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February 9, 2004

Headbanging
Posted by Teresa at 03:10 PM *

Late winter. Dreariest time of the year. Bleah. Here, watch these commercials from Turnpike Films, they’ll make your head explode. Okay, not all of them. The Starbucks ad would have worked better at half the length, the three Raisin Bran Crunch ads are one-punch jokes, and the Nintendo ad needed to get moving and develop its conceit earlier than it did. I don’t guarantee those will make you wake up. But the Nutrigrain ad is like the Coen brothers on serious stimulants trying to squeeze a movie into a one-minute ad, and the Budweiser ad is the most remarkable beer ad I’ve ever seen.

I got those from Patrick. I think he got them from Oliver Willis.

While we’re in this psychic neighborhood, here’s the NYPress review of Lords of Chaos, a book about “the bloody rise of of the Satanic Metal underground” in Norway. Who knew?
Lords of Chaos chronicles the rise of Black Metal, Norwayís extremist contribution to the underground metal scene in the late 80s and early 90s. What made Black Metal so exceptional wasnít just the speed and thrash of the music, the violence of the lyrics or the amount of corpse-paint that its death-obsessed members wore, but rather the number of real corpses and smoldering churches that the movement left behind.

The rise of the Black Metal movement in Norway is a case of humorless dirtheads taking a joke way too seriously. The joke was Satanic rock, which Lords of Chaos skillfully traces from its early origins in Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Coven (who transformed from performing black masses on stage to perpetrating the weepy hippie hit “One Tin Soldier”) to metalís second big wave in the early 80s and the rise of kitsch Satan-rockers Venom. To our modern eyes, Venom looks the spitting image of Spinal Tap during their Smell the Glove phase, but to dirtheads who didnít know any better, Venom was the long-sought embodiment of evil. It was from the Venom branch of evil-metal that all of metalís more violent, “evil” forms descended, including Black Metal.

The point of Satanic rock was to scare the Normals while fucking with the minds of its pimple-faced, predominantly male (nerdoid) audience, who needed to create a counter-world, with counter-morals and counter-aesthetics, to empower the nerdoids against the cooler, more successful jocks. But metal had its rivals for the hopelessly angry nerdoid: punk, hardcore and metalís own competing mutations. The competition forced metalís leading edge to metamorphose into harder, faster and more violent forms, reaching its apex with the rise of Death Metal in the mid-80s. Death Metal was as violent, Satanic and musically inaccessible as metal could go, or so it seemed.

And here is where Norway, the comic straight-man character in this dumb, bloody saga, comes in. Norway is not only a completely humorless society (it banned Monty Pythonís The Life of Brian for being too offensive, leading to ads in rival Sweden boasting that the movie was “so funny it was banned in Norway!”), but worse, a deeply oppressive society, in a recognizably bland, caring, pious, Social Democratic way. Which raises an interesting question: Do boredom and blandness “count” as real suffering, and if so, do they justify murder the way other forms of oppression make murder seem a likely, even understandable response? The Black Metalists of Norway think so.
Near the end, the article also reviews David Frum and Richard Perle’s An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. The reviewer, makes some afterthoughtish comparisons of Frum and Perle with the Black Metalists. Conclusion: F&P’s worldview’s just as unrealistic, but they’re much less interesting.
Comments on Headbanging:
#1 ::: PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 09:07 AM:

Hold on there: "its pimple-faced, predominantly male (nerdoid) audience"?

Maybe I'm going to have to read this book, since my son went through a serious Scandinavian death metal phase a while back. All I know is that there was some serious sonic caterwauling coming out of his room all the time. And you should see the T-shirts...oy.

(He seems to be perfectly normal right now, though.)

#2 ::: RhiannonStone ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 09:26 AM:

Why is this coming up again now? I'm fairly sure I read this article (well, a remarkably similar one) in Rolling Stone about 10 years ago. I remember it because the backlash from certain parts of the Pagan community, upset that wannabe-Satanists were getting press and somehow giving Goddess-worshippers a bad name, was almost as comical as the whole concept of Satanic Death Metal itself.

#3 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 09:58 AM:

Rhiannon: I think I remember that article-- moody, near-black-and-white photos of forests and large men with long hair and pointed goatees making serious faces at the camera, with various symbols of whatnot about their person. It was also in (what sounds like) the vein of the book, some sort of exposť type of article, an "ooh, they're serious" thing. I was on the edge of interested in it, back then, until I realized that the music was the least important part of the act and that the act itself was fairly ridiculous.

But it reminds me of a quote from Homer Simpson: "Ooh, pro wrestling from Mexico. You know, down there it's a real sport!"

