Last night was the Heavy Metal concert that was held by wrestler Chris Jericho and his band Fozzy. The event was a blast in terms of the Traditional sound that it offered up but now that it was over, it was time to get a little grittier and see what was brewing down at the Scandinavia House. It was there that a seminar on Norwegian Black Metal would be held and its official title was “A Blaze In The Northern Sky: Norwegian Black Metal & The Culture That Spawned It”. The affair would be moderated and in a sense hosted by Patrizia Mazzuoccolo; a music journalist and as I understand a sometimes radio host for this type of material.
We see here a shot or two of the Scandinavia House. It’s a nice looking building and located over on 38th Street and Park Avenue. It’s a quick walk from Grand Central Station for those who are interested in any of the other happenings that are there, or for those who wish to enjoy the fare served up by the restaurant on the ground level. I didn’t sample the eats but I will say that everything smelled good from my vantage point. Perhaps next time. I am always game for a nice dinner.
Across the top of the entrance we found the countries represented in the Scandinavian realm and you can see from left to right Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark. Yes we know there are additional countries that make this all up, but we didn’t notice any other flags. If we missed them, then I apologize for my oversight.
We see here the ticket for the event which fans were able to purchase for a mere $10 bucks (or 60.9 Norwegian Kroner for those who were curious). If you belonged to the Scandinavia House as one of their membership you got in for $8. The downside of this was that they took the ticket back when you got into the seminar room. I guess that the organizers didn’t realize that they were dealing with a room full of Metal heads and we need our ticket stubs. Since this happened I was glad that I took a photograph of it as it was in my hands all of ten minutes. Boo to this part of the night because I am one of those people that loves the ticket stubs we end up with after shows for our keepsakes.
The agenda lined out a number of interesting “guests” or participants for lack of a better word that Patrizia had set up to be here. Of course “being here” was not exactly what was going to be the case for Harald Fossberg, Nocturno Culto, Mortiis and Gaahl; and instead of being present in the flesh would instead be speaking to us via remote link care of the Skype program. The rumblings from some of the audience were that they felt a little deceived by this and thought that the musicians would be in the room and be able to chit chat in person a little after the event had completed. I think this was an oversight by the organizers more than their being out to fool those who had interest and let’s face it, if all of thes musicians were in the room with us, the seminar would not cost only $10 and instead be at least $100.
When the audience was filling in the seats they could see a single slide that was being shown on the wall of the seminar room. It featured some words from one of Black Metal’s most notorious figures, Mayhem’s Varg Vikernes. The Burzum bassist and the band he joined have one of the most sinister stories out there and you can check that out via this Wikipedia entry HERE when time allows. I suggest that you don’t do this in a dark and spooky room if you are easily frightened. When it comes down to it, the tale is some seriously wild stuff and referenced as some of the most notorious happenings in the Black Metal music history.
The issues with using Skype were quickly apparent as the attempt to contact Harald who was the first person planned for the event got us connected with Mortiis who teased the moderator for the mistake and said how he was now going to go to bed instead of waiting for the call. It was about 2am where he was in the world. Harald was the 1st singer for the band Turbo Negro and they were more of a Death Punk kind of outfit but they mingled and recorded in the same spaces that bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone did and since he is now a music journalist in his own right his words were hopefully going to bring a lot to the table. He was quite pleasant to listen to but I personally didn’t think that his time was used to the best effect by the moderator. I think that the best line that Harald gave us was how Varg Vikernes was referred to as “the Charles Manson of Norway”. Next up was Nocturno Culto or Ted Skjellum. Before we heard from Nocturno we listened to audio statements that were prepared and taken from Cronos of Venom (the band credited with coining the term Black Metal) and from Tom G. Warrior of the legendary Celtic Frost.
Ted is the vocalist, guitarist and sometimes the bassist of one of the seminal Black Metal bands Darkthrone and he would not be appearing via Skype tonight but instead would be speaking to us on the phone as he was on his way to Germany. He admitted that he had been drinking a little bit so that explained the slightly slurred speech from him but he was still rather interesting. Some of the questions posed to him were about the bands new album which was decidedly different from the expected sound from Darkthrone and was now more of a Punkish feel. It had been stressed how the band never followed any directives or edicts from their record labels. It was amusing that when the moderator said she was speaking to Mortiis next to discuss the church burnings and other such topics how the laughed under his breath and mumbled “oh God”. One of the questions posed to Nocturno was what the band members did in their “off time” and this meant outside of their being involved in Darkthrone. We learned that Fenriz is a mail man in his country and that Mr. Oculto works in a saw mill and also teaches. He said how his co-workers find it very “cool” that he does this music thing outside of the daily routine.
So here we were again “speaking” to Mortiis who appeared to be using Skype via his phone and hence had the clearest sounding connection. It was later than planned and likely somewhat close to 3am when we got the musician back online. Mortiis is a person with some interesting history as he was once a member of the band Emperor who are still considered pioneers in the Symphonic Black Metal arena. Even though the hour was incredibly late, I felt that Mortiis was the most engaging of the speakers and had the funniest insights and comments. In today’s music arena, Mortiis is no longer playing any kind of Black Metal but instead is going the Industrial route with a slightly Punkish edge to it. He dresses in garish masks and clothing and has made a significant name for himself on his own. He did mention that he had a new release coming soon and when asked if he would be touring the states again he replied yes because he loves to tour the USA.
