A new exhibition focusing on black and death metal titled “Der harte Norden — Heavy Metal aus den Nordischen Ländern” is coming to the Nordic Embassies in Berlin, Germany. Though opening night will be on June 8, the exhibition will be open to the public from June 9 to September 29 at the Felleshus, a.k.a. the Pan Nordic Building.
The curator of “Der harte Norden” is Ika Johannesson, journalist and co-author of Blood, Fire, Death: The Swedish Metal Story. Her work on the exhibition was done in conjunction with two co-curators: Silje Wergeland, the revered frontwoman of The Gathering, and Torgrim Øyre, a.k.a. T. Reaper, whom you might know from his work with Malignant Eternal, Gorgoroth, and Obtained Enslavement.
The trio worked with writer and top black metal authority Finn Håkon Rødland. In the words of the legendary Slagmaur: “What this man has done in terms of blood sweat and tears to secure the world heritage of black metal is unprecedented…”
Over the years, Rødland has painstakingly built what Norway’s leading printed newspaper Aftenposten described as “verdens største arkiv av norsk black metal” / “the world’s biggest black metal archive.” Rødland helped the team select and loaned out relics from his mind-blowing collection for the exhibit, though transporting some of the items posed an obvious concern. The team originally wanted to bring the morning star that Mortem’s Marius Vold made for Mayhem’s late co-founder Euronymous. However, they feared that it wouldn’t make it past customs.
“I’m really honored to contribute to the exhibition in Berlin. It was originally for the Norwegian Embassy when Torgrim and Silje reached out last year, but it soon developed into a Nordic concept covering the Nordic countries. Ika, Torgrim, and Silje visited me at Jessheim and looked at various items, and I think it’s fair to say they got a bit overwhelmed. After some consideration, we decided on some classic vintage long sleeves with beautiful prints, [Mayhem’s] Attila’s funeral priest costume that he used for tours around the world and for the recording of De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas Alive. I really wanted them to have the mace made by [Arcturus’] Sverd, being probably one of the most iconic symbols of Norwegian Black Metal. Not many bands had access to an original back then, only 10 or so were made, but bands around the world took lots of photos with similar maces.[Dimmu Borgir’s] Shagrath had a good laugh when I told him we sent his codpiece that he used for the Spiritual Black Dimensions tour, including the performance at Spellemannsprisen [the Norwegian Grammy Awards] February ’99. That piece and the arm pieces were actually part of a set, and the remaining pieces were the shoulder pieces that [Emperor’s] Ihsahn used during the Anthems era.”
In addition to loaning out a variety of other items from bands like Darkthrone, Satyricon, and Immortal, Rødland scanned several concert posters, which will be turned into a collage. Johannesson also brought some of Rødland’s fanzines to Berlin.
One of the crown jewels of “Der harte Norden” will be a striking photo of Euronymous, which appears on the cover of the epic 96-page book included in Rødland’s 25th-anniversary box set for De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Rødland also provided a backstage photograph from Mayhem’s groundbreaking Jessheim gig — their first full-length performance with the genre’s definitive vocalist, the late Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin, a.k.a. “Dead”; a shot from the day of their show in Sarpsborg that followed; and a famous portrait of Pelle. These three photos, plus the one of Euronymous, were displayed at Rødland’s stunning Mayhem exhibition last year at Grieghallen during Beyond the Gates.
This August, Rødland will be returning to Beyond the Gates as the curator of a Dimmu Borgir exhibition in conjunction with a special performance. In the meantime, thanks in part to his efforts, Berliners can find one of Dimmu Borgir’s Silenoz’s stage costumes on view at “Der harte Norden.” Torgrim and Silje actually organize Beyond the Gates along with Terratur Possessions’ Ole A. Aune and Devil’s Stian Fossum. Thus, they are in the business of providing international audiences with the highlights of what extreme music and Bergen have to offer.
On opening night of “Der harte Norden,” a panel will be held featuring Johannesson, Wergeland, Árni Þorlákur Guðnason of Metal-Experte, musician and famed cover artist Kristian Wåhlin, and moderator Katrin Riedl of Metal Hammer. You can stream the discussion here. This will be followed by a greeting from the Swedish Ambassador Per Thöresson and then a concert by the Swedish thrashers Eternal Evil.
On June 9, ex-Turbonegro frontman, journalist, and author of Nyanser av svart, Harald Fossberg, will give a lecture titled “Howls from the Nordic Forests.” Events will continue to take place on several dates afterward with participants like Gaahl.
Of course, the reason why this is all so important is because it’s part of the greater push for official and international recognition on behalf of black metal. Kark of Dødsengel explained why wider recognition is so necessary.
“To me, black metal represents total musical, creative, and emotional freedom and is art in its highest form. It is great to see that the appreciation of black metal is growing ever stronger and is reaching a worldwide audience with events like this. Maybe Norway will realize its cultural heritage someday as well?”
Thankfully, another major yet unexpected step toward progress actually occurred last month. As cultural emissaries, Wergeland and Øyre travelled to New York for a beautiful black metal reception at the residence of the Norwegian Consul General, Heidi Olufsen. During a panel, the two offered insights alongside the director of Music Norway, Tone Østerdal, and Black Anvil’s vocalist and bassist, Paul Delaney. The evening was made possible by the Norwegian Consulate General in New York, Beyond the Gates, Suspiria PR, Music Norway, and the Music Managers Forum US. Black Anvil delivered a killer performance the following night at the Beyond the Gates Festival Launch Party.
The exhibition “Dårlig stemning” / “Bad Vibes,” which opened on March 29 and runs through September 16 at the National Library in Oslo, signifies another surprising victory for black metal that involves some of the people associated with “Der harte Norden.” “Dårlig stemning” was curated by journalist Thomas Alkärr. He collaborated with an advisory board consisting of Harald Fossberg and tattooist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, who has designed coins for the Isle of Man and the Queen of England. Not only did Jannicke create the logo for “Dårlig stemning,” but her cover art is currently showcased there as well. In 2020, Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky actually received a place of honor at the library as part of the permanent exhibition “Opplyst,” which was opened by Crown Prince Haakon. Later that year, Fossberg interviewed Nocturno Culto in recognition of this milestone.
There are plenty of opportunities to celebrate and recognize the importance of black metal, both as a musical genre and as a cultural touchstone for Scandinavia as a whole. Be sure to check out any of the aforementioned exhibits before they close. You don’t want to miss them.
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