Isolation and Black Metal

Written by: Hyvaarin
Published: 31.05.2007
ISOLATION AND BLACK METAL

Not long ago I was made aware of a documentary on black metal produced by VBS.TV (http://www.vbs.tv/player.php?bctid=769427891&bccl=NDEyODIxMzEzX19NVVNJQw) that focuses on a key member of the scene and attempts to offer an honest picture of the black metal movement as it is today, rather than rehashing tired and glamourised representations of the genre. Naturally, I had to write about it...

Though the documentary is presumably intended to be an illumination of the genre as a whole, it's centred quite strongly on Gorgoroth/the singer Gaahl. This is for good reason - Gorgoroth are a textbook BM band, sonically (employing blastbeats; abrasive, aggressive guitar playing; screamed vocals), visually (long hair; massive spiked armbands; inverted crucifixes; corpsepaint; pig heads on stakes set up in front of the stage), and when it comes to extra-curricular activities (Gaahl was imprisoned in 2005 for "torture-like violence"; guitarist Infernus was released on parole in March this year). Phew.

Anyway, the documentary starts off with some concert footage, then a background of the style and the band. Only when we get to the stuff with Gaahl (dubbed "the most evil man alive" by Terrorizer magazine) does this documentary start to show its unique value.

Interviewees suggest that Gorgoroth is a band fueled by ideology more than aesthetics, and judging by the interviews with Gaahl, he plays a large part in this. Living in the tiny town of Espedal (a town apparently owned and inhabited mostly by his family), he is isolated from the general Norwegian population. The documentary crew are said to be the first journalists permitted to visit Gaahl at his house. As further rejection of contemporary society, Gaahl lives without much of its technology - he has neither phone nor plumbing (in fact, one journalist mentions having to walk a kilometre through mud to go to another house just to "take a shit" (pardon the language...). Individualism is clearly a big thing for Gaahl, which he makes clear by sharing his philosophy of "following the god within yourself."

So how do we relate this to BM? Gaahl's defiantly individualistic way of living and thinking matches up perfectly with the violent rejection of Right-Hand Path, collectivist religion that is found in BM. His rejection of technology and "cultural advancement" is also similar to several common BM musical practices, such as the rejection of highly developed instrumental technique and the use of lo-fi production. At one stage Gaahl actually makes his attitude to creativity and convention explicit - he attributes his dropping out of art school to the failings of its rules and expectations ("you cannot go to school to become an artist"). For him (and the genre of BM), "the process of creating is based on being away from people" and convention.

Perhaps the most extreme example of isolation and struggle in the documentary is when Gaahl leads the crew on a walk up a snowy mountain to a hut his grandparents built. Several members of the crew don't understand why he would bother with a "nature walk" when it's supposed to be a documentary about metal, and struggle with both the concept and the task considerably. There is one thing that really struck me about this scene/idea - the suggestion that isolation is a part of Gaahl's heritage thanks to the fact that Gaahl's grandparents would build a hut at such an impractically high altitude, where there are no trees (which would require them to carry the logs up the mountain themselves). Could it be, then, that as well as being a rejection of contemporary society and values, the very BM idea of privileging isolation is an acceptance of the previous "way of doing things"?

Makes sense to me..


 
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jupitreas - 19.07.2007 at 03:05  
Isnt it supposed to be "Left Hand Path"? All forms of black magic are called that (Satanism included). Just wondering...
Hyvaarin - 19.07.2007 at 05:58  
Thanks for reading .

Left = "values the advancement and preservation of the self, glorification of the earthly, and personal power" (ie. BLACK METAL)
Right = "elevation of the spiritual over the carnal; faith-based worship of one or more deities and the observance of strict moral codes which are supposed to bring humans closer to the Divine" (ie. CHRISTIANITY, etc.)

(Those definitions are from Wikipedia.)
Syk - 28.07.2007 at 15:38  
I can't remember if I've heard any Gorg music, maybe one forgettable track, but wasn't plumbing around before electric music?
I can't speak for the rest of his character but that's a pretty fucking dumb aspect...
Asitis - 01.08.2007 at 02:21  
Dude, you should see the documentary.
I used to think Gaahl as a fuckin dumb dude, but that documentary made me see totally otherwise. I was totally blown away by its story..
As for the article, I totally agree. Exactly my thoughts when I saw the docu.
Hyvaarin - 01.08.2007 at 05:45  
Written by Asitis on 01.08.2007 at 02:21

As for the article, I totally agree. Exactly my thoughts when I saw the docu.

