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The Construction of 'Peoplehood' in the Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal

by Owen Fung,[1] Department of Sociology, University of Warwick



This paper aims to provide an analysis of the use of various racial discourses within the second-wave Norwegian black metal scene in the construction of a 'Norwegian peoplehood'. The argument presented below is two-fold: firstly, the analysis will demonstrate how musicians reproduce discourses of monogenism, polygenism and the encoding of culture as 'race' in constructing a particular representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood'. The second part of the analysis will draw comparisons between the racial discourses in second wave Norwegian black metal with discourses on immigration and egalitarian individualism in the wider Norwegian social and political landscape.

Keywords: Race, racism, black metal, youth culture, Norway, music


Introduction: The Rise of Second-Wave Norwegian Black Metal in the Early 1990s

The beginning of the second-wave Norwegian black metal (hereinafter SWNBM) was quiet, barely known to the world outside of the extreme metal underground. The scene consisted of a handful of bands from areas around the cities of Bergen and Oslo; some of the most prominent groups from the SWNBM scene include Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor, Immortal, Darkthrone and Ulver. Many of the definitive albums of the black metal genre were written and recorded when the band members were only in their late teens to early twenties; despite their youth, SWNBM was recognised as pioneering in the extreme metal genre (Kahn-Harris, 2007; Olson, 2008).

Soon after its inception, the young SWNBM underground gained much wider recognition, to the extent that some even referred to the music as Norway's 'biggest cultural export' (Campion, 2005). The newly garnered attention in the early 1990s, however, was mainly due to extra-musical reasons. A series of church arsons, two high-profile murders and a case of suicide involving prominent scene members grabbed the attention of the mainstream media, causing a period of moral panic within Norwegian society (see for example Asadal and Ledang, 2007; Rydehed, 2008).

Recently, there has been a growing, albeit still limited, academic interest in the politics of SWNBM. To build on current scholarly work, this paper aims to provide an analysis of the use of various racial discourses within the SWNBM scene in the construction of a 'Norwegian peoplehood'. The argument presented below is two-fold: firstly, the analysis will demonstrate how SWNBM reproduces discourses of monogenism, polygenism and the encoding of culture as 'race' in constructing a particular representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood'; secondly, it will draw comparisons between the racial discourses in SWNBM with discourse of immigration and egalitarian individualism in the wider Norwegian social and political landscape. This paper is a library-based review paper, utilising music, artwork, interviews and writings produced by bands belonging to the SWNBM scene.


'Race' and Peoplehood

As argued by Wallerstein (1987), 'nothing seems more obvious than who or what a people is' (p. 373). In everyday language, we frequently designate racial, ethnic or national categories to others without a second thought. Despite the infrequent use of the term 'people' in social science, concepts of 'race', 'ethnic groups' and 'nation' are 'all presumably varieties of "peoples" in the modern world' (ibid.: 380). Despite their respective definitions, they all share one common social function by marking the boundaries of 'a people' according to different criteria of 'pastness' (ibid.: 381). 'It makes little difference', as Wallerstein explains, 'whether we define pastness in terms of genetically continuous groups (races), historical socio-political groups (nation), or cultural groups (ethnic groups). They are all peoplehood constructs, all inventions of pastness, all contemporary political phenomena' (ibid.: 381, my italics).

Contemporary scholarship on 'race' recognises that the concept is not a biological fact, as the phenotypical characteristics attributed to different racial categories are not verified by any objective scientific measurements (Omi and Winant, 1986; Cornell and Hartmann, 1998). Instead, the attributes of different 'races' are socially constructed, as 'products of human perception and classification', and thus the semantics of 'race' is volatile and subject to variations at different historical junctures (Cornell and Hartmann, 1998: 23). As Goldberg (1999) posits, 'race' should not be conceptualised with a singular definition but as a concept which is deployed at different times with different meanings attached.

