Friday, August 14, 2009

Third Anniversary

August 14th 2006: "This blog has been inspired by my visit to the exhibition "Undercover Surrealism" at the Hayward Gallery in London. The blog is intended to contain doctrines, fine arts, ethnography, variety. Expect dusty things, ethnographies of one-man-Cthulhu Cults, confused concepts, black and blackened musics, untruths."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shock Xpress - Necrophilia in the Movies

"The last taboo! There's a phrase to be seen on the cover of many a paperback, and it usually turns out to refer to cannibalism. I wonder. There seems to be a general feeling that, in extreme circumstances, eating people may be excusable. Suppose, though, that the survivors of that notorious Andean air crash, rather than eating their dead fellows, had - well, you know...

In the endless list of strange sexual activities, all of which are enjoyed by someone, somewhere, necrophilia must rank pretty highly on the taboo scale. Furthermore, it may be the most extreme perversion to have been portrayed in generally available film."

In a fascinating article in the third Shock Xpress book ("A Coffin Named Desire"), Colin Davis delves into the depiction of necrophilia in the movies. This is the first post in a series of posts featuring films discussed in Davis's article.

Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette
(Dick Randall, 1974)

Flesh For Frankenstein
(Paul Morrissey and Antonio Margheriti, 1973)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Current 93 - Dögun (1988)

take the torch to daddy's house
take the flame to daddy's house
take the fires to daddy's house
take the torch to daddy's house
blood of my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust

take the flames to daddy's house
take the fires to daddy's house
build the pyres higher and higher
bring the flame to daddy's house
build the pyre, build the pyre
blood of my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust

take the flames to daddy's house
take the torch to daddy's house
take the flames to daddy's house
build the pyres higher and higher
build the pyres higher and higher
build the pyres higher and higher

take the fire to daddy's house
take the flames to daddy's house
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood of my blood, dust to my dust

take the flames to daddy's house
take the fires to daddy's house
build the pyres higher and higher
blood to my blood, dust to my dust
blood to my blood, dust to my dust

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aarseth Watching Video pt. 2 - The Apathy of Euronymous

From this interview with Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth from June 1992:

"Is the life you are living OK for you? If you could change something what would it be?

Yeah, it’s quite OK. I’d just like to have extremely much money. Then DSP would be a big company, we would all have the POWER in this part of the music business, and I would live in luxury with a harem and watch the children in Africa starve to death on video.


If you could change something in the world, what would it be then?

I would get all things back to what they were during the cold war, then I would mix it with the barbarianism of the Viking ages and middle ages. I would make people more religious and fanatic. And I would have taken over the Black/Death metal movement from the beginning and seen to it that only evil bands could have existed. And I would have lots of money while others were starving. I would NOT do anything with starving children in Africa, if you’re thinking about that. They can die."

The formation of Mayhem in 1984 coincided with the terrible famine which occurred in Ethiopia in 1984-1985. It seems likely that Aarseth's pitiless remarks were inspired by this humanitarian disaster. In Ethiopia, drought, agricultural mismanagement, corruption and violent tyranny had conspired to cause a drastic fall in the production of food and cash crops. Close to 8 million people became famine victims during the drought of 1984, and over 1 million died.

Ethiopia had been a Marxist-Leninist state since the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in September 1974. During the famine, it was ruled by the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. This regime had killed an estimated 500.000 people in the so-called Red Terror. Mengistu was one of the Communist dictators along the lines of Pol Pot, Nicolai Ceaucescu and Enver Hoxha: implacable despots of the kind for whom Aarseth expressed so much admiration (read more in these posts 1, 2, 3 and in this post).

The famine generated intense media activity in the West. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure founded the supergroup Band Aid to produce the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" charity single, and went on to organize the July 1985 concert Live Aid, which raised $100m for humanitarian aid.



Aarseth's remarks are heartless. Seen from an analytical point of view, they stand in marked contrast to his reception of snuff films, as examined in this post. In the interview which formed the basis for that post, Aarseth described how, consuming 'snuff films', he identified with the victims, vicariously experiencing their suffering: "
That is the best way to watch such a movie to try to FEEL the actual pain of the victims. It becomes much more gruesome then, and that's great. One must be alone in the darkness and suffer with the victims." In the interview quoted above, however, we find no trace of identification with the famine victims. On the contrary, Aarseth seems to create the greatest distance possible between himself and the hungry children.

In the interview quoted above, Aarseth proposes to watch videos of starving African children not in solitude but in the company of the sensual young women that inhabit harems, naked odalisques whose sole purpose is pleasing the autocrat to whom they have given themselves (for a moment, I imagined an aging Aarseth as a corpse-painted Black Metal Berlusconi). One can be sure that the consumption of these videos would be accompanied by laughter, talking and so on - which in the other interview was deemed undesirable because it would distance the viewer from the gruesomeness of the snuff film. Likewise, the luxury in which Aarseth desires to live would distance him from the poverty-stricken, powerless Ethiopians.

There is no trace left of the sympathetic identification with the victims which was so prominent in the previous interview. Like a Sadean debauchee, Aarseth strives only to enjoy the privileges of inequality, transforming the heartrending sight of starving children into a purely egotistical pleasure. The lack of compassion and solidarity is complete.

