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Music Movie Review: True Norwegian Black Metal, pts. 1-5

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Black Metal is the intense, often forgotten, subgenre of metal. Getting its name from the 1982 Venom release, Black Metal hovered underneath the mainstream radar for many years, passed around the world via word of mouth and cassette-trading. With the church burnings and the murder of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous (chronicled in the excellent book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground) in the mid ninties, Black Metal appeared in the spotlight, only to recess shortly after. Since then it has remained semi-unknown, though the number of bands has remained steadily the same.

In VBS.tv's series True Norwegian Black Metal one is given a quick history of the genre and an introduction to Norway's Gorgoroth. Interviews with current and former members give a small glimpse into the lives of Norwegian Black Metallers, but the focus on Gaahl, the vocalist, illuminates the beliefs and personality of (according to Terrorizer Magazine) the most "evil man in the world".

The VBS crew caught up with Gaahl shortly after being released from prison at his mountain home in Bergen, Norway. Resting 20 minutes from the nearest town, the quaint building is barely visible through the ever-present fog and rain. The interviewer describes his reluctance and fear before going in to sit and talk with the man that only a year prior had allegedly forced someone to drink their own blood (Gaahl claims that he collected his victim's blood in a glass only to keep it from getting on the carpet). When looking at the house in the background, one can only think, "That looks like a house where someone would be tortured!"

At Gaahl's request, the camera sat on a tripod while they partook of his extensive wine collection and conversed. Watching, one is almost comfortable in the room with them, Gaahl being a commodious host and the subject flowing freely from his beliefs ("Christianity is based on stolen souls and lives… so every trace of them should be erased.") to his music, which is "about the message, not the music", though they rarely print song lyrics. His demeanor is calm, thought-out, and intelligent.

He takes the crew upstairs to show them his paintings; fantastic, detailed scenes of loneliness, terror, and broken bodies. They then walk outside, passing the schoolhouse where he went with only one other student, who eventually killed himself, from kindergarten until the age of 18. From there they make their way up a mountain to see his grandparent's home, a dilapidated shack not much larger than a tool shed. All the while Gaahl shares his thoughts on nature, religion, and various philosophies. Light is shed on his victims by Gaahl claiming that everything he has done was in self-defense and a parallel is drawn with children dealing with bullies. When one crosses his border, just like with painting, he must finish it.

As the short video progresses one's comfort quickly turns into apprehension. His eyes focus and then drift, becoming larger with certain ideas ("…make sure their bad seed never spreads…"). When climbing the mountain, the producer is heard saying, "This just isn't safe. We're putting the whole project on the line with this. I don't know where he's taking us and I don't give a shit.". Everyone involved seems to be quickly unraveling.

The uneasiness of the situation was displayed after the feature seemed to end. Gaahl reappeared in his house and was asked if he liked to be portrayed as the lone wolf to which he responded, "You are not asking the right questions. You are not listening." The interviewer then asked for Gaahl to "guide" him. His answer? Three minutes of silence capped off with a widening of the eyes and then a cold stare.

The video, although only 25-30 minutes, highlights a genre, and more importantly a personality, that is both interesting and thought-provoking. Working in the same vein as their other programs, VBS brings to light something you are not going to see anywhere else; an honest portrayal of someone that is possibly misunderstood, an unseen drive to get the real story, and the realization that there is more going on in the world than the stars and starlets and their unsurprising everyday habits.

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