The Early Norwegian black metal scene was a group of Norwegian black metal enthusiasts in the early 1990s, which was identified by some as a cultThe Black Circle. Consisting of youths ranging from late teens to mid-20s, most of such enthusiasts congregated at the record store Helvete (”Hell”) in Oslo. It is from this scene that the "Second Wave" of black metal emanated, and possibly where later crimes, that would overshadow this era of black metal, had been conceived and elaborated.

The scene was the focus of controversy due to crimes committed by some of its members; two cases of murder, alleged cannibalism and over a dozen cases of arson. In addition to this, "Satanic" crimes were attributed to the black metal scene in the Norwegian media. For example, one Norwegian TV channel conducted an interview with a woman who claimed that her child was sacrificed by "Satanists"; she later claimed that they murdered her dog too.[1]

Suicide of Per Yngve Ohlin

On 8 April 1991, Mayhem vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin (aka 'Dead') committed suicide in a house shared by the band. Fellow musicians often described Ohlin as a strange and introverted person. However he was best known for his infamous performances – which involved cutting himself, carrying around a dead crow, and wearing clothes that had been buried weeks prior to the concert.[2][3]

He was found with slit wrists and a shotgun round to the head, by Mayhem guitarist Øystein Aarseth (aka 'Euronymous'). Ohlin's suicide note read "Excuse all the blood" and included an apology for firing the weapon indoors. Before calling the police, Aarseth went to a nearby store and bought a disposable camera to photograph the corpse, after re-arranging some items.[4] One of these photographs was later used as the cover of a bootleg live album entitled Dawn of the Black Hearts.[5]

Eventually, rumours surfaced that Aarseth made a stew with pieces of Ohlin's brain, and made necklaces with fragments of Ohlin's skull. The band later denied the former rumour, but confirmed that the latter was true.[2] Additionally, Aarseth claimed to have given these necklaces to musicians he deemed worthy. Mayhem bassist Jørn Stubberud (aka 'Necrobutcher') noted that "people became more aware of the [black metal] scene after Dead had shot himself ... I think it was Dead's suicide that really changed the scene."[6]


During May–June 1991,[7] Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth of the band Mayhem opened an independent record store which he called Helvete[8]. The term Helvete is Norwegian for hell, and originates from the Norse expression hels víti, meaning the punishment of Hel.[9] The record store was located in Oslo, Schweigaards gate 56. Several musicians in the scene frequently met in the basement of the record store, such as the members of Mayhem, the members of Emperor, Varg Vikernes of Burzum, and Snorre Ruch of Thorns. Euronymous also founded his record label Deathlike Silence Productions in its basement, releasing some of the most important Norwegian black metal recordings. Rare classic death metal records were also sold at the store. Bård Faust worked in Helvete and lived at the back of the building,[10] and Samoth also lived there for a time.[11] The store's walls were painted black and decorated with medieval weapons, posters of bands, and picture discs, while its window featured a polystyrene tombstone.[10] In summer 1993, the store was closed only months before Aarseth's murder by Varg Vikernes of Burzum.

Black Metal Inner Circle?

Although the scene is often referred to as the "Black Metal Inner Circle" (particularly by Aarseth), such a term is highly disputable. Not only would it imply that some sort of cult existed at the time, the accounts about it differ strongly. The books Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock and Roll and Lords Of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground both claim the existence of the "Black Metal Inner Circle". For example, an online announcement for a film based on Lords of Chaos reads:

In an escalating unholy war, black metal bands and their obsessive fans have left a grim legacy of suicide, murder and terrorism spreading from Norway to Germany, Russia, America and beyond. The feature film will focus on the relationship between legendary figures Varg Vikernes and Euronymous and the rest of the 'Black Circle' as they wage war against the powers that be in their native country.[12][13]

However, in his review of Lucifer Rising, Varg Vikernes denied the existence of the "Black Metal Inner Circle", claiming:

