FENRIZ - The Return Of Darkness And Evil

By Dr. Abner Mality

The hour is late and the baleful glow of a full autumn moon shines through the trees as you tread through the brooding forest. A wolf's howl pierces the night and you quicken your pace. There have been stories of unholy things happening to those who travel through these ancient woods. Suddenly, you hear a slavering snarl from behind and begin to run. Now voices can be heard... a low, evil chant. You run into a clearing in the woods, but you are not alone. Hooded figures surround you on all sides... it is they who are chanting! You are lost and damned in this evil place, ripped apart by soulless apparitions...

That's the sort of feeling that black metal used to conjure up back in the day, the dark days before trendiness overtook this most subterranean of music scenes. I recall the first time I heard Venom's "Welcome to Hell". I hated it so much I didn't listen to it for two weeks...but then I was drawn back to it, lost in the spell of primitive darkness it cast. That was the beginning of my excursion into the shadow zone of early black metal.

Fenriz, maniacal drummer of Norway's grim ghouls, "Darkthrone", knows well this spirit of elder days. After all, he has been channelling it successfully in Darkthrone for well over a decade. But he is not content to let his influences from the past subside unsung into oblivion. Hence, he guided and selected a superb compilation, "Fenriz Presents: The Best of Old School Black Metal", which collects many bands typifying the cold, sinister ethic of early black metal.

Therefore, it was my privilege to communicate with Fenriz and dig into his celebration of all that is unholy...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Can you remember the first time you heard something you later identified to be "black metal"? Were you into it from the start or did you have to get used to it?

FENRIZ: The Mayhem guys grew up in perfect timing to discover and feel the black metal first hand, I reckon. I heard some of it in 84-86, but I was always after the hardest or most brutal thing, or evil half-note riffs. So when I bought “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” (BATHORY) in 86, I just thought the sound sucked; cuz I was into “Pleasure to Kill” by KREATOR at the time. It wasn’t until TORMENTOR from Hungary broke the endless chain of death metal releases in ’89 that I heard some thrash in a new light; the black light. Then it was also easy to understand Bathory, Venom, Sarcofago, Bulldozer, early Sodom, etc, in a new way that I missed the first time ‘round. So I don’t blame kids for thinking Darkthrone sounds harsh, or this compilation hard to swallow. The compilation has a lot of substance and extremely high and CORRECT quality though, so it will last people a long time. TRY YOUR LUCK, BRAVE SOLDIERS.

WC: For me, Venom was the first real black metal band I ever experienced. How profound an influence did they have on you?

F: Not much, as I was born JUST too late to really understand them in a comtemporary sense. What draws the kids are catchy melodies and overproduced sound, only those who delve deep into the different genres may start to REALLY love the roots. Venom is very shabby and has a lot of “fuck off” attitude, but the music for me was too harsh when I first encountered them. I liked some songs for their metal value ("7 Gates of Hell", for instance), but I didn’t see the REAL importance of their material until the nineties came along. Venom is not what you hang around listening to if you want to upgrade your musicianship; and that’s what Darkthrone had to do in the late 80s. Only when we were fed up with playing technical death metal (1990/91), we could decide to follow our hearts and play primitive stuff like Venom themselves.

WC: Your inclusion of Mercyful Fate on the compilation might surprise some. It’s more melodic and "classic" than what most people think of as black metal, but in the 80's, it definitely fit into that scene. Can a band be really melodic and still be "evil" in your opinion?

F: Most of the black metal that have videos and sell a lot are full of melodies. But, it is rarely done classy like the Mercyful
fate song in question; it is a hurried sound that often fucks with the feeble melodies, the worst being folk inspired black metal. Tempos are wrong and the drummers “play guitars” instead of just playing drums. Very silly. Many of these bands should be forced to see movies like "Bad News", understanding that they are parodies of themselves. Remember that I am presenting THE SOUND OF THE ROOTS on the compilation, and also what us Norwegians were listening to; and the first two Mercyful Fate albums are MANDATORY up here.

WC: You included some relatively new bands like Nattefrost and Aura Noir on the compilation. What were the criteria you used for including them?

F: I wanted to show that some bands still play THE ROOTS STYLE.

WC: I always thought Possessed was one of the greatest black/thrash bands of all time, especially on "Seven Churches". Would you agree and did you try to include them on the record?

F: Yeah. THEY (or their label at the time) called it DEATH metal, hahaha, that is not how us Norwegians interpret their sound. OF COURSE Possessed was included, but apparently Larry Lalonde (Now sailing seas of cheese in the over-the-hill Primus... Dr. Mality) didn’t want Possessed to be on my compilation. Jeff Beccera (Baccara, HAHAHA) was one of the best voices EVER, his vocals on “Beyond the Gates” album are INCREDIBLE. One of our all time faves!!!

WC: How about Slayer? Would they fit your definition of old school black metal?

F: They were not first priority for my compilation; sure, Slayer is hella important, but not only for black metal. Besides, I thought they had more of a metal vibe on "Show No Mercy", and not so classy, but this is an album that is sure to be played if we have ourselves a black metal night. If I make a thrash metal compilation, some Slayer song from “Hell Awaits” should pop up.