The practice of linking phenotypical characteristics with ideas of moral superiority is a modern phenomenon, rooted in 18th century 'race' science. Together, the Enlightenment and the Pietistic atmosphere of the time led to 'scientific endeavour' to classify 'the human races according to their place in nature and the effect of the environment' (Mosse, 1999: 40). Early conceptualisation of 'race' emphasised the common origins of all human beings. Adamites monogenism contends that all human beings could be linked to a common line of descent, originating from Adam and Eve (Haller Jr., 1970). European expansion to the New World brought Europeans into contact with the 'natives' who appeared distinctive from the explorers. This challenged the underlying assumption of monogenism and raised 'disturbing questions as to whether all could be considered in the same "family of man", and thus deserved to be treated equally' (Omi and Winant, 1986: 58).

'Rational monogenism' sought to reconcile the contradictions between the fundamental beliefs of Adamite monogenism and empirical reality (Haller Jr., 1970). Accordingly, rational monogenism attributes the characteristics of different 'races' to 'geographic, climate, and social differences' without wholly discounting the existence of a supreme will (Goldberg, 1999: 364). Though recognising the common origin of all human beings, the pseudo-scientific explanation advanced by rational monogenism did not lead to an egalitarian treatment for all. 'Races, during centuries of formation', as Haller Jr. (1970) explains, 'acquired characteristics that, on comparison, established an inequality "which is impossible to deny"' (p. 1321). This rationale is, for example, manifested in the racial ideology of German Nazism, purporting a mystical union between German people and the German soil (Welsch, 1993). In this formulation, the imagery of the German national landscape was evoked to represent and justify the inherent superior quality of the Aryan 'race'. The 'purity' inherent in the landscape of Germany was thought to have given the German people distinctive and superior racial characteristics. By contrast, German Nazism conceived the Jewish 'race' as originating from environments characterised by 'sterile desert tracts', which could ostensibly nurture a 'race' inferior to the Aryan 'race', thereby validating all forms of discriminations, prejudices and hatred against people of the Jewish ancestry (Binde, 1999: 771).

The 'crisis' of Adamite monogenism, as a result of the 'discovery' of phenotypical differences, also led to the development of polygenism. The central tenant of polygenism, which was the predominant paradigm in 19th century anthropological science, emphasises 'biological inheritance and hierarchy over pedigree' (Goldberg, 1999: 364). While retaining the notion of lineage and creation from Adamite monogenism, polygenism attempts to explain the differences between 'races' in terms of multiple origins of human beings: 'man emerged in several places by several acts of creation, and the various forms were distinct' (Haller Jr., 1970: 1321). Polygenists specifically employed the term 'species' to emphasise the diversity of human beings and also the rigidity of these divisions.

Not only did the hierarchical order of monogenism remain in polygenism, the latter also incorporated Darwinian concepts of species to the study of human beings, leading to 'beliefs that superior races produce superior cultures and that racial intermixtures result in the degradation of the superior racial stock' (Omi and Winant, 1986: 59). Ideas from polygenism can, again, be discernable in the racial ideology of German Nazism. In envisaging a racially superior community, notions of 'survival of the fittest' are evident in the ideology of German Nazism. Walther Darre, for example, illustrated the desire to preserve racial homogeneity in the following statement:

We shall gather together the best blood. Just as we are now breeding our Hanover horse from the few remaining pure-blooded male and female stock, so we shall see the same type of breeding over the next generation of the pure type of Nordic German (Darré, cited in Welch, 1993: 67)

In recent years, 'race' has shifted from being a strictly biological concept into the realm of culture. In this formulation, cultural differentiation is reified as 'race', and thus conflated with the notion of 'ethnicity'. Though 'race' and ethnicity are two distinct forms of collective identity, as the former is based on phenotypical traits and the latter on perceived common cultural attributes, the two also share a lot of overlapping grounds. 'The identification of common physical characteristics', as Cornell and Hartmann (1998) explain, 'often also involves a claim to some form of shared ancestry; groups making such a claim typically claim a distinctive history as well and may signify their peoplehood in culturally distinctive ways' (p. 32). Thus, a racial identity is frequently imbued with a sense of perceived common cultural similarity and vice versa.

