True Norwegian Black Metal | VICE


[CHANTING AND APPLAUSE] [HEAVY METAL MUSIC] IVAR BERGLIN: Gorgoroth may
not be the most celebrated band to rise out of the infamous
Norwegian black metal scene, but they are by far the
most feared and controversial. With their abrasive sound,
chaotic live shows, and well-publicized criminal
convictions, Gorgoroth have spread their message of fear
and hate across the world. At the center of the storm
of controversy is Gaahl, Gorgoroth lead vocalist
and arguably the most despised man in Norway. In 2005, Gaahl was charged with
torture-like violence and served nine months in prison. His second incarceration
for violent acts. The court claims he tortured his
victim for six hours while collecting his blood into
a cup and threatened to make him drink it. In January of 2007, when he
was ready for release, photographer Peter Beste took
us to Gaahl’s hometown in Norway to get to know the guy
Terrorizer magazine calls the most evil man alive. I’m Ivar Berglin, welcome
to Norway. But the story of Gaahl and
Norwegian black metal actually starts in Newcastle, England
back in 1979, when a local metal band named Venom,
responding to the rampant commercialism of heavy metal,
decided to take their music in a darker, more extreme direction
through satanic lyrics and imagery. This spawned black metal, a
term coined by their 1982 album of the same name. From there, the door opened for
bands with similar ideas and sounds. Bands like Mercyful Fate from
Denmark, Hellhammer from Switzerland, and Bathory
from Sweden. At the end of the ’80s, a second
wave of black metal surfaced in Norway. Bands like Dark Throne, Emperor,
Immortal, and Mayhem perfected the black metal sound,
taking the music’s lyrics and stage imagery to
even darker extremes. KING: We chose a
different path. It was getting the music not
as fast but atmospheric. It was also not as
well-produced. It was more about the atmosphere
the music created. And also the fact that we
chose to have a satanic approach towards the lyrics
and also combining those things to be an art form
called black metal. PYTTEN: Euronymous called me,
and I started working with him together with Varg Vikernes
until ’94, when all this stuff started happening to churches. IVAR BERGLIN: In the mid ’90s,
a series of crimes in Norway brought black metal to
the attention of the mainstream media. The arson of over a dozen
Christian churches and the murder of Mayhem guitarist
Euronymous by band-mate Varg Vikernes, who stabbed
him 23 times in the face, neck, and back. LARS NEDLIN: When it comes to
the media coverage of the black metal in Norway,
it all started with the criminal cases. I mean, it didn’t start with the
music when it comes to the tabloid in Norway. It started with the church
burnings, with the murders and everything surrounding that
era with Burzum and Varg Vikernes and, well, good tabloid
stories basically. EINAR ENGELSTAD: I couldn’t
believe that they were that foolish. On the other hand, they had an
identity because everybody was against them. When you’re 17, 18 you believe
in a lot of funny things. KVITRAFN: I’m not about to say
if it’s right or wrong. LARS NEDLIN: Then there’s
the music. And I think most of the
bands today are centered around the music. But of course you have bands
like Gorgoroth who have the ideology still very much
intact within the band. There’s a satanic ideology. GAAHL: Christianity
is based only on stone, souls, and lives. And so, of course, every trace
of them should be erased. [BLACK METAL MUSIC] IVAR BERGLIN: Gorgoroth
basically means terror. PATRIZIA MAZZUOCCOLO: Gorgoroth
is the ugliest sounding band within
black metal. KVITRAFN: The energy you get
from playing in that band really sticks out
from everything else I’ve ever done. PATRIZIA MAZZUOCCOLO: If you’re
ever seen a live gig, you’d definitely understand. They’re all extreme in the
way that they look. And Gaahl, in particular. KVITRAFN: The whole makeup and
spikes and flames and all of that is about putting faces
to the music, really. And enhancing the things we
are trying to express. KING: But when we present things
to an audience, it’s a message that’s important,
it’s not the music. Gorgoroth is now three
individuals, Infernus, me, and Gaahl. And everybody is very