This photo above pretty much speaks for itself and presents the chronology of Norwegian Black Metal that was begun by Mayhem back in 1984 and is continued in today’s music realm by 1349 in 2010. Of course there are many more Norwegian Black Metal bands and now even ones from other countries such as Sweden and the USA. Some of the giants in the realm outside of the Norse territories come via Marduk, Merrimack, and Secrets Of The Moon. When it comes down to it there are far too many to list so after you read this narrative consider yourself assigned some research homework.
The last person to be a part of the seminar was former Gorgoroth singer and notorious front man Gaahl (Kristian Eivand Espedal) and it was safe to assume that he was one of the primary attractions for many of the people who had come to the seminar. The downside of Gaahl’s time became apparent quickly with a terrible connection and a static visual. I did quietly laugh to myself when I remembered a documentary film that said Gaahl’s far away home had no plumbing in it, but now apparently had some form of high speed internet setup. Having seen a number of interviews with Gaahl in the past I can safely say that he is a compelling figure but that is not who we got this evening and instead got a very reserved, soft spoken person who hardly seemed interested in speaking about anything. Many “yes” and “no’s” after lengthy lead ins from the moderator made this an almost arduous part of the night. We did learn that Gaahl is now an actor as well and working on other music and is a bit of a wine connisseur.
This all led us to the closing of the event and the Scandinavia House had setup a number of glasses of wine for those who attended to enjoy while they mingled and spoke to one another. They had a great CD sampler for those who took part in this session and it was simply called “Metal” and it appeared to be volume 3 of its run. It seemed to be released by Music Export Norway, so I shall assume that all of the seventeen bands offered up are Norwegian in origin. Artists that are presented were Audrey Horne, Borknagar, El Caco, Galar, Insense, In Vain, Keep Of Kalessin, Kollwitz, Kvelertak, Obliteration, Ov Hell, Ribozyme, Sarke, Shining, The Cumshots, Vried, and Arabrot.
In terms of the Black Metal that was delivered on this sampler we had Borknagar, Galar, In Vain (who fooled me a little bit with their Alice In Chains kind of opening), Keep Of Kalessin, Kollwitz, Obliteration, Ov Hell (this is a Black Metal supergroup actually and worth looking into),Sarke and Vreid. The rest of them are different gamuts of the Metal genre and while interesting did not fall in line with the seminar subject matter. Despite this, I will hardly argue with a free CD that can turn me onto new things.
Observations On The Seminar: Patrizia is to be commended for her willingness to address such a topic in the forum that she decided to use but I felt that her idea of making this almost like a live call in radio show and educational seminar was a bit flawed. As a former corporate trainer I know just how difficult it can be to keep an audience engaged and when the topic involves very colorful characters one never really knows what they might say. Sometimes they don’t say anything which we found being the case once in awhile here. I felt that while a great idea to hold a seminar like this, that I would have kept it a little more straight forward as opposed to the looseness that is sometimes had. I felt she needed to choose one side for this to be best received. Either keep the whole thing loose and present it as such, or strictly keep it to a lecture format with the occasional input from the audience being taken from time to time.
Sometimes the questions seemed perfect for the moment and then at times they went off on a tangent that bore no real fruit for those who wanted to come away with something from the inquiry. This is a tough part of any seminar and one thing I did when training was to line out the defined inquiries I wanted to make so we could get those done and out of the way. Sticking to the plan allows one to also stick to the time frame. Once those were done, the floor could be opened to other related questions or whatever came to mind could be brought to the table. This worked for my classes at least and some screening ahead prevents any additional time from being wasted.
Time also was an issue as the seminar was only supposed to run for 90 minutes but ended up close to three hours. Considering that no smoke or stretch break was offered to the audience you found some folks being restless towards the final hour. This is not meant as a “boo hiss” to what went down because anything like this takes a lot of work to do properly. Even the most prepared moderator cannot envision all of the variables. The moderator did mention how she was writing a book about the topic so I guess we shall see that sometime in the future. If I am provided with a copy I will surely review it on the pages of PiercingMetal.com. In the end this did prove that a number of people were interested in the subject and while some folks felt it could have been better, there were also those who felt it was just right. I did like seeing how Skype worked quite a bit as its something that I have been interested in using more for my own journalistic adventuring, so perhaps one day I will implement some stuff from there on PiercingMetal.com – Let’s see if I am ever lucky enough to have the time.
You can learn some more about Norwegian Black Metal by clicking THIS LINK – We have provided the Wiki entry for the subject and hope you can dig around on it.
Back in 2008, VBS aired a documentary about True Norwegian Black Metal and interviewed Gorgoroth’s Gaahl for it. I highly recommend this film, and have placed a link for you to enjoy it in full HERE.
As a music reviews website, PiercingMetal.com has covered a wide sampling of the Black Metal genre and many of its sub-categories. We invite you to look at this content via THIS LINK.