Although the various conceptions of 'race' outlined above contain different 'contents', they all share one common social function, namely as a means to differentiate 'us' from 'them' for the purpose of constructing and imagining a coherent sense of peoplehood.


Musical Transgression and Misanthropy: The Defining Characteristics of Norwegian Black Metal

The extremity of SWNBM, as posited by Kahn-Harris (2007), lies in its ability to produce 'transgressive alternatives to the principal elements of Western music' (p. 31). Second-wave Norwegian black metal sought to attain sonic transgressions by employing extreme tempos in their compositions, utilising blast beats and tremolo guitar riffs to produce a sustained sound that verges on white noise. The music is typically accompanied by high-pitched screaming. Unlike the production of western pop music, second-wave Norwegian black metal bands intentionally strive for 'a raw, primitive aesthetic – low production values, mid-range drone, stripped down song structures and arrangements' (Taylor, 2008: 3). Together, the transgressive musical elements coupled with the unconventional production style delivers an atmosphere which allows individuals to 'lose themselves in the totality' and evokes a sense of individual empowerment that transcends 'everyday utilitarian considerations' (Kahn-Harris, 2007: 29).

Misanthropy is a frequent theme in the lyrics of early 1990s Norwegian black metal music. The antagonistic view towards mainstream society stems from the scene's unabashed identification with elitist beliefs, which sees 'black metal as something beyond the bounds of normal, respectable society' (Spracklen, 2008). Stubborn refusal to accept or be accepted by mainstream society is aptly exemplified in the following lyrics from the song Rape Humanity with Pride by Mayhem: 'Inside a mind so deranged, how I wish you all were dead, annoying humanity sickens me, I contemplate your extinction' (Mayhem, 2004).

Despite their claim of generalised misanthropy and discontent towards 'normal' mainstream society, further examination of the second wave Norwegian black metal scene's racial discourses reveals a contradicting picture. Artistic, musical and extra-musical discourses, in fact, demonstrate a distinctive representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood' in Norwegian black metal.


Monogenism and 'Norwegian Peoplehood' in the Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal

Nature mysticism, which conceives the natural environment to have the power to imbue its inhabitants with certain peculiarities, is a leitmotif in Norwegian black metal during the 1990s. The imagery of Norway's national landscape is frequented in lyrics and often incorporated into album artwork. The cover of Burzum's album Filosofem features a painting titled Op under Fjeldet toner en Lur by the Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen (figure 1). The painting centres on a woman playing a birch trumpet, with a backdrop that characterises the Norwegian national landscape. Elsewhere, Emperor's song Into the Infinity of Thoughts opens with the following lines:

As the Darkness creeps over the Northern mountains of Norway and the silence reach the woods, I awake and rise… into the night I wonder, like many nights before and like in my dreams but centuries ago. Under the moon, under the trees

The landscape on the cover of Burzum's Filosofem and the imagery evoked in the lyrics 'northern mountains of Norway' discursively reproduces the rational monogenist racial discourse, and thus attributes particular qualities to the inhabitants of Norway. Northern Europe's natural environment, as Dyer (1997) argues, connotes the following ideas:

The clarity and cleanliness of the air, the vigour demanded by the cold, the enterprise required by the harshness of the terrain and climate, the sublime, soul-elevating beauty of mountain vistas (p. 21).

The energetic, disciplinary and transcendent qualities of the Norwegian landscape embedded in Norwegian black metal artistic contents can thereby be interpreted as a rhetorical attempt to symbolise a 'Norwegian peoplehood' that is imbued with superior qualities.

Figure 1: Album Cover of Burzum's Filosofem

Figure 1: Album Cover of Burzum's Filosofem [Reproduced with kind permission of Plastichead Music Distribution]

The extensive use of the national landscape also emphasises another racial characteristic in the representation of Norwegian peoplehood in SWNBM. As Dyer (1997) notes, the Northern European landscape is irrevocably associated with snow, 'the whitest thing on earth' (p. 21). Accordingly, the artistic element of SWNBM evokes an exclusively 'white' racial identity in its representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood'. The explicit boundary of 'whiteness' is clearly exemplified in the following statement by Jan Axel Blomberg (a.k.a. Hellhammer), the drummer of the band Mayhem: 'we don't like black people here. Black metal is for white people' (Moynihan and Søderlind, 2003: 351).