Aarseth's thinking seems to parallel that of the Marquis de Sade, as analyzed by Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot saw Sade as an emotionally apathetic man:

"Apathy is the spirit of negation as applied to a man who has chosen to be sovereign. It is in some way the cause or the principle of energy. Sade appears to argue more or less as follows: the individual today represents a certain amount of force: most of the time he disperses his strength for the benefit of those ghosts called other people, God or the ideal; by this expenditure he wrongly exhausts and wastes his potentialities, but what is worse, he is basing his conduct on weakness, for if he expends himself for others it is because he believes he needs their support. This is a fatal lapse. He weakens himself by vain expenditure of energy and he expends his energy because he believes he is weak. The strong man knows that he is alone and accepts that condition; he repudiates the whole inheritance of seventeen centuries of cowardice that would make him turn to others. Pity, gratitude and love are all feelings he destroys, and in destroying them he recuperates all the force he would have spent on those debilitating impulses and, more important, he derives the beginning of a real energy from his work of destruction."

Does it go too far to call Mayhem an anti-Band Aid?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shock Xpress - Massimo Pupillo (pt. 2)

In an article in the third Shock Xpress book, movie journalist Lucas Balbo interviews director Massimo Pupillo. These are some movies mentioned in the article.

Il Boia Scarlatto
(Massimo Pupillo, 1965)

Bill Il Taciturno
(Massimo Pupillo, 1967)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Aarseth Watching Video pt. 1 - Euronymous, Saint of the Pit

"La sainte de l’abîme est plus sainte à mes yeux!"

Gérard de Nerval, Artémis

From this interview with Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth (conducted probably shortly after Per Yngve Ohlin's suicide on April 8th, 1991):

"And now over to something more humouristic...yes... snuff-movies. Who had been the perfect actor for a snuff-movie, and why the hell aren't they legalized? Don't you think that every video-store should have its own section with snuff-movies?

EURO: Actually I think it's great that movies like that are forbidden. If they were legal and easily accessible, all the small trend children would be watching them, and then it would not be something extreme anymore. It's just the same what happened to death metal it became something everyone could buy in every store, something normal and accessible for everyone. All the mystic and evil atmosphere is GONE. I do not think snuff-movies are funny, I think they are DARK. I've seen people laugh at them, but that's probably because they will not be themselves. That is the best way to watch such a movie to try to FEEL the actual pain of the victims. It becomes much more gruesome then, and that's great. One must be alone in the darkness and suffer with the victims. If you watch it with other people, they will often talk, laugh and so on, and then you get more distanced from it. It's not supposed to be funny (death to fun), it's much better when it's depressive."

In the early nineties, the Norwegian state practiced a severe system of censorship. Horror films were either heavily cut or banned outright. Even relatively innocuous British horror films such as British horror films such as House of Whipcord and Twins of Evil were forbidden.

In all probability, Aarseth was bluffing when he claimed he had seen snuff movies. Snuff movies, films which depict the actual killing of a human being, are nothing more than an urban legend. In the (thoroughly researched) 1994 book "Killing For Culture. An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff" film journalists David Kerekes and David Slater concluded that no such films have existed anywhere, at any time. Probably, Aarseth made the common error of mistaking notorious gore films such as Man Behind The Sun, Cannibal Holocaust and Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood for actual snuff movies; another possibility is that Aarseth categorized films from the Faces of Death series as snuff films.

Kerekes and Slater made some useful observations with regards to the social function of the myth of the snuff movie:

"Snuff is the ultimate debase, a monster that must exist because it cannot be proven not to exist. As such it is exploited by campaigners fighting 'Satanism', pornography and 'video nasties'. For bureaucrats seeking publicity and missionaries seeking funds, it is a tool - the demonized apotheosis that necessitates their crusade. It is what the public must fear and what these bodies will serve to protect the public from (and in recognizing it, will themselves remain untouched and immune). For the 'transgressives', on the other hand, it is the next inevitable step down the slippery slope - like all marijuana smokers will become crack addicts; like all beer drinkers will turn to hard spirits; like all porn viewers will resort to sex crime."

The myth of the snuff film, constructed by ".. bureaucrats seeking publicity and missionaries seeking funds..." was appropriated and used by Aarseth. This imaginary terror, this demented obsession of modern-day inquisitors, inspired Aarseth to wrest the demonic power of the snuff movie from his contemporary media landscape to cast that image back at Norwegian society. By publicly, ostentatiously claiming to consume snuff movies, Aarseth desired to become Norwegian society's "...ultimate debase...".

"Actually I think it's great that movies like that are forbidden." Aarseth's words illustrate the observation that transgression is a 'dual operation', an interplay between interdiction and transgression. Neither transgression nor interdiction can take place or have meaning without the other. Transgression does not deny the interdiction: on the contrary, it reaffirms the interdiction. For Aarseth, if snuff movies wouldn't be forbidden, if they would be legal and easily accessible, they would be meaningless. Aarseth needed his bureaucrats, missionaries and inquisitors. Aarseth was not only an artist who desperately desired to ruin that staid Christian society of which he was a part; he also was an artist who longed for a society that would deny his right to exist.

Where (inquisitorial?) criticism and theory regard the consumer of horror films to be in a sadistic-voyeuristic collusion with the camera, Aarseth "...suffer[ed] with the victims", as if he attempted to open up the boundary of the silver screen to feel "...the actual pain of the victims." Rather than assaultive, Aarseth's gaze is receptive, introjective, opening up to the pain of the victims. Carol Clover's classic 1992 book Men, Women and Chain Saws. Gender in the Modern Horror Film suggests that Aarseth's reception of snuff films is structured similarly to the reception of horror films:

"The evidence suggests that the first and central aim of horror cinema is to play to masochistic fears and desires in its audiences - fears and desires that are repeatedly figured as 'feminine.' It may play on other fears and desires too, but dealing out pain is its defining characteristic; sadism, by definition, plays at best a supporting role. To the extent that a movie succeeds in 'hurting' its viewers in this way, it is horror; to the extent that it does not try, it is not horror but something else."

