Total F***ing Armageddon: Disentangling the Mythologies of Early Norwegian Black Metal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The enduring legacy of the Satanic panic is etched upon the recent histories of popular and underground cultures alike. Concern for the safeguarding of children and young people, it seems, readily slips into histrionic indictments of malevolent forces at work, encompassing such diverse media as horror films, video games, and even the seemingly-innocuous territory of Peppa Pig’s YouTube channel.

The highly-performative realm of alternative music has frequently been the target of public anxiety; accusations of Satanism became commonplace throughout the 1980s, often coupled with fantastical allegations of deviant sexual practices, violence, and even cannibalism. Within this febrile landscape, the early Norwegian black metal scene is a rare example of moralising angst being founded on actual instances of arson, suicide, and murder. Nonetheless, these documented events are beset by exaggeration – a mythology has enveloped the movement, one that may have been initiated by the musicians themselves, but was ultimately cemented by the popular press.

This paper critically evaluates the mythologisation of the early black metal scene. The movement was riven by contradiction and internal conflict, leading to a brinksmanship that resulted in several deaths and the destruction of multiple churches. My analysis examines sensationalised reporting of arson and suicide, debunking allegations of organised Satanic violence in favour of a more critical evaluation of reporting standards around counter-cultures. Viewed in light of more recent moral panics (including the 2019 ‘Momo’ conspiracy), I suggest that the black metal narrative might impart valuable lessons about media responsibility and the necessity of critical thought.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
EventAssociation for Art History Annual Conference - Brighton
Duration: 4 Apr 2019 → …


ConferenceAssociation for Art History Annual Conference
Period4/04/19 → …


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