'Whiteness' is not only implicitly elicited but also explicitly 'performed' in other artistic elements of SWNBM. The predominant melodic framework utilised in compositions is the Locrian mode, typically employed to signify evil in western classical music, whilst the rhythmic element is primarily composed around the basic 4/4 beat (Kahn-Harris, 2007: 31). Rarely do musical compositions incorporate African-American musical elements, such as blue notes and syncopated rhythms or the pentatonic scale, which is widely used in oriental music. SWNBM, as Taylor argues (2008), 'emphasises a sort of whiteness in musical terms' (p. 3).

'Whiteness' is 'performed' in another stylistic component of SWNBM. 'Corpsepaint', the application of white makeup with shadows of black face paint, is widely practised in live performances (figure 2). The black denim and leather clothing frequently worn by musicians contrasts significantly with the white corpsepaint, thereby reinforcing the idea of 'whiteness' as an ideal. Although most black metal acts adopt corpsepaint for theatrical purposes to signify horror and death, Beckwith (2002) argues that the colour white dramatically symbolises 'moral and also aesthetic superiority' (Dyer, cited in Beckwith, 2002: 9).

Figure 2: Nattefrost (Beste, 2008)

Figure 2: Nattefrost (Beste, 2008) [Reproduced with kind permission of Peter Beste]

Preserving Racial Homogeneity: The Discourse of Polygenism and Darwinian Conception of 'Race' in Second Wave Norwegian Black Metal

The racial discourse of polygenism has, at times, been reproduced by a selective number of SWNBM musicians in constructing differences between the inhabitants of Norway and other 'races'. Blomberg, the drummer of the band Mayhem, for example, drew parallels between 'races' and different types of animals, positing rigid taxonomic categories of human beings:

I'm pretty convinced that there are differences between races as well as anything else. I think that like animals some races are more […] you know, like a cat is much more intelligent than a bird or a cow, or even a dog, and I think that's also the case with different races. (Moynihan and Søderlind, 2003: 352)

The differences between different 'races', as advanced in this statement, are unique and distinctive that cannot be substituted to another, much like the characteristics of various types of animals. When these racial characteristics are seen to be hierarchical, it implies that egalitarian relationships between 'races' are 'against the "Law of Nature"', justifying differentiated treatments for different racial groups (Fangen, 1998: 216).

Darwinian approach to 'race' has also been echoed by some in SWNBM. This has, at times, led to some of the more polemic musicians to envisage a political project to maintain racial 'purity' and 'improve' the quality of the Norwegian 'race' by means of eugenics. Vikernes, for example, ferociously argues that there is a need to segregate 'the elite of humankind […] in a few places' in order to allow humanity 'to improve [its] genetic material and to find out who are the best […] in moral strength and courage – and in blood' (Vikernes, n.d.1). The desire to maintain a 'utopian' community through eugenics thus leads to fear and antagonism towards those who possesses different physical characteristics as they are perceived to be potential contaminants of the 'elites' genetic pool.


'True Norwegian Black Metal': The Racialization of Culture

The outbursts of explicit racist comments as discussed hitherto are rare occurrences within the SWNBM scene. Furthermore, though the notion of a 'white superior race' is undoubtedly an integral part in the representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood' in SWNBM, phenotypical characteristics alone are inadequate to constitute a 'Norwegian peoplehood' that substantially differentiates from other European racial identities, such as Danish, Swedish or German (Salimi, 1991).

In constructing a 'Norwegian peoplehood', a far more pervasive racial discourse is one which conflates 'race' with culture in SWNBM. The notion of 'authenticity' is highly revered within the scene, as demonstrated by the popular slogan 'True Norwegian Black Metal', which frequently embellishes bands' merchandise and album artwork (figure 3).

Figure 3: The slogan 'True Norwegian Black Metal' as it appeared on the back cover of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger

Figure 3: The slogan 'True Norwegian Black Metal' as it appeared on the back cover of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger [Reproduced with kind permission of Peaceville Records]

SWNBM presents a particular vision of 'Norwegian culture' that pivots unequivocally around nature. In his film, The Misanthrope, Nocturnal Culto repeatedly shows prolonged images of him and his entourage engaging in activities in close proximity with nature, such as fishing, hiking and making firewood.[2] Similarly, promotional photographs depicting black metal musicians posing valiantly in front of forest backdrops are a staple iconography of SWNBM, strongly suggesting that nature provides a source of strength for the individual (figure 4). In addition to visual representations, nature is also incorporated into SWNBM's version of Norwegian culture through the location of music production. As Kahn-Harris (2000) suggests, the location of the production of music can have the effect of essentializing a cultural identity. Many albums from SWNBM bands were recorded and produced in close proximity to nature. The band Ulver even chose to record their album Nattens Madrigal - Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden in a forest, without the facilities of modern music studio equipments. Through visual representations and locations of music production, SWNBM discursively constructs nature as an essential aspect of the Norwegian culture and lifestyle.

Figure 4: Abbath of Immortal (Beste, 2008)

Figure 4: Abbath of Immortal (Beste, 2008) [Reproduced with kind permission of Peter Beste]

Aside from nature, SWNBM also claims the Viking era and the Pagan past as the 'authentic' culture in its representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood'. Varg Vikernes (n.d.2) wrote the following in his essay The Kingdom of the Sun:

We will speak the truth to the people, we will revive our religion – that is as old as our very race – and we will bring back Baldr after this thousand year long spiritual Ragnarök… We have found the trails our forefathers walked and the spirit they lived for

Admittedly, Vikernes is a polemic and controversial figure.[3] Many SWNBM musicians nonetheless share his affinity with a romanticised version of Viking and Pagan past. It is a common practice amongst SWNBM musicians, for example, to adopt stage names after gods in Viking and Pagan mythologies. In their 1994 album Et Eventyr I 5 Capitler, Ulver retells a traditional Nordic folktale of a farm girl who was lured into the mountains by elves and ending up becoming one of them (Olson, 2008). As these examples demonstrate, 'Nordic black metalers associate ancient folklore with a perceived golden age in the distant past of Northern Europe', imagining and reifying these ancient practices as the 'authentic' cultural repertoire in their representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood' (ibid.: 72).

In constructing nature and ancient cultural practices as the 'authentic' cultural heritage of the 'Norwegian peoplehood', SWNBM thereby conceives modernity and contemporary religions as the antipathy to and an encroachment of Norwegian culture. These two dualisms, pitting nature against modern and 'authentic' culture against contemporary religions, embedded within the particular representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood' in SWNBM can be easily translated into xenophobic and exclusionary rhetoric.

In conceiving 'nature' as the 'authentic' environment for Norwegian people, modernity and its associated consequences are thus viewed with discontent. Evidently, SWNBM participants are not actually opposed to modernity as such. Their music, equipments and distribution methods are in themselves elements that are inextricably linked to modernity (Benjamin, 1936). As Salimi (1991) notes, the presence of 'coloured' immigrants is comparatively new in Norway, as prior to the 1970s, immigrants mostly came from other Nordic countries and thus bore few cultural and linguistic differences from 'Norwegians'. The influx of 'coloured' migrants thus stands as one of the totemic symbols of modern Norwegian society. In their discourse of Norwegian culture, SWNBM's desire to preserve 'authenticity' can thus easily be mobilised for xenophobic and anti-immigration rhetoric.

