A peek into Sufjan Steven's iPod: Norwegian Black Metal 101
Tweet Yikes! Its the glowing remains of a Norwegian church! Mommy, I'm scared. I fuckin' hate my Last FM profile. If I'm to believe what it says about me, I'm a real meat and two veg type of indie bore. Just another faceless heinz baked blogger in a big slimy tin of millions of identikit Wolf Parade fans. The software keeps recommending me the Arcade Fire for fuck sake! Gah, there is a reason Arcade Fire never scrobble to my profile. Its because they make my skin crawl. To shake things up, I've started listening to weird stuff, beginning with the genre that burnt a thousand churches and sold a million strepsils-Norwegian Black Metal. So to find out where to start I lurked in the sulfuric shadows of a few black metal forums. This was to check out what the kids rock out to in their rooms while mum and dad tearfully talk to the school counsellor downstairs. Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum and Gorgoroth would seem to be fairly representative of how the kids are rolling these days. All four are inner circle (see how I've already got the lingo) black metal bands which have been around since the early days of the second wave of Black Metal. This was the scene that caused all the controversy in Norway in the mid 90s. While we were pogoing to parklife they were dressing up like Gene Simmons' decomposed corpse (corpsepaint) and conducting pagan rituals on snowy mountainsides. They even had their own Blur vs Oasis in Burzum vs Mayhem, a musical spat, which unlike Liam and Damon's little tiff ended in the bassist from Mayhem being stabbed 26 times by Varg from Burzum. Before he went to prison for murder, Varg also managed to allegedly burn a few of the oldest churches in Norway and write a little book on his pagan Nazi ideology. Ah, to be young in Norway in the 90s. But what about the music? Well, I'm including a wee sampler so you can judge for yourselves if you're not familiar with the stuff. First up is Destroyer by Gorgoroth, who believe it or not are soon bringing their travelling fun-fest of crucified fans and impaled sheep heads to Cork, thats right, Cork. I have to say, after a few listens I'm properly taken in by it. It grabs you immediately with the feeling of hurtling wildly down a subterranean cavern full of rasping voices before settling into its hi-speed hypnotic groove. The song is fairly typical of the genre, strangely structured, very fast, lots of rapid picking on the high strings of the guitar and plenty of filthy lo-fi distortion. What's Gaahl, the demonic lead singer gabbling about? Well that's for him to know and you to find out. He's been known to remove any printing of his lyrics from the Internet, threatening those who put them up and saying they're not for public consumption. Gaahl, if your reading this, I think you're sound okay? And O'Flynn's butchers in Cork do a great line in animal entrails. Oh and also, you're not allowed to be a Gorgoroth fan unless you adopt their Satanic ideology and reject Christ. So chuck out yer Bibles and get listening kids! MP3: Gorgoroth-Destroyer Gorgoroth rehearsing... Ready for the big gig...Its amazing what a bit of make-up can do! Next up is a little ditty from Darkthrone called under a funeral moon. This is my favourite track from the stuff I downloaded. These guys take low pitched demonic growling to a freaky extreme. I actually found it disconcerting and scary listening to it at night. Again the guitars and drums are relentless, sped up, mesmerising and tinged with an eastern sound. There is a distinct lack of the 'oul verse-chorus-verse, and listening to it is to be brought somewhere cold, strange and alien. There's a comical bit at 1 minute 44 seconds in where I'm guessing he's trying to scare you with a hardcore demonic yelp out of nowhere but it sounds like he's hacking up a hairball. MP3: Darkthrone-Under a funeral moon What's that? Yis want more? Okay, have some Burzum. That's the real freaky shit right there... MP3: Burzum-Key to the gate I dunno if I'd ever listen to this stuff much again. But I can really see its appeal. In addition to the outsiderish exclusiveness of the genre which I know appeals to many fans, the music itself is not to be sniffed at. Its visceral and peculiar. I've seen clips of Gorgoroth play live on Youtube, and i can imagine the sense of abandon and frenzy the fans feel at their gigs. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to unwind with some Barry Manilow. P.S. Next blog will be on LCD soundsystem gig in Tripod last night. It was mega.