In every field of artistic endeavor, whether it be music, painting, writing, sculpture, acting, filmmaking — you name it — there are examples of people who have created great works of art but are deplorable as human beings. They make you question yourself: Is it right for me to admire, enjoy, and even praise this person’s artistic work if the creator is someone whose actions or expressions outside of their art clash with my own principles and beliefs?
Metal is no exception to this quandary. Perhaps the single most notorious example is Varg Vikernes. On the one hand, he played a leading role in the origination and development of Norwegian black metal under the name Burzum (and as a member of Mayhem), and he has continued to create notable music under the Burzum name nearly two decades later. On the other hand, in 1994 he was convicted of murdering Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and burning churches in Norway, and he spent 16 years in prison for those crimes.
He has also written extensively about his own beliefs in the racial purity of Northern Europeans and the superiority of its pagan traditions, filling volumes’ worth of words with racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic diatribes. In Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, director Sam Dunn described him as “the most notorious metal musician of all time”, and it’s hard to disagree.
Well, metal may have seen the last of Varg Vikernes. In an April 30 post on one of his blogs (Thulean Perspective), he summed up his own role in the history of black metal and the evolution of that movement into what he terms “nihilstic shit”, ending with the proclamation that “I no longer play metal music”.