The Fatal Rift: Euronymous, Vikernes, and a Murder in Black Metal’s Realm

The night of Euronymous’s murder by Varg Vikernes marked a turning point, casting a long shadow over black metal. This event weaves a dark tapestry of artistic passion, ideological divide, and a fatal altercation.

An image featuring Norwegian black metal musicians Varg Vikernes and Euronymous. Varg, on the left, is wearing a Bathory t-shirt and has long dark hair, while Euronymous, on the right, sports long dark hair and a Venom t-shirt. The grainy photo has a dark, moody setting, reflecting the underground black metal scene of the early '90s.
Varg Vikernes and Euronymous
Key Takeaways
  • Euronymous and Varg Vikernes, members of the black metal band Mayhem, had a bitter rivalry that culminated in Vikernes murdering Euronymous on August 10, 1993.
  • The murder, involving over 20 stab wounds, occurred in Euronymous’s Oslo apartment, following a confrontation between the two.
  • Vikernes was convicted of Euronymous’s murder and other crimes in 1994, receiving a 21-year prison sentence, and was released on parole in 2009.

How Euronymous and Vikernes’ Alliance Turned Deadly

In the grim backdrop of Norway’s black metal scene, a bitter rivalry was simmering between two of its key figures: Euronymous and Vikernes. Their story, marked by ideological clashes and personal feuds, spiraled towards a tragic end on the night of August 10, 1993.

Initially, Euronymous and Vikernes, bandmates in Mayhem, shared a deep disdain for modern society. This shared viewpoint led them to not just make music together, but also participate in controversial acts like church burnings. However, this alliance crumbled over time due to growing differences and personal disputes.

The turning point in their relationship came with the suicide of Mayhem’s vocalist, Dead, in 1991. Euronymous’s response to this tragedy, particularly his handling of Dead’s psychiatric issues, was seen by many, including Vikernes, as exploitative and insensitive. This incident not only fueled tensions within the black metal community but also between Euronymous and Vikernes.

Adding to the strained relationship was a financial conflict. Vikernes accused Euronymous of owing him about $5,000 for his album released under Euronymous’ record label. This debt, which Vikernes claimed Euronymous used to settle his own debts, only heightened their animosity.

The situation escalated when Vikernes, in a January 1993 interview with Bergens Tidende, admitted to church burnings and a murder. This bold declaration led to his arrest, and the ensuing police and media attention forced Euronymous to close his record shop, Helvete.

The final straw was Vikernes’ claim that Euronymous had plotted to torture and kill him, planning to capture the act on film. Vikernes asserted that he acted in self-defense during a physical confrontation, which ultimately led to Euronymous’ death.

The Night Euronymous Was Murdered

On August 10, 1993, a journey fraught with tension and dark intentions was set in motion by Varg Vikernes and Snorre Ruch, known as Blackthorn. This journey, originating from Bergen and destined for Euronymous’s apartment in Oslo, would etch a permanent, tragic mark on the history of black metal.

Vikernes and Blackthorn, driven by a motive to confront Euronymous, arrived at his Oslo residence at the dead of night, around 3 a.m. The initial greeting by Euronymous at his door was the calm before the storm. Moments later, a violent and fatal altercation erupted.

The chase led them down the stairs, where Vikernes relentlessly stabbed Euronymous, inflicting over 20 wounds.

Vikernes, wielding a knife, launched a vicious attack on Euronymous. The struggle was fierce, with Euronymous desperately attempting to flee. The chase led them down the stairs, where Vikernes relentlessly stabbed Euronymous, inflicting over 20 wounds, including two lethal blows to the head and neck. The brutality of the attack was unmistakable.

In the aftermath, Vikernes and Blackthorn hastily retreated to Bergen. Along the way, they stopped at a lake, where Vikernes discarded his blood-soaked clothes, perhaps in an attempt to erase the traces of his deed.

Vikernes later claimed self-defense, alleging that Euronymous had planned to torture and kill him, citing a threatening contract related to recording an album with Mayhem. He also pointed to Euronymous’s history of violent rhetoric and the presence of weapons in his apartment to justify his actions.

