Helvete: Norway’s Pioneering Black Metal Hub

Helvete, once a controversial hub in Norway’s black metal scene, has evolved into Neseblod Records, a sanctuary that encapsulates a rich history, echoing a journey from fringe status to a nuanced position in the global cultural landscape.

Helvete: Norway's Pioneering Black Metal Hub
Helvete – Oslo, Norway (1991)

The Epicentre of Norwegian Black Metal

In the early ’90s, nestled in the heart of Oslo, Norway, a pioneering force in the black metal scene emerged – the Helvete shop. As the brainchild of the legendary Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, guitarist for the iconic band Mayhem, Helvete carved its name as the first-ever sanctuary where black metal records found a home.

For the enthusiasts who ventured to Schweigaards Gate 56, it was more than just a store; it was a journey into the soul of black metal, a genre that thrived on raw energy and powerful narratives. The name “Helvete”, a Norwegian term translating to “hell”, and steeped in the depths of Norse mythology as “hell’s punishment”, encapsulated the spirit of the burgeoning scene perfectly.

In the annals of metal history, Euronymous stands as a figure who not only strummed chords but also crafted a culture. His influence stretched far beyond his role in Mayhem, seeding a haven where like-minded individuals could congregate, share, and foster their passion for black metal. The basement of the Helvete store turned into a mecca, a gathering hotspot where Euronymous’ friends and bandmates could immerse themselves in the electrifying current of the black metal wave sweeping through Norway.

As the metal community reminisces about the golden ’90s, the era of Helvete is a chapter that is both fierce and historically significant. It was not just a shop, but a phenomenon, a place where the echoes of electric guitars met the whispers of Norse legends, creating an unparalleled symphony that resonated deeply within the souls of metal enthusiasts.

Helvete’s Reign in the Early ’90s

In the turbulent early ’90s, the Norwegian black metal scene was nothing short of a roaring inferno, with bands like Mayhem, Burzum, and Darkthrone leading the charge, crafting vicious symphonies that echoed through the mountains of Oslo and Bergen. This was a time when even lesser-known bands such as Ildjarn or Strid were carving out their niches, influencing the genre in profound ways.

At the epicentre of this musical upheaval stood Helvete, a shop that opened its doors in June 1991, under the visionary stewardship of Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth. Much more than a mere store, it was a reflection of Euronymous’ deep-seated involvement in the black metal community and his fervent desire to create a nexus for individuals who embraced the dark and eerie ambience that characterized the genre.

Helvete bore the hallmark of Euronymous’ controversial views and actions, fostering a habitat where the burgeoning Norwegian black metal scene could flourish, pulsate, and evolve. It became the heartbeat of the community, a gathering point that encapsulated the very essence of the early ’90s black metal scene.

Helvete bore the hallmark of Euronymous’ controversial views and actions, fostering a habitat where the burgeoning Norwegian black metal scene could flourish, pulsate, and evolve.

A descent into the basement of Helvete revealed “Deathlike Silence Productions”, a recording studio where countless black metal anthems were born, echoing the raw and unfiltered spirit of the genre. This basement, seemingly more confined than captured in photographs, became the sanctuary for the infamous “Inner Circle”, a group that brought the Norwegian black metal scene to the global forefront, with figures like Varg Vikernes deeply entrenched in its lore.

This “Inner Circle”, a congregation of individuals who were as notorious for their criminal activities as they were for their musical contributions, embraced satanism and paganism as a form of rebellion against Christianity. In the depths of Helvete, plans for infamous activities, including church burnings, were hatched, resonating far beyond the Norwegian borders and capturing significant media attention.

However, the fiery reign of Helvete was not destined to last. In 1993, amidst increasing police scrutiny and the crescendo of controversies surrounding the “Inner Circle”, the doors of Helvete closed, marking the end of an era that had brought the raw and untamed energy of Norwegian black metal to the international stage.

