by Niklas Göransson
Meet Hatpastorn – a Swedish writer, lecturer, and black metal chronicler. In a sentimental journey through history, he presents his research on the untimely collapse of the Norwegian scene and reveals conclusions bespeaking conspiracy and sedition.
– Hatpastorns Likpredikan (‘corpse sermons of the hate-preacher’) is a blog I founded in the year 2010. It serves as an outlet through which I analyse and dissect the music closest to my heart; black metal. For a genre with such clearly defined rules and restrictions, it’s completely devoid of rules and restrictions. This is the greatest strength of black metal, as well as its utmost flaw. Despite occasionally covering things I appreciate, most of my posts are about when disaster has struck in one way or another.
Hatpastorn began posting in various online communities during the nineties, but gradually gravitated towards writing kilometres’ worth of Word-documents which he emailed to friends.
– I was subsequently talked into setting up a WordPress site. This made it easier for me to argue my case by including images, music, and video clips featuring the offending band. I was convinced that a maximum of five people would ever bother navigating the madness but, despite being written entirely in Swedish and largely concerning matters so obscure they barely exist, it’s grown quite substantially.
His driving force from the very beginning was that of establishing a forum where questions and mysteries posed by the genre could be openly discussed.
– I should point out here that I worship black metal. It’s so much more than just a style of music to me – in comparison, death metal is more of a regular genre consisting of many great songs. Black metal at its best goes far beyond that; the open mind will take you on incredible journeys. It’s difficult to put into words, but the total ecstasy from enjoying “Hvis lyset tar oss” (BURZUM) in the forest late at night is simply not available elsewhere.
This, he says, is also why he becomes enraged when subjected to those who defile the art.
– Such as when a once-brilliant musician suffers a complete psychosis, puts on a dress and records BABYLON ZOO covers. We’ll get to that shortly. Transgressions of this kind must never be forgotten; these people must be held accountable for their actions. Together with my co-writers, Heidenhammer and Dr. Panzram, I have taken it upon myself to get to the bottom of these things – whilst simultaneously trying to make it entertaining.
One of the rhetorical flagships of his publication has long been the rigorous chronicling of a cinematic pandemic known in Sweden as the ’Matrix virus’.
– This is a horrifying story and a prime example of how nothing ages quite so poorly as the future. As everyone knows, the Norwegian black metal scene collapsed around the millennial shift. We’d seen worrisome tendencies as early as 96, but this was truly the year of destiny.
Thus, for the past eighteen years, Hatpastorn has been on a quest to figure out what went wrong in 1999.
– A terrible year from start to finish. We bore witness to the emergence of tribal tattoos and humiliation television, then Hollywood motion picture The Matrix dropped like a bomb on society. Fast sunglasses, red pills, slick leather coats and quasi-intellectual techno-religious twaddle. This film left people in general completely bereft of their senses, but it seems to have hit the Norwegian black metal scene particularly hard.
Hatpastorn himself was made acutely aware of this mental malady in June 1999. Already down for the count from the kidney punches and groin kicks administered by more or less all of his favourite bands, he turned to DØDHEIMSGARD for solace.
– That’s when it came; “666 International”, quite possibly the greatest Norwegian system collapse of all time – and that’s with some serious competition! I actually bought this album, after telling myself that it might be good and I was being narrow-minded. The closest comparison for this behaviour must be the so-called ‘battered wife syndrome’. Instead of stuttering ’At least he’s good with the kids’ through busted lips, I now held in my hands a newly purchased item I already knew was going to be shit. I put it on. Yep, affirmative – excrement confirmed. The Matrix virus had claimed DØDHEIMSGARD.
While an entire generation of Scandinavian black metal enthusiasts were still trying to come to grips with this, November saw the next blow.
– It’s easy to spot those who had the weakest immune system as the Matrix virus crept across Norway. To this day, I still remember when the Nuclear Blast catalogue arrived and I spotted COVENANT’s new band photos. Well, THE KOVENANT as they’d rebranded themselves. I was positively mortified. I mean, take the “Animatronic” cover artwork. Look at it! Kitchen appliances on heads, poorly fitting latex pants, lipstick, and obnoxious faces. Need I mention the actual music? Total nightmare. And just as one was about to hoist the flag of mental surrender came its coup de grâce; a cover of BABYLON ZOO’s “Spaceman”.
Hatpastorn takes a deep breath to regain his composure.
– This from a band that in 1994 recorded “From the Storm of Shadows” – one of the greatest demos in recorded history! A mere five years later, they release an album featuring funny hats and cover versions of BABYLON ZOO. I don’t want to talk about this any more.
To add insult to injury, THE KOVENANT‘s drummer, Hellhammer, then carried the plague further to his main band. The post-“De Mysteriis dom Sathanas” MAYHEM have been subject to recurring attention on Hatpastorns Likpredikan over the years.