However, Vikernes’ self-defense narrative was met with skepticism in the black metal community. Some members doubted Euronymous’s seriousness about his violent threats and believed he was actually fearful of Vikernes. There were suggestions that Vikernes had preplanned the murder and even boasted about it later, casting doubt on the self-defense claim.

Blackthorn’s exact role in the incident remains ambiguous, but his presence and travel with Vikernes implicate him in the events leading up to Euronymous’s murder.

The accounts of that night are varied and conflicting, with Vikernes and others offering different stories. The real motivations and the sequence of events leading up to Euronymous’s tragic end continue to be subjects of speculation and debate among both the black metal community and crime historians.

Vikernes’ Trial and Incarceration

In the wake of Euronymous’s tragic murder, Varg Vikernes, the central figure in this grim saga, was swiftly apprehended. His arrest in August 1993 marked the beginning of a legal battle that would culminate in a landmark trial for Norway’s black metal scene.

In May 1994, Vikernes faced the full weight of the law. He was convicted of first-degree murder, church arson, and possession of explosives. Throughout his trial, Vikernes maintained that he killed Euronymous in self-defense and argued for a reduction of the charge to voluntary manslaughter. However, his plea was unsuccessful.

Vikernes was handed a 21-year prison sentence, the maximum punishment under Norwegian law. But his time behind bars was far from idle. During his imprisonment, Vikernes embarked on various ventures: he founded the Norwegian Heathen Front, authored two books, and continued his musical journey with two ambient albums under the Burzum banner.

Vikernes was handed a 21-year prison sentence, the maximum punishment under Norwegian law.

In a twist of fate, Vikernes regained his freedom in 2009, released on parole. He then moved to France with his family, marking a new chapter in his life after years of incarceration.

Meanwhile, Snorre “Blackthorn” Ruch, Vikernes’ accomplice on that fateful night, received an 8-year prison sentence in 1994. His sentence was influenced by considerations of his mental instability at the time of the crime.

Vikernes, in his statements, painted a different picture of Ruch’s involvement. He suggested that Ruch was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, implying that Ruch’s role in Euronymous’s murder might have been more circumstantial than deliberate.

These events and their outcomes have left indelible marks on the black metal scene, raising questions about justice, fate, and the thin line between artistic expression and real-world consequences.

The Legacy of a Tragic Night

The events of August 10, 1993, plunged the black metal world into a dark, reflective state. Euronymous’s murder by fellow musician Varg Vikernes not only ended a life but also marked a turning point in the genre’s history. It was a night where personal vendettas, ideological differences, and violence collided, culminating in a tragedy that would forever alter the black metal landscape.

Norwegian society was shocked by Euronymous’s death, bringing an underground music scene into the glaring spotlight. The black metal community, known since the late 1980s for its church burnings, vandalism, and other criminal acts, was suddenly thrust into mainstream consciousness. The media coverage in Norway, often sensationalist in nature, amplified the incident’s impact. Musicians were labeled as “Satanic terrorists”, and interviews and reports fueled public fear and misunderstanding about the nature and beliefs of those involved in black metal.

Euronymous’s death triggered a significant transformation within the black metal scene. Bands began distancing themselves from Vikernes, publicly condemning his actions. This period witnessed shifts in musical styles and lyrical themes, with some groups disbanding or taking breaks from their activities.

Mayhem, the band co-founded by Euronymous, chose to continue its journey. In 1994, they released “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, an album now revered as a masterpiece of black metal and a tribute to Euronymous. This release symbolized the band’s resilience and dedication to their art, despite the tragedy that befell their founding member.

Euronymous himself remains an iconic and controversial figure in black metal. His contributions to the genre’s sound and aesthetic have been widely acknowledged and celebrated. His provocative and often contentious personality has led some fans to view him as both a legend and a martyr. His untimely death signified not just the loss of a musician but the end of an era in Norwegian black metal, paving the way for new chapters and evolutions in the genre.