While thousands of Norwegians left town this week for traditional Easter ski trips or other holiday pursuits, fans of black metal music from all over the world were pouring into Oslo, for five days of concerts and some unusual sightseeing in an area known for making black metal history.
The black metal fans are in Norway to attend the 10th annual “Inferno Festival.” It features 46 concerts this year at various locations around town including the Viking Ships Museum. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the festival had sold 1,200 passes and an equal number of tickets to individual concerts, more than double the amount back in 2001.
Fully a third of those attending the Inferno Festival are international visitors. “People are coming not only from around Europe, but from Egypt, Japan, Mexico, India, the US and South Africa,” Runa Lunde Strindin of the festival staff told DN.
And they won’t only be attending concerts. The festival also offers seminars, meetings and some special sightseeing, all linked to Norway’s equally special role in the black metal music industry. Norway has produced some of the world’s most well-known black metal bands and one of them, “Mayhem,” is among those scheduled to perform at Inferno.
‘Mayhem’ founder miffed
Its founder, Jørn Stubberud, told newspaper Dagsavisen this week, though, that he’s not happy either with the sightseeing program or with a seminar featuring author Håvard Rem, who is launching a book on Norwegian black metal’s history. Stubberud claims Rem failed to interview him for the book. “How could he write a history book without going to the sources?” Stubberud asked, hinting that he was inclined to show up at Rem’s appearance “and ask him some uncomfortable questions.”
Stubberud was most offended by the sightseeing, which involves driving festival goers around the Oslo area in a bus to show them, for example, the house where Mayhem was founded, the record company run by Stubberud’s Mayhem partner Øystein Aarseth before Aarseth was murdered by another black metal musician, Varg Vikernes, and the Oslo apartment building where Vikernes stabbed Aarseth.
Also reportedly on the sightseeing tour was the Holmenkollen Chapel, which was rebuilt after being burned down. Vikernes was convicted not only of murdering Aarseth but also for burning down churches around Norway in the 1990s.
Stubberud said he later got over his irritation and agreed to headline at the festival, where he was due to perform just after midnight on Good Friday at the Rockefeller concert hall downtown. “When they’ve sunken so low that they operate Hollywood-style sightseeing around Norwegian black metal, I should rather laugh about it,” Stubberud told Dagsavisen.
More mainstream appeal
Once considered “extreme,” black metal since has begun appealing to a more mainstream crowd, and one band, “Keep of Kalessin,” not only took part but won a semi-final of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this winter, part of the run-up to the pop-oriented Eurovision Song Contest. Most black metal acts have moved beyond the days of throwing bloody pig heads into the audience, for example.
Stubberud concedes his band “has never been more popular than today,” noting that Mayhem will set off on a concert tour later this year in Eastern Europe, South American and the US. The music, he claims, was built “from the bottom up, using cassettes and copy machines.”
“There are no big corporations standing behind us,” he told Dagsavisen. “It’s just the musicians themselves, and when folks have connected with black metal, they’re getting something genuine.”