By MATT CARTER // Black Metal documentary explores the genre from Norway and beyond
In 2012, Giorgos Germenis (stage name “Kaiadas”) was elected to Greek parliament. Since it was no secret that Germenis is the bass player of the black metal band Naer Mataron, the story made international news, gaining even more fervor than when members of the Taiwanese black metal act, Cthonic, were given audience with the Dali Lama.
Yet, when political headlines couldn’t ignore the progress of Black Metal, it was Germenis’ affiliation with the Greek anti-immigrant party the Golden Dawn that seemed to be the real controversy, rather than his musical endeavors. Still, the event signified that Black Metal remains a genre that challenges both religious and political norms, and like Portland’s own After School Satanic Club, it’s infiltration into other cultures is greater than accounted for.
In Blackhearts, a new documentary profiling Black Metal culture, viewers are privy to the lives of musicians from Columbia, Iran, and Greece, as well those dwelling within the Mecca of Black Metal: Norway. Unlike the documentary Once Upon a Time in Norway, Blackhearts does a minimal effort of documenting the nascent church burnings and niche record store that brought worldwide attention to the subgenre of heavy metal music. The film’s target intent is to showcase the current state of Black Metal as an international network of musicians, and the suppression of the art form outside of Scandinavia.
There may be no real way to answer why Black Metal has had a consistent cult following since the early 90s; but seeing the subculture take hold in other countries with ultra conservative ideals is a good inclination as to why. In Iran we see a Black Metal guitarist’s budding career come to a standstill when contemplating if he can return home, for fear of imprisonment, after playing in Norway. In Columbia we meet a High Satanic priest who claims that Black Metal is a bridge for satanic invocations, and witness a satanic ritual for the band Luciferian to clear their touring visa paperwork.
Aside from censorship, it is evident that Black Metal has other problems facing the movement – one being the contradictory nature of trying to define its community. “Black Metal people are not fucking rock stars, are not teachers – and not a mayor of a town,” states Indra of the band Naer Mataron during an interview. This might sound a tad hypocritical, considering his bandmate sits on the Greek parliament.
Furthermore, their performance in Bergen, Norway is graced by the mayor of the city who gushes onstage, “I’m so impressed by the visual aspect, and your performances, and image.” She goes on to declare, “I must say, I love it a little. But don’t tell anyone.” Considering that Trude Drevland is both the mayor of Bergen – and a closeted Black Metal fan – doesn’t lend help to Indra’s claim either. Even if her mature face may never be smeared in corpse paint, Drevland should be counted among Black Metal fans for her willingness to support the genre.
While the music started as a hyper-exclusive form of expression, the film doesn’t shy away from showing how a greater exposure to the music means a purveying attitude of discrimination towards what does and does not belong. That shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying Blackhearts though, as it offers an amusing and in-depth look at the European metal festival circuit – no occult leanings required.
Saturday, January 28th @ 7:00 pm Whitsell Auditorium BUY TICKETS (In Norwegian with English subtitles)