This paper explores the relationship between the complex subcultures surrounding the extreme music genre of Black Metal and Old Nordic religions, literature, and mythology. This analysis is based on an individualistic approach to how each band/artist interprets and re-expresses the perceived Scandinavian pre-Christian past to elucidate an important (and often mischaracterized) part of the ongoing dialogue of modern receptions of the medieval past and how they influence contemporary culture. My framework is founded on an adaptation of New Philological theory in combination with a phenomenological approach to the experiences had by musicians and listeners of these genres. I also place Black Metal’s use of this material in a historical framework and show its ideological development as well as precedents for the use and abuse of Old Norse culture.
In the late 18th century, Gothic architecture became a favorite subject in new technologies of visual entertainment that enhanced the consumption of images for the delight, or delighted horror, of popular audiences. Transparencies, Dioramas, and Phantasmagoria all used ephemeral means – including projections, veils, and painted scrims – to evoke the materiality of Gothic buildings in a quest for verisimilitude. The observational details of these presentations, combined with layered sensