If it's true, as Billy Joel once famously said, that dying is the
best career move a musician can make, then the same apparently rings
doubly true for musicians who play black metal. Case in point: Norway's
infamous Mayhem, which still attracts just as much (if not more)
attention for the gruesome deaths of two former members as it does for
its music. Certainly, Mayhem still gets press coverage largely based on
the notoriety it gained from the well-documented suicide of former
singer Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin, the fact that his bandmates claimed
later to have kept fragments of his shattered skull to wear on
necklaces, and the subsequent murder of founding guitarist
Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth by then-bassist Varg "Count
Grishnackh" Vikernes. (Vikernes stabbed Aarseth almost two dozen times,
and the surrounding details implicated the pair in a rash of church
burnings.) Factor in homophobic and racially charged fascist sentiments
and, well . . . Mayhem takes the cake for taking rebellion to a new
Which, of course, accounts for much of the band's enduring appeal,
despite considerable efforts of latter-day members Rune "Blasphemer"
Eriksen and Attila Csihar to foster Mayhem's musical evolution. Both
Csihar and Eriksen — who left Mayhem in 2008 after serving 14
years as its main creative force — have at various times lamented
the focus on the band's past. Both have also maintained a staunchly
experimental streak that often flies in the face of black-metal
tradition. Before quitting, Eriksen spoke of how "difficult" it was to
convert new fans wary of Mayhem's blood-tarnished reputation, on the
one hand, while also alienating black metal purists on the other.
Csihar has referred to the band's extracurricular violence as "crap"
and even goes as far as to refer to Satanism as "bullshit," preferring
instead a more "naturalistic" brand of occult: anti-authoritarian
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Sat., May 30, 6:30 p.m., 2009