Even if Clover is wrong to simply identify the consumption of horror films with sadomasochistic practices, she is right in the sense that both masochism and the consumption of horror films foreground an intimate sensation of corporeal suffering. With Karmen MacKendrick, both masochism and the consumption of horror films can be described as a 'counterpleasure', which are "...pleasures which queer our notion of pleasure, consisting in or coming through pain, frustration, refusal. (...) They are pleasures that refuse the sturdy subjective center, defying one's own survival, promising the death not of the body but, for an impossible moment, of the subject..." (sourced here).

Aarseth's approach to the consumption of snuff movies was solitary and contemplative: "One must be alone in the darkness and suffer with the victims. If you watch it with other people, they will often talk, laugh and so on, and then you get more distanced from it." Rather than consuming these films in a gregarious manner, Aarseth experienced the agony of the victims in solitude. For Aarseth, the consumption of these films must take place outside the banalities of ordinary life, cut off from the normal communication of emotions.

In the citation above, Aarseth expressly linked his ideal way of consuming these film to the experience of a "
mystic and evil atmosphere": i.e. to mysticism and the left-handed sacred. This is particularly interesting in connection to the consumption of horror films as a counterpleasure which threatens the death of the subject. It would seem that the experience of corporeal suffering through the contemplative consumption of horror films is not only close to eroticism, but also to (left-handed) sanctity. Bataille: "The Saint is not after efficiency. He is prompted by desire and desire alone and in this resembles the erotic man." (sourced here).

In the white light of the desert,
Christian hermit Saints identied ecstatically with a tortured and crucified Christ. In the pit-like darkness of his room, illuminated only by the somber blue light of the cathode tube, an enraptured Aarseth identified with the tortured and murdered victims of snuff films.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Shock Xpress - Massimo Pupillo (pt. 1)

"In Terror Creatures, when I needed a jumping heart, I prepared the effect myself without the aid of any specialist. First I bought a pig's heart and a Japanese toy for a dollar. It was a little doll with a rubber ball hand-pump connected to it. When you squeezed the rubber ball, the doll jumped. I inserted this mechanism into the pig heart and it worked perfectly. Thump, thump, thump. The heart would beat perfectly as soon as you squeezed the pump."

In an article in the third Shock Xpress book, movie journalist Lucas Balbo interviews director Massimo Pupillo. These are some movies mentioned in the article.

L'Amore Primitivo
(Luigi Scattini, 1964)

5 Tombe Per Un Medium (Massimo Pupillo, 1965)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Black Youth

Given the current controversy in the blogosphere over Sonic Youth, I was intrigued by this excellent Decibel Magazine interview with SY's Thurston Moore in which he extensively discusses his predilection for Black Metal:

"I remember Sonic Youth playing in Scandinavia at the end of the ’80s and early ’90s and all the kids there were getting into local metal stuff. I remember them walking us around to record stores and they all had long hair and leather jackets and they were all kind of morose. I remember going to this one store in Oslo where all they were playing was Deicide. [Laughs] Deicide was coming to town and they were really excited about it—more excited than they were to see Sonic Youth. And then there was all this local stuff, like the first Mayhem recordings. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time because it just seemed like sub-Venom. So I didn’t really start listening to black metal until maybe the last ten years or something. I was into certain things, like the first Burzum record. I remember buying that in Scandinavia after I’d read about it somewhere. That record was cool because it was so unusual. It had this very displaced kind of quality to it. It was more avant-garde compared to most metal—it was almost alien. But I wasn’t really following it too much."

Does Moore's 'confession' confirm SY's supposed avant-conservatism? Does this prove their alleged role as a "hypervisible simulation of an alternative within the mainstream" (sourced here)? Or, to put it in Black Metal terms: are SY really posers? Or is it part of their fandom, carried over from punk, "a demolition of the fourth wall of the stage of performance which is designed to have a liberatory, anti-hierarchical effect, putting the band down among the audience." (sourced here).

Personally, I stopped following SY after their 2000 album NYC Ghosts and Flowers. Nonetheless, I saw them live a few times after that; I enjoyed their shows immensely.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Saenredam's Nothingness

"Hanging in the Dutch museums are works by a minor master who may be as deserving of literary renown as Vermeer. Saenredam paints neither faces nor objects, but chiefly vacant church interiors, reduced to the beige and innocuous unction of butterscotch ice cream. These churches, where there is nothing to be seen but expanses of wood and whitewashed plaster, are irremediably unpeopled, and this negation goes much further than the destruction of idols. Never has nothingness been so confident. Saenredam's sugary, stubborn surfaces calmly reject the Italian overpopulation of statues, as well as the horror vacui professed by other Dutch painters. Saenredam is a painter of the absurd; he has achieved a privative state of the subject, more insidious than the dislocations of our contemporaries. To paint so lovingly these meaningless surfaces, and to paint nothing else - that is already a "modern" aesthetic of silence."

Roland Barthes, "The World As Object" (sourced here).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shock Xpress - Nowhere Nice (pt. 5)

In the first article of the third Shock Xpress book (titled 'Shock'), "Five Nights In Nowhere Nice", music journalist David Kerekes tells of his depressing experiences as a subscriber to cable television. Here are some trailers of films mentioned by Kerekes in the article.

