by Niklas Göransson
Jon ’Metalion’ Kristiansen, editor of the iconic Slayer Mag and godfather of Norwegian black metal, reflects over his forty years in stalwart servitude to the metal underground.
The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #6. The same issue also includes conversations with FUNERAL MIST, DEAD CAN DANCE, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, SUNN O))), MYSTICUM, ADORIOR, Dave Haley, OFDRYKKJA, Michael Denner, NECROS CHRISTOS, TEITANBLOOD, and Wim Hof.
– I first started thinking about what ultimately became The Slayer Mag Diaries when I got in touch with Ian Christe of Bazillion Points Books. Things got a bit more serious then, I suppose you could say. I’d already been in touch with a few publishers prior to this but only smaller ones, and when I saw how Bazillion worked it seemed really tempting. My primary concern was that the book should be something far beyond just a re-print of the old ’zines. So, with the help of Tara G. Warrior, a very good friend of mine – the few, the proud – I started brainstorming how to do it. We ended up going through all the old issues while I attempted to explain what was going on around the time of each release, so people could get some context as well. We did a series of interviews and then transcribed them into more of a book-worthy written style.
It must’ve been rough to not only delve into some of those old memories, but also trying to decide which ones to share with trivia-hungry readers?
– Yes, there were a few pieces here and there which were thoroughly unpleasant to explore. But I’d already proclaimed Slayer Mag dead so, in my eyes, it was the perfect way to tie everything together in the book. So, nowadays, whenever someone asks me about this or that I can just refer them to The Slayer Mag Diaries. I’m sure it contains plenty of errors and, looking back now, there are a few parts I’d perhaps like to do differently – such as remembering certain things much later, and so on. But, in the end, it’s nice to have it on the bookshelf: the perfect end to my writing days. However, I want to stress that it was Tara who managed to draw practically everything out of me.
Despite Jon’s great renown within the scene, he’s never struck me as someone who relishes the spotlight or even enjoys much attention directed towards his person.
– You’re absolutely right, I’m forever a lone wolf who thrives mostly in his own company. There are very few people I actively socialise with and that’s fine. I have my small circle – take the NIFELHEIM twins, for instance, I value their friendship very highly but haven’t seen either of them in over two years. Yet I know they’re always there and that, just like me, they will never change. There’s a certain measure of comfort in that.
As outlined in his book, Metalion had the privilege of witnessing NIFELHEIM’s 2001 live debut at 2heavy4u in Falkenberg, Sweden. Now this was a classic festival if there ever was one; it managed to attract the absolute worst dregs of the Swedish metal scene. Among the post-festival complaints, and there were quite a few, none were perhaps quite so livid as those from the neighbouring golf course. The late Dave Lepard, frontman of CRASHDÏET, spent the evening before the festival defecating in, literally, the eighteenth hole. According to local papers, it was defiled to the extent where an executive decision to drill a new one was taken first thing in the morning. Unsurprisingly, the new cavity soon fell victim to further faecal defacement. I arrived by car early on Friday afternoon, and the first thing that happened when exiting the vehicle was only narrowly escaping being struck by a vengeful white dimpled projectile. I imagine this was the response of a weekend golfer who found a nasty surprise at the end of his putt. The entire thing went steeply downhill from there and climaxed with the Swedish debut of DESTRÖYER 666, followed by NIFELHEIM’s first-ever gig – during which Jon Necromancer from USURPER, who’d travelled to Sweden to see NIFELHEIM, received a cow cadaver to his head, temporarily relieving him of waking consciousness. All in all, a pretty eventful weekend.
– I think a book or two could easily be written about this event. One for the music and the other for everything else, haha! Non-musical stuff first, that guy from BESTIAL MOCKERY running around headbutting whoever he felt deserved it. Or Demonos Sova from BARATHRUM… very friendly, but when we first met him he was totally out of it – extremely dirty, etcetera. Then he disappeared for a few hours and when I next saw him, he was all clean. Turns out he went back to his hotel, had a shower and washed. Really strange to see that transformation, haha. NIFELHEIM were, of course, the best and seeing their first show was very intense. Speaking of Mr. Lepard, I missed out on his defecation adventures but we did share the same train back to Gothenburg; a very interesting trip, I must say. I was just ecstatic to have seen NIFELHEIM and DESTRÖYER 666. Good times!
For quite a few years, Metalion made his living operating a label, Head Not Found. Still to this day when I hear the phrase in question, I think of that iconic photo of him with the knife covering his face. Alas, life as a music mogul doesn’t seem to have been an exclusively pleasant affair. In his book, Jon recalls how being exposed to the business side drained his enthusiasm for music; how it felt like a relief to finally be over and done with it when Voices of Wonder bought him out in the year 2000, since he was sick of being hounded by bands who felt ripped off. In hindsight, he could be said to have been rather lucky to depart the record business with significant monetary compensation – this is unlikely to have happened if he’d held out for much longer, once downloading and market over-saturation killed record sales.