WC: A lot of the old school black metal bands had a "rocking" feel to them which the newer, Norwegian inspired stuff seems to lack. Do you think black metal from the 90's on is less memorable because it lacks that feel?

F: Not necessarily. But I stick to the BLACK n ROLL if I have to choose, Sir.

WC: A good example of "rocking" black metal would be Bulldozer, especially the track "Whiskey Time" that you included here. Some would say this cut is too "happy" to be included and also the lyrics aren’t Satanic. Are Satanic lyrics a must to be considered black metal? I must say, I thought their track "Insurrection of the Living Damned" was one of the coolest from this time period.

F: Who died and made someone a judge of what is Satanic and what’s not? It was when the SADNESS hit the scene that it became watered out; literally by the tear laden sympho-shit of the WIMPS that misunderstood our black metal. There were fine little amounts of sadness and melancholy in the roots sound, it’s another excuse to dress up; which draws the 80% of people that are GARBAGE to the great music style. Punk existed a long time before it was a DRESS UP-STYLE, but as soon as it became fashion, the REAL shit got out of focus. That’s why thrash was so cool, with the non-fashion thing. Everything needs to be in constant war and friction, but postcard punk and postcard black metal is just SAD and PATHETIC. If you wanna cry, go watch Oprah, hahaha. Posers.

WC: Darkthrone seems to draw the greatest influence from Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, would you agree?

F: Well, now I’ve begun drawing inspiration from other bands that are inspired by Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, HAHAHAHA. I never said Darkthrone was original, I wanted to bring the focus back on the old Celtic Frost and Bathory style from the beginning when we decided to play primitive in early 91. No, we have an abyss full of inspirations from the 80s! On our new album, "Sardinic Wrath", I was mainly inspired by Celtic Frost, Hellhammer,Deathstrike, Motorhead, Darkthrone, Autopsy/Abscess.

WC: Can any black metal band today create the sort of impact that Venom and Bathory did back in the day? It seems society is jaded and the concept of shock has been played out.

F: Bathory and Venom had two COMPLETELY different carriers, dude! Venom’s was explosive, and Bathory was sneaking poison..

WC: What exactly was your criteria for picking a song from a particular band? In other words, why would you go with "Warhead" from Venom instead of "Witching Hour" or "Leave Me In Hell"? Or "Dies Irae" from Bathory instead of "War" or "Return of Darkness and Evil"?

F: I am a dj, so I just choose what I feel is right. I have long experience in compiling music. Some choices MUST be typical, other must be interesting. Variation, variation, variation. “War” by Bathory isn’t necessary, “Whiskey Time” by Bulldozer has the same vibe almost. I would have chosen “Massacre”, but Black Mark wanted me to take “Dies Irae”. When those things happen, I have to rearrange the track listing, etc..

WC: Thrash was always closely allied with black metal. Destruction is a good example of a band that could have been
considered black metal on their first couple of records but who eventually became completely thrash. I’ve heard you are considering an old school thrash compilation. Any idea who will be on it?

F: I consider thrash, "Thrash", so I don’t use the "New School Thrash" phrase. If I hear someone is modernizing thrash, I don’t wanna hear it. Sorry, I don’t wanna see my loves ugly side, haha. I would have to have SADUS, DARK ANGEL, KREATOR, PESTILENCE, CORONER, EXODUS, SODOM, SLAYER, DEATH ANGEL, WHIPLASH, POSSESSED, TESTAMENT etc... You are correct about what you said about thrash and black metal. For instance “Obsessed by Cruelty” with SODOM there is A LOT of black metal feeling, but on the first Testament album there is NOTHING. These are the things I hope people will understand one day.

WC: How important were Burzum and Mayhem to the evolution of black metal? You are contemporaries of theirs, that would give you a unique aspect?

F: To the development of the sound throughout the '90s, Burzum was most important (of these two bands). Burzum had the RIGHT KIND OF SADNESS to it, that sooooo many misunderstood afterwards. Mayhem was always just extreme, and probably inspired bands like Marduk and Dark Funeral Mayhem continued on with extreme music as usual, while Burzum died. We just stuck to what we decided on all these years primitive ugly black metal with raw sound.

WC: Will black metal ever recapture the fear and danger it inspired in the early 90's? The scene seems played out, with many bands favoring style over substance.

F: I don’t know what YOU feel. I unite with the people that worship THE RIFF. THE RIFF has been the driving force all along.

WC: Regarding the latest Darkthrone album, "Sardonic Wrath", did putting together this compilation influence how you wrote for it?

F: Absolutely not. I thought I was going to be more inspired by crust punk this time, but by a coincidence none of that came out. Instead I had some Motorhead stuff and slower stuff thrown in. I made song 3, 5, 8 and the slow middle part of the last one.

WC: Is there any chance Darkthrone will ever visit the States? Or will the mystery only increase your legend?

F: I’ll stick to my guns, thanx. SUPPORT AUDIOPAIN, insanely great Norwegian thrash band, look out for AURA NOIR's “The Merciless” album, released in October on Darkthrones label TYRANT SYNDICATE.

Tyrant Syndicate Production's Website

Darkthrone's Official Website