First of all the so-called Black Circle was something Euronymous made up because he wanted to make people believe there was such a thing, but it was nonsense and never existed. The media on the other hand believed it existed for a while, but quickly stopped talking about it when they understood it was a fake rumour.[14]

Similarly, when asked in Lords of Chaos "What was the Black Circle?", Bård Faust replied:

It's just a name that was invented for the people who hung out at the shop ... there wasn't anything like members and membership cards and official meetings.[15]

Church arsons and attempted arsons

Members and fans of the Norwegian black metal scene claimed responsibility for inspiring (and perpetrating) over fifty arsons directed at Christian churches between 1992–1996.[8][16][1] Many of the buildings were hundreds of years old, and widely regarded as important historical landmarks. One of the first and most notable was Norway's Fantoft stave church, which the police believed was destroyed by Varg Vikernes.[16] He was found guilty for the arsons of Holmenkollen Chapel, Skjold Church and Åsane Church.[17] To coincide with the release of Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Vikernes and Aarseth had conspired to blow up Nidaros Cathedral, which appears on the album cover. Aarseth's murder in August 1993 put an end to this plan and delayed the album's release.[18] The musicians Samoth,[19] Faust,[19] and Jørn Inge Tunsberg[16] were also convicted for church arsons.

Today, opinions differ within the black metal community concerning the legitimacy of such actions. Guitarist Infernus and former vocalist Gaahl of the band Gorgoroth have praised the church burnings in interviews, with the latter also opining "there should have been more of them, and there will be more of them".[20] However, Necrobutcher and Kjetil Manheim of Mayhem have disapproved of the church burnings, with the latter claiming "It was just people trying to gain acceptance within a strict group (the black metal scene) ... they wanted some sort of approval and status".[18]

Partial list of church arsons reported by English-language media sources:


  • May 23: burning of Storetveit Church in Bergen[21]
  • Jun 6: burning of Fantoft stave church in Bergen[22] – Varg Vikernes is strongly suspected as the culprit, but was not convicted.[22]
  • Aug 1: burning of Revheim Church in Stavanger[22]
  • Aug 21: burning of Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo[21] – Varg Vikernes and Faust were convicted for this.
  • Sep 1: burning of Ormøya Church in Oslo[21]
  • Sep 13: burning of Skjold Church in Vindafjord[21] – Varg Vikernes and Samoth were convicted for this.
  • Oct 3: burning of Hauketo Church in Oslo[21]
  • Dec 24: burning of Åsane Church in Bergen[1] – Varg Vikernes and Jørn Inge Tunsberg were convicted for this.[1]
  • Dec 25: burning of a methodist church in Sarpsborg[1] – a firefighter was killed while fighting this fire.[1]


  • Feb 7: burning of Lundby New Church in Gothenburg, Sweden[23]
  • Apr: attempted burning of a church in Myre
  • May 10: attempted burning of a church in Jeløy
  • Aug: attempted burning of a church in Bodø
  • Sep: attempted burning of a church in Røa, Oslo


  • Mar 13: burning of a church in Sund
  • Mar 27: burning of Seegård Church in Snertingdal
  • May 17: attempted burning of Åmodt Chapel and Gol stave church in Buskerud
  • Jun 4: burning of Frogn Church in Drøbak
  • Jun 19: attempted burning of Heni Church in Gjerdrum
  • Jul 7: burning of a church in Jeløy


  • May 12: burning of Lord Church in Telemark
  • May 25: burning of Såner Church in Vestby
  • Jul 21: attempted burning of a church college in Eidanger
  • Sep 3: attempted burning of a church college in Vågsbygd
  • Nov 3: burning of Innset Church in Rennebu

Murder of Øystein Aarseth

In late January 1993, Varg Vikernes of Burzum was interviewed by a journalist from Bergens Tidende. Vikernes had requested the interview in order to gain publicity for the black metal scene and for Øystein Aarseth's record store Helvete. However, the interview led to a police investigation and Vikernes was put under arrest for a week. Aarseth decided to close his record store due to this negative attention.

