The Horrifying and Completely True Story of Mayhem

imagesI’m all at once excited and nervous to tell you the story of Mayhem. But a few notes of caution right up front. First, I’m not necessarily recommending that you listen to this band. If you’re dying to hear it, we’ll facilitate that. But it’s really more about the story.

Second thing, don’t blame us for what follows. Just the facts ma’am. If you vomit from disgust or horror, don’t send us your dry-cleaning bills. You’ve been warned. Lightweights can leave the room now.

Ok. Now that we’re alone…the disturbing but entirely true story of Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem.

So you know how a lot of metal guys act like they’re all into Satan, death and zombies but how, in actuality, most of them are probably pretty mild-mannered workaday thrashers and shredders? I mean, what do you think Lars Ulrich’s weekend plans are? Goat sacrifice? Hot-wax torture?

I guarantee you he’s getting a mani/pedi with his sister and going yachting while wearing a fuzzy sweater.

But Mayhem…these guys weren’t screwing around. They were true believers. Formed in 1984 and considered one of the leading units in the burgeoning Scandinavian black and death metal scene, Mayhem was all the rage in the fjords. Its onstage antics and the genuinely scary human beings in the band helped make Mayhem notorious for its infectious blend of bleakness and horribleness.

With founding members Euronymous and Necrobutcher (not their Christian names), Mayhem was truly seen as an innovator in creating the harsh, white-supremacy-driven music for which Norway is perhaps best known. But it was not until the addition of drummer Hellhammer and lead vocalist Dead (also not their given birth names) in 1988 that Mayhem ascended to the the next level of calculated ee-vil.

Dead, as you might have guessed, thought of himself as actually being dead. He told contemporaries that he was not of this Earth, that his blood had ceased to flow in his veins and that his biggest regret was that he wasn’t paler. He was known to bury and subsequently exhume his clothes from the ground in order to have the appearance of one who had just recently emerged from the grave. He donned corpse paint, sliced himself open with jagged glass and performed while flanked by animal heads impaled on microphone stands.

And there’s one other thing. But before I get to it, I have to stop here and let you know that you can’t unsee this next part. If you want to read on, it’s your call. Either way, it’s not on me.

Ok. Still with me?

So during one tour, Dead (that’s the guy’s name, remember) Dead wanted to be imbued with the essence of death every time he performed. He wanted the stench of it in his nostrils. So before getting on stage every night, he huffed from a trash bag containing the remains of a dead crow.

I’m sorry.

Still here?

Ok. Good for you. But I gotta tell you, it doesn’t get any better from here.

Now, I’m no head doctor, but I think Dead may have suffered from some form of depression. The band owned a dark, scary cabin in the middle of the woods because of course they did. On April 8th, 1991, Dead went to the cabin, slit his wrists and shot himself in the face.

He left a note that said “excuse all the blood, cheers.”

When bandmate Euronymous found his body he did the only rational thing. He took pictures (which you can easily view [you sick bastard] because one of them would become the cover to their second release, Dawn of the Black Hearts).

As you probably already guessed, Euronymous then gathered up pieces of Dead’s skull to be later fashioned into necklaces and distributed to the leading figures in Scandinavian black and death metal. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, since this is kind of a rock and roll cliché, but legend has it that Dead’s bandmates then ate his brain.

Though Necrobutcher would depart the band, the unmitigated artistic success of Dead’s suicide would give way to the recording of the band’s debut album, which Euronymous incubated with replacement members, including one Count Grishnackh.

Though Euronymous and Count Grishnackh had frequent differences of opinion that led to occasional physical altercations, they agreed on a few things such as Aryan racial superiority, the veracity of Norse mythology and a general hatred for all living things.  This common ground wasn’t enough to prevent the Count from stabbing Euronymous repeatedly in the head and describing with glee to police how his eye’s bulged from his head as he did so. When asked in a 1996 interview how it felt to murder his bandmate, he said, “Nothing special, really. It was no big deal.”

And just in case you thought Grishnakch was slacking in his commitment to Satan, fear not. As he served his 21-year murder sentence, he remained an active member of Nordic terrorist organization, Heathen Front. Under their incarcerated leader’s guidance, Heathen Front undertook a campaign to burn down some of Norway’s oldest churches.

This campaign was successful. When asked about it, the incarcerated Count Grishnakch explained that he was simply doing his part to bring about the inevitable war between Christianity and Pagan Satanism.

It was in the midst of this stellar publicity blitz that the band’s full-length debut, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, was finally released in 1994.   Necrobutcher returned to the fold and, along with Hellhammer, established a new touring Mayhem lineup.

Today, having served 15 years of his sentence, Grishnakch is a free man living in France and, almost certainly, engaging in acts of terror and rallying for Neo-Nazi causes.

As for the band, presuming you are not part of an ethnic minority and don’t mind the very real possibility that you could be knocked unconscious by projectile severed pig’s heads, you are more than welcome to see the still-active, still-touring, still-terrifying Mayhem live and in concert.


Dave Tomar is an author and music journalist. The 2012 memoir, The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat (Bloomsbury USA), details Tomar’s decade as an academic ghostwriter and highlights the critical need for reform in higher education. Tomar has appeared on ABC World News, Nightline, The Today Show and Fox Business to discuss his book. Dave Tomar is also the editor and lead writer for music blog The Liner Note.

Posted in Freaky Friday

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