egocentric. KVITRAFN: It’s a group of
strong personalities. KING: But everything leads back
to the our main agenda, it’s spreading the word of
Satan, or satanism himself. KVITRAFN: Well, to put it like
this, we demand something from the listener. KING: The band is
spreading fear. And we use that fear to actually
create a change and also get our ideas across. LARS NEDLIN: There is one band
that still is covered in the old-fashioned tabloid Norwegian
black metal kind of way, and that’s Gorgoroth. ERLEND ERICHSEN: Of course the
media always like to focus on things that scares people. LARS NEDLIN: All genres, all
music genres grow when there’s controversy involved. PATRIZIA MAZZUOCCOLO: And I also
believe that Gorgoroth like to flirt with the
way that they’re portrayed by the media. LARS NEDLIN: They serve a lot
of things to the media in a way that makes it
highly usable. GAAHL: It’s very few people
or bands around with a satanic message. So it’s all about the music. It’s not about the blast bass,
it’s not about how high the vocals scream or whatever. We are not about that. We are about the message. LARS NEDLIN: Like in South
America, when you have riots breaking out. In Poland, where the tapes of
the concerts that was filmed was taken by the police. IVAR BERGLIN: On February 1,
2004, Gorgoroth appalled the Catholic nation of Poland with
a blasphemous display of satanic imagery at their most
controversial show to date. KING: We had a lot of sheep
skulls, as well as a lot of sheep heads on poles all over
the front of the stage and four crosses. Up on the crosses were two naked
men, hooded, and two naked hooded women. Covered in blood. The sheep represents the flock,
and we represent the goat, the individual striving
to go our own ways, not necessarily following
the flock. GAAHL: The flock and the sheep,
it’s the Christian themselves that’s chosen this
word from the Bible. You have the goat, and
you have the sheep. The sheep is the one that
belongs to God, and the goat is the one that will
be punished because they have a free will. IVAR BERGLIN: To get a better
understanding of Gaahl and where he comes from, we
travelled across Norway to the small mountain village
where he was born and still lives today. KVITRAFN: Always been a lot of
rumors about Gorgoroth and always a lot of rumors
about Gaahl. And– IVAR BERGLIN: Are they true? KVITRAFN: Well, no, of c– well, maybe some. IVAR BERGLIN: I’m standing
outside of Gaahl’s house. Everything you see around us is
owned by his family and has been so for generations. We’re the first ever journalists
to be here. And I’m quite honored but
actually feeling quite scared. PETER BESTE: This town, I
guess we could call it a valley, is named after
his family. There’s maybe five or six
houses, each of which belong to a different member
of the family. No other house as far as the eye
can see in any direction. Closest town is about
a 20 minute drive. ROB SEMMER: I mean the guy lives
in complete isolation. No telephone, no nothing. I had to walk. His brother was the only one who
had plumbing in the house. And his brother lived about
a mile up the road. So every time I needed to take
a shit or anything, I had to walk literally in ankle high
mud because it had been raining for 72 days straight. IVAR BERGLIN: The first few
hours in Espedal were nerve-wracking to
say the least. I couldn’t stop thinking about
what could happen over the next couple of days. But after a few bottles from
Gaahl’s extensive wine collection, we all began
to loosen up, laugh, and have a good time. IVAR BERGLIN: You know we’re
here because we’re interested in the man behind all the spikes
and skull makeup and– GAAHL: Of course. This might be one
of my problems. When I talk to journalists, I
talk to them as persons and not as journalists. IVAR BERGLIN: To keep it
personal, Gaahl asked if instead of doing a traditional
interview, we could just put the camera on a tripod
and talk. GAAHL: What to follow the false
gods will do basically. You will be allowed to focus
on the god within yourself because that’s the
only true god. The god within everything. That’s the only thing that for
me is worth calling god. It is the highest spirit of
everything and not this control freak that’s telling you
