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There’s more to the men and women that devote their lives to the craft of black metal than corpse paint and extreme music. Like anybody out there, they have hobbies and today we celebrate the black metal artists with a penchant for the visual arts. Whether their medium is with a canvas and brush or the digital studio, the following artists are laser focused on creating striking pieces of art.
We would like to state upfront that ex-Mayhem’s Maniac paints, Ild’s Horgmo is a great photographer and enjoys woodcarving, and Dimension F3H and ex-Limbonic Art’s Morfeus has created art for albums like Odium’s The Sad Realm of the Stars (1998). Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin of the disbanded black/death legends Grotesque, is one of extreme metal’s most respected and exhibited cover artists. His frontman in Grotesque, At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg, actually drew the Darkthrone logo on a whim.
Tattooist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen may not be a performer, but she is one of the most important people in the movement. She has designed logos, album covers, and much more for so many of the bands that define black metal. In addition, the also insanely important Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, editor and founder of the now defunct Slayer Mag, has become a professional photographer whose images have traveled to NYC galleries. He has captured members of Dissection, Gorgoroth, Watain, etc. José Gabriel Alegría Sabogal, a collaborator of Whoredom Rife, is another great artist who deserves a shout out.
Without further ado, we present our list of black metal musicians who are skilled painters, photographers, graphic artists, etc. We will be revealing some other non-musical talents here and there as well.
Sindre Foss Skancke
Sindre Foss Skancke has an experimental one-man project called Utarm, which mixes black metal with other elements, and remains active in the black / funeral doom band, Gribberiket. He has provided art for the likes of Obliteration and Kêres. Sindre notably painted the iconic cover for Dødsengel’s groundbreaking sophomore album, Mirium Occultum (2010). He recently designed the cover, logo, and layout for RUÏM’s debut album, Black Royal Spiritism — I — O Sino Da Igreja, which drops on May 26. This is a huge deal considering that RUÏM is the band of the ex-Mayhem genius Blasphemer and the French-born drummer CSR. In fact, RUÏM seems to be one of the greatest beasts ever to be born in the BM world.
Sindre’s work has been exhibited all over Norway, including at Munch museet as well as in Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Australia, etc. He has also authored art books. Given Sindre’s accomplishments, it comes as no surprise that he holds his master’s degree from Kunstakademiet i Bergen.
The multi-talented Andreas Tylden has been involved in several musical projects. We know him best as “Andras Marquis T.,” the bassist in the sadly disbanded powerhouse One Tail, One Head. Although OTOH’s guitarist Åsli, has stated that he didn’t view OTOH as a black metal band, they will inevitably always be remembered as such. Andreas recently contributed the sublime cover art to the excellent compilation by OTOH’s label Terratur Possessions, TERRATUR COMPENDIUM MMXXIII, which came out in March.
Although Andreas Tylden works as a graphic designer and art director, he has so many other incredible skills. One of Andreas’ coolest accomplishments is having played the character of “Rune” in Joachim Trier’s debut film, Reprise (2006). Andreas also created two of the songs for the soundtrack with Turbonegro’s Knut “Euroboy” Schreiner.
We must add that Andreas’ former OTOH bandmate Wraath crafts leather goods with unique artwork and designs clothing. Visit his webshop, the DCD Store, here.
Thorns’ Snorre Ruch is one of the greatest and most influential men in True Norwegian Black Metal. Along with Euronymous, he is credited as the pioneer of the black metal style of riffing. Although he clearly has a lot to brag about, Ruch has definitely been modest in regard to his talents in the realm of visual arts. The enigmatic guitarist actually took the iconic portraits of Attila Csihar, Euronymous, and Hellhammer that appear on the actual vinyl of De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas (1994). These images are from a 1993 photo session that took place at Grieghallen, where De Mysteriis was recorded. We first learned of Snorre’s hidden talents thanks to leading black metal authority, prolific writer, curator, and archivist Finn Håkon Rødland. Rødland included some of Snorre’s photos in his first exhibition at Grieghallen, the stunning “De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas.” Rødland actually owns the original draft that Snorre drew of Nidarosdomen / Nidaros Cathedral for the front of De Mysteriis. Rødland put together the 25th-anniversary box set for this classic album, which was released via Peaceville. In the box’s 96-page book, Rødland captured Snorre’s recollections about the historic cover:
“I remember I found the picture of Nidarosdomen and I liked the angle on it. If I enhanced the contrasts of the church, it would look like it was illuminated by a full moon. Some of the same considerations that we did with the portraits in Grieghallen. In such a process you do a drawing, sometimes like a copy of it in a copy machine, work some more on it and further develop it. I guess he [Euronymous] saw the picture of Nidarosdomen and liked it and wanted to use it on the cover art. I took the sketch I had made to a graphic designer and they scanned it for me and got it cleaned up and removed some Blanco fluid marks, permanent marker and spots from the process, making it a good black and white image. I sent a disc with it to Oslo.”