SWNBM's zealous romantic vision of Viking and Pagan past leads to aversion towards institutionalised religions in contemporary Norwegian society. Many SWNBM musicians overtly oppose Christianity in particular 'for its association with corrupt and hypocritical churches' (Kahn-Harris, 2007: 38). Symbols and images associated with Satanism thus frequently adorn merchandise and artistic contents of SWNBN as a manifestation of such sentiment. Additionally, anti-Christian imagery, as argued by Kahn-Harris (2007), also represents an indiscriminate opposition towards organised religion in general: 'Norway, like the rest of Europe, is under Judeo-Christian law. This murderous faith forced our ancestors to convert to a religion imported from the desert. We're not Hebrews, we are Indo-Europeans and thus we want a European spirituality' (Gungnir, cited in Moynihan and Søderlind, 2003: 356). The ideas presented in Gungnir's comment are comparable to the notion of 'cultural fundamentalism', which conceives cultural and ethnic differences as insuperable, whether in Islam, Christianity or Judaism (Taylor, 2008: 6). Instead of 'hierarchical judgements of inferiority and superiority', the opposition towards multiculturalism is justified on the basis of cultural incompatibility, thus espousing a zero-sum relationship between the 'authentic' Norwegian cultural identity purported by SWNBM and other 'foreign' religions and cultures (Goldberg, 1999: 367). SWNBM's disdain for multiculturalism and universalism is aptly illustrated in the following statement by Daoloth: 'a Europe for Europeans as it was in ancient times, before multi-culturalism and universalism were adopted as the official political/religious stance' (Moynihan and Søderlind, 2003: 354).


A Few Bad Apples? The Discourse of Immigration and 'Difference' in Norway

Until recently, mainstream racism was seen to be non-existent in Norway (BBC, 2001). The notion of egalitarianism has for a long time been a central feature of the country's self-definition (Hagelund, 2002). Those who claim innocence of racism and xenophobia often contrast their egalitarian politics with the 'dregs' of society, thus attributing the blames to a small segment of the Norwegian population, with the majority remaining in denial (Gullestad, 2002).

Although the majority of the Norwegian population denies being an accomplice, parallels can be drawn between the extreme right-wing views found in SWNBM and xenophobic sentiments present in wider Norwegian society. As Taylor (2008) argues, SWNBM did not 'invent new forms of racism or create its own discourses of discrimination', but merely 'intensifies pre-existing discourses, producing "extreme" versions of the everyday racism and discrimination already present in ordinary society' (pp. 7-8). Though the 'contents' of the 'Norwegian peoplehood' constructed by SWNBM are far from being the norm of mainstream discourses, the underlying sentiments cannot be analysed and explained in a vacuum as detached from the mainstream Norwegian political landscape.

The foundation of contemporary Norwegian national and cultural identity was established in 1905 when the country gained independence from Swedish and Danish domination (Salimi, 1991). The notion of a 'Norwegian national culture' was central to this period of nation-state building, which became associated with the 'definitions of national culture that were produced in the nineteenth century', including some of those elements incorporated in the 'Norwegian peoplehood' presented in SWNBM (Gullestad, 2004: 192). The process of nation-building did not come about without costs. During this period of 'Norwegianisation', the religion, language and right to land-ownership of the indigenous Lappish people in the north were heavily suppressed. Finnish migrants, who had been commuting between Norway and Finland for centuries, were also seen as a threat to the growing Norwegian nation-state (Salimi, 1991).

The emergence of SWNBM coincided with a period of significant politicisation of immigration in Norwegian mainstream politics. Though the total immigrant population remains small in comparison with other western European countries,[4] immigration was a significant political issue from the late 1980s through to the 1990s (Hagelund, 2003). During the 1995 election campaign, for example, 47% of voters indicated that immigration was one of the most important determinants in their choice of political party (ibid.). As Hagelund (2003) highlights, the Progress Party, a right-wing anti-immigration populist political party, played a significant role in raising the profile of immigration related issues in the Norwegian political landscape (pp. 50-53). Their right-wing populist stance on immigration was a significant factor in explaining their surge in popularity during the 1990s (ibid.). Thus SWNBM has emerged within a political climate in which xenophobia was on the rise in wider Norwegian society. Though some of the more extreme manifestations of racism may stand as exceptional, the underlying sentiments were indeed shared by a growing proportion of the wider population in Norway.