The Astro-Zombies (Ted V. Mikels, 1968)

Skinned Alive (Jon Killough, 1990)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Euronymous's Epistles (pt 7)

This may well be the final post in the series "Euronymous's Epistles". Thanks to the generosity of Chagrynn, I've been able to write a series of posts that taken together formed a fragment of the story of Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth's life, as well a fragment as the larger histories of Mayhem and Black Metal, can be read through these letters. I hope that these post have fed your obsession with all things black and blackened; you can read the entire series by clicking on the 'epistles' tag below.

I should very much like to write more about Euronymous's letter-writing, and I am sure that many more letters are lying about in the closets and cupboards of the readers of this blog - even if some, such as fellow blogger Ophis 666, lost the letters in the years since Aarseth's death...

For this reason, I once more call upon the readership of this blog to send scanned versions of any of Aarseth's letters to surrealdocuments [at]

"I Hate ___"

I hate Air

... even if it's a bit obvious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Det Svarte Alvor

Det Svarte Alvor ("The Black Seriousness") is a Black Metal documentary from NRK, the Norwegian Television, from 1994, directed by Gunnar Grøndahl. Even if the documentary miscontrues Black Metal's theistic Satanism as (atheistic) LaVeyan Satanism, the documentary is interesting enough.

Here is a transcript of the documentary, including information on the production of the documentary.

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.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shock Xpress - Nowhere Nice (pt. 4)

In the first article of the third Shock Xpress book (titled 'Shock'), "Five Nights In Nowhere Nice", music journalist David Kerekes tells of his experiences as a subscriber to cable television. Here are some trailers of films mentioned by Kerekes in the article.

L'Abîme des Morts Vivants
(Jesus Franco, 1981)

Tian Whang Jou Whang
(Tso Nam Lee, 1976)

Vikernes Released

From the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet:

Out of prison

After almost 16 years in prison, Varg Vikernes (36) is a free man.

"I can confirm that I have been let out of prison," said Vikernes to Dagbladet.

In February this year he received the final message from Prison Authorities that he would be free in the summer.

And a couple of weeks ago he got out.

Vikernes has spent the last couple of years in the so-called open prison in Tromsø, where he has spent much time on studies at the University in the city.

Now he has moved home to the family on a small farm in Telemark, where he lives with his French wife and their eighteen-year-old son.

- "I have to report in for one year. Every fourteenth day at first, then once a month," Vikernes told Dagbladet earlier this year.

Vikernes was imprisoned from 1994 after a verdict (21 years), and was on parole in 2006, but due to a new law that came in 2002, he got two more years.

The 36-year-old got four off the application for parole until he had the final answer.

- "I have barely seen my son since he came to the world. Although I hear his voice on the phone almost every day, it is very tough to not be present when he grows up. I miss my family. And I look forward the day that I can work on the farm, make music, write books and be with your wife and kids around the clock - and live a normal life as a family," said Vikernes to Dagbladet last summer.

Film on "Greven"
In September, the recording of "Lords of chaos" begins - the movie about Vikernes and the Norwegian black metal scene. The film is based on the book "Lord of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal underground" by Didrik Søderlind and Michael Moynihan. Not all the black metal scene is just as excited about visualization.

- "I for one am not very enthusiastic, "said Vikernes to Dagbladet.

- "The events that happened are interesting and fascinating, "said producer Stuart Pollok to Dagbladet.

Vikernes, also known as "Count", was sentenced to 21 years in prison on May 16th 1994 for murder of Øystein Aarseth and to have burned down Åsane church in Bergen, Skjold Church in the world and Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo - and the attempts of arson in the Big Tveit Church in Bergen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Euronymous's Epistles (pt 5)

I am the knife and the wound it deals,
I am the slap and the cheek,
I am the wheel and the broken limbs,
hangman and victim both!

I am the vampire at my own veins,
one of the great lost horde
doomed for the rest of my time, and beyond,
'to laugh - and smile no more'.

From "Self-tormentor" by Charles Baudelaire


The letters which Chagrynn sent me, mention several times 'Dead' Per Yngve Ohlin's acts of auto-mutilation. Read in chronological order, the letters tell a story of an escalating infliction of harm to the body.

From the first letter: "And if the gig is very good, Dead will cut himself up and bleed on the audience."

From the second letter: "About Dead, he IS insane. I think those rumours you heard are a bit untrue, he doesn't day ha's [sic] been dead 3 times, but he believes that he's the incarnation of Vlad (Dracula). He cut himself up pretty extreme at a gig we did, and if he gets too drunk he also cuts, but not only himself, unfortunately. At new years eve he almost cut up his artery, but he don't remember anything himself. I do. We had to put handcuffs on him."

The third letter contains a handwritten postscriptum which reads: "P.S. Very important: Dead is probably going to cut himself totally to pieces at one of the gigs (at least), so it's great if you found out where the nearest hospitals are, in case he's dying. Thanks!"

Surprisingly, the final letter, which recounts how Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth found Ohlin's body after his suicide on April 8th 1991, makes no mention of automutilation.


The wikipedia entry on self-injury states: "Self-harm is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) as a symptom of borderline personality disorder and depressive disorders. It is sometimes associated with mental illness, a history of trauma and abuse including emotional abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders, or mental traits such as low self-esteem or perfectionism, but a statistical analysis is difficult, as many self-injurers conceal their injuries. (...) A common belief regarding self-injury is that it is an attention-seeking behaviour; however, in most cases, this is inaccurate. Many self-injurers are very self-conscious of their wounds and scars and feel guilty about their behavior leading them to go to great lengths to conceal their behavior from others. They may offer alternative explanations for their injuries, or conceal their scars with clothing. Self-injury in such individuals is not associated with suicidal or para-suicidal behavior. The person who self-injures is not usually seeking to end his or her own life; it has been suggested instead that he or she is using self-injury as a coping mechanism to relieve emotional pain or discomfort."