#4 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 10:29 AM:

This is what I think often happens in a truly homogenous, conformist culture when the kids learn about adolescent rebellion. In the US, or much of Europe, where the Other is available and rebellion is known, Other-emulation and general rebellion happens, is expected to a certain extent, and rarely goes completely out of hand. In places like Norway, Japan, and certain pockets of middle America, however, , it seems that things can quickly get out of hand: Norwegian youth taking the dark tropes of their music far beyond the American and British bands they emulate; Japanese youth emulating white suburban youth emulating African-American urban youth, and engaging in (minor) body-modification to do so; and the location of school massacres in the US. Something could probably also be said about the deep penetration of the Japanese "nerdoid" community by, say, Aum Shin Rikyo, or again, the home-areas of the members of your American cults.

#5 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 11:21 AM:

If I remember correctly, the Rolling Stone article was in the wake of a series of churchburnings committed by one of the guys in Burzum.

#6 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 12:13 PM:

' do they justify murder the way other forms of oppression make murder seem a likely, even understandable response? '

because something is likely or understandable does not make it justified. That said, hell yes, boredom and blandness do make violence extremely likely. I know a large number of you here are familiar with Utah, so this should be obvious.

#7 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 01:10 PM:

Norway ... banned Monty Python’s The Life of Brian for being too offensive, leading to ads in rival Sweden boasting that the movie was “so funny it was banned in Norway!”

This is not an exaggeration. I've been working on a project involving verifying citations, so I'm in the mood to verify this one. Monty Python: The Case Against by Robert Hewison (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981), p. 93, contains a photo of a theatre marquee, with a Life of Brian poster above the words (in those big slide-in letters theatres use):

FILMEN SOM ÄR SÅ ROLIG ATT DEN TOTALFÖBJUDITS I NORGE

which means just what you think it does, except that there's a typo in one word which should be totalförbjudits or something like that.

The text of the book adds,

Six months later ... a quiet compromise had been reached: the film and English soundtrack remained untouched, only some of the dialogue remained untranslated in the sub-titles. Many Norwegians speak English.

#8 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Wow. That Nutrigrain ad is extremely peculiar. :)

#9 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 03:01 PM:

I *loved* all those ads. The Nintendo one was perfect, IMO. People somehow get this idea that kids (or even adults) are not OK with entertainments that simulate violence, and PiŮatas are a perfect example of how such entertainments have always been a part of our cultures. Sane people do not randomly attack donkeys in hopes that candy will come out, but it sure is a blast watching a kid beating on a simulation of one, or being the kid with the club.

How many people who object to violent video games would object to PiŮatas? Not too many, I'd wager. Why is that?

#10 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 03:03 PM:

Disclaimer: insert "mild" between "simulate" and "violence" above. There are levels of violence and realism that children should not be exposed to, and I readily acknowledge that.

#11 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 05:02 PM:

Great ads, Teresa. Thank you.

The truly insane thing about the Starbucks ad is the background music, which makes up for the somewhat low-key start. As they're yawning like crazy, the sounds of 'Hava Negila' as played by a pretty good klezmer band are heard; post-Starbucks, it's the guitar and keyboards sweet intro to an alternative rock song that I cannot place now (Coldplay?).

#12 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 05:10 PM:

Ah, it's the intro to 'Golden Brown' by the Stranglers, recently featured on the _Snatch_ soundtrack. What would we do without our well-informed colleagues.

#13 ::: adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 05:57 PM:

On the winter blahs: If your diet allows, find some decent looking strawberries at greengrocer (yes, I know they're not in season and not as tasty as could be, but sometimes you just have to make do) Chunk up the berries and macerate them in sugar, which helps with their less-robust flavor. Make a stack of flapjacks or Dutch babies, top with the strawberries and real maple syrup, slightly warm. While you won't be convinced that spring is around the corner, it will make the wait a little brighter for a bit.

And, um, yes, I just had this for dinner and it was a huge pick-me-up after coming in from the frozen, slushy night.

#14 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 07:00 PM:

You've hit on why we own a TiVo but have no interest in the other digital video recorders that have the built-in commercial-skipping feature.

We fast-forward through the commercials. Even if we're watching the show in real-time, we actually start watching a few minutes in, about 15 minutes into an hour show, just so we can fast-forward through the commercials.

But sometimes we stop for the commercials. We like good commercials.

One day, a smart ad guy will watch people watching TiVo and figure out what makes the people stop and watch the commercials.

#15 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 07:24 PM:

I couldn't view them; it told me I needed to log in. Did anyone else get this?


