it banned Monty Python’s The Life of Brian for being too offensive, leading to ads in rival Sweden boasting that the movie was “so funny it was banned in Norway!”), but worse, a deeply oppressive society, in a recognizably bland, caring, pious, Social Democratic way. Which raises an interesting question: Do boredom and blandness “count” as real suffering, and if so, do they justify murder the way other forms of oppression make murder seem a likely, even understandable response? The Black Metalists of Norway think so.
The humor and empty boasts inherent in Death Metal were lost on Norway’s youth. They took Death Metal literally, and quickly discovered that it wasn’t “evil” or “authentic” enough. There were too many “poseurs.” And more important, too few genuine corpses for a scene that claimed to be so obsessed with death and violence. So Black Metal offered up one of its own as its first sacrificial corpse: the lead singer of Mayhem, who ingeniously had changed his name to “Dead,” offed himself with a shotgun. His friend and lead guitarist, Euronymous, discovered Dead’s brains splattered all over their apartment. So the first thing Euronymous does is run down to the village store to buy film, run back, snap a whole bunch of photos of Dead’s corpse, boast to all his friends about it, then call the cops. Now that is fuckin’ cool, dude.
Dead’s suicide photo used for the cover of bootleg Mayhem album
You’ve really got to hand it to the Norse for keeping it real. I for one will be scratching them off the “Eurofag” list.
Euronymous eventually got offed himself by a rival Black Metaler, the surprisingly interesting neo-Nazi Varg Vikernes of Burzum, in large part because Varg thought Euronymous wasn’t “evil” enough. Vikernes’ own account of how he killed Euronymous, chasing him around an apartment building knifing him while the Black Metal victim screamed for help, is truly one of the great slapstick moments in murder history: “I hit him directly into his skull and his eyes went boing! and he was dead.” (I particularly like Varg’s Looney Tunes “boing!”)
Varg Vikernes cheerfully recounts how he murdered Euronymous
The book, particularly the first half, is often laugh-out-loud funny, in a metal sort of way. For one thing, Black Metalists are incredibly pedantic–as laughably pedantic as the worst jerks you knew in the college rock/punk/hardcore scene, and pedantic about the very same stupid things: who is more “genuine,” “authentic,” “extreme,” “on-the-edge” and in metal’s case, “evil.” It’s almost painful to read about the various figures’ internecine pedantry wars because they’re so similar to battles that were/are waged by pedants in the “alternative” subculture, which had always considered itself far superior to “lowly” metalhead culture.
And frankly, who’s to say that metalheads were lower or lamer than punks? One thing that’s hard to argue with the Black Metalists about is why many of them chose metal over punk: For them, punk copped out. Punk started off going for the throat of Normal Society, but in the game of chicken it didn’t have the nerve to go all the way, snagglepussing safely leftward or detouring into kitsch just when it had to lay its last cards on the table. Punk copped out almost at its inception, with The Clash quickly abandoning “White Riot” for pastafarian hippie politics, or the Sex Pistols devolving overnight from terrifying chaos to self-parody, a depressing degradation chronicled in The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle.
The Black Metalists understood this copout quite consciously, opposed it (as they opposed Death Metal’s cringe in the face of real extremism) and therefore pushed their war with the Normals to its logical conclusion: They went for paganism, National- Socialism, church-torching and murder.
And why not go all the way for murder and arson, considering what the “consequences” of murder are in Northern Europe. Oo, a Northern European jail. Oo, I’m so scared! The sentences, when they’re even given out, are laughably light, while the jail conditions were described as a “holiday” by one of the victims’ mothers, or “time flies when you’re having fun” by one of the perps.
One lesson of Lords of Chaos is that it pays to murder in Northern Europe. Literally. Going to prison there is like getting comped at a Comfort Inn. You can’t possibly get locked away for long, and even if they give you 10 or 20 years–and that’s if you’re lucky–you can still get off on weekends for unaccompanied home visits, enough time to participate in another murder. Prisons there are so comfy that even the metalists complained about getting treated too well. As Varg Vikernes sneered, “It’s much too nice here. It’s completely ridiculous. I asked the police to throw me in a real dungeon, and also encouraged them to use violence.” Naturally, they didn’t.