The wikipedia entry shows that Ohlin was an atypical self-injurer in two respects. First, rather than hiding his wounds, Ohlin flaunted his self-injury, cutting himself in front of audiences during Black Metal concerts. Second, Ohlin's self-injury cannot be disassociated from his suicide.


While it seems obvious that there must have been a link between Ohlin's psychological problems and his practice of self-injury, the fact that Ohlin cut himself ostentatiously as part of a Black Metal concert points to the fact that his auto-mutilation was enmeshed with Black Metal culture. Thus, Ohlin's self-injury was not a private practice, but one that was eminently social.

Ohlin cut himself to bleed on his audience. Lacerating the surface of his body, Ohlin opened a channel of communication between himself and the assembled crowd. To paraphrase The Three Degrees: "Blood is the Message". If, in religious ritual, one sacrifices in order to communicate with the gods, Ohlin made libations of his blood to communicate with those who attended the concerts.

The relationship between the quality of the Black Metal concert and Ohlin's public acts of self-injury is particularly interesting: "And if the gig is very good, Dead will cut himself up and bleed on the audience." Evidently, the communal enthusiasm of a succesful Black Metal concert engendered in Ohlin this frightful desire to spill his own blood. This allows me to interpret Ohlin's bloodspilling as part of a cycle of gift exchange between the musician and his audience. When Mayhem's musicians gave themselves over to their Black Metal, the audience reciprocated with a frenzied movement, shaking their heads until their minds were a blur; and when Ohlin, in his turn, accepted the audience's gift of enthusiasm, he gave back his own blood. Blood, a heterogeneous and revolting fluid, charged by Black Metal with hatred and disgust, signalled that the world of self-interest and self-preservation had been abandoned by the artist and challenged the audience to do likewise.

Exceeding the expression of an individual mental disorder, Ohlin's public acts of self-injury can be designated as acts of sacrifice.


Prima facie, Ohlin's self-injury cannot be disassociated from his suicide.

However, Ohlin's suicide note read "Excuse all the blood". This apology implies that it would have been preferable if the blood had been absent. Thus, the suicide note stands in striking contrast to Ohlin's ostentatious spilling of blood. A further contrast between Ohlin's acts of self-injury and his suicide is that while the acts of self-injury were public performances, his suicide was a private act, which took place in a situation of complete social isolation.

From an interview with Jan Axel "Hellhammer" von Blomberg, Mayhem's drummer:

In the beginning of the ’90s we rented an old deserted house in the forest. We needed a place for rehearsals, so we ended up in that house. It would take twenty minutes to get to the nearest shop, and we had to go by train to the nearest town. People who walked by our house, fastened their steps. They were afraid of us. And teachers from the nearby schools told children: “Do not come up to this house. The house is haunted!” Everybody hated us, but we enjoyed it. Euronymous was busy with his label and spent all the days typing something. I played drums and Dead would lock in his room being permanently depressed. So that was the way we lived: each of us was in his own world. Euronymous and Dead didn’t get along well. Dead didn’t trust Euronymous. The verbal fights turned to real bloody beatings. I got tired of their quarrels and moved to my grandmother’s, coming back merely to rehears. One day I decided to go to Oslo with my friends. Before the departure I met Dead. He was grim and depressed: “Look, I bought a big knife. It’s very sharp.” Those were the last words I heard from him.

Euronymous was leaving with me that day. He went to town on his label’s business. Some days later, when Euronymous came back, the house looked deserted. The front door was locked and there was no key in our secret place. Euronymous went round the house and noticed that the window to Dead’s room was opened. He got to the house and saw Dead lying on the floor: a part of his head was blown away by the gun’s shot. Euronymous hitchhiked a car to the nearest town to buy a film for camera. Then he returned and made a shot of Dead’s corpse. I was surprised at having noticed that the knife laid on the gun. It should lay under it... May be Euronymous never went to town that day... When Euronymous called me, he was not talkative. “Dead went back home,” he said. “Back to Sweden?” I wondered. “No, he’s blown his head.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shock Xpress - Nowhere Nice (pt. 3)

In the first article of the third Shock Xpress book (titled 'Shock'), "Five Nights In Nowhere Nice", music journalist David Kerekes tells of his experiences as a subscriber to cable television. Here are some trailers of films mentioned by Kerekes in the article.

Troma's War (Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, 1988)

Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Euronymous's Epistles (pt 4)

Chagrynn sent me a handwritten interview with Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. It is reproduced below.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shock Xpress - Nowhere Nice (pt. 2)

In the first article of the third Shock Xpress book (titled 'Shock'), "Five Nights In Nowhere Nice", music journalist David Kerekes tells of his experiences as a subscriber to cable television. Here are some trailers of films mentioned by Kerekes in the article.

The Toxic Avenger, Part II (Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, 1989)

Eaten Alive
(Tobe Hooper, 1977)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Euronymous's Epistles (pt. 3) - the political economy of DSP

The letters which Chagrynn sent me, allow analysis of the economic side of Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth's independent record label, Deathlike Silence Productions (DSP). An analysis of the economic side of Aarseth's work is relevant for the understanding of Black Metal, as Black Metal should be seen as a Maussian 'total social phenomenon' rather than only a musical one. Black Metal is a aesthetic, religious, mythological, (counter-)juridical, economical and social phenomenon. Black Metal is bound up with all kinds of sociological institutions. The letters which Chagrynn sent me allow me to understand the way Aarseth conducted DSP in the socio-cultural context of that record label.

