Monday, May 25, 2009
Euronymous's Epistles (pt 6)
Thanks for the letter. Yes, Goateye is stone dead! He blew his brains out with a shotgun after cutting open all his veins on his wrists and his throat! Brutal as the devil!
Well, the reason for doing this was that he lived only for the EVIL black metal scene, and its lifestyle with rivets, chains, crosses black clothes and hell. Today all "death" metal bands have normal clothing and jogging pants and look as ordinary as they can, and the same goes for the audience who are nothing but trendy little kids with jogging pants and skateboards! When he discovered that only (with a few exceptions) trendy children listened to us and came to concerts, and that all he stood for with the old evil scene was laid to waste by kids and hardcore-moral-political-idiots; he decided to die. I have declared WAR on the trendy children and FALSE "death" metal bands! Normal people should FEAR death metal! They will DIE!
But I must add that it was interesting to be able to study (half) a human brain and rigor mortis. When I found him I naturally got my camera and took CLOSE-ups of the corpse from different angles, and me and Hellhammer found 2 large pieces of the cranium that we have hung in neck chains. The pictures will be used on the Mayhem album. We will NOT disband! No way in hell! We believe a curse has been laid on Mayhem because EVERYTHING goes to hell, but I will NEVER give up! No, we will not attend his funeral because Dead would have HATED that. + it is expensive and he will not notice it much anyway. His mother told us that we have to be there but I don't give a fuck, I'm not a fucking therapist. I'm counting on that our bass player will be there, but that is because he is a sentimental wimp-fucker who didn't even have the guts to see the BLOOD. We will probably have a new bass player soon."
This letter, written by Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, must be one of the most notorious epistles in the history of Metal, perhaps in the history of music. The letter, which was written following the suicide of "Dead" Per Yngve Ohlin, is notorious because of the cynical harnessing of Ohlin's suicide for Aarseth's aesthetics and ideology; because of Aarseth's refusal to attend Ohlin's funeral; because of the sheer physical revulsion which Aarseth's handling of Ohlin's body evokes; because of its sheer coldheartedness.
Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind's 1998 book Lords of Chaos emphasizes Aarseth's total lack of emotional warmth in responding to Ohlin's suicide. From an interview with Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen, the founder of legendary Norwegian metal magazine Slayer and record label Head Not Found, in that book:
"Euronymous wasn't worried about [the suicide]. It was just like a car accident: "Yeah, Dead killed himself." That's one thing about worshiping death - why worry when people die? Maybe he was upset, but he didn't show it."
It appears that Aarseth must have had a heart of stone.
However, a recent interview with Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud in The Observer casts doubts on Aarseth's supposedly cynical reaction to Ohlin's death.
"'Øystein called me up the next day,' recalls Necro Butcher, 'and says, "Dead has done something really cool! He killed himself." I thought, have you lost it? What do you mean cool? He says, "Relax, I have photos of everything." I was in shock and grief. He was just thinking how to exploit it. So I told him, "OK. Don't even fucking call me before you destroy those pictures."
'In retrospect,' Butcher muses. 'I think Øystein was shocked by Dead's suicide. And taking the photograph was the only way he could cope with it, like, "if I have to see this, then everybody else has to see it too".'"
In the same article Bård Eithun states that Ohlin's suicide caused Euronymous to become obsessed with all things satanic and evil. This too points towards a strong emotional reaction on the part of Aarseth to Ohlin's death.
Perhaps the seminal work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on dying, death and mourning can shed some light on the way Aarseth may have tried to deal with Ohlin's untimely death. On the basis of over 500 interviews with dying people, Kübler-Ross identified five stages by which people deal with grief and tragedy. These stages are 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression and 5) acceptance. In the context of this post, I feel the stages of denial and anger may well be the most relevant.
In Kübler-Ross's theory, after the initial shock caused by the loss of a loved one has worn off, the next stage is often one of denial. When in a state of denial, the bereaved ones effectively close their eyes to any evidence and pretend that nothing has happened. The next step after denial is often a sudden swing into anger, which often occurs in an explosion of emotion, where the bottled-up feelings of the previous stages are expulsed in a huge outpouring of grief. Whoever is in the way is likely to be blamed. The phrase 'Why me?' may be repeated in an endless loop in their heads. A part of this anger is also 'Why not you?', which fuels their anger at the those who are not affected, or perhaps not as seriously so.
In Aarseth's letter, young, fashionable, skateboarding metal aficionados are in the way. Also in the way is Jørn 'Necrobutcher' Stubberud ("the current sentimental wimp-fucker bassplayer") who (unlike Aarseth) is emotionally able to see eye-to-eye with Ohlin's death and attend his funeral. Is, as the interview with Stubberud suggests, the wide distribution of photographs of Ohlin's maimed corpse an act born from anger, a strategy to affect all who were unaffected by Ohlin's death? Is Aarseth's seemingly insensitive refusal to attend Ohlin's funeral a symptom of denial or anger?
In Kübler-Ross's theory, a common problem is that people get stuck in one of phases of the grief cycle. Thus a person may become stuck in denial, never moving on from the position of not accepting the loss of a bereaved one. When it happens, they still keep on denying the loss, such as the person who has lost their job still going into the city, still "going through the motions".
Does it go to far to suppose that the cold yet angry aesthetic of Mayhem's 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was a cryptic expression of anger at Ohlin's suicide? Does it go to far to conclude that perhaps the misanthropic rage and draining depression of Black Metal in general was shaped by mourning? Stubberud: "I think it was Dead's suicide that really changed the scene." From the article in The Observer: "'Afterwards, there was a change in mentality,' says Bård Eithun, who believes that Dead's suicide marked the point at which, under Euronymous's direction, the Black Metal scene began its obsession with all things satanic and evil."
Certainly, Dominic Fox's extremely interesting, forthcoming book Cold World puts forward the thesis that later, Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (Xasthur, Nortt) is informed by an aesthetics of mournful dejection. Fox describes Black Metal as a frozen constellation, as a “cold world” voided of both human warmth and metaphysical comfort, as a world made strange, a world that has ceased to be the “life-world”. "The cold world of black metal is a deliberate freezing of the world, fixing it within a terminal image, in order that its frost-bitten surface may be shattered by anonymous, inhuman forces rising from the depths of the self. It is a withdrawal of affect from the world, in order to experience “the eerie bliss and torture of solitude” and so discover the forces at war within oneself. "
Early Norwegian Black Metal was a wrathful rosebud, waiting to bloom into mournful depression.