Jan 142010

I had another late night. But today I’m gonna resist the urge to bail out on my journalistic responsibilities by posting more Elize Ryd-style cheesecake. Instead, we’re returning to our more usual serious-minded, thought-provoking metal journalism. We’re going to talk about burning churches, burning Bibles, and burning ideas.

And because we provided some eye-candy for the dudes yesterday, we’re gonna show how even-handed we are and start off today with some eye candy for the ladies. Feast your orbs on this delicacy:

Okay, so it’s licorice-flavored eye candy.

This handsome Norwegian is named Gaahl. That’s not the name his momma and daddy gave him. They liked the name Kristian, as in Kristian Eivind Espedal. But when Kristian started playing black metal circa 1993, he must have decided it would be better to have a name that sounded like throat-clearing. And voila! Gaahl!

As you black metalists out there well know, Gaahl is one of the more notorious figures in a fairly notorious genre. During his ten-year stretch with Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth, he was imprisoned for assault in Norway in 2002, and then imprisoned for a second nine-month stint in 2006 for allegedly assaulting and torturing a man for six hours while collecting his blood into a cup and threatening to make him drink it. (read more after the jump . . .)

And then there was the infamous 2004 concert in Krakow, Poland, that featured impaled sheep’s heads, satanic symbols, and a mock crucifixion performed by naked models doused in blood.

Poland isn’t the kind of place where you want to stage that kind of entertainment. Poland has laws that make it a crime to engage in conduct offensive to people’s religious beliefs. (More about that tomorrow in Part 2 of this post.) And that sheep’s head thing suggested there might have been some cruelty to animals too

So, there was a police investigation, but no charges were filed, apparently because the band convinced the authorities they weren’t Poles and didn’t know what they were doing was illegal.

Then, in 2005, Gaahl drew some further attention to himself by saying this in a 2005 documentary film about Norwegian black metal:

“Church burnings are, of course, a thing that I support one hundred percent. It should have been done much more, and will be done much more in the future. We have to remove every trace from what Christianity, and the semitic roots, have to offer this world.”

Wait, wait — there’s more. In October 2007, Gaahl and Gorgoroth’s bassist King ov Hell tried to kick founding member Infernus out of the band and take the Gorgoroth name for themselves.

That led to what? What do you think? A cage fight with axes? Nope. It led to litigation. And in 2009 the Oslo City District Court ruled for Infernus and decided that Gaahl and King ov Hell had excluded themselves from the band. In layman’s terms, instead of fucking Infernus, they had fucked themselves.

Oh yeah, Gaahl also came out of the closet in 2008. The dude is gay.

That whole church-burning thing has surfaced again this week in a weird context (at least it seems pretty fucking weird to me, in an ironic sort of way). There’s going to be a first-ever black metal musical (Svartediket) staged in May at an annual international music and cultural festival held in Bergen, Norway. And it’s going to be staged at one of Norway’s oldest and most renowned theaters.

And guess who’s joined the cast of the musical? Yep, you guessed it: Gaahl! Show tunes anyone?

Word of all this just hit the Norwegian press, and it’s causing a bit of a front-page stir, particularly because Gaahl decided to re-up on his church burning pronouncements in an interview during the last week:

“Christianity has no place in this country. As long as the church has the power it has and supports oppression, we sholudn’t give the church any sympathy. Therefore I don’t think it’s wrong if it (church burning) happens again. The symbolic value of burning down churches is important.”

Really? I can certainly understand the perspective that says organized religion (or even unorganized religion) is abusive and oppressive, has caused lots of human suffering over many centuries, has consistently provided a vehicle for some people to dictate the thoughts and actions of others, etc., etc.

But if you take Gaahl at all seriously (and I’m really not sure I do), he seems to have overlooked the fact that religion doesn’t live in the church. It lives in the mind.

I tend to think that even if religions had never existed, human beings would have found other tools and pretexts for manipulating, enslaving, abusing, and destroying each other — and in fact we have. But that’s not my real point (and I hear you saying, “There’s a point? We thought you’d never get to it!”).

My point is that you can’t burn ideas. Burning churches, synagogues, mosques, and even people won’t destroy ideas or beliefs, even really bad ones. The only way to combat bad ideas or destructive beliefs is with better ideas. Unfortunately, that’s a lot harder than putting the torch to the symbols of what you detest.

But this is a two-way street. There’s another side to this coin. [Insert further metaphors.] But enough for today. We’ll get to the other side of the coin/street tomorrow in Part 2 of this post.

In the meantime, how about a musical interlude? With the release last fall of Gorgoroth’s latest album, Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, old Infernus proved that he didn’t need Gaahl or King to continue turning out ass-kicking black metal. Stream a little taste of licorice from QPAST:

Gorgoroth: Prayer

  3 Responses to “BURNING IDEAS (Part 1)”

  1. That was a high quality post man. It makes you think. I happen to agree with your statement that burning churches to the ground is pretty pointless, unless you get off on being a firebug. Ideas, and by extension ideals, are almost impossible to destroy. You can take a man, ruin his life, take all that he has, but you can never take his ability to think and dream unless you kill him. That is where ideas and ideals come from.

    I don’t know about you, but killing somebody just because I don’t agree with them is pretty pointless too, unless I want to commit genocide. I guess its a good thing I am a bit too lazy for that.

  2. Really, church burning (in Norway) is more about doing unto others as they have done unto you. Christians took places that were symbolic to the existing, pre-Christian, religion and slapped their churches on top of them. Christians burned their texts which was a special affront to the Norse pagans (like Gaahl who is NOT a Satanist as many misreport, but a Norse shaman) who believe that Odin hung himself for 9 days from Yggdrasil as a sacrifice of himself to acquire their runes. Christianity did its absolute best to destroy or misappropriate all of which was central to the Norse culture. Church burning might seem a bit extreme to some, but you have to remember that you are dealing with the culture that made up the Vikings…I am surprised it has not been more extreme and that it has taken this long for a stand to be taken.

    Burning a church will not change the ideas….just as all that Christianity tried to do to destroy the Norse culture could not change the minds and hearts of some of their people…which is what we are seeing now.

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