you’re not supposed to do this, you’re not supposed to do
this, you’re only supposed to bow down and kneel
before what I say. Don’t think. It’s more than anything else. God is within man. God is within nature, and
nature will always grow. That’s the force of all
life is to grow. ROB SEMMER: He personally took
us all aside and critiqued us on what he thinks we
could change about our lives and shit. And it’s like he met us
like a day before. And the thing that was blowing
all of our minds, and we all got together the next day and
had these little huddles when he wasn’t around to talk about
it, was how right on he was. PETER BESTE: I think everyone
was just speaking very freely, and, of course, the wine was
flowing, and I think we all saw a special side to Gaahl. PATRIZIA MAZZUOCCOLO: There
are many sides to him. I think there’s many sides
to every human being. And of course, we can all be
a little evil sometimes. DAVID: The kind of character
that he is scares people. How direct he is about
what he believes in. ERLEND ERICHSEN: One single word
me and Gaahl never will forget, and that’s honest. The word honest. PETER BESTE: This guy that has
a reputation of being a bad-ass and a satanist and all
sorts of other things, the rednecks out there want to
challenge him, or fuck with him just like it would be in the
States growing up if you were one of these
kind of guys. So I think he gets people
who will mess with him a little bit. And when he, as he says, when
someone crosses my borders or steps on his foot, so
to speak, that he teaches them a lesson. ROB SEMMER: We were walking down
the road one day, and he showed me this little building,
and he’s like, that’s my schoolhouse. He’s like, yeah, between
kindergarten and 18 years of age, I went to school there. And it was just me and
one other kid. I was like, for 18 years you
only went to school with one other person? And he was like, yeah
and that kid lived like 45 minutes away. So when school was done, he had
to get on a car or a bus to go home. Like I never got to
hang out with him. GAAHL: Skol for– [INTERPOSING VOICES] GAAHL: Having an
excellent time. ROB SEMMER: It’s
one of a kind. GAAHL: I don’t think of myself
as someone who can paint. That’s why I quit art school
because you cannot go to school to become an artist. IVAR BERGLIN: I’ve seen
some of the stuff you did before prison. It would be interesting to see
something you did in prison. You and me talked about
how an extreme situation it was for you. GAAHL: My whole process of
creating is based on being away from people. I think this was the last one
I did before I went into prison maybe. IVAR BERGLIN: Yeah? GAAHL: I’m not certain. IVAR BERGLIN: Gaahl rarely shows
anyone his paintings. He doesn’t sell them,
and he hasn’t shown publicly since 1993. So after days of asking, he
finally let us take a look. GAAHL: I had an exhibition in
’93, and then I just wrote completely ridiculous prices,
way overpriced at first, because I didn’t want
to sell them. There was this person that
wanted to buy it anyway, and I said, of course, that no,
I have already sold it. So he didn’t get it. I have hidden them
away since then. IVAR BERGLIN: On our third day
in Espedal, the rain finally let up, so we travelled to Dale,
the closest thing to Gaahl’s house resembling
civilization. Yeah, Gaahl just told me that
the water’s about one and a half to two meters higher than
it usually is because they’ve had 76 days of rain here
in a row, nonstop. I made several phone calls to
everyone from reporters to local police trying to get
anyone to comment on Gaahl. I was met with excuse
after excuse. It seemed like the whole town
was afraid of him until I finally convinced one journalist
that had followed his case since the beginning to
give me a brief interview. MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] PETER BESTE: The more recent
case that he just got out of prison for was something
similar. He was attacked, he beat this
guy, held him down for a number of hours, I think tied
him up, while slapping him. Supposedly squeezing his balls,
singing to him pretty Norwegian lullabies while
collecting his blood into a cup. The courts tried to say that he
drank the guy’s blood, or he forced the guy to drink his
own blood, but Gaahl claims it was just to prevent it from