It is also important to note that Ruch is a part of Thorns Ltd. — a collaboration that has made music for art exhibitions, though it is not as active anymore. The project has travelled to Germany, France, the Whitney Museum in New York, etc.
Slagmaur is not only one of the finest and most inventive black metal bands, but they also seem to have the best imagery. Slagmaur’s album covers are absolute perfection. These legends are renowned for their outrageous stage attire and live shows, which often take the form of highly professional and beautifully staged mass executions. The fact of Slagmaur’s unparalleled artistic vision makes a bit more sense once you realize that their founder, General Gribbsphiiser, is both a photographer and director. He is the genius behind many of Slagmaur’s extraordinary visual compositions. The group has also used drawings by the masterful Dávid Glomba, who has been known to use ingredients like blood, coffee, and ashes.
Fortunately, Slagmaur has a phenomenal new single with a terribly cool premise in store for listeners. Thus, the team will soon shoot a cover image and music video to accompany its release. Slagmaur has spoken about two upcoming albums: Hulders Ritualet and a sequel to Thill Smitts Terror (2017) called Karrols Ovze Horror. You may have heard the following killer singles from the former: “Wildkatze” (2019) and “Ritual Dogs” (2022). In conjunction with Hulders Ritualet, Slagmaur will unveil a documentary about the Varghiet Forest. Musical contributions by Snorre Ruch will appear in the film and beyond. This “master of disharmony” has assisted Slagmaur in various ways, including posing for artwork.
The late Mayhem and Morbid muse Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin (1969-1991), best known as “Dead,” was the most important frontman in the history of the genre. A tireless artist, his sketches have been featured in Slayer Mag. Pelle’s drawings also appear on Mortem’s Slow Death (1989), Dissection’s The Grief Prophecy (1991), Immortal’s 1991 demo, and so forth. One of Pelle’s brothers, Anders Ohlin, told Finn Håkon Rødland: “He read and made his own comic strips ever since he was a little kid. He made drawings of animals in the beginning, later it was about war, and finally then horror. Often with a certain sense of humor.” Pelle’s father wanted him to attend art school to pursue his passion further. We’ve read slightly different accounts regarding where Pelle was in the application process. Yet, his Morbid bandmate Jens “Dr. Schitz” Näsström, on whose mother’s sofa Pelle amusingly scribbled gothic Santa Clauses, confirmed in a conversation with Metalion: “Dead had been admitted to an art school…”
Pelle’s seer-like imagination was reflected in the way he presented himself, his groundbreaking theatrics, ability to forge unforgettable impressions with poetry, etc. Pelle is, of course, recognized as the inventor of corpsepaint, which helped him embody his lyrics. A truly brilliant eccentric, he sometimes affixed obituaries to his T-shirt and, like Sarah Bernhardt, crawled out of coffins. During his Mayhem years, he told Battery about some of his ambitious set design plans:
“I wanna have stage equipment at our shows of Transylvanian landscape, instruments of torture that are from the 11th century real trees from a dead forest, spotlights that are used to ‘paint’ dark colors of dusk and later moonshine… different animal heads and human craniums hanging in meat hooks by chains from the dead trees and the heads have huge screws in their eyes… That’s what I think would make the perfect mood.”
The Old Nick
Tomas Lindberg, whom we mentioned in the intro, was one of Pelle’s pen pals — the two friends actually spilled blood together at an eventful New Year’s Eve party thrown by Metalion. Yet, Pelle’s most famous letters were his exchanges with his Italian correspondent, fanzine founder Nicola “The Old Nick” Curri. Pelle’s fascinating and informative messages to Nick have been immortalized in the book Letters from the Dead: In Memory of Pelle Ohlin.