Awesome! And yeah, Gaahl definitely comes across as an intelligent dude.
tulkas - 02.08.2007 at 00:37  
is there any other site where i can watch the videos or possibly to download them? i've been having trouble watching them.

so far i've seen part 1 and 2, and up to that point it's interesting, but i'll wait till i can see the whole 5 parts to post an opinion...
tulkas - 02.08.2007 at 01:43  
nah, nevermind, it loaded after i posted, damn internet!

anyway, i think that no matter what the real intention of this documentary was, what we can clearly see is the ideology of black metal, as gaahl says it's the rejection of the contemporary and fighing that until the end. he said something like: 'you can't put down your sword, because you would loose' and i guess that explains his radical rejection of the world, so to speak. not to mention the whole recording process in 'low quality', also probably beacuse as king said in the beggining it's not a band about the blastbeat and how high a shreik is, it's about a message...
this is also shown, imo, when he talks about the sheep and the goat, or the right and left hand, and how the only true god people should follow is the one within ourselves, 'cause that's the only real thing, other gods just tell you to do this or act like that... it's choosing the side which you belive makes you what you are, seeing into yourself, and then looking outside at the world and realizing that they are 'wrong'. (queer paragraph, hehe)
then, when he takes them to the walk to show them their grandparents house up in the mountain, he clearly sees that the interviwers got lost in the whole thing, and as he says and the end something like you're not focused and can't see what i'm saying, and i guess that long stare and then the look on the cameraman just shows how he thinks they are from the common 'sheep'.
don't know if i make my point clear...
Hembrom - 03.10.2007 at 13:19  
Gaahl's defiantly individualistic way of living and thinking matches up perfectly with the violent rejection of Right-Hand Path, collectivist religion that is found in BM.

Sounds pretty good. Enjoyed the article and i saw the Gaahl documentary , true fking grim.
Bad English - 23.10.2007 at 13:47  
I cant see that video in link what you psot?
Hyvaarin - 23.10.2007 at 15:12  
Written by Bad English on 23.10.2007 at 13:47

I cant see that video in link what you psot?

Ahh, they must've taken it down . It's probably on Youtube, try searching 'Gorgoroth documentary' or something.
Bad English - 23.10.2007 at 18:02  
Written by Hyvaarin on 23.10.2007 at 15:12

Written by Bad English on 23.10.2007 at 13:47

I cant see that video in link what you psot?

Ahh, they must've taken it down . It's probably on Youtube, try searching 'Gorgoroth documentary' or something.


Hmm can you find it and psot link here and quote me thenn
Eternal Flames - 28.10.2007 at 08:02  
Okay, firstly for anyone who is having trouble viewing the documentary, it has been posted on youtube in 5 parts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Moving on. That was a very interesting documentary and an interesting insight into Gaahl's ideologies and lifestyle. The article is a very fascinating interpretation of the underlying ideas of black metal as well. You bring up some very good points regarding the isolation concept in relation to black metal and to an extent, I quite precisely agree with you.

Personally, I don't believe that music (whether it be black metal or classical) has one distinct meaning or message. Judging from that interview, for Gorgoroth it definitely seems like "an acceptance of the previous way of doing things", however I think each band should have something different to offer to the genre rather than all just base themselves around this one particular idea.

Gaahl's long stare at the end of the documentary had me a but puzzled though. I wasn't too sure what to think. It seemed like he was confused and lost for words but then on the other hand, it made me think that perhaps it was just the idea of isolation and Gaahl not wanting to express his true ideas/intentions to the journalists.

Nevertheless, very interesting article and you've brought in some very intriguing ideas that did not occur to me before.
Hyvaarin - 28.10.2007 at 10:46  
Written by Eternal Flames on 28.10.2007 at 08:02

Okay, firstly for anyone who is having trouble viewing the documentary, it has been posted on youtube in 5 parts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Moving on. That was a very interesting documentary and an interesting insight into Gaahl's ideologies and lifestyle. The article is a very fascinating interpretation of the underlying ideas of black metal as well. You bring up some very good points regarding the isolation concept in relation to black metal and to an extent, I quite precisely agree with you.