In the first letter to Morgan "Evil" Håkansson, DSP is still in a very early stage: "Yeah, we're distributing some records, we'll make a list when we get more. We must get DSP registered as a firm first also. But we quit the idea of making it non profit, because this takes so much time - I'm working 15 hours at least each day, so it'd just kill us." DSP's working methods were rather informal: "I don't know if you are interested in sending money first, that helps us a LOT in the process of starting up this label, we are really low on cash, but if you also are, I'm sending you the records first, and you can send cash when they're sold. It's up to you."

Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind in their 1998 book Lords of Chaos see this way of running DSP as evidence of Aarseth's ineptitude as a businessman.

What strikes me about this letter is the level of trust, the cooperative character of the behavior. Following Francis Fukuyama's 1995 book Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity, I'd argue that this level of trust not only point to a set of norms shared within music-oriented youth subcultures, but to a high level of trust in Scandinavian society in general. High-trust societies, like Norway and Sweden, do not have the need to negotiate and often litigate rules and regulations, that low-trust societies (China, France, Italy, Korea) have. From this perspective, Moynihan's disparaging remarks on Aarseth's business acumen might well reflect his American background, the USA being a relatively individualistic, low-trust (cynical) society compared to Scandinavia. Furthermore, one might hypothesize that Moynihan's view of Aarseth's naive or trusting way of doing bussiness also reflect Moynihan's LaVeyan Satanist ideology. This ideology promotes egoism in the form of an Ayn Randian agonistic capitalism with religious trappings. Aarseth opposed LaVeyan Satanism on theological and ideological grounds: "I can also say that I will NEVER accept any band which preaches CHURCH OF SATAN ideas, as they are just a bunch of freedom, and life-loving atheists, and they stand exactly the opposite of me." (sourced here)

By the time the second letter is written, Aarseth's ambitions have grown considerably. He hopes to expand DSP's operations by recruiting Håkansson as a representative of DSP in Sweden. "The plan is to organize a network of concert arrangers under the name Deathlike Silence also, so that a lot of bands can keep touring in different countries without problems. The idea is (to explain shortly) to get a guy to start up DEATHLIKE SILENCE SWEDEN, and manage the whole network with record distribution, concert arranging, promotion, etc etc, and even start up a shop only for underground stuff. He'll start up all those things as different departments, and get a guy to be the chief of record distribution, one for concert arranging and so on. In the end we'd have a great network for death metal which would be totally independent of the commercial market which is controlled by the big labels. So I was wandering if you'd like to join in as the chief of the DSP concert arranging department in Sweden or something?"

Aarseth's dreams of DSP as an multinational underground organization are a little grandiose, the type of fantasy inexperienced young people often have (Aarseth was only 21 at the time). I'm reminded of a friend, in his early twenties, one night proposed to start an tv station with a small group of friends - long before the Internet started to make such plans even remotely feasible. Nevertheless, this friend now runs a film production company, which proves that even the most unrealistic dreams can provide the impetus for very real businesses. Rather than proof of a lack of entrepreneurial skill, these dreams betray ambition.

Furthermore, one does not need to stretch the imagination to see residual traces of Socialist ideals in Aarseth's proposal. In effect, Aarseth proposes that DSP should become a musicians' cooperative, a business organization owned and operated by a group of Black Metal musicians and concert arrangers for their mutual benefit. Such cooperatives have their roots in Socialism. It should be borne in mind that Aarseth at the time was a member of a radical left wing political group called Rød Ungdom ("Red Youth"). A hammer and sickle (), symbol of Communism, are carefully drawn under each and every letter as part of Aarseth's signature, underlining the importance of Socialist ideas for Aarseth's personal identity.

The letters to Pocho Metallica, as well as the letters to Morgan "Evil" Håkansson, make clear how important the international underground network of Metal aficionados was for the functioning of DSP. "Now I have a big request for you, if you know any DEATH METAL bands from ARGENTINA, URUGUAY, BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY, or VENEZUELA, could you please tell them to write or give me their adress? I'm dying to get in touch with people from there! (...) Do you think that there would be any chance of setting up a Mayhem gig in ARGENTINA one day? It'd be a fucking dream coming true to play in South America! We have got great contacts in COLOMBIA now, at the end of this letter I will give you a couple of adresses! I suppose that you remember that I had my own record label (DEATHLIKE SILENCE), well now I'm looking for distributors all over the world, and I was wondering if you were interested in helping me! Everybody who sell [sic] at least 10 copies (or preferably more) of one album, will receive one free copy, + they can sell it for as much as they want. (...) You'll of course pay when you've sold them."

What is conspicuous about the relationships which the letters describe, is the absence of bargaining and negotiation. The relationships which were set up under the sign of DSP appear to be closer to the spirit of gift exchange than that of trade. Unlike 'normal' capitalistic relationships, the objects which Aarseth distributed through DSP were inseparable from the concrete relations in which they were exchanged, they were inseparable from the transferential pact which they sealed between Aarseth and the Metal aficionados with whom he exchanged letters. DSP can be seen as a ceremonial exchange system, as Black Metal Kula Ring. The DSP records had a value which exceeded (and, in a sense, undermined) their economic exchange value: a symbolic exchange value. Undermined? Yes, symbolic exchange should be primarily seen as a giving-away, as a loss.