In line with today’s topic, Nick is a painter. He has created artwork and logos for bands. Nick currently provides vocals for the band Funeral Oration. The group was formed in the late ’80s and broke up in the ’90s. Yet, they reunited in 2017 and released their killer sophomore album Eliphas Love in 2019.
Watain’s Erik Danielsson works as a graphic designer under the moniker Trident Arts. In the words of Season of Mist, Erik employs “techniques such as cut and paste collage, xerox machines, halftone patterns, rub on letters, toxic colors, grit and misalignment, his body of work is a cry for cultural atavism and a studded fist in the face of the modern age.” His art has been exhibited alongside Metalion’s photos at the now defunct festival Hole in the Sky, to name one example. Erik has provided artwork for Watain and a variety of other bands: Armagedda, Asphyx, Dismember, Dissection, Ghost, Entombed, Nifelheim, Shining (He grew up with Shining’s mastermind, Niklas Kvarforth.), etc. Erik has collaborated with non-musical clients as well. His work has been featured in the book Darkadya: The Book of Art from Below.
Erik is a great admirer of Pelle Ohlin. Thus, he retouched the images for the front and back covers of Morbid’s Ancient Morbidity (2010), lent his artistic touch to Year of the Goat (2011), and designed Morbid merch with one of Pelle’s brothers. As a musician, Erik has honored Pelle by fronting a tribute band called Mörbit. He also played drums in place of the late L-G Petrov in the group’s reunion show in honor of the 35th anniversary of December Moon (1987).
Ex-Lifelover’s Kim Carlsson inherited his artistic talent from his mother, who is also a painter. Kim works with ingredients like blood, incense, ashes, blueberries, milk, melted snow, juniper-infused water, etc. On his YouTube channel, Kim opened our eyes with his intriguing explanation:
“… blood interacts with other liquids in very interesting ways, and it’s been something that I’ve studied over a decade now. And I still learn new things when I implement new techniques… at different stages of making a painting — because depending on the PH or fat content of another liquid that you use together with the blood, it will have different results. And depending if you mix it with the blood or it’s the layer before or after the blood, it all has different effects. And that’s what several of my recent exhibitions in Mexico has been about — to show people how you can get different results by mixing not only blood with different inks but also mixing wine [Kim makes his own wine.] with different inks…”
Kim often sells his art and has also been known to use it on his album covers. For instance, not only was the image for Hypothermia’s EP Kaffe & blod II (2017) made by Kim, but fans had the option to purchase their own copies of the test-press edition that came with sleeves that were individually stained with coffee and blood. One of Kim’s most iconic covers is the photograph of a friend that he snapped for Lifelover’s sophomore record, Pulver (2006). It is a gorgeous yet extreme image that you can’t unsee.
Vrangsinn and Nattefrost
Vrangsinn and Nattefrost are beloved Carpathian Forest legends. For clarity’s sake, we will state that Vrangsinn has taken a step back from performing live with Carpathian Forest for the moment, though he confirmed that it is his intention to continue collaborating with them. We hope that this will prove to be the case. You might know that both Vrangsinn and Nattefrost have completed artwork for Carpathian Forest. If you were previously unaware of their side pursuits, however, the two of them sought to change that last year at Skien Metalfest: not only did they play material from their respective solo projects for the first time in years, but they also participated in the festival’s Dark Art Exhibition.
Let’s take a moment to focus a bit more on Vrangsinn, who is a painter, graphic artist, and much more. His experiments with various types of art have even resulted in the production of a lovely phallus made out of concrete. In his paintings, he incorporates unconventional material like blood, coal, ashes, dust, glue, instant coffee, insect and animal remains, etc. Vrangsinn shared one of the many unusual pros of buying his canvases on Facebook: “… I sign with my own blood and also put my bloody fingerprints on the back. Since I have criminal convictions, you can actually use the police to verify that they are authentic…”
As for Nattefrost, he has stated that art has proved a blessing, especially during the pandemic when performance plans were hindered. The musician has painted the likes of soccer star Erling Braut Haaland using his own blood, as he told TA. On the NRK mini-series Den følelsen, Nattefrost revealed that he uses even more disturbing materials from his own body as well. He even saves his nails. This all gives new meaning to the following lines from Nattefrost’s “Whore (Filthy Whore)” from his stellar solo debut, Blood & Vomit (2004): “Blood between her legs, covered with cum, tears, and snot, I gave her all I fucking got.” Although Nattefrost finds it creepy to use other people’s bodily substances, Vrangsinn has mixed his own blood with Nattefrost’s for his art. Now that’s an inspiring tale of brotherhood.