Personally, I don't believe that music (whether it be black metal or classical) has one distinct meaning or message. Judging from that interview, for Gorgoroth it definitely seems like "an acceptance of the previous way of doing things", however I think each band should have something different to offer to the genre rather than all just base themselves around this one particular idea.

Gaahl's long stare at the end of the documentary had me a but puzzled though. I wasn't too sure what to think. It seemed like he was confused and lost for words but then on the other hand, it made me think that perhaps it was just the idea of isolation and Gaahl not wanting to express his true ideas/intentions to the journalists.

Nevertheless, very interesting article and you've brought in some very intriguing ideas that did not occur to me before.

Thanks for the links and the comments . I do agree with your point that not all BM bands base themselves around this one idea (haven't thought this through, but take Emperor as an example...), but it's undeniable that there are certain attitudes/ideas on which all (real) Bm is necessarily based.
Eternal Flames - 01.11.2007 at 13:54  
Written by Hyvaarin on 28.10.2007 at 10:46

Written by Eternal Flames on 28.10.2007 at 08:02

Okay, firstly for anyone who is having trouble viewing the documentary, it has been posted on youtube in 5 parts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Moving on. That was a very interesting documentary and an interesting insight into Gaahl's ideologies and lifestyle. The article is a very fascinating interpretation of the underlying ideas of black metal as well. You bring up some very good points regarding the isolation concept in relation to black metal and to an extent, I quite precisely agree with you.

Personally, I don't believe that music (whether it be black metal or classical) has one distinct meaning or message. Judging from that interview, for Gorgoroth it definitely seems like "an acceptance of the previous way of doing things", however I think each band should have something different to offer to the genre rather than all just base themselves around this one particular idea.

Gaahl's long stare at the end of the documentary had me a but puzzled though. I wasn't too sure what to think. It seemed like he was confused and lost for words but then on the other hand, it made me think that perhaps it was just the idea of isolation and Gaahl not wanting to express his true ideas/intentions to the journalists.

Nevertheless, very interesting article and you've brought in some very intriguing ideas that did not occur to me before.

Thanks for the links and the comments . I do agree with your point that not all BM bands base themselves around this one idea (haven't thought this through, but take Emperor as an example...), but it's undeniable that there are certain attitudes/ideas on which all (real) Bm is necessarily based.

Oh yes, you're definitely right with that one. Most black metal is usually based around the one concept, or similar concepts. Although for me, the most outstanding and memorable black metal bands are the ones that will do something slightly different to the rest of the bands around their era. (Bathory, Enslaved, Alcest, Solefald etc). Doesn't have to be entirely unique, as long as it's not too cliche.

I must admit before watching that documentary, I laughed at Gorgoroth's imagery/ideologies/etc, although after watching that documentary it's given me a slightly different opinion on their imagery/ideologies.
Stalker - 18.12.2007 at 20:55  
This sounds pretty interesting... Although I would like to see that film, then it would be complete picture...
Warman - 19.12.2007 at 14:53  
Haha, Gaahl's awesome! I think you're on something here. I'll think about it when I'll write my examination paper about Black Metal.
BloodTears - 22.12.2007 at 14:02  
I watched the documentary and some of his facial expressions are really intriguing. That moment of silence in the end is sinister... I just don't know how to explain it, it gives me a weird feeling. The guy says "guide me" and it seems that Gaahl is saying "you're the only one who can guide yourself" with that silence. Just a thought.

Apart from that, I like watching those types of pieces because it helps me to understand black metal a bit more.
Hyvaarin - 23.12.2007 at 16:43  
The look at the end is halfway between a slap-forehead-in-frustration and a oh-shit-I-have-no-idea.
Valentin B - 29.07.2008 at 18:10  
wow, this thing was quite enlightening, thanks for posting it.. sure i might not agree AT ALL with what this dude is doing(and furthermore i think the guys at gorgoroth are assholes) but nice insight man.
Shadowcross - 26.04.2010 at 22:07  
Great article Hyvaarin
Vitriolic Hate - 27.04.2010 at 00:34  
That's pretty interesting documentary,Ghaal seems very mysterious.

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