“Blackhearts”: Black metal musicians make their pilgrimages to Norway, the “Mecca of Death”

By on February 6, 2018

The 2017 documentary Blackhearts — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — gives viewers an insider’s look through the eyes of three die-hard black metal musicians as they make their pilgrimages to Norway, unholy birthplace of black metal and “Mecca of Death,” to play at the Inferno Metal Festival, an annual extreme metal festival held every Easter.

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Director Fredrik Horn Akselsen and co-director Christian Falch — who previously teamed up to direct and write The Exorcist in the 21st Century, which peered into the sinister world of Catholic exorcism — paired up again to ask some of the following questions:

“What makes someone risk their life, get thrown in jail or sell their soul to Satan to make their dream come true?” and “How do different societies interpret a work of art based on the current religious, political and cultural circumstances?”

Blackhearts dives deep into the private lives of Sina Winter from Iran, Héctor Carmona from Colombia, and Giorgios Germenis a.k.a. “Kaiadas” from Greece to find out the answers.

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Black metal became notorious in Norway more than two decades ago, in the early ’90s, earning the moniker “the devil’s music” after it was linked to Satanism.

It was also blamed for being at least partly responsible for a series of murders, suicides, grave desecrations and church burnings.

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The filmmakers knew the sub-genre was popular among its fringe of fans in Norway and Scandinavia, but they didn’t know much about how the music affected fans in a strictly Islamic country like Iran, or in a Latin American village in Columbia, where 99% of the population is Catholic.

In Norway, apparently no one cares if you have a pentagram tattooed on your forehead, but what did the same symbol represent in a religious society where people automatically associate the images they see with selling your soul to Satan?

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The country is so geographically so far north of the equator, however, that it’s nearly always perpetually winter and the skies are typically cloudy, even in its southernmost sunniest cities like Oslo.

That may be one reason for the Satanic bleakness, which comes out in artistic expression instead of being expressed in the national news each day.

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Blackhearts — produced by Torstein Parelius, bassist in Norway’s post-black metal experimentalists Manes — was partially funded by institutions in Norway’s government, including the Norwegian Film Institute.

One of the documentary’s strongest points is how it points out that a government should not be able to dictate to its people what defines “art.”

Norway is one of the richest nations in the world, thanks in no small part to the country’s massive oil supplies, where the money spent on their infrastructure alone each year shows just how much the government actually seems to care about the welfare of its citizenry.

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Read more about Blackhearts below.

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The most remarkable story in Blackhearts has to be the story of Sina Winter, lead vocalist and composer of the band From the Vastland, the only black metal rockers in Iran, where performing and releasing black metal records is actually forbidden by law.

From the Vastland are actually a “one-man” band, but for his live performances Sina — who typically just uses his first name —  is backed by Tjalve (Den Saakaldte/Pantheon I/ex-1349), Destruchtor (Myrkskog/Zyklon/ex-Morbid Angel) and Vyl (Keep of Kalessin/Gorgoroth).

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When Sina — who releases his music online — receives an invitation to perform at the Inferno Festival in Oslo, he has a tough decision to make: if he decides to leave his native Tehran to travel to Norway, he might not be able to return to his homeland or ever see his family again.

The filmmakers faced innumerable roadblocks trying to tell Sina’s story, including how to actually film high-quality footage in Iran of music performed illegally and then leave the country safely with the film intact.

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Then, on the other end of the political spectrum, we find Giorgios Germenis, a.k.a. Kaiadas, who fronts the Greek black metal band Naer Mataron.

Kaiadas also happens to be a member of the Greek parliament as a representative for the neo-fascist nationalists party Golden Dawn.

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The filmmakers try to determine if there is any connection between Kaiadas’s love for black metal and the hateful politics he promotes.

For Kaidas, the opportunity for Naer Mataron to perform at the Inferno Festival results in him facing twenty years imprisonment (he’s charged with belonging to a criminal organization).

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Luciferian (from L to R): Héctor Carmona, Jaime Jaramillo and Edixon Sepulveda

The third individual the filmmakers followed to Oslo is Héctor Carmona of the black metal band Luciferian, who are based in Armenia, the capital city of the Quindío department in western Colombia, some 175 miles from Bogotá.

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We learn that Héctor — a devoted Satanist — is willing to sell his soul to Satan if it means he can fulfill his dream of playing with his band in Norway.

Luciferianism, incidentally, is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer, i.e. Satan.

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The filmmakers — who hired armed security guards to protect them while in Columbia — follow Héctor and his bandmates as they attend rituals and black masses as they prepare to travel to Norway, which becomes difficult due to fulfilling the demands set by their visa applications.

They end up seeking advice from Héctor’s Satanic mentor, the “Black Pope,” who organizes a full-on NSFW Satanic ritual which involves a naked woman, pentagrams, human bones, flames and much more.

Watch Blackhearts and other intriguing music documentaries over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.