-l.

#16 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 07:50 PM:

I remember being shown around Norway (well, Oslo and Bergen and a few bits in-between), and being initially very impressed with the size, organisational skills, and general unpleasantness of the Norwegian Satanists, because my guides would keep saying things like "This is now the oldest stave church in Norway. It *was* the second oldest, but the Satanists burned down the oldest," and "Oh, Bjorn left Bergen after the Satanists murdered his sister" until I realised that the church-burning & the murdering people were a) the same people and b) there were only a tiny handful of them.

Then again, I once told a Norwegian friend that the bit in one of her short stories about teenagers holding up small-town norwegian banks and post-offices, with guns, to alleviate the gloomy rural boredom, wasn't very realistic or likely. "Possibly not," she agreed, "But we did it anyway."

#17 ::: Alex C ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 08:41 PM:

Yup. They password-protected it.

Bastards.

#18 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 09:35 PM:

Neil, I've been waiting for you to turn up in a forum here so that I could publicly say that I finally read the first Sandman graphic novel, and I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to buying and reading the rest.

I don't know why I never read the novels before - I've certainly heard enough good things about them from people whose opinions I respect. I just never got around to it, I guess.

Anyway, I really just wanted to say that, and also to say that, if the first Sandman novel is any guide, I think you may have a real future in the writing business, and might even develop some sort of fan following.

#19 ::: Alec Austin ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 10:27 PM:

Speaking as a metal-listening nerdoid, I find it moderately amusing and a bit disturbing that people in the U.S. get their panties in a bunch over shock acts like Marilyn Manson when there are/were bands like Emperor (the most famous product of the violent Norwegian Black Metal scene) whose members actually did burn down churches and get convicted for murder and suchlike. I'm not *surprised*, exactly-- I know that there are pockets of the U.S. just as humorless as Norway is reputed to be-- but it makes me a bit sad that people see bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir as threats to their children instead of the ridiculous jokes that they are.

I mean, it's not like I think most Black Metal is good music (I prefer vocalists who actually *sing*), but the majority of its practitioners are more laughable than dangerous, especially since the Norwegian scene imploded several years back.

#20 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 11:53 PM:

"Euronymous" from Mayhem had to give up the wonderful name "Øystein" to take that pseudonym.

If I remember correctly, the Rolling Stone article was in the wake of a series of churchburnings committed by one of the guys in Burzum.

There's only one guy in Burzum. He goes by the name of "Count Grishnackh", which is the name of one of the Uruk-Hai with "Count" stuck at the front of it. Except that his real name is "Varg Vikernes". Except that "Varg" is a pseudonym meaning "Wolf", and his real name is "Kristian Vikernes".

Silly enough yet? If not, check out Mortiis.
http://www.inmusicwetrust.com/articles/25p09.html
http://www.earpollution.com/nov99/live/live.html#mortiis
http://www.playlouder.com/review/+406earache/

Now, that said, there are a few extreme metal bands of truly astonishing creativity and melodic talent. I'm particularly a fan of Sigh, Solefald, and Limbonic Art.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:50 AM:

I just want to say that the whole Norwegian Black Death Metal thing reminded me ineluctably of Anders Bellis-style Swedish "fannish fandom" about twenty years ago, another stunningly nuance-free instance of Scandihoovian cargo-cultism.

I had the privilege, in 1985, of telling Walter A. Willis about how these people were actually having ghoodminton tournaments. His expression was a thing to behold.

Those of you for whom the previous two paragraphs were word salad can come out of hiding now. We'll be good.

#22 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:51 AM:

Milder symptoms of small-town ennui, in the sort of place, I think, that Alec has in mind -- there used to be, on an overpass in a town about fifteen miles from here, the following graffito spray-painted in large friendly letters: "Oh Lord Our God, deliver us from bordem" (sic).

Farther down the road, a sign welcoming people to a town named "Westland" had been altered to read "Wasteland."

Neither of those graffiti are there anymore. I can't blame whoever removed them, but I miss them nonetheless when go by those places, which I do occasionally because that's the route I take to get to my sister's house. Appropriately for this thread, this is the sister who used to be a big fan of Alice Cooper and who, in some kind of karmic return, now has a son who is into Marilyn Manson and such.

#23 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 01:16 AM:

Mitch -- you're too kind. I'm glad you're enjoying it. And it does get better as it goes along, as well.

As for the future in writing... I dunno. It's a dodgy business. Look at what happened to Kingston Dunstan, over at http://www.johnnyalucard.com/quetz.html (Kim Newman demonstrates what it is to be loved by fans)

#24 ::: zhafnium ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 07:18 AM:

Any idea where one could see the nutrigrain ad again? I thought it was hilarious.

