Norwegian Black Metal is an often explored sub-genre and culture of music, but usually looked under intense media scrutiny. On very few occasions has the Norwegian Black Metal scene been explored from the inside out, free of media pressures. The book True Norwegian Black Metal is a photo book that spawned from the VICE Magazine 2007 documentary of the same name. Peter Beste, the photographer, helped put the VICE documentary together and while doing so became inspired to compile a book of his black metal expeditions. While the documentary is criticized for not being entirely factual, the book garners no such criticism—unlike the film, only bits of text in the entire book are quotes from famous people (both in and out of the scene)—and includes an introduction by Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, creator of the first and most influential fanzine in black metal (Slayer Magazine).
Short and to the point, True Norwegian Black Metal starts off with black pages using minimal amounts of white text then immediately grabs the reader’s attention with an incredibly stark spread juxtaposing a black metaller breathing fire into the air with the Latin text “in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” (translation: “we enter the circle in the night and are consumed with fire”) in medieval English typeface. The first section of photos feature characters prototypical of what many think when you say “black metal”—corpse paint, leather jackets, long hair, the works. It isn’t until after the introductions that you get a look into the real Norway and members of the black metal scene.
In terms of photo selection, there is no censorship among the photos. The reader sees all of the gory details, including more real and behind-the-scenes photos. Media depictions and dress associated with a black metal live show are all hyped and presented as the way that things are normally—True Norwegian Black Metal shows that there is more to the scene than aesthetics alone. There are sections that show the beautiful, and sometimes bleak, Norwegian countryside and sections that show the everyday life of black metallers around Norway. Quotes from the likes of E.M. Cioran, Gaahl (of Gorgoroth), Frost (of 1349/Satyricon), Fenriz (of Darkthrone), Abbath (of Immortal), H.P. Lovecraft, Albert Camus, etc. add a surprising amount of insight to the book as they speak volumes about the scene, the mindset of the people involved, how their world is perceived and why it is the way it is.
Undeniably the most moving part of the book is the introduction, an incredibly personal first-hand look at black metal written by Metalion. His writing it completely different than that of journalists and other media personalities—it’s devoid of judgment, and details how the scene all came to be. This includes the infamous Helvete record store as well as the strife between the bands Burzum and Mayhem—the suicide of vocalist Dead and the murder of guitarist Euronymous by Vark Vikernes—which shook Norway’s black metal scene to it’s core.
True Norwegian Black Metal is a must-have for anyone who has a serious fascination with music genres, those who want to learn something about black metal from a new perspective or just want to have a collection of fantastic pictures from the black metal scene in Norway. Cumulatively, this photo book gives much more insight to the real happenings involving the Norwegian black metal scene—much more than any text or spoken words could. True Norwegian Black Metal can be found any many book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, and can also be found at Newbury Comics. It can also be purchased from many retailers via Amazon. If you’d like to see the documentary, it can be found on VBS.tv.