On 10 August 1993, Vikernes and Snorre Ruch travelled from Bergen to Aarseth’s apartment in Oslo. Upon their arrival a confrontation began, which ended when Vikernes fatally stabbed Aarseth. His body was found outside the apartment with twenty-three cut wounds – two to the head, five to the neck, and sixteen to the back.[24]

It has been speculated that the murder was the result of a power struggle, a financial dispute over Burzum records, or an attempt at "out doing" the stabbing in Lillehammer.[25] Vikernes claims that Aarseth had plotted to torture him to death and videotape the event – using a meeting about an unsigned contract as a pretext.[26] On the night of the murder, Vikernes claims he intended to hand Aarseth the signed contract and "tell him to fuck off", but that Aarseth attacked him first.[26] Additionally, Vikernes defends that most of Aarseth’s cut wounds were caused by broken glass he had fallen on during the struggle.[26]

Regardless of the circumstances, Vikernes was arrested within days, and a few months later was sentenced to 21 years in prison for both the murder and church arsons. In a controversial display, Vikernes actually smiled at the moment his verdict was read, an image that was widely reprinted in the news media.[26] In May 1994, Mayhem finally released the album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which features Aarseth on electric guitar and Vikernes on bass guitar. While granted a short leave in 2003, Vikernes attempted to escape his bonds in Tønsberg, but he was re-arrested in a stolen vehicle with various firearms.[27]

Conflict with other music scenes

Many recall a strong rivalry between Norwegian black metal and Swedish death metal scenes. Fenriz and Tchort have noted that Norwegian black metal musicians were "fed up with the whole death metal scene"[28] and that "death metal was very uncool in Oslo" at the time.[18] On a number of occasions, Euronymous sent death threats to the more commercialized death metal groups in Europe.[18] Allegedly, a group of Norwegian black metal fans even plotted to kidnap and murder certain Swedish death metal musicians.[18]

List of artists

The following is a list of Norwegian artists that released black metal music during 1991–1993:

Band Formed From
Ancient1992Eidsvåg, Nesset
Burzum1991Bergen, Hordaland
Carpathian Forest1992Sandnes, Rogaland
Darkthrone1987Kolbotn, Oppegård
Emperor1991Notodden, Telemark
Enslaved1991Haugesund, Rogaland
Gorgoroth1992Bergen, Hordaland
Hades/Hades Almighty1992Bergen, Hordaland
Ildjarn1992Bø, Telemark
Immortal1990Bergen, Hordaland
Thorns1990Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag
Thou Shalt Suffer1991Notodden, Telemark

List of music releases

The following is a list of black metal releases by Norwegian bands during 1991–1993. Releases in bold are albums, whilst the rest are demos and extended plays.

Before 1991:

  • 1987-08: Mayhem – Deathcrush
  • 1990-11: Mayhem – Live in Leipzig (recorded on November 26)


  • 1991-05: Burzum – Burzum Demo I
  • 1991-06: Thorns – Grymyrk
  • 1991-07: Thou Shalt Suffer – Open the Mysteries of Your Creation
  • 1991-07: Arcturus – My Angel
  • 1991-09: Burzum – Burzum Demo II
  • 1991-10: Immortal – Immortal
  • 1991-10: Thou Shalt Suffer – Into the Woods of Belial
  • 1991-12: Enslaved – Nema
  • 1991-??: Strid – Malfeitor


  • 1992-02: Ildjarn – Unknown Truths
  • 1992-02: Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky
  • 1992-03: Burzum – Burzum
  • 1992-06: Satyricon – All Evil
  • 1992-07: Enslaved – Yggdrasill
  • 1992-07: Immortal – Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism
  • 1992-07: Emperor – Wrath of the Tyrant
  • 1992-09: Carpathian Forest – Bloodlust & Perversion
  • 1992-12: Fimbulwinter – Fimbulwinter Demo
  • 1992-??: Thorns – Trøndertun
  • 1992-??: Strid – Pandemonium


