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Mayhem against the machine

Two black metal documentaries try and explain the genre of music that loves to hate the world

Once upon a time in Norway, 1984 to be exact, a black metal band called Mayhem took birth. They led the black metal movement and, through their music, questioned the status quo — the way we live and how we are forced to live it. In 1991, its lead singer Per Yngve Ohlin committed suicide, with his wrists cut up and gun shots in his head; pictures of his body were later used on an album cover. He was known for his onstage antics, including stuffing a dead raven in a plastic bag, that he smelled often before a concert as felt he needed to “inhale the smell of death”. In 1993, Mayhem’s guitarist, Aarseth (stage name Euronymous), was stabbed by Varg Vikernes, the band’s bassist.

A still from Once Upon A Time In Norway
A still from Once Upon A Time In Norway

It’s the story of this bizarre band, a sub culture and a genre of music that forms the subject of two black metal documentaries that will be shown at the Hive this Tuesday. Once Upon A Time In Norway (2007), directed by Martin Ledang, talks of the rise and fall of Mayhem; Satan Rides the Media (1998), directed by journalist Torstein Grude, covers the controversy around Vikernes, also linked to a series of arson attacks, including the burning down of Catholic churches in the 1990s in Norway.

A still from Satan Rides the Media
A still from Satan Rides the Media

Though black metal’s roots can be traced back to Switzerland and London, it’s Norway that was the mothership,” says curator Saurabh Mistry. “Though never considered mainstream, it has a cult following. It’s like theatre really, with stage props and wild antics, and has connections to the occult. But, it’s not just about the crime and violence. Most metal music is a revolt against the way the world works — it questions things.”

It’s a way o f life though, especially for metal heads, who are considered the most fanatic of music lovers. “While Once Upon a Time in Norway doesn’t capture exact details about Mayhem, I think it does give a fair portrayal of the essence of a black metal band’s lifestyle,” says metal head Amyn Patel, also a Mayhem fan. “These movies are about a sub-genre of music that keeps us going, and gets us out of bed every day. Black metal is essentially a means of rebellion and an expression of frustration. Though I don’t support the arson and violence, Mayhem was a symptom of the world we live in.”

Yet, the movies aren’t just for the metal heads. Come in if you are curious about the metal “scene”. Listen in, Mistry says. “They are asking some important questions. Are we actually living in a matrix? Keep an open mind.”

WHEN: January 19, 9 pm
WHERE: The Hive, Huma Mansion, Chuim Village, Khar West
FREE

To attend, register on the Hive/Fourth Wall Facebook page

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