Many readers already know that ex-Gorgoroth’s Gaahl is a painter. Gaahl owns Galleri Fjalar, which he runs with his partner Robin Jakobsen. Each summer, those attending Beyond the Gates flock to Galleri Fjalar, though it serves as a popular destination all year round. Jannicke Wiese-Hansen’s tattoo shop is right downstairs. She was instrumental in Gaahl’s decision to open his gallery. Gaahl has mentioned exhibiting his work in 1993, but he hid his paintings away for a long time afterward. On The Thomas Eriksen Podcast, Jannicke revealed that she finally convinced Gaahl to show his art again at the phenomenal festival that she organized in 2015 called BlekkMetal. At Jannicke’s fest, attendees also witnessed the very first show by Gaahl’s band Gaahls Wyrd. Gaahl has since created artwork to Gaahls Wyrd.
Gaahl started a fashion label called Wynjo with his ex-boyfriend. However, he has stated that his role was only to lend financial support. Gaahl certainly has great taste in everything, so it’s a shame that he wasn’t more involved.
The French-born black metal musician Maxime Taccardi obtained his master’s degree in art and cultural sociology from Paul Verlaine Université in Metz. Taccardi is an exhibited painter, photographer, video director, art book author, etc. This in-demand artist has rendered the likenesses of everyone from Marilyn Monroe to black metal icons, such as Pelle Ohlin, in blood.
Taccardi has completed covers for a long list of releases, including Tulus’ Old Old Death (2020), Sarke’s Aruagint, Sarkom’s EP Svøpt i en dynge av dritt (2021). You can’t forget his unsettling images for Psychonaut 4’s Dipsomania (2015), Neurasthenia (2016), Beautyfall / სულდაცემა (2020). Taccardi has been working with Shining: you can see his bloody covers for the vinyl releases of the first two singles from Shining’s upcoming eleventh album and more. Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth recently made a guest appearance on a song titled “The Serpent’s Kiss” by one of Taccardi’s bands, K.F.R. Taccardi directed the video that accompanies this track, which dropped in February.
“Jormundgand” / “Honey Lucius,” Ole Teigen has played in incredible bands like Den Saakaldte and Dødheimsgard. In addition to drumming in Midnattsvrede, Ole currently performs in the “blues confused rock” ensemble Ole Devil & the Spirit Chasers as well as psych/doom group Superlynx. Ole Teigen is yet another exhibited artist. He painted the cover of Sarkom’s latest EP, Transform into Darkness (2022). Ole also handled the artwork for his solo album Aske og jord (2021), which beautifully blends neo-classical and jazz; “Magician in Despair,” the record’s first single; etc. Aske og jord actually features the likes of the prolific Norwegian Grammy-winning drummer “Anti-Christian,” Christian Håpnes Svendsen, who is an artist in the sense that he’s a professional pyrotechnician.
Jean-Emmanuel “Valnoir” Simoulin is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who has performed black metal and more. Yet, he is best-known as a highly respected Paris-based artist, who has taken part in a number of book projects. Valnoir studied graphic design at EPSAA in Paris for five years. He is the owner of a studio called Metastazis. Valnoir seems to have created art for all metal bands worth knowing: Ulver, Ondskapt, Morbid Angel, Black Anvil, Nidingr, Antaeus, Blut aus Nord, Sun O))), As I Lay Dying, Paradise Lost, Arcturus, Amorphis, etc. He has experimented with blood, ink made from bones, sewing patches onto human skin, etc. Valnoir showed off some of his work in the Vice/Noisey documentary Bleu Blanc Satan: Early French Black Metal (2017), which also starred musicians like Mütiilation’s Meyhna’ch.
Surprisingly, Valnoir travelled to North Korea after coming up with the idea that Laibach should perform there — an event that has been captured in the film Liberation Day (2016). He returned for a cultural exchange that has similarly been preserved in the documentary War of Art (2019). Valnoir is actually a video creator himself.