Black metal has been called ‘devil music’ and Satan worshipping. Maybe that’s a stereotype, or maybe it isn’t.
Technically, black metal is a brutal, aggressive sub-genre of metal, with major Satanic overtones. But the history of Black Metal is intertwined with equally brutal sub-genres, including Death metal, grindcore, hardcore, and even mainstream bands like Metallica.
So what sets ‘black metal’ apart?
Now, a documentary is taking a closer look at this underground movement, and is winning awards in the process. The documentary, called Blackhearts, focuses on Norway, considered the birthplace of black metal. But instead of showcasing Norwegian artists, Blackhearts examines the lives of those taking pilgrimage to this Mecca of Death.
Specifically, the film follows three black metal artists as they migrate towards the Norwegian homeland. Sina makes his way from Iran, Hector from Colombia, and Kaiadas from a separate hub of black, Greece. All three have varying degrees of extreme anti-religious or political beliefs, at least by the standards of their own countries.
Sina, for example, believes he is the only black metal artist in Iran, a decision that carries immense risk. “I’m the only black metal musician in Iran,” Sina says. “If you want to play this music in Iran, you have no idea what will happen to you.”
Kaiadas has been arrested for associations with a criminal organization, and faces heavy jail time as a result. He represents the extreme right wing Golden Dawn party in Greek Parliament, and also fronts the band Near Mataron.
Graft those beliefs onto Norway, and the results are a bit strange. If not, well, darkly laugh-out-loud comedic. Roughly 25 years ago, Norway’s burgeoning black metal scene spilled into the mainstream, but not in a good way. A number of churches were burned in the name of Satan, though it’s unclear if those burnings were coordinated by more than an extreme fringe.
These days, black metal is interwoven into the strange history of Norway, a pretty open and accepting place. Technically, Norway is actually a very dark country, with winters offering scant sunlight even in southern cities like Oslo. But Norway is also one of the richest nations in the world, with citizens enjoying cradle-to-grave pampering fueled by massive oil supplies.
In fact, a stroll through the streets of Oslo hardly evokes Satanic bleakness. There’s only a blast of bad weather and cloudy skies, with a brief respite in the summer. But maybe that’s a small price to pay for fantastic infrastructure, cushy safety nets, and even a government that finances black metal artists.
“I guess a lot of people become disappointed when they visit Norway” one native relayed in the film. “They come to see the land of Satan.”
Take a look at the Blackhearts trailer.
Soundview Media Partners produced Blackhearts. The film’s official release date is April 11th on MVD, Amazon, and other outlets.