Why Do Norwegians Like Black Metal?


Black metal might just be Norway’s most popular cultural export. The label of Norwegian black metal is proudly worn as a badge of honor, and Norwegian black metal bands have been leading the way in the genre for decades. This might create the impression that Norwegians are generally big fans of the genre, but that might not be the case. 

Norwegians are known for liking black metal because their country gave birth to some of the most important bands in the genre. However, black metal is not beloved by everyone in Norway; most people don’t like the extreme sound. There are still fans of the music, but it’s not universally loved.

This article will outline what black metal is and how it became popular in Norway. It will also examine what Norwegians think of the genre to see if they’re really such big fans. 

Norway heavy metal
What Is black metal? See below

What Is Black Metal?

Black metal is a metal subgenre with a distinct sound and lyrical themes. In black metal, there is high-pitched shrieking vocals, blast beats on the drums, and fast-paced riffs, typically in a minor key, which allows them to sound evil and menacing. 

Lyrically, black metal deals with dark themes, such as: 

  • The occult
  • Satanism
  • Evil
  • War
  • Pagan mythology

For most bands, satanism and occultism are just a gimmick, but there are some extremists who honestly believe in those things. 

The genre was named after the “Black Metal” album by British speed metal band Venom. The sound of black metal was pioneered by Bathory, who would create the blueprint for black metal in the early eighties. Interestingly, Bathory was a Swedish band, so the genre technically originates from Sweden, even though it’s often seen as a Norwegian thing.

However, the genre exploded in Norway in the late eighties and early nineties. It was spearheaded by bands such as Mayhem, Emperor, Burzum, and Darkthrone, for example. These bands would be embroiled in some scandals that garnered much media attention and arguably launched the genre into the mainstream. 

Norway concert
How did black metal get popular? See below

How did black metal get popular?

Black metal largely owes its popularity to controversy. This controversy is particularly tied to Mayhem and Burzum and includes murder and church burnings, among other things. It’s easy to see why the genre acquired a negative reputation, but in this case, it seems that truly no publicity is bad publicity. 

Mayhem Controversy

The first scandal included the band Mayhem. Their first vocalist, Dead (Per Yngve Ohlin), was famous for disturbing public performances that included self-harm. Eventually, this self-destructive behavior led to suicide. [1]

The band’s guitarist, Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth), found his body, took a photo of it, and later used it as an album cover. He did call the police eventually, but he also made jewelry from what were allegedly pieces of Dead’s skull. 

Church Burnings

The most despicable scandal that launched black metal into mainstream news concerned several church burnings. Count Grischnack (Varg Vikernes) of Mayhem and Burzum became most notorious for these acts, and he served a prison sentence because of that. 

He allegedly chose a church that was built on the ruins of a former pagan temple in Norway. [2] Whatever his reason was, this created an image of black metal as an evil, cultist subgenre, dangerous for Norwegian society. Black metal retained that reputation for quite some time, and some conservative people still fear it. 

black metal
How did black metal become popular in Norway? See below

Black Metal’s Popularity in Norway

The brief overview of black metal scandals above provides a good insight into why it quickly became popular. The notoriety attracted people, and soon new bands popped up, in Norway and abroad, and the genre kept growing. 

The Norwegian scene kept leading the way despite black metal bands popping up everywhere. The biggest names in the genre are mostly from Norway, and their sound is seen as the standard of black metal. Many bands try to copy it, so Norwegian black metal bands are greatly influential.

Over time, some bands like Dimmu Borgir developed a more palatable sound, which includes orchestral elements and more melodic guitars and vocals, which attracted many music fans who would otherwise not listen to black metal.

The abundance of black metal bands in Norway often creates a picture of Norwegians as great black metal lovers. People often mistakenly think the average person is a huge black metal fan, but that is far from the truth. [3]

Do Norwegians Like Black Metal?

Overall, it seems that metal music, in general, is more popular in Norway and Scandinavia than in the rest of Europe. This may imply that there might be more black metal fans than in other countries, too. It might also be true that the average person is more aware of black metal because of all the controversies. 

However, despite that, black metal is still a fringe community in Norway. While it might attract more casual listeners than in other countries, it is still mostly an underground subculture and a niche interest that doesn’t attract too many fans. 

This idea makes sense when you think about the fact that most black metal is not particularly easy to listen to. It was made to be harsh and raw, while the lyrical themes put off many people, even if they’re not very keen on Christianity. 

It can even be said that Norwegian black metal is more popular outside of Norway than inside it. 

Some bands have achieved great prominence, but they’re outliers, not the rule. For example, Dimmu Borgir played with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, which is a huge milestone and signifies mainstream acceptance. However, that event is an exception rather than the rule, and most black metal bands would not get that honor. 

All things considered, the image of Norwegians as black metal lovers is mostly a stereotypical one. For many people, especially in the metal community, black metal is the first Norwegian cultural product they see. They see the prominent black metal bands, and assume that black metal is mainstream in Norway, like Taylor Swift in the USA. 

Conclusion

Although many great names in black metal come from Norway, the genre is not that popular in the country, and most people aren’t fans. 

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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