– In the beginning it was cool to release records and so on but, ultimately, it didn’t work out too well. I put out a few cool LPs and that should be it really. From the first moments it was just killer to release albums, but many of them didn’t sell very well which became a bigger problem than I first realised. For sure, I could’ve handled things better – especially the way it all came to an end. But fuck that, I released EMPEROR‘s “Wrath of the Tyrant” demo on vinyl, so… I’m content. Sorry to have left a lot of bands in limbo though.
One of the bands Jon signed was London-based ADORIOR – in fact, he was so smitten by their 1996 “Beyond the Distant Blue” demo that he broke his agreement with Voices of Wonder to stick to Norwegian bands.
– ADORIOR, what a band! So proud of having released their debut album, and I must also point out that they got even better with time. Chris Nunravager and Jaded Lungs sent me their demo and I was completely blown away. My partners at Voices of Wonder preferred Norwegian bands but, as per usual, I didn’t really pay much attention to what people told me to do. I said, ’I’m signing this band’, so there wasn’t really any question beyond that. When the contract had been signed, in ‘97, they came over and stayed at my place for a hell-fuelled week… we were drinking far too much and consumed all kinds of substances. Random people would drop by to join the madness: like Tom, an old friend who used to play with RAGNAROK and that recently passed away in a tragic car accident. He was really taken by their presence. It was hard for him to figure them out, especially the fact that they were married, so the conversation would go like this… ‘So, you’re married?’ ’Yes.’ And Tom‘s comment of all comments in response: ’To each other?’ Oh well. I thought it was hilarious… then, a few weeks later, I went to London to visit them and for sure there was a lot of craziness going on there too. Happy to have met them and interesting to follow Jaded Lungs‘s current career with her shaRds project. She’s always been a good friend to me, so much respect.
Another band Jon has a long-standing and well-documented bond with is Australian mental metal lunatics SADISTIK EXEKUTION. SAD–X have made a few appearances in Bardo Methodology – lengthy interviews with both Rok and Reverend Kriss Hades can be found in #1 and #2, features heavily inspired by the amazing multi-issue coverage from Slayer Mag.
– This is also a case where we somehow influenced each other. SAD-X is for sure one of my fave bands and they were very important for the existence of Slayer Mag. Rok drew our logo and both he and Kriss provided art. I think I tried to be influenced by their music and attitude in my writing. I have to say, often when people speak of SADISTIK it’s mainly Rok or Kriss who gets mentioned, but I’d say Dave Slave is probably the craziest one!
I asked Rok about Jon’s 1996 visit to Australia and was treated to his recollections of their very first encounter in the flesh; ’Metalion got off the train to meet me, wearing boots. I was drinking a beer at the time so I poured some down the top of one boot, soaking his foot and sock.’
– This is exactly what happened. It was a small railway station in a suburb of Sydney, and I’d already been in Australia for several days by then. Great guys, amazing memories. I was lucky enough to see them live twice back then, really insane. I was so fucked up at the first show I can barely remember a thing. At the second one, someone stole Kriss‘ guitar so the atmosphere turned really hateful. I never saw that infamous European tour, so this made up for it! I spent most of my time with Rok, going to endless amounts of dodgy bars and seedy strip joints… Kriss was always somewhere to be found and I spent a night or two in his notorious bunker. Among other things, I remember he collected cockroaches in a glass. He also made a painting for me while I was there; I still have it. We talked about making something out of the ordinary, so he painted a giant swastika surrounded by a million more swastikas. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that – antifa might be reading this, haha!
Rok wanted to add something: ’To me, Metalion is one of the very most important figures in world-wide death and black metal – a valued friend, close part of the SADISTIK EXEKUTION family and someone I’d defend with my life.’ The pair initially struck up an acquaintance through pen and paper. The earliest days of underground metal, back when tape trading and letter correspondence thrived, saw the formation of numerous such intercontinental friendships.
– Everything was different back then, there was a bunch of guys doing ‘zines – a lot of overly-dedicated weirdos living in the middle of nowhere. It really demanded something from us editors, full devotion in overcoming every manner of obstacle to get our publications printed. We lived so much for the music and broke all kinds of barriers. Nowadays, there’s neither any struggles nor anything left of this on-the-barricades attitude; everything is available online for free, easily accessible with computers or smartphones. Everyone rushes to their opinions, just to be first to comment. I even saw some assheads who’d written up reviews of the Lords of Chaos trailer.