Keeping the Flame of Helvete Alive

In the very place where Helvete once stood as a beacon for the burgeoning black metal scene, a new entity has risen to carry the torch – Neseblod Records. Today, under the stewardship of Kenneth “Neseblod”, the shop has transformed into a living chronicle of black metal’s rich history, housing an extensive collection of paraphernalia that echoes the golden years of the genre.

The basement, which once echoed with the raw and untamed spirit of Helvete’s inner circle, now stands as a makeshift museum.

Venturing into Neseblod Records is akin to stepping into a vibrant museum, a haven where the pulsating energy of black metal’s early years reverberates through the walls. The basement, which once echoed with the raw and untamed spirit of Helvete’s inner circle, now stands as a makeshift museum, housing a plethora of objects that encapsulate the spirit and history of black metal. From vinyl records to cassette tapes, CDs, t-shirts, and flags, the collection is a treasure trove for enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in the genre’s rich legacy.

As visitors step into the first room, they are greeted with a spectacle that is nothing short of a heavy metal history lesson. An impressive array of memorabilia adorns the space, featuring artefacts such as a signed copy of “Kill ‘Em All” by Metallica’s classic lineup, props that witnessed Burzum’s iconic photo shoots, and a sheet bearing remnants of Euronymous’s blood, a stark reminder of the intense and often controversial journey of black metal.

Neseblod Records stands not only as a testament to the past but also as a reflection of the evolving landscape of black metal, indicating a shift towards a more “high art” perception of the music. It has morphed into a hub for collectors, distributing music from a myriad of bands that may never grace the live stage, yet continue to influence the genre profoundly.

For black metal aficionados around the globe, a pilgrimage to Oslo seems incomplete without paying homage at Neseblod Records. The shop has become a magnet for “blackpackers”, enthusiasts keen on immersing themselves in the rich tapestry of black metal history. In this modern sanctuary, visitors from around the world gather, united in their passion and eagerness to delve deeper into the black metal culture.

Visiting the shop has evolved into a veritable rite of passage for many, a place where the pulse of black metal continues to throb vigorously, nurturing the collectors and fanatics who find solace in the intense and powerful narrative that black metal crafts.

The Cradle of a Global Phenomenon Amidst National Controversy

In the grand tapestry of Norway’s musical heritage, black metal occupies a unique and somewhat paradoxical space. Despite the perception of metal being “huge” in Norway, black metal remains, to this day, a genre on the fringe, its raw and intense narratives resonating powerfully, yet confined to the outskirts of mainstream acceptance. The shadows of the past, marked by crimes and controversies, linger in the national consciousness, a sombre reminder of a tumultuous era.

Yet, amidst the scrutiny and distaste from mainstream society, the legacy of Helvete stands undiminished, a beacon that illumines the depths of a global cultural phenomenon. The shop, with its infamous basement, has transcended its physical boundaries to carve out a significant place in music history. It serves as a stark reminder of the dichotomy that exists within the black metal scene – a genre that birthed a global culture, yet remains tethered to its controversial roots.

Helvete, once the pulsating heart of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the ’90s, has left an indelible mark on the world of metal. Its influence stretches far beyond the boundaries of sound, shaping the aesthetics and cultural nuances of a genre that reverberates across the globe. In the face of oppression and societal distaste, Helvete fostered a movement that echoed with raw power and intensity, giving birth to a global culture that continues to thrive and evolve.

As we reflect on the journey from Helvete’s inception to its transformation into Neseblod Records, it is evident that the flame ignited in the early ’90s continues to burn brightly, a beacon in the ever-changing landscape of black metal. The shop stands as a living testament to the resilience of a genre that refuses to bow down, a sanctuary where the spirit of black metal lives on, fierce and undeterred.

As the sun sets on this chapter of our journey into the heart of black metal, we stand at a vantage point where we can appreciate the complex and rich narrative that Helvete has woven into the fabric of metal history. It remains a beacon of raw power and authenticity, a place where the echoes of the past meet the pulsating energy of the present, crafting a melody that resonates deeply within the souls of metal enthusiasts across the globe.