The claim of an 'authentic' Norwegian culture in SWNBM, and subsequent aversion towards 'foreign' cultures, also finds its counterpart in the notion of 'egalitarian individualism', which is prevalent in the wider discursive field of Norwegian society (Gullstad, 2004). Based on her ethnographic fieldwork in Norway, Gullstad (2004) argues that Norwegians' interpretation of 'equality' is founded on the basis of 'sameness'. She employs the term 'imagined sameness' to delineate the notion that 'sameness' need not be based on actual objective facts but merely the perception of homogeneity. Accordingly, expressions about 'fitting together' and 'sharing the same values' are deeply embedded in the wider discursive field of Norwegian society, thus maintaining a desire to preserve homogeneity. This concept of egalitarianism and equality based on perceived homogeneity, in turn, engenders avoidance of and fear of social interactions with those considered to be 'too different', as it is believed to be inevitably conflict-laden. As Gullstad (2004) observes, 'open conflicts are seen as a threat to other basic values, such as "peace and quiet"' (p. 47). Comparing the desire to retain an 'authentic' Norwegian cultural identity with the findings in Gullstad's fieldwork, one can draw many parallels between the logic of the two discourses; homogeneity ensures equality, whilst cultural diversity is adverse to the stability of the status quo.



This paper has focused exclusively on the construction of 'Norwegian people' in the music, artwork, writings and interviews associated with the SWNBM scene. Based on music, artwork, interviews and writings by SWNBM musicians, the analysis demonstrated how the discourses of monogenism, polygenism and 'race' as culture are deployed to engender a specific representation of 'Norwegian peoplehood'. The reliance on second-hand interview data admittedly poses certain limitations on the argument made in this paper. However, within the bounds of available resources, an empirical study is simply unfeasible. Nonetheless, this paper is an invitation for other researchers to test the arguments presented here through empirical investigations.

While it is not within the analytical scope of this paper, an equally important aspect is the reception of the fans to this representation emanating from the SWNBM scene (see for example Kahn-Harris, 2004; Spracklen, 2008). Furthermore, comparative investigation between the Norwegian scene vis-à-vis black metal scenes in other geographical locations would certainly be a fruitful direction for future academic research (see for example Kahn-Harris, 2002 on the Israeli extreme metal scene), particularly with the emergence of National Socialist Black Metal in various European countries.[5]




I owe my gratitude to Professor Peter Ratcliffe at University of Warwick for his encouragement and guidance in the core of this research paper. I would also like to acknowledge the three peer reviewers for their insightful comments and criticisms on the earlier draft of this paper. Lastly I would like to thank Dr Jon Fox at University of Bristol and Jonah Bury for their advice in the refinement of the final manuscript.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1: Album Cover of Burzum's Filosofem [Reproduced with kind permission of Plastichead Music Distribution]

Figure 2: Nattefrost (Beste, 2008) [Reproduced with kind permission of Peter Beste]

Figure 3: The slogan 'True Norwegian Black Metal' as it appeared on the back cover of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger [Reproduced with kind permission of Peaceville Records]

Figure 4: Abbath of Immortal (Beste, 2008) [Reproduced with kind permission of Peter Beste]



[1] Owen completed his first degree in Sociology at the University of Warwick and is currently studying for a masters degree in Ethnicity and Multiculturalism at the University of Bristol.

[2] See also Immortal's music video for the song Call of the Wintermoon, The video contains footage of the band members engaging in various rituals in a forest.

[3] Vikernes is one of the most notorious figures of the SWNBM scene, who committed three church arsons before being sentenced to 21 years in prison for murdering his band-mate in Mayhem. He was recently released after serving 16 years in prison (Michaels, 2009).

[4] According to national statistics collected in 2001, the immigrant population in Norway is 6.6% of a population of 4.5 million (Hagelund, 2002: 404).

[5] See for an introductory outline of National Socialist Black Metal.



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To cite this paper please use the following details: Fung, O. (2010), 'The Construction of 'Peoplehood' in the Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 3, Issue 2, Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at