Which got me thinking: If and when my own fledgling writing career dives for good, I know what I’m going to do. Put on some corpse paint, get myself an axe, go on a Scandinavian murder spree, then call the cops and demand that they jail me in the nearest Comfort Inn for life.
Where as the nerdoids in Lords of Chaos were vainly trying to recapture the lost, centuries-old glory of their Viking ancestors in a diminished modern Norway, uber-nerdoids Richard Perle and David Frum seem hell bent on destroying contemporary America’s glorious imperial war machine right at the very peak of its power. Their plan for leading America, lemming-like, over the cliff of self-destruction is laid out in their sparsely-worded manifesto, An End to Evil. The title alone shows how very Black Metal these grown-up war nerds are.
Let me just say here that I had always thought that draft-dodgers like Perle (who snagglepussed from the Vietnam War, exit stage left) and Frum (who, as a Canadian, was born a draft-dodger) were just your run-of-the-mill corporate fags, but after reading An End to Evil…dude. No seriously, du-hu-hude. Dude, I’m telling you, these chickenhawks fuckiiiiiiiiiin’ rock!
Seriously. They rock as hard as Burzum and Mayhem. The proof? First, both the Black Metalists and the Republican authors are obsessed with evil, as the title alone shows. Indeed, Frum is the author of the famous “axis of evil” line that has crippled Bush’s room for diplomatic maneuver. And Frum, like the metalists, got in trouble for boasting about how he’d made that line up–the same way that all the Black Metalists eventually got jailed for boasting about their murders. For their boasts, Frum got fired while the Black Metalists got rooms at the Comfort Inn. Gnarly.
Then there’s Richard Perle, who, like Dead or Euronymous, has his own infamous Black Metal nom de roque: The Prince of Darkness. Arrrggghhh! Launch fireworks and pyrotechnics from front of stage, set off explosions, lower giant skull as The Prince of Darkness and David “Axis of Evil” Frum take to the stage in their End to Evil monsters of hardline ideology tour!
Richard Perle, “Prince of Darkness”
The similarities don’t stop there. Whereas Vikernes and other Black Metalists saw heathen Norway in a life-or-death struggle for existence with the Semitic tribes’ Judeo-Christianity, Perle and Frum see Judeo-Christian America under threat from Islam. And both have the same solution: War, dude!
To be fair, Vikernes and another Black Metalist murderer, Hendrik Mobus, come off as far more interesting, intellectual and complex with their second-rate Nietzschean ideas mixed up with D&D mythology, whereas Perle and Frum’s war manifesto is surprisingly dull and sparse. Indeed, on each page the words are spaced so far apart you could drive a fertilizer-packed white van between each line. I read it in one sitting and came away with only one memorable line, in which they disparagingly called Belgium “France’s pilot fish.” On the other hand, Perle and Frum have used their influence over Bush to rack up a far, far higher corpse-count than the hapless Norwegian dirtheads, so they more than make up for their lack of aesthetic flair or stylized corpse paint with genuine blood on their hands.
Indeed, every sad word of An End to Evil oozes Perle’s and Frum’s pained, wasted 60s youths: wasted in yellow sheet stains, wasted studying maps color-coded with spheres-of-influence, wasted memorizing German armaments, and college years wasted playing Risk in their dorms while the socially successful hippies frolicked and fucked all around them. Perle and Frum will never forgive America for this humiliation and therefore they want to egg it on to its suicide by prodding it into a multi-front apocalyptic world war.
Their Black Metal plan is simple: Push North Korea to the brink and China right along with it; set the path for war against Iran; foment a Shiite independence movement in oil-rich eastern Saudi Arabia; kick Russia out of the G-8; invade Syria and Lebanon, while pushing Israel to turn the heat up even further on the Palestinians; and lastly, openly declare our hostility to the European Union, even if it means making enemies of France and Germany.
This raises another interesting question: Should Black Metalists cut their hair and vote Bush-Cheney ’04? Dude, I think the answer’s pretty fuckin’ obvious. In fact, thanks to these guys, America has become the world’s first Black Metal Nation.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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