Everything Here Is So Cold
Everything Here Is So Dark
I Remember It As From A Dream
In The Corner Of This Time
Diabolic Shapes Float By
Out From The Dark
I Remember It Was Here I Died
By Following The Freezing Moon
It's Night Again, Night You Beautiful
I Please My Hunger, On Living Humans
Night Of Hunger Follow It's Call
Follow The Freezing Moon
Darkness Is Growing, Eternity Opens
The Cemetery Lights Up Again
As In Ancient Times
Fallen Souls Die Behind My Steps
By Following The Freezing Moon
The Freezing Moon Can Obsess You
This text is the result of a being moonstruck by one of black metal’s masterpieces – excessive music evoking excessive intertextuality in this one listener.
Whereas hell is traditionally pictured as a hot, fiery place, coldness paradoxically is one of the themes at the icy heart of Black Metal. In Mayhem’s Freezing Moon, coldness is already introduced in the first sentence of the lyrics: “Everything Here Is So Cold”.
In Black Metal, coldness is generally associated with the sub-arctic climate of Norway, the birthground of the second generation of this musical genre. Indeed, photographs of Black Metal musicians in a wintry landscape had become one of the clichés of the genre’s artwork.
Central to Freezing Moon however, is not so much the coldness of Norway’s snow and ice, as the coldness of death and night. Freezing Moon is the coldness of the body temperature of a corpse which has dropped a few degrees each night for some weeks; the coldness of the absence of the sun at night-time; the coldness of a room in which a ghost has just entered.
As the lyrics speak of those who follow in the narrator’s footsteps as ‘Fallen Souls’, souls which have fallen from the sunlike grace of God, the coldness of Freezing Moon is also the coldness of a world which has abandoned God and thereby lost it’s anchor in space: “Where is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideways, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while?”. Nietzsche’s metaphors of coldness, darkness and floating (worlds or diabolical images) are the same as those of Mayhem.
Star of Bethlehem vs. Freezing Moon
The Star of Bethlehem guided the Fire-worshipping astrologer-kings known as the Magi from Persia to the birthplace of Jesus Christ – like that Star, the ‘Freezing Moon’ functions as a astronomical guide for the moonstruck narrator of the song’s lyrics and for the ‘Fallen Souls’ that follow him. However, where Bethlehem’s Star led the Magi to a place of birth, to a fons et origo of life, the Freezing Moon leads to death: “I Remember It Was Here I Died/ By Following The Freezing Moon (…) Fallen Souls Die Behind My Steps/ By Following The Freezing Moon”. Thus, the Freezing Moon can be described as an inverted the Star of Bethlehem; the Moon relates to the Star as the inverted cross of Satanists relates to the One True Cross.
Darkness, dream, memory
In the ouverture of Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way”, as the protagonist is dozing off, indistinct shapes float around him in the darkness of night - shapes from memory, shapes from dreams and shapes of medieval legend projected by a magic lantern, “supernatural phenomena of many colours”, “astral bodies”.
Similarly, images float around the narrator of Freezing Moon –supernatural phenomena from medieval mythology (diabolical shapes) float by as if projected by a magic lantern, and the coldness and darkness of the world he stumbles through are “…remembered as from a dream”. In these last five words, even the coldness and darkness which are so central to the lyrics are modulated into a image as indistinct and vague as the half-forgotten images we strain to recall when we wake up.
For Proust, the floating images connect to time: “When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly host. Instinctively, when he awakes, he looks to these, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the amount of time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks”. As this last sentence shows, time for Proust is not a linear continuum wherein events occur in an irreversible order: it is a continuum which circles slowly around the drowsy head of the narrator, a continuum wherein the order in which events occur can easily be broken, become confused, be rearranged or be reversed. Thus, not only the amount of time that has elapsed during sleep becomes uncertain, but also the position of a man on the earth’s surface. Proust shows man’s anchor in space to have come loose through the power of dream.
Time is also an important issue in the lyrics of Freezing Moon. Again and again, words are used which point to time, either directly (…Again/In The Corner Of This Time/…/Eternity Opens/…Again/As In Ancient Times) or indirectly, through memory (I Remember It…/I Remember…). In Freezing Moon’s dreamy world, the temporal order is not linear but circular. History repeats itself. Things that have happened, happen again. It is night again. It is cold again. The cemetery lights up again, as in ancient times. Like the narrator in the past, fallen souls die by following the freezing moon, replicating the death of the protagonist. The deaths of those who follow in the footsteps of the narrator, prove that more is at stake then mere paramnesia (déja vu): at stake is a true recurrence of events. Nietzsche called the idea of such a recurrence of events "horrifying and paralyzing", appropriate emotions for a black metal song as powerful as Freezing Moon.
Recurrence of events points towards circular time, which in it’s turn connects to eternity. For if time is circular, it is without end. The Ouroboros, the mythological monstrous snake that forms a circle by biting it’s own tail, is a very apt symbol of eternity, as well as a symbol of the void. Thus, it is not unexpected that the lyrics of Freezing Moon speak of eternity opening, like a horrifying maw.
In the same way the narrator died, the fallen souls following the freezing moon die. Death repeated in cycles was the subject of two films which were recent when the lyrics to Freezing Moon were written in the mid-1980’s: Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining”, (1980) and Lucio Fulci’s "Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero", (1981). In Fulci’s film, it is the role of the victim which is repeated – in Kubrick’s film, it is the role of the aggressor. The protagonist of Freezing Moon is both victim (‘I Remember It Was Here I Died’) as well as cannibalistic sacrificer (‘I Please My Hunger, On Living Humans’). In uniting these roles, Freezing Moon encompasses the totality of the movement of sacrifice.
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining brings me to my last observations regarding Freezing Moon. Not only wintry landscapes and cyclic time connect Freezing Moon to The Shining: the film and the song also share the theme of cannibalism.
In The Shining, as the family travels to the Overlook hotel, Jack Torrance talks about a wagon train that was stranded in the mountains over the winter and about the pioneers having to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The hotel manager describes as 'cabin fever', the occasion the previous winter caretaker went mad and hacked his family to death: cabin fever being the legendary name for cannibalism by early settlers, cooped up together over winter in a log cabin without a food supply. As the Overlook Hotel has been built on a Native American cemetery, legends of ‘cabin fever’ build on the mythology of the Windigo psychosis, a culture-bound psychiatric syndrome prevalent among the Algonquian-speaking tribes of Northern America. In the mythology of these tribes, the Windigo is an evil cannibalistic spirit. According to Wikipedia “This myth was used as a deterrent and cautionary tale among northern tribes whose winters were long and bitter and whose hunting parties often were trapped in storms with no recourse but to consume members of their own party. It is also indicative of starvation that the Wendigo is said to consume moss and other unpalatable food when human flesh is unavailable. Thus the Wendigo myth is a personification of the hardships of winter and the taboo of cannibalism. Its physical deformities suggest starvation and frostbite”.
Likewise, cannibalism plays a role in Freezing Moon’s wintry landscape : “I Please My Hunger, On Living Humans/Night Of Hunger Follow It's Call”. The moon is identified with a night of hunger, both calling the lonely and hungry protagonist, calling for sacrifices through anthropophagy. With regard to this matter, the rumour that Euronymous would have consumed a part of Dead’s brain, cannot remain unmentioned.
The Freezing Moon can obsess you. Certainly, it’s eerie light has haunted me ever since I bought De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas two years ago.