Tape Wyrm LIII: Other True Norwegian Black Metal Tape Wyrm LIII: Other True Norwegian Black Metal

TWlogoBW2Other True Norwegian Black Metal

I feel that criticizing an obscure moment in metal history for being too popular is laughable. Stop 10 people on the street and 9 of them will have no idea what black metal is. Stop 10 metalheads on the same street and they will probably have already heard about black metal and roll their eyes if you start talking about Varg and Euronymous. You see, I just caused someone to sigh. I wonder which street you have found all of these people on.

Norwegian black metal has become an institution. A small but innovative music scene now lives in infamy due to the actions of a few dickhead teenagers. The phrase “Norwegian black metal” is attached to stories of church burnings, murder, and rumored cannibalism. It has played a part in the style’s mystique and has become a tourist destination for people not really into metal. It is also boring as fuck to talk about. To be honest, my eyes started to roll back when typing that last sentence. Because this era is filled with so many extraneous factors, which are immaterial to the actual music, Norwegian black metal, the movement, has become something else entirely. A cardboard diorama or even museum display. Further, Norwegian black metal, the music, has always taken a backseat to the actions of a few dickhead teenagers since media coverage is always more interested in the violence and social depravity of the movement. Because of that still, the amount of norwegian black metal music actually heard is always funneled through this slim lens.

Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor, Immortal, Gorgorth, and Burzum represent the heap of bands thrown around when discussing Norwegian black metal. Documentaries like Until The Light Takes Us and books like Lord of Chaos hammer these bands into the scene with few areas of flexibility. I do not even think Norway was any different from places like Finland, Sweden, the United States and Greater Europe during the same time. As much as I believe locality playing a pivotal role in scenes, the Norwegian black metal scene seems to have artificially gained a legacy for something other than music. I wonder how the rest of Norway sounded around the same time. Perhaps I will write an article on it.

Below is a casual look at other Nowrwegian black metal bands that did not make the cut due to various reasons. Whether coming a few years late, not being a part of a the supposed inner circle, or just being reasonable musicians not murdering people are all within the realm of possibility. Maybe these bands never made it because they weren’t that good. Maybe it’s because they weren’t easy to discuss and be the subjects of bylines and factoids. Maybe they weren’t true Norwegian black metal and just ended up being second string. Other True Norwegian Black Metal forever.

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Thorns – Grymyrk (1991)

Alright, so here we are? Thorns may be known by some because of their late 90’s split with Emperor. Before that time however, Thorns made a few demos with members loosely connected to Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas record. Grymyrk was released in 1991 and, for all intents and purposes, is just moody instrumental music. There is a heavy atmosphere of black metal just minus the shrieking, blast beats, and, well, other members. Does it work? Absolutely. Even compared to the introduction of vocals, this early rough sketch phase of the band has aged gracefully. Or sinisterly. Whatever works.

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Borknagar – Borknagar (1996)

So I am sort of starting at the most well known and hopefully moving into more obscure. Borknagar is relatively well known among a more dedicated progressive black metal audience. After their self titled release, Borknagar began sailing the high seas of progressive black, carving out territories populated by fans of 7 string guitars and the later work of Ihsahn, of Emperor fame. Borknagar’s self titled album, however, rests heavily on a simple formula of viking black. It is fierce and loyal to mid era Bathory. Oh, it also has one of the funniest album covers in history. I give to you the barn of eternal suffering.

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Manes – Ned I Stillheten (1994)

Alright, just take it slowly. This year I wrote a review on an exquisite new depressive black release from Norwegian act Manii. Manii is a group of founding members of Manes, which used to be black metal but now have entered into an industrial rehab clinic. The great thing about Manes is that you can start your way at their 1999 debut Under ein Blodraud Maane and be enveloped by above average mid fi black metal with a slightly depressive edge. If you are feeling adventurous you can have the same thing just in concentrated form with their first two demos. Holy shit. You want to talk about lo fidelity, open up the top and smell the miasma of hell.