In the unlikely event that this has eluded anyone reading this, Lords of Chaos is a motion picture by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund; it purports to offer a dramatisation of the black metal related events in early-90s Norway. Since Metalion was a central figure in the scene, as well as close with both MAYHEM main-man Euronymous and Varg Vikernes of BURZUM, he’s featured in it – courtesy of British actor Sam Coleman, otherwise known from Game of Thrones. I can’t help but think it must be bloody awkward watching oneself portrayed in a major motion picture.
– Well, I wouldn’t really know as I haven’t seen the movie yet, and it’s not exactly on my list of things I want to do either… I’m sure I’ll see it eventually, on DVD in the privacy of my own home. But I know what you’re saying, I’ve seen the trailers in circulation and awkward might be a mild understatement. Fair enough, this crap was gonna happen sooner or later anyway. I’d kinda accepted that Mr. Åkerlund was making the movie, even if I’m highly disappointed with him – like how they screwed me over in the contract I signed… and yes, I did that. When I first heard about all this, I was actually happy to somehow be a part of it.
Quite a few prominent black metal musicians were involved with the film production. When surveying the list, it’s interesting to note a number of prolific characters who’ve been both privately and publicly denouncing the project – all the while, as it turns out, simultaneously collaborating with them.
– I can’t really speak for anyone but myself, and even that’s hard at times… but when people realised this movie was going to be made, with or without anyone’s consent or involvement, they probably tried to make the best out of it. Like death, it was bound to happen no matter how much one tries to avoid it. So, even if the film is a bunch of bullcrap, I’m sure some changed their minds along the way. We all remember how upset Necrobutcher was about it but, in the end, a lot of naysayers ended up involved. I really don’t care, people can do whatever they want. Personally, I think it’s a double-edged sword, but I was somehow pleased to be part of this. Even if I hate it, had I been cut out completely I’d probably be even more upset… but honestly, I’d rather not think about it at all. I’ve seen that they had some screening events arranged here in Norway and, even if I don’t feel like seeing the movie, it’s kinda annoying to not have been invited. Granted, I’m not a key person in their story but I would’ve appreciated an invitation – even if I’d never have gone.
Out of the many noteworthy examples of dubious cinematographic choices, I’m personally somewhat partial to Euronymous cutting his hair and donning a light blue button-up shirt before – spoiler alert – Varg shows up to murder him. Jonas Åkerlund implemented this riveting plot twist after someone showed him autopsy photos of Euronymous with his hair cut off. He genuinely appears to believe himself having uncovered some manner of well-guarded secret here: the proverbial scoop. For instance, Åkerlund stated triumphantly to both Metal Hammer and Sweden Rock Magazine that he was stunned upon seeing the photos, describing the revelation as a ’turning point for me as a scriptwriter, because that changed the whole arc’. Now, piecing together clues uncovered through his diligent investigation, he concluded that the symbolic act of cutting his hair meant Euronymous was about to leave the black metal milieu and get his life in order. Besides the fact that shaving the scalp is standard practice when performing an autopsy on a corpse with stab-wounds to the head, does anyone believe Varg would not have taken every chance to mention something like this? Vikernes himself has also refuted said nonsense.
– Yeah, I know, but I read interviews with Åkerlund where he claims to know more about the incidents happening in Norway than the people who were actually there, so how could we doubt his meticulous research? And you’re right, it’s quite natural to cut the hair of the deceased during an autopsy. I doubt these claims very much, but I can at least say that Euronymous‘ hair was in a pretty sorry state, so… anyway, don’t take all of Åkerlund‘s claims as facts – it’s as easy as that. Another thing, regarding his claim to BATHORY fame, I just wonder why he wasn’t involved in the “One Road to Asa Bay” video? If he really was such a close friend of Quorthon’s, then surely it would be natural to ask an upcoming video director… right?
The film has been out for a while now, which Jon says has resulted in him constantly being subjected to other people’s opinions about its accuracy and authenticity.
– To me, it’s all wrong… regardless if people like it or hate it, they’re still very much all wrong. According to myself, only I know the true story and it’s absolutely crap to read some fourteen-year-old American talking about what’s false and what’s right. All the Varg fanboys on one side and the rest on the other. Also, more than one person has mentioned to me that the death scenes were ’cool’, how great Dead’s suicide was, blah blah. Call me old-fashioned or whatever, but I really dislike that the deaths of two comrades are made into entertainment for kids who find it ’cool’.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #6. The same issue also includes conversations with FUNERAL MIST, DEAD CAN DANCE, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, SUNN O))), MYSTICUM, ADORIOR, Dave Haley, OFDRYKKJA, Michael Denner, NECROS CHRISTOS, TEITANBLOOD, and Wim Hof.