Lords of Chaos and Unholy Forces of Evil!

lords of chaos coverLords of Chaos – Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
Feral House – 1998/ 2003

I thought I’d better review this before the movie comes out. It’s a book about the Norwegian heavy metallers who went mad in the early 1990s and burned a load of churches and killed some people. I hadn’t bothered reading it before because I presumed (fairly accurately) that I knew the story already. That being said, this book was written in 1998, and I didn’t become interested in this kind of crap until about 5 years after that, so it is quite likely that some of my knowledge of the history of Norwegian Black Metal came indirectly from this text. If you were unfamiliar with the story of “the bloody rise of the Satanic Metal underground”, I’d imagine some of this book would be fairly shocking.

The first third of the book, the part that outlines the history of the Black Metal movement, was pretty good. Regardless of whether you know the story or not, some of the interviews in here are very entertaining. At one point, Varg Vikernes seems to suggest that he murdered his friend because one of their mutual friends had been snooping around this lad’s bedroom and found “a dildo with shit on it”. There’s lots of cool pictures in here too (Unfortunately, none of them are of said dildo).

After that, the book gets bogged down in fairly boring chapters about pyromania, the Church of Satan and right wing extremism. The pyromania chapter seems like filler (Varg agrees), and the Church of Satan chapter is clearly only included because the author knew LaVey. The stuff on the fascistic elements of black metal is quite tedious. Lots of people have claimed that the focus on far-right politics in this book tells more about the author’s political interests than those of the entire Black Metal scene, and I reckon there’s some truth in this idea. Moynihan is a notorious edgelord.

I initially read the 1998 edition, but when I found out that the 2003 reissue contained a chapter on Varg’s theories about Nazi aliens (and more), I had to track that one down too. It was worth it. It’s interesting to see how much things had changed in those 5 years. Now, 20 years after the book was originally published, almost 30 years after the events it describes, Black Metal has turned into something bigger than any of its progenitors could have reasonably imagined. Let’s be honest though; most of it is cringeworthy muck. It’s such a conceptually ludicrous genre that there’s no real room for mediocrity. Any Black Metal band that isn’t exceptionally interesting is going to be embarrassingly shit.

And even some of the most important bands within the genre are surprisingly crap. I remember the first time I heard Burzum. My friends and I had recently heard tell of these crazy Scandinavian bands who killed and ate each other, and we spent the best part of an evening downloading a Burzum track over a dial-up connection. We were all pretty excited when the download reached 100%, but our excitement dispersed as soon as we heard Varg’s feeble shrieks over the thin sounding guitars. We all thought that this was one of those mislabeled mp3s that were so common on Kazaa at the time (you’d download a song labelled “Pantera and Metallica” and end up with a country blues track), and it wasn’t until we had downloaded a second awful track that we could confirm that yes, this weak sounding garbage was supposed to be the most evil music on the planet.

Fortunately, this book does a decent job of highlighting the insular (and puerile) nature of the genre’s origins. Black Metal (or the second wave of Black Metal if you want to be pedantic about it) started off as a small group of teenagers (and immature young adults) who got carried away with a game of unholy one-upsmanship. Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that they burned the churches, but after reading the interviews in this book, I got the sense that the real motives in some (if not most) of these crimes were peer pressure and the teenage desire to show off to one’s friends. Hey, whatever though; it got the job done.

fantoft church burned vargBoys will be boys!

I have a thousand things to say on the topic of Black Metal, but this is a book blog so I’ll keep them to myself for now. Initially, I wasn’t even sure if this book belonged on this blog, but all things considered, I reckon it contains more than enough Satanism to warrant its inclusion. The Satanism of early Black Metal is the most childish, boneheaded and ultimately best variety of devil-worshipping Satanism that exists.

I’m entirely sure the upcoming movie version of this book is going to provide limitless angry responses from the Black Metal community, regardless of how good it is. I’ll probably download it to see what all the fuss is about.

 

 

 

 

Lucifer Rising – Gavin Baddeley

20160512_224450
Plexus – 2006

This book deals with the different manifestations of Satanism within modern culture. It focuses on rock music and heavy metal, but it also discusses serial killers and horror movies. Sounds pretty great, right? A recommendation for this book showed up on my goodreads account, and my copy was ordered within moments of reading its description. I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disapoint. The author is a priest in the Church of Satan, and the history and outlook of LaVeyan Satanism is central to this book. I like LaVey, so I was entertained, but the author’s tone might be grating on some readers, particularly if they were Christian.

The first few chapters give a short yet surprisingly comprehensive history of Satanism, but the latter half of the book is mostly taken up with interviews. Some of these are excruciatingly embarrassing (Glen Benton is an idiot), and some are genuinely hilarious (Euronymous is precious). Varg Vikernes from Burzum has claimed that the interview with him is entirely fake. (He also claims that this is the worst book that he has ever seen.) I know lots of Burzum fans who claim to dislike Varg. Well, I always thought Burzum’s music was crap,  but I think he’s a pretty funny guy. (Don’t get me wrong; I know he’s a right-wing scumbag, racist, murderer and all-round crazy person, and I certainly wouldn’t say that I ‘like’ him, but let’s be honest; he regularly brings the lols.) There were a few interviews in here that weren’t hugely insightful, and it seemed that some of the interviewees may have been chosen based on their availability rather than their unique insight or authority on the topic, but this doesn’t take away from the cooler parts of the book. It might also be worth noting that I’m a fan of quite a few of the musicians interviewed herein, so I was probably more entertained than most people would be. If you don’t like rock music, this book might be a bit boring.

Baddeley suggests that there are as many different forms of Satanism as there are forms of christianity. (He also shows how hazy the lines between some forms of christianity and Satanism can be.) This book acknowledges the fact that Satanism is a very loosely defined set of beliefs and behaviors, and the author provides a thorough and entertaining account of the movement’s more interesting facets. (I picked up some cool recommendations for bands, movies and books too.) Overall, I would recommend this as a good primer for anyone with an interest in the Devil’s place in Rock’n’Roll.

I started writing a paragraph about my own take on Satanism, but it turned very lengthy very quickly, so I think I shall save it for a later date. Until then, Hail Satan!
(Update: This is what that paragraph eventually turned into.)