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Tenebras Omnia Vincit – Hostility, Violence, Imagination (1995)

One is the number of demos Tenebras Omnia Vincit released. Zero is the amount of forwarding addresses the band left. For a full 27 minutes, this band toiled away in a lo-fi dungeon banging chains against stone hewn walls. Hostility, Violence, Imagination is a strange record as it has a healthy dose of synth that runs overtop instruments, which may be played by the same person or artificial lifeform. Oh, add to this film clips and general haunted house spookiness and one has an amazingly fun demo that represents a band’s tombstone. R.I.P. Tenebras Omnia Vincit October 31, 1995: 10:00pm-10:27pm.

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Isvind – Nivelheimen (1993)

Nivelheimen is a demo that, understandably, wasn’t enormously popular. Isvind played throughout the 90’s before vocalist Arak Draconiiz (I refuse to believe this isn’t an RPG name) went on to join Tsjuder for two albums. The band’s 1996 demo Dark Watwers Stire was a decent, if routine, adventure through the lands of black metal. Nivelheimen, however, has personality. With a hilariously effective cassette cover of a full moon and old english font, the lack of production is what gives this album charm. Also, check the date. 1993 and already fleshing out the beginnings of what would later define post and atmospheric black. Just saying. No, I do not believe Isvind had any direct causation on later post rock influence. It would be not be responsible of me to even think that. Well, say it out loud at least.

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Thy Grief – Frozen Tomb of Mankind (1997)

So here we are. In the late 90’s. Yes, it is true the era of Norwegian black metal really tapers off in the mid 90’s with most people getting their coats around 1996. Good, fuck them, they weren’t wanted here anyway. After all the reporters and hipsters are gone however, we are free to enjoy some quality melodic black metal from the late 90’s played by a band that would go on to…oh goddamn it guys. One album? Despite Frozen Tombs of Mankind being the end of Thy Grief, for this one album melodic black could stretch its legs and, damn, doesn’t it feel awesome.

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Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed (1995)

Haha, alright. This doesn’t count either. Zyklon-B is totally a supergroup, though somehow circumvented all of the bullshit that comes with a supergroup. For one Zyklon-B never surpassed in popularity the original projects from all contributing members. Well, maybe a couple. Two parts Emperor with one part Thorns and Satyricon minus all instances of Nordic frost and one has Blood Must Be Shed. Instead of recreating Dark Medieval times or In the Nightside Eclipse, Zyklon-B unleashes mortar shells of warlike black metal, stripping all costumed pretenses for a brief 10 minute recording. Blood Must Be shed is nothing more than a bunch of friends getting together and writing black metal that sounds more like grind and hardcore. Does it work despite all logic and reason? Surprisingly so.

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Kvist – For kunsten maa vi evig vike (1996)

Alright so Kvist means twig in Norwegian apparently but that does not inspire much confidence in the constitution of some of the acts. Oh shit look at this, an actual full length. Kvist’s For kunsten maa vi evig vike was an early release on Avantgarde records. I only bring this up because they are the label that is supposed to be putting out Darkspace’s newest release. Just fucking saying. We are all waiting guys. Kvist is an absolute mystery as their lineage is derived from a more obscure doom band to later be released in the musical aether. Sure this wouldn’t matter one bit outside of certain metal circles but black metal has a habit of becoming obsessed with obscurity. Despite all of this fanfare, this album is solid and filled with Emperor like synth atmosphere. Hey look, it’s something you can impress your friends with and it doesn’t sound half bad either.

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Frostmoon – Tordenkrig (1998)

So this last one may have just been included because I am sort of trying to figure this out. Viking metal shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who has spent some time in the black metal scene. I mean, they are practically neighbors. Frostmoon checks all the boxes for viking black. A damn viking on the cover. Old English font. Red as a dominant color. Shit, this is practically Bathory. Tordenkrig however is different. For the most part there are two vocals running, one clean and one shrieking. Also a contender in this race is a heavy atmosphere of synth. All combined this is a marathon of weirdness, which astoundingly turns out to be one of the more entertaining black metal records of the lot.



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