Representations of Satanism in Norwegian Black Metal

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This essay is a discussion of how Satanism came to be present in the musical genre called ‘black metal’. To do this, the essay will focus on the development of the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990s. The essay will illustrate the influence that social context had on the scene’s image, religious disposition, and social ideology. The effect of the media on the black metal musicians will then be discussed in order to address the extent to which the media shaped the development of the scene. The broad aim of this essay is to highlight the nuances that are overlooked if one is to accept subcultures at face value. To this end, the essay will show that because the black metal musicians felt that Christianity was damaging ‘true’ Norwegian culture, they used music to sacralise Nordic and pagan myth, and adopted Satan as both a symbol of alterity and a means to subvert Christianity. Their more radical actions, such as church burning, drew media’s attention, which framed them as a Satanic cult. The media coverage separated black metal’s original intentions from the music and permitted Satanism to become the appropriate religious disposition of future black metal musicians.

Before analysing Norwegian black metal, the role of music in the development of social communities will be discussed. Music’s ability to affect human emotions is unique among the arts; Morris (2013:113) posits that music permits bodily perception to be activated on a primal level and Adorno (1999:9) proposes that “all music, however individual or particular it may be stylistically, possesses an inalienable collective essence”. Music can connect people to one another, and it can also connect people to that which they hold sacred. Durkheim (1965:52) divided the world into the sacred and the profane, and said that the two are wholly separate. McDannell (2012:137), on the other hand, argues that the sacred may be present in the profane, in the form of religious mediation. Meyer (2012:166) states

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