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Up A documentry on Norwegian BLACK METAL - 07-14-2006, 12:49 PM

PETER BESTE: NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL

A documentation of Norway's oft-misrepresented black metal scene, Peter Beste's recent portrait series is one of the first truly accountable presentations of this Scandanavian subculture. He approaches the subject from the inside, as a foreigner accepted into the inner workings of an unwelcoming and dark circle, and his results reveal far more truths about the musicians and their world than do any of the sensationalized accounts of church burnings and envious murders that reach a global audience.


Photographs such as "King ov Hell of Gorgoroth (Bergen, Norway)," "Nattefrost of Carpathian Forest (Sandnes, Norway)," and "Frost of Satyricon and 1349 (Oslo, Norway)," offer detailed, time-halting portrayals of black metal musicians. Their faces are almost always covered with thick black and white paint in mimicry of the flesh of a rotting corpse. Out from beneath these painted mask come their frozen, piercing stare. Such a composition is seen repeated over and again with a handful of different musicians, though, and as one tallies up the spikes, upside-down crosses, and ostensible violence one also come to see a surprisingly tame beast.


The whole attire and attitude exuded eventually speaks merely as a performance. And the repeated intimacy of these photographs leads one note the minute differences in each subject's character, until they become far less ghoulish and evil than they initially appear.
Beste also includes a number of photographs of the musicians swallowed by the blissful and idyllic woodlands and pastures of Norway. "Valfar of Windir" finds recently the deceased singer of the band Windir posed solidly and silently between two snowcapped mountains in Sogndal, Norway. The photograph is accompanied by a caption referring to the singer's death, caused by hypothermia when caught in a blizzard. Photographs such as this remind one of the precise mortality of the phenomenon.

Taking much of the professed blackness out of the movement, Peter Beste provides a well-documented journey into an underground that proves to be not much different from the 1980s punk scene of Black Flag, Minor Threat, and the Misfits. A far cry from some ironic interpretation that might be laden with obnoxious references to metal and its stereotypes, this series is a severe and unveiling lens into the world of black metal.

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