  • 1993-01: Ildjarn – Ildjarn Demo
  • 1993-03: Burzum – Aske
  • 1993-04: Gorgoroth – A Sorcery Written in Blood
  • 1993-05: Ildjarn – Norse
  • 1993-06: Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
  • 1993-06: Hades Almighty – Alone Walkyng
  • 1993-08: Burzum – Det Som Engang Var
  • 1993-09: Satyricon – Dark Medieval Times
  • 1993-10: Emperor – Emperor
  • 1993-10: Enslaved – Hordanes Land
  • 1993-11: Immortal – Pure Holocaust
  • 1993-11: Ulver – Vargnatt
  • 1993-??: Carpathian Forest – Journey through the Cold Moors of Svarttjern
  • 1993-??: Ancient – Eerily Howling Winds
  • 1993-??: Strid – End of Life


  • Baddeley, Gavin (1999). Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock and Roll
  • Moynihan, Micheal and Didrik Soderlind (1998). Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Satan rides the Media (1998)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hellhammer interviewed by Dmitry Basik (June 1998)
  3. "In The Face of Death" (20 February 2005)
  4. Lords of Chaos (1998): Hellhammer interview
  5. Sounds of Death magazine (1998): Hellhammer interview
  6. Unrestrained magazine #15: Necrobutcher interview
  7. In May or June 1991, according to the Interview with Bård Eithun; Lords of Chaos (1998): 66
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth". June 1992. Retrieved 2009-10-10. "Well, the original idea was to make a specialist shop for metal in general, but that's a long time ago. Normal metal isn't very popular any more, all the children are listening to "death" metal now. I`d rather be selling Judas Priest than Napalm Death, but at least now we can be specialized within "death" metal and make a shop where all the trend people know that they will find all the trend music. This will help us earning money so that we can order more EVIL records to the evil people. But no matter how sh***y music we have to sell, we'll make a BLACK METAL look on the shop, we've had a couple of "actions" in churches lately, and the shop is going to look like a black church in the future. We`ve also thought about having total darkness inside, so that people would have to carry torches to be able to see the records." 
  9. Norwegian dictionary entry for "Helvete"
  10. 10.0 10.1 Campion, Chris (2005-02-20). "In the face of death". The Observer (Guardian Unlimited).,11710,1419364,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  11. Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: the Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.. p. 271. 
  12. 'Lords Of Chaos' Norwegian Black Metal Movie To Go Into Pre-Production - Nov. 5, 2005 Retrieved on September 10, 2007
  13. Hans Fjellestad Homepage, mentioning a screenplay "Lords of Chaos" as being in pre-production; Retrieved on September 11, 2007
  14. Vikernes, Varg (2004-08-13). "A personal review of Gavin Baddeley's book "Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock'n'Roll"". Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  15. Lords of Chaos (1998): 67
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Grude, Torstein (Director). (January 1 1998). Satan rir Media. [motion picture]. Norway: Grude, Torstein. 
  17. Lords of Chaos (1998): 89
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Martin Ledang, Pål Aasdal (2008). Once Upon a Time in Norway.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lords of Chaos (1998), page 79
  20. Dunn, Sam (2005). Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Lords of Chaos (1998): 79
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Lords of Chaos (1998): 78
  23. Lords of Chaos (1998): 113, 269
  24. Steinke, Darcey. "Satan's Cheerleaders" SPIN Magazine, February 1996.
  25. Mayhem Biography on Yahoo! Music
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Varg Vikernes - A Burzum Story: Part II - Euronymous
  27. Police nab 'The Count' after he fled jail -
  28. Zebub, Bill (2007). Black Metal: A Documentary.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Early Norwegian black metal scene. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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