You’ve seen it everywhere. The crudely-drawn goat that graces the cover of the first Bathory album is quickly becoming one of rock n’ roll’s most ubiquitous images. It’s the new Ramones t-shirt. And like the famous four’s memorable circle logo, the Bathory goat is often worn by folks who have never even heard the beastly sounds on that grisly 1984 album Bathory has endured because it’s so brutal, so inhuman, so extreme that it was literally shocking upon its initial release. It was the first real declaration of black metal war, the opening salvo in an ongoing campaign to kill Christianity (and false metal) dead with leather, spikes, and minor chords played a thousand miles an hour. Although Bathory was an actual band, it has always been identified by one character, frontman Quorthon (RIP). If anybody is responsible for ushering in the age of black metal darkness, it’s him.
Quorthon, early 80’s, looking more glam than grim
But was Quorthon just a frustrated glam-rocker? I’m sure there are snowy, fjord-y pockets of Earth out there where I could get hung, drawn and quartered for even suggesting such heresy, but if the Black Metal Antiquarium is any indication, around the the time of the first Bathory album, ol’ Tommy “Quorthon” Forsberg was into Motley Crue just as much as the rest of us were. It’s just one of the many compelling nuggets in this loosely knit collection of videos and photos that paint a vibrant, bloody, and occasionally hilarious portrait of the earliest days of black metal, from its creaky 80’s proto-black beginnings to the alarming wave of murder and mayhem (and Mayhem) that engulfed the scene in the 1990s.
Mayhem in their rehearsal space, late 80’s, clearly getting into the spirit of things. ’
Inspired largely by the cartoon Satanism of 80’s Brit metal-punks Venom, Scandinavian black metal exploded in the early 90’s with misanthropic bands like Darkthrone, Immortal, Emperor, and most infamously Mayhem, the most dangerous band in the world, a shadowy outfit with an extremely thorny history that includes self-mutilation, suicide, and cold-blooded murder. And this is while most of them were still teenagers!
Mayhem’s Euronymous, who would later be murdered by his own bandmate, Varg Vikernes.
What’s particularly exciting about the user-generated Antiquarium is that it is curated and archived by bands and fans who were there at the time in places like Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and South America, the epicenters for musical extremities throughout that tumultuous decade. That’s helpful, because it’s sometime difficult to tell one 17-year-old Norwegian kid in corpsepaint from another, particularly when the source is a blurry fanzine photo from 1992. Of course, it does sorta seem odd that this would happen on a Facebook page. In a better, more noble world, photographs of doomed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous sporting a half-shirt and a gross catfish mustache would be locked away in a forbidden vault somewhere, pressed between the pages of an arcane tome bound in human flesh. And maybe someday they will be, but this is still pretty cool for now.
While relatively sedate at this point—the millennial take on black metal (ambient BM, “Red” BM, “Blackgaze,” etc) is decidedly less psychotic than their 90s era counterparts—historically it is still the most overtly homicidal/suicidal rock genre ever created. And that’s not even counting all the burned churches and desecrated gravestones. It is a history of outright war against humanity, littered with beatings, bleedings, hate crimes, stone-cold murder, and painful, shrieking noise. And as the Antiquarium proves, through old photos, flyers, demo covers, zine pages and fuzzy shot-on-VHS video clips, it was created mostly by dopey teenage kids smearing their faces with clown makeup and aping their fave Venom and Black Sabbath records. It’s always good to remember that even the cuddliest kittens are hiding sharp claws.
Here are a few especially juicy entries..
These pre-teen monster-mash goofs would grow up to become Brazilian thrash metal masters Sepultura.
Emperor are now considered one of the most progressive black metal bands and vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn is one the most well-respected musicians on the scene. But in 1990, when the band was called Xerasia, he was just another teenage dirtbag ripping off Alice Cooper.
Black metal’s goth-goblin Mortiis, back when he preferred housedresses and bathtub suicides to elf ears and leather wings.
VHS footage from 1990 of Mayhem before the suicide/murder of Dead and Euronymous
The “rabid Hamburgler” phase of Impaled Nazarene.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Bargain Bin Blasphemy puts black metal corpse paint on all your throw-away records