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Satanic verses: Framing Norway's Black Metal singers

20 October 2016

The polar opposite of safe Scandinavian popsters A-ha, Black Metal is the dark heart of Norway's music scene. Famed for its Satanic imagery, deafening guitar riffs, screeching vocals, and distinctive dress-sense, the music has a dedicated following around the world. For a new exhibition, award-winning Norwegian photographer, Jonas Bendiksen, has captured Black Metal singers doing what they do best – being intense and a bit scary. The results serve as an intimate, sweaty portrait of a large but obscure subculture.

Composite image of Black Metal singers. © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.

Award-winning Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen built a reputation as a photojournalist by touring the hinterlands left behind by the collapse of the Soviet Union, documented in a 2006 book, Satellites.

His new project, on display at the Leica Gallery, London, provides an abrupt change in direction. Leaving behind geopolitics, Bendiksen turned his attention to the unlikely subject of Norwegian Black Metal singers.

Norwegian extreme metal music has become one of the country’s biggest cultural exports
Jonas Bendiksen

With its love of all things Satan, its thrashy guitar riffs, demonic-sounding vocals, and its band members made up to appear corpse-like, Black Metal is a very distinct sub-genre of heavy metal music.

Undoubtedly on the extreme end of the rock scene, Black Metal is one of Scandinavia’s more unusual musical offerings. Bendiksen says, “Norwegian extreme metal music has become one of the country’s biggest cultural exports.

“I’ve met people in tiny villages from Bangladesh to Venezuela who almost self-ignite with excitement the moment I mention Norway.”

The collection of work in the exhibition, Singing Norwegian Singers, captures the musicians in full flow – as up close, immediate and as raw as their music.

Jonas Bendiksen's Singing Norwegian Singers exhibition runs from 17 to 27 October 2016 at the Leica Gallery, London.

Øyvind Rasmussen from Skrømt. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Sigurd Dybing from Grand Alchemist. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Jonas Nordli from Imaginator. Norway 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Kaahrl Ødemark from The 3rd Attempt. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.

Try a bit of Black Metal

The sound of Norwegian Black Metal - a cappella style

Aleksander Ilievski from Imaginator and Empty.

Erik Unsgaard from Sarkom. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Jimmy "Ofu Khan" Ivan Bergsten from Red Harvest and Waklevören. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Stein Roger Sund from Evig natt. Norway, 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos.
Aleksander Ilievski from Imaginator and Empty. Norway 2016 © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos

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