#25 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 09:38 AM:

Speaking of Alice Cooper (as Lois was), here in AZ he's the sponsor of a big golf tournament and appears at various charity functions -- not quite the old badass image!

That's down around Phoenix. Closer to my home in central AZ, there's a little town called Chino Valley, pop. around 2000, set on a rather bleak high plain with almost no trees (though some of the views of weird hills and mountains are good). Maybe teenage ennui is rampant, but there's a cool game store, the aptly named Ugly Green Cafe, and a power thrash heavy metal band, Konvulsion, whose lyrics our less-than-eloquent local paper describes as "a collection that resembles literature, [with] lyrics about nature, the seasons and fantasy." At any rate, these big-haired 20-somethings seem remarkably cheerful and optimistic about their sound, "like Metallica, but heavier." And they're sensible enough to wear ear plugs when they practice.

Just a few snippets of life here in that state with the canyon (and more monuments than *your* state, according to PBS).

#26 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:53 AM:

I can still download the Nutrigrain (Right-click, save as) spot, but not the others. Enjoy while you can!

#27 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:48 PM:

Neil - I wonder if the Dead Dog Party at that con is a bring-your-own-dog affair?

#28 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 01:41 AM:

Media Constructions of 'Satanism' in Norway (1988-1997) provided an interesting summary of the subject. I wonder how much responsibility the press are prepared to wear for exacerbating the situation.

This story reminds me of the problem of "suicide contagion" when media coverage is not carefully controlled.

#29 ::: Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:59 PM:

As an inhabitant of Bergen, Norway, the centre of black metal in Norway, I must say I resent the idea that Norway is a completely humorless society. It's not. Norway is not a dull society. Many, many Norwegians have senses of humor. I live in Bergen, and I like to think I have a sense of humor and even though I am, strictly speaking, Danish, I can assure you, having lived here fifteen years, that I have heard Norwegian people tell jokes on several occasions. They are not a humorless people.

A Norwegian joke:
Q: Does it rain all the time in Bergen?
A: I don't know. I've only lived here fifteen years.

See?

Black metal is actually still pretty big here. Dimmu Borgir, a sorta-black-metal band, will be on national tv tonight on this clean-cut, friendly, chatty sort of talkshow.

Oh, mr. Gaiman: I did in fact meet you while you were in Bergen the last time. You might remember me: I was the one in black at the signing.

#30 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 01:40 PM:

You might remember me: I was the one in black at the signing.

If Neil's signings in other parts of the world are anything like the ones in the US, I think you just rested your case.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 02:26 PM:

You know, Martin, I think you have a point there.

#32 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 03:28 PM:

Martin gets a Rasff award with lutefisk clusters.

#33 ::: Martin GL ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 04:43 PM:

I'm so honoured. This is so unexpected... I haven't even prepared a speech, but I'd like to thank the academy and... well, anyway, you may leave out the lutefisk.

I may live in Norway, but lutefisk to me is an abomination in the eye of God. The fact that lutefisk is still eaten is a certain sign of the impending decline and fall of western civilization.

What's a Rasff award again?

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 05:32 PM:

A Rasff award is very hard to explain.

Lutefisk is an abomination.

#35 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 03:12 PM:

A raseff award is from the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.fandom, where many of the regular participants in Making Light/Electrolite used to hang out. (Probably many still do.) For further explanation, see here, questions 11-16.

#36 ::: Roger SjŲlander ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2004, 05:30 PM:

Cargo cults in Swedish fandom in the (early) 80s? Sure. And to think that must of us were already in our teens; what could we have been thinking, trying to emulate people we looked up to?

As for ghoodminton tournaments, alas, I don't think we ever got around to those.

#37 ::: fidelio sees even more spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:53 PM:

Psychotic lunch meat, at that. Or is that redundant when one speaks of spam?

#38 ::: Graydon finds comment spam in Headbanging ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 05:30 AM:

Gods know where those links *really* go.

#39 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 12:46 PM:

Surely this would have been the more appropriate thread for that spam-bit that Graydon just found over in the other discussion -- the one that had "Goalie's Heads" at the end of their list

Harriet

#40 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 01:35 PM:

Graydon sez: Gods know where those links *really* go.

Surely not to factcheck.com!

#41 ::: Harry Connolly finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 05:21 PM:

Here

#42 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 09:03 PM:

"Lutefisk is an abomination."

Now I am envisioning a little bumper-sticker fish, inscribed with the the letters "lute", feet, and two little horns.

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