– One cannot possibly discuss the Matrix virus without mentioning “Grand Declaration of War” (2000). It’s dreadful, of course. Look at the lyrics and aesthetics – ghastly stuff. Completely lifeless production, illogical arrangements, and riffs leading nowhere. As icing on the cake, we have Maniac occasionally rapping forth nonsense phrase after nonsense phrase. When people who were normally into DREAM THEATER suddenly began praising MAYHEM’s intricate vocal arrangements and technical capabilities, I knew it was time to bring the genre behind the barn and put it out of its misery.
This leads us to the plague’s absolute climax, an affliction exacting particularly nasty boils due to being cloaked in a shroud of promise.
– We’ve now passed into the new millennium and EMPEROR have completely lost the plot. But suddenly there are good tidings; Samoth has started up ZYKLON-B again! This was the all-star project responsible for one of the best-ever Norwegian EP’s; “Blood Must be Shed”, from 1995. Under profuse perspiration, I struggled to come to terms with this; could it really be true? Was there truly hope? Concerns began taking root once it became known that Samoth had not only streamlined the band name to ZYKLON, but also replaced the remaining members.
February, 2001; the wait is over, and ZYKLON’s “World ov Worms” is released by Candlelight Records.
– First off, that cover … a Matrix-green digital vomit of the most repulsive variety. I’m not even going to comment on the actual motif, just look at the damn thing. Flip through the booklet and you’ll be subjected to a torrent of dystopian futuristic visions, all conveyed through questionable Photoshop choices and framed in various generic Nietzsche quotes. Don’t even get me started on Faust’s lyrics.
In interviews leading up to the album’s release, Zamoth, as he was now calling himself, spoke far and wide about the vast volumes of sophisticated literature Faust had studied in prison, and what amazingly thought-provoking poetry this yielded.
– Absolutely terrible. Besides, you should never trust bands who feel the need to include essays explaining in detail what their songs are about. I mean, really, what’s wrong with the lyrical approach of the EP? ’Those I kill, I’ll make my slaves. You do not understand anything!’ Now that’s a sentiment which stands on its own merit and needs no elaborate clarification. Compare this to “Zycloned”, the one I quoted in my ZYKLON blog post.
Stereogothic void – predestination of being.
Psychothronic schizoid – conditioning the future.
Past without content – life without meaning
The New World Inc. executes standardization
In a futuristic framework of sterility.
Why is everything so constant?
Why doesn’t things change?
You’ll never be alone again.
– By all means, enlighten me to the wonders of the stereogothic void. The music, then – after all, that’s what’s most important. Sterile Norwegian death metal of the modern variety with highly rudimentary industrial elements. Atrocious. Remember that snot-like slime they eat in The Matrix? That’s what “World ov Worms” sounds like. Which brings me to my next point – as I’m sure you’ll agree, anyone who feels the need to replace ‘of’ with ‘ov’ should be hung from a lamp post with no judicial process.
When conducting studies on the fall of Norway’s black metal empire, the compilation “Moonfog 2000 – A Different Perspective” is invaluable source material. In fact, Hatpastorn dedicated a two-thousand-word article to dissecting it, track by track.
– I’ve spent numerous hours contemplating why Moonfog, of all labels, would debase themselves to this extent. From having been an almost magical label, releasing classic after classic, to only a few years later vomiting forth imbecile albums more connected to computer simulations than dark medieval times.
This chain of thought leads us deep into conspiracy territory.
– It all dawned on me one day as I sat listening to the aforementioned “Blood Must be Shed”. I realised how odd it was that Samoth played both guitar and bass. Around this time, the Norwegians were constantly joining each other’s projects; so, the logical choice would obviously be to have a bass player. ZYKLON-B was an all-star band and, from a marketing perspective, they’d had nothing to lose from adding another celebrity to their ranks. Especially when it comes to a non-instrument like bass. Still, Samoth handled both instruments. Why?
The plot thickens. Hatpastorn’s next move was to analyse who the likely candidate would have been.
– The obviously choice falls on Satyr. He already played with Samoth and Frost in SATYRICON at the time, and was certainly acquainted with both Aldrahn and Ihsahn. Here’s where this thought-experiment goes completely off the rails, so please bear with me. I present the following thesis; did Satyr kill the Norwegian black metal scene for pain of rejection after not having been allowed to join ZYKLON-B? Let´s find out…
He asks that we envision a dark and chilly night in mid-nineties Norway; Satyr telephones Frost. Hatpastorn narrates the conversation as he suspects it went down.
– Frost speaking.
– It is I, Satyr. Can you meet me for rehearsals? I have a few riffs to show you.
– Oh. No, sorry. I can’t. I’m … uh, busy this evening.
– Okay? With?
– Ahem, you know – a bit of this, bit of that. Catching up with friends …
– Frost. Spit it out.
– Okay, okay. I’m rehearsing.
– Yes, it’s just a little project Samoth started.
– Why wasn’t I told?
– It’s completely new. We were going to tell you, honestly.
– What is this project then?
– ZYKLON-B. I know, not the most strategic name but we plan on circumventing this by stating in the booklet that we’re not a political band. It’s going to be great; we’re talking lyrics with quotes from serial killers, non-stop blastbeats, samples from Discovery Channel, and photos where we take turns holding a pistol.