getting on his carpet. GAAHL: All of them have been
just self-defense actually. But that I’ve crossed borders. It’s like with a painting. You don’t stop until
it’s finished. IVAR BERGLIN: And you think your
punishment methods have been effective? Of course these people aren’t
going to attack you again, but do you think you removed the
sickness from their mind that would allow them to do this
in the first place? Or do you think you just
perpetuated it? GAAHL: Let’s put it this way, if
they were a bad seed, they wouldn’t spread it. MALE SPEAKER:
[SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] GAAHL: Just by saying no to
someone, punish them enough. And someone, you probably need
to cut to small pieces and sew back together. IVAR BERGLIN: From the day we
met Gaahl, he kept talking about bringing us to a
place that was very important to him. After three days of waiting on a
window of decent weather, we threw caution to the wind and
followed him blindly into the wilderness. Only three of us had jackets. Only two of us had boots. And none of us had any idea
where he’d take us. GAAHL: Up there, it’s this
waterfall I was talking about. IVAR BERGLIN: Yeah, we can
get across the river. GAAHL: I don’t think so, but
maybe we can walk up there and walk around. IVAR BERGLIN: Let’s do that. GAAHL: It’s quite a long
journey though. IVAR BERGLIN: Let’s see
how long we make it. PETER BESTE: From the valley,
he pointed out where we were headed, and it was this
snow-capped mountain off in the distance. And I thought he was joking. It was quite far. ROB SEMMER: So I put on
basically every piece of clothing I had in my bag. I was wearing a pair of Nike
hi-tops with plastic bags wrapped around my feet. GAAHL: I have become what never
fails, following in the footsteps behind me. I don’t like to explain things
to people because it’s written in a way that it should
open the mind of the listeners on tours. I have no interest in getting
a flock of sheep that’s just following me because I’m the
same one direction, and they walk that direction. Then I would be just as
bad as society is. So fear is necessary to separate
the ones that’s willing to be led. Or the one who choose
to lead himself. IVAR BERGLIN:
[SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] GAAHL: [SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] GAAHL: There’s so many of the
sheep character that’s drawn towards it as fans. There’s so many low-lifes
among the crowd. There’s so many just there for
the music and nothing else. You don’t perform black metal
if you’re not a warrior. Black metal is a war against
what everyone knows. IVAR BERGLIN:
[SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] GAAHL: [SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] IVAR BERGLIN:
[SPEAKING NORWEGIAN] GAAHL: As long as nature is
not allowed to rule by the laws of nature, there will
always be king, and there will always be slave. ROB SEMMER: And at this point
I just fucking went into a panic, and I was just like,
this is fucking stupid. I don’t know. He won’t even really tell us
where you’re bringing us or why you’re bringing us or
what this is about. At a point, I was just like, I
don’t care what the fuck is at the top of the mountain. You know what I mean? It makes no difference to me. We’re going to jeopardize this
whole entire project for some stupid fucking nature walk. This is about heavy metal. This is about a band. This isn’t Field and
Stream magazine. MIKE: Yeah, man. MIKE: Well sit tight, and
I can go get them. ROB SEMMER: I can’t sit tight. I’ll freeze. Seriously. MIKE: What do you want
me to do, man? ROB SEMMER: I got
to keep going. And I know, but the
way down, even. PETER BESTE: Well, there’s
no choice at this point. GAAHL: The Superman. And the idea will always conquer
or always rise above, no matter what, but you can
not put down your sword because then you’ll lose. IVAR BERGLIN: So do you get
frustrated being a lone wolf, or do you like it? Being one of the very few people
who is worthy of the title of a lead person? Is it lonely? GAAHL: I don’t think that you
ask me the right questions. I don’t think you’re focusing
on what’s being told. IVAR BERGLIN: Guide me.

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