Northern Darkness

Finally, the saga of the Scandinavian metal wars gets its documentary

Right after America scrapped its experiment with hair bands, metalheads in the desolate climes of Norway started killing each other and burning churches (really). Metal Storm: The Scandinavian Black Metal Wars is a perfect film for the era: spooky and fascinating, with weak production values.

After opening credits in an unreadable, supremely cool Gothic font and obligatory references to Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey, the film appears to settle into straight-doc mode until an unexpected treat: a full-length Bathory video, legendary and rare even in metal circles, featuring fire, heavily garbed people tramping through forests, and, brilliantly, a Viking ship. I'm a touch saddened but mostly relieved this wasn't around when I was 14.

Then it's on to Norwegian black metal, which the narrator calls "so pure and unsparingly severe it would sear a mark into the history books." And she's right! The film follows the band Mayhem, starting when the boys Jan, Øystein, Jorn, and Svein (or Hellhammer, Euronymus, Necrobutcher, and Maniac) move into "Satan's House" and recruit a singer named "Dead," who is soon dead after shooting himself in the head. Euronymus finds the corpse, finds a camera, and commences photography (one picture will grace Mayhem's next EP). Then he makes talismanic necklaces out of the skull fragments, and two months later opens Hell, a record shop. Euronymus is way metal.

The extremely metal Varg Vikernes.
The extremely metal Varg Vikernes.


Plays Friday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the "Heavy Metal Cinema" film series

Admission is $5-8


www.ybca.or g

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F.

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Then Euronymus is way dead. After Mayhem's bassist, Varg Vikernes, is cleared in a sensational church burning trial (from 1992 to 1996, 50 churches in Norway were torched), he stabs Euronymus for being a poseur, among less metal reasons (money). And he's a bit of a snob about it, since spilling blood, calling forth hell, launching Armageddon, etc., are jobs lifted whole from black metal's mission statement. A handful of his peers follow suit (one murder features torture, cannibalism, and necrophilia), but most realize that, hey, this is just music!

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