Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, by Michael Moynihan & Didrik SØderlind

(hb; 1998, 2003: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

"At the close of the last millennium, more than 100 churches in Europe were torched and desecrated by adherents of Black Metal, the most extreme form of underground music on the planet. In an escalating uholy war, Black Metal bands and their obsessive fans have left a grim legacy of suicide, murder, and terrorism that continues to spread from Norway to Germany, Finland, America, and beyond. . .

"Written by two journalists with unique access to the hellish demimonde, the acclaimed Lords of Chaos has now been revised and expanded, with startling new revelations. This award-winning exposé features hundreds of rare photos and exclusive interrogations with priests, police officers, Satanists, and leaders of demonic bands who believe the greater evil spawns the greatest glory."

Review:

A good friend, Gary Russell, turned me onto this non-fiction book nine years ago, but I finally, after getting distracted by so much other stuff, got around to reading it: thanks, Gary!

This is one of the best true-crime books I've ever read. Authors Didrik SØderlind and Michael Moynihan have composed a level-headed, fascinating account of the Black Metal suicides, murders and ancient church burnings that took place in Norway (and in other countries) in the early 1990s (and, to a limited degree, to this day).

One of the reasons why Lords of Chaos works so well is that the authors have, for the most part, adopted a non-judgmental attitude towards the people involved -- that includes hangers-on, police officers, and those who perpetrated the crimes, like: Per Yngve Ohlin (aka, Dead, vocalist for Mayhem, who blew his head off with a shotgun in April 1992); several members of the highly-regarded Black Metal band, Emperor, who continue to put out music today; Hendrik Möbus (of the band Absurd, who was also convicted of a Black Metal murder, and briefly found refuge from the German police in the States with William Pierce, founder of the racialist group the National Alliance, and author of notorious racist tract The Turner Diaries); Bård "Faust" Eithun (drummer of the aforementioned band, Emperor, who, in August 1992, stabbed a homosexual pedestrian to death); and Kristian "Varg" Vikerenes (aka, Varg Qisling LarssØn Vikerenes, aka, Count Grishnackh), founder of the one-man band, Burzum, who, in August 1993, stabbed and killed Øystein Aarseth (aka, Euronymous, of the band Mayhem, and owner of the Black Metal music store, Helvete).

Vikerenes's comments make up much of the interview sections. As a motormouth and founder of the religious organization, Norwegian Heathen Front (aka, NHS), he was part of the "Black Circle" (a phrase used to describe many of the Black Metallers who hung out at Øystein Aarseth's store Helvete, where Aarseth recorded and sold albums, including Burzum/Vikerenes's); also, Vikernes, who has a hate-hate relationship with the media (who love to interview him, because of the s**t he spouts), has evolved, belief-wise: he's disdainful of his early satanic Black Metal work -- it seems he's more into his later, dark Ambient Electronica work, which is heavily influenced by neo-Nazi/skinhead propaganda, heathenism (with a heavy emphasis on Odinism, which is anti-Christian), and grim Norwegian Black Metal steadfastness (which seems, on the surface, to be humorless).

SØderlind and Moynihan also trace the beginnings of Black Metal, to English and American bands like Venom, Bathory and Slayer (who, aside from their early occult themes, are actually are more speed-metal) -- the phrase Black Metal actually stems from Venom's second album of the same name, which came out in 1982. One of the main things that differientiates these bands from the later Noregian and Swedish bands is that the American/English bands were using their Satanic, often-nonsensical themes as sensationalistic window-dressing. At heart, they were regular, law-abiding people who were trying stir s**t up, get recognized (at that point in their careers).

It's that lack of sensationalism that ultimately propels Lords of Chaos into greatness. These events and personalities are dramatic enough to sell themselves, and all SØderlind and Moynihan had to do, writing-wise, was research it and put it down on paper without flourish -- in recognizing that and doing so, SØderlind and Moynihan have written a timeless true crime tome that remains relevant today.

Disturbing, informative time capsule book with (no doubt) echoes of our future -- hopefully only in a fringe, limited sense.

Read it, already.

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