– This sounds amazing! I’m in. I can do the vocals.
– Oh. Well, see – Aldrahn is singing.
– Aldrahn?! Alright, well I’ll just add some atmospheric soundscapes. I’ll bring the synth next time you rehearse.
– Ah. As it happens, Ihsahn will be playing keyboard.
– Ihasahn!? In that case, I’m the bassist.
– We don’t have one yet. I’ll ask Samoth to call you. Have to run, bye!
Satyr sits by his phone, waiting for it to ring. It remains silent. He plots his vengeance.
– Shortly after the ZYKLON-B EP, Samoth was ousted from SATYRICON – replaced by Nocturno Culto. Coincidence? I think not. Samoth‘s post-1997 career in general was a Shakespearean tragedy. ZYKLON was no hit. Have you ever heard anyone mention THE WRETCHED END? Might it have been Satyr who offered cinema tickets to The Matrix, thus sealing the fate of EMPEROR and ZYKLON? Who knows, but there’s clearly a case to be made here.
Aldhran, the ZYKLON-B vocalist, was also frontman of DØDHEIMSGARD – a band that would go on to find themselves courted by Satyr’s label Moonfog.
– If the wheels were wobbling on “Satanic Art” (1998 EP) already, it’s nothing compared to the full-scale faceplant that is “666 International”. But, as stated, we’re done talking about that. Behind the scenes, we find Satyr rubbing his hands. Obviously not content with this, he subsequently outmanoeuvred Aldrahn on the THORNS album. There’s no reason for Aldrahn to not handle all vocals since he clearly has the superior voice. Alas, Satyr picked all the best parts and sang on them himself.
Hatpastorn adds that THORNS were unique in the sense that they were the only Norwegian band who got away with this Matrix theme.
– That record is a cold and evil thing. And what about Snorre? Why has he dedicated zero percent of his time to making a new THORNS album, instead acting as rhythm guitar slave and composer for SATYRICON? I suspect foul play.
Then there’s the ZYKLON-B keyboardist, Ihsahn, also vocalist of EMPEROR.
– He appears to have gotten off lightly, buying himself free of Satyr‘s wrath by donating one of his piano songs for the WONGRAVEN album – a recording I might add Frost was never invited to participate on, but instead featured percussion from a complete nobody. Ihsahn must have been away when The Matrix premiered in Norway, presumably at a prog rock retreat.
What about Frost, he’s still in SATYRICON to this day?
– After this debacle, I’ve always felt that Satyr had a disdainful tone when speaking about Frost in interviews. Then look what happened on “Nemesis Divina” (1996) – up until this point, Frost had an impeccable track record for corpse paint. Not here though, since Satyr insisted on bringing in a make-up artist which resulted in Frost’s face looking much like a bundled shrubbery. Was it chastisement? Furthermore, there’s something almost penalising about the drum arrangements on the last four or five SATYRICON albums.
Hatpastorn adds that SATYRICON changing their style ‘is what it is’, and confesses to appreciating some of the band’s later material.
– Take “Phoenix” as an example. Say what you will about it, but it’s a hit song. However, there is simply no reason for Frost to keep ploughing ultra-fast double bass drums on parts where it doesn’t fit. That happens all the time… slow song, Satyr faffing about with recycled AC/DC riffs – bang! Completely pointless lightning-fast double bass drums. It is my firm belief that Satyr consciously forces Frost to play like this. There are numerous other examples which support my conspiracy theory, especially if one brings EIBON into the equation, but I think we’ll stop here for today.
While Hatpastorn concedes that he rages on about Norway a lot, it comes from a place of awe and reverence.
– The reason I get so agitated is that these bands were once so good. There’s something almost mythological about the downfall of the Norwegian scene. Incredibly fascinating. However, it should be noted that the Matrix virus wasn’t the only ailment ravaging the extreme metal scene around this time; lest we forget the dreaded pestilence of Swedish death‘n’roll, or the repulsive retro-thrash.
Whereas the Matrix ailment has received a lot of coverage on Hatpastorns Likpredikan over the years, it’s nothing compared to the research invested into the tale of Norwegian black metal band ANCIENT. They came to prominence in 1994 with the amazing “Svartalvheim”. After a dreadful 1996 follow-up in shape of “The Cainian Chronicles”, the band’s creative force, Aphazel, moved to the United States. At first, there was ecstatic excitement all around upon news that he’d recruited former GRAND BELIAL’S KEY vocalist Lord Vlad Luciferian. Then came the music video for “Willothewisp”, from their third album, “Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends”, and there was no rejoicing.
– I don’t even know where to start. I’ve held actual physical lectures about ANCIENT, and the topic is so broad that two hours barely scratches the surface. I wrote an article series in sixteen parts about them, where I went through and analysed every single release, but not even that was enough. This band is my Waterloo – my Moby Dick, if you will. Many seem to think that ANCIENT starts and finishes with “Lilith’s Embrace”; these people are sorely mistaken. Once you begin having a closer look at these jokers, entire universes of bizarre escapades are there for the discovery. But that’s a story for another day.