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Added by Zeke on April 17, 2006



The Austin Chronicle's review:

Burnt Churches and Backstabbing
'Metal Storm' wracks the Alamo

Ah, Norway. Land of beautiful, vast fishing villages, cod liver oil, and black metal. In fact, it may be what Norway is best known for, albeit in its satanic, black-mass-attending, animal-sacrificing, church-burning form. The history of Norwegian metal is as twisted and dark as the country's landscape. As part of the Alamo's Music Mondays, Metal Storm: the Scandinavian Metal Wars takes a look at the scene 10 years after murder, arson, and suicide forced a burgeoning lifeblood back underground.

The film centers around footage from a Norwegian documentary called Satan Rides the Media, which traces the tumultuous history of black metal through the early Nineties, when a string of church burnings turned the nation's eyes toward a small group of sinister metalheads. More specifically, the film spotlights Varg Vikernes of the one-man band Burzum, and his involvement in the burning of the historic Fantoft stave church in Bergen. After a journalist interviewed Vikernes (who later changed his name to Count Grishnackh) and he confessed, the media went buck-wild with the satanist slant, and they portrayed the metal scene as black-clad, evil-obsessed devil worshippers with no remorse and a penchant for hoarding animal heads. Vikernes adored the media attention, and even used photos of the churches he burnt (three in all) on the cover of a Burzum album. (This would become briefly popular, as the band Mayhem used a photo of bandmate "Death" on the cover of an album, shortly after he blew his brain out with a shotgun.) Vikernes, however, had a more traditional reason for burning the churches. "The church [in Norway] has behaved so disgracefully," says a clean-cut Varg from prison. He reasons that he was just trying to save Norway from Christianity and return it to its pagan (not satanic) roots.

But in-fighting and shit-talking within the metal scene soon turned to backstabbing, literally. When Mayhem singer Euronymous was found stabbed to death in his Oslo apartment in 1993, it didn't take long before Vikernes confessed, and the scene all but disappeared for the remainder of the Nineties. Still, the spirit of metal still burns in the hills and forests of Norway.


The SF Weekly review:
Northern Darkness
Finally, the saga of the Scandinavian metal wars gets its documentary
By Michael Leaverton

Right after America scrapped its experiment with hair bands, metalheads in the desolate climes of Norway started killing each other and burning churches (really). Metal Storm: The Scandinavian Black Metal Wars is a perfect film for the era: spooky and fascinating...

After opening credits in an unreadable, supremely cool Gothic font and obligatory references to Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey, the film appears to settle into straight-doc mode until an unexpected treat: a full-length Bathory video, legendary and rare even in metal circles, featuring fire, heavily garbed people tramping through forests, and, brilliantly, a Viking ship. I'm a touch saddened but mostly relieved this wasn't around when I was 14.

Then it's on to Norwegian black metal, which the narrator calls "so pure and unsparingly severe it would sear a mark into the history books." And she's right! The film follows the band Mayhem, starting when the boys Jan, Øystein, Jorn, and Svein (or Hellhammer, Euronymus, Necrobutcher, and Maniac) move into "Satan's House" and recruit a singer named "Dead," who is soon dead after shooting himself in the head. Euronymus finds the corpse, finds a camera, and commences photography (one picture will grace Mayhem's next EP). Then he makes talismanic necklaces out of the skull fragments, and two months later opens Hell, a record shop. Euronymus is way metal.

Then Euronymus is way dead. After Mayhem's bassist, Varg Vikernes, is cleared in a sensational church burning trial (from 1992 to 1996, 50 churches in Norway were torched), he stabs Euronymus for being a poseur, among less metal reasons (money). And he's a bit of a snob about it, since spilling blood, calling forth hell, launching Armageddon, etc., are jobs lifted whole from black metal's mission statement. A handful of his peers follow suit (one murder features torture, cannibalism, and necrophilia), but most realize that, hey, this is just music!

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