The band members of Mayhem were as poor as church rats. The first letter explains: "And we'd like to at least get our expenses paid, we wont charge anything, but if you have the possibility to get us some cash for the gig(s), we won't mind too much... we're really broke, and it's great to get some money to help us to survive." From the second letter: "We didn't have places to stay for a while, Dead even had to live in a car." From the third letter: "We are fucking broke, else we might have afforded to pay some ourselves, we don't even have food here, sorry!" From the eighth letter: "Concerning the money you mentioned in your last letter to the goat, (for Merciless), take all the time you need. But we ARE very broke..."

If we relate Aarseth's grinding poverty to the 15 hour work day mentioned in the first letter, we are inevitably led to the conclusion that (regardless of Aarseth's entrepreneurial acumen) DSP wasn't successful from a commercial point of view. From an economic perspective, it was a waste of time. However, from a broader perspective however, the expenditure of the energy required for a 15 hour work day for an commercially unfeasible goal reveals DSP to be a 'labor of love', which does not answer the need for profit.

In an interview, Aarseth mentions dreaming of becoming rich: "I’d just like to have extremely much money. Then DSP would be a big company, we would all have the POWER in this part of the music business, and I would live in luxury with a harem and watch the children in Africa starve to death on video." However, I see these nauseating statements merely as attempts to shock the audiences of the interviews by transgressing the humanitarian, social-democrat ideals which dominated Norway at the time. They can not be interpreted as a genuine desire to accumulate capital - if it had been, Aarseth would have chosen a more remunerative line of work than Black Metal musician!

If DSP doesn't answer the need for profit, to what does it answer? To examine this, I turn to the Black Metal content of DSP's products - music recordings and concerts.

Mayhem's Black Metal is a music which aims to provoke dread and horror through symbolic representations of tragic loss (degradation and death). It would go too far beyond the scope of the present post to analyze thoroughly the many ways in which unproductive expenditure is thematized in Mayhem's music: war, Satanic cultism, spectacles, cannibalism, and perverse sexual activity (sodomy, which deflects sexuality from genital finality) are perhaps the most important. All these represent activities which - at least in the primitive culture of Black Metal - have no end beyond themselves. They are not meant to be productive, but on the contrary waste utilitarian objects and human bodies.

As for the concerts: Mayhem may well be seen as a Satanic cult which requires a bloody wasting of animals in sacrifice - pigs specifically, whose putrescent heads are displayed on stakes during Mayhem concerts. As Aarseth warned Morgan "Evil" Håkansson in the first letter : "But be aware that we're having a pretty disgusting show, which includes pig heads on stakes, stench of corpses/rotting meat on stage, and some cool effects like that. And if the gig is very good, Dead will cut himself up and bleed on the audience." And from the third letter: "What more? Yeah, the stage show! If we had a car, we could bring some pig heads and stuff ourselves, but that's not possible in a plane. So if you can get some heads for us, it would be fucking great, it's hard to get the right concert feeling without. The best would be to have 4 heads on each gig, they will be destroyed during the gig! Tell me what you think! If you have to order from a butcher, you'd better do it pretty fast, as it probably takes some time for him to get them. Heads from pigs, goats, cows, horses and oxen are great. It's pretty important! Fuck, would I like to see that show with the butchery of a goat!"

These wasteful practices provide a symbolic context from which to analyze Aarseth's activities under the banner of DSP. They provide us with a background which helps us understand why Aarseth would work at least fifteen hours a day for no profit to speak of; and why DSP's practices resemble gift exchange rather than 'normal' business strategies.

DSP's activities cannot be reduced entirely to processes of capitalistic production and accumulation. DSP also answers a need to lose and squander. It presents us not so much with a for-profit enterprise, but primarily with a means for unproductive expenditure. The economic functioning of DSP is not so much the result of Aarseth's possible ineptitude as a businessman, but of the fact that DSP aimed at limitless expenditure.

Interpreted this way, it be becomes clear that DSP was a 'total social phenomenon' rather than merely a capitalistic one. DSP was bound up inextricably with the aesthetic, religious, mythological, and social phenomenon that is Black Metal. To paraphrase Bataille, Black Metal condemns the musician to "...the most disappointing form of activity, to misery, to despair, to the pursuit of inconsistent shadows that provide nothing but vertigo or rage." The Black Metal musician can use his music only for his own loss.

Post scriptum

Scanned versions of any of Aarseth's letters are still extremely welcome! Please send them to surrealdocuments [at]

Here is a YouTube video which compiles songs from albums that were released by Deathlike Silence Productions.

Here (link) is a page with the DSP discography.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Shock Xpress - Nowhere Nice (pt. 1)

In the first article of the third Shock Xpress book (titled 'Shock'), music journalist David Kerekes tells of his experiences as a subscriber to cable television: "There is a hole in the TV time continuum. It is in my house. Newcomers to satellite or cable television will recognize the affliction known as channel hopping. Bouncing through the stations, one after another, not really watching anything in particular. I turn on my newly acquired cable TV access and commence to channel hop - a woman gives birth, a lion jumps over a small wall and mauls several other animals, advisertisement, advisertisement, advisertisement, Mountain plays a song, a football match from 1987 is re-run, a shark rams the cage from which a diver observes... On station 35 I hesitate."

Here are some trailers of films mentioned by Kerekes in the article, "Five Nights In Nowhere Nice".

Flesheater (S. William Hinzman, 1988)

Les Mémés Cannibales (Emmanuel Kervyn, 1988)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Euronymous's Epistles (pt. 2)

Chagrynn sent me scans of a number of epistles by Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, answering my call in this post. Needless to say, I'm quite grateful. You can find all letters at the end of this post. The letters are scans of letters he collected throughout several years, having found them on various fansites, blogs and forums.

This post on Euronymous's epistles should be read as a preparatory examination of the primary sources. The examination makes it possible to use the letters in later posts as the raw material to interpret the past.

The letters present different scenes from Aarseth's life as if it were a theater play: each letter opens the curtain, shows us some biographical events, and the curtain closes again until the next scene starts. To make sense of these letters, the reader must do more than comprehend each written text in its isolation. The reader must make the connections between the different letters, using other sources of information on Aarseth's biography to construct a more or less intelligible narrative. That way, a fragment of the story of Aarseth's life, as well as the larger histories of Mayhem and Black Metal, can be read through these letters. The need to read the letters actively is obviated by the fact that they are all without a recipient's full name and address and undated. One needs to put in some effort to place the letters in a likely chronological order on the basis of their content and lay-out.

In my examination, I've proceeded on the assumption that the lay-out of the letters become more elaborately decorated as time passed.

The oldest three are adressed to a 'Morgan', who lives in Sweden. The three letters are typewritten on plain paper, without any specific decorative elements. The adressee is Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson, who was a member of Black Metal bands Marduk and Abruptum. As I do not have Håkansson's letters, I have had to infer their content from Aarseth replies. The first of the three letters must have been written in 1989, as it relates that Merciless's 1989 album The Awakening is about to be released. It is Aarseth's reply to a letter by Håkansson, a letter which is likely to have been the one that started the correspondence as (judging by Aarseth's reply) that letter asked whether Håkansson should write in English or Swedish. The last of the three is likely to have been written in the first quarter of 1990, as it discusses the possibility of playing at a festival in Sweden on May 25th. All three are signed by Aarseth, the autograph accompanied with a small drawn hammer and sickle logo, and words in Cyrillic writing. Some of these words I've been able to decipher as 'ваш друг' (' your friend' in Russian) 'ваш товарищ' ('your comrade' in Russian) - help in further translation would be greatly appreciated, please use the comments box.

Next in the chronology are two letters printed with a dot matrix printer, something for which Aarseth apologizes: "Well I'm sorry about this total [sic] unkind datawritten letter, but I've burned my hand in some chemical experiments (!) of mine so it's hard to write by hand." Aarseth must have felt that epistolary etiquette (or morality?) obliged him to avoid the use of datawriting. Both letters are adorned with an ink stamped 'Mayhem' in a blackletter font, and adressed to a Pocho Metallica, who is living in Argentina. Pocho Metallica is in all probability Alfredo "Pocho Metálica", who since 1985 runs a record label named Hurling Metal Records from Hurlingham, Argentina. I'm guessing these letters are from 1990. The letters discuss Aarseth's network of Metal aficionados in Latin America, as well as the possibility of touring on that continent. The second letter is was written only to make sure the first one arrived. Aarseth's signatures feature the hammer and sickle logo.

The sixth letter is printed on orange-colored stationery, with a "Deathlike Silence Productions" logo in a Blackletter font (albeit a different one from the stamped logo). The letter is an open letter in Norwegian, intended to be read by a wide audience of Metal enthusiasts, and contains information of how to order from DSP. It is a letter of a strictly commercial nature. This letter is probably from the second half of 1990. The text "Carbonized Eyesockets" add a surreal note (carbonized eyesockets - what would they look like? What would they feel like?).

The seventh letter is printed on plain paper, with the same "Deathlike Silence Productions" logo but with an added logo which features the heraldic coat of arms of the People's Republic of Albania and which reads: "Albania 45 years of freedom 1944-1989". The letter opens with "Hej lilla knatten", which Google translates as: "Hey little league". Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson may well be the adressee of the letter, as it discusses the possibility of performing in Sweden and the sale of the Merciless ep - like the first three letters. The letter implies that "Dead" Per Yngve Ohlin is still alive, so it must have been written before April 1991.

The eighth and final letter must date from after Ohlin's self-chosen death on April 8th, 1991, as it discusses his suicide as if it has recently happened. The letter must have been written in the late spring of that year. The first page of this letter has the most elaborate stationery of all. It is decorated with the blackletter "Mayhem" stamp as well as with the Mayhem logo as featured on the Deathcrush ep and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, a logo which Manheim attributes to "my friend Nella". The Mayhem logo is further embellished with the text "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", and sinister drawings of a skull and formless embellishments. The second page of this seventh letter is on the same writing paper as the seventh. The letter is written in Norwegian, and discusses Ohlins death with an ice-cold glee. I'm not sure to whom the letter is adressed. The letter is written in Norwegian. On the other hand, the content of the letter points to a Swedish recipient:

"I am now able to sell Morbid Angel boot-legs - "Abominations of Desolation" if someone is interested! SEK 150, - including postage!" (SEK stands for Swedish krona)


"Do you think it is possible to sell some in Sweden?"

Possibly this letter too is adressed to Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson. A more remote possibility is that Aarseth wrote this letter to Metalion, the founder of legendary Norwegian metal magazine Slayer and record label Head Not Found.

The final thing Chagrynn sent me was an autograph which is likely Aarseth's. The autograph does not feature a hammer and sickle logo, and is subtly different from other autographs. Nevertheless, Chagrynn is 99% certain that this is indeed Aarseth´s signature. The text that goes with the autograph is: "May the blue bird of happiness never shit in your tea." A strange, almost surreal text: it is an anti-euphoric blessing, in which blue is associated with happiness instead of with the more usual melancholia and sadness (i.e. the blues). The mention of tea however adds a note of domesticity which is at odds with the anti-euphoric message of the text. This incongruity is what convinces me that the autograph is indeed Aarseth's.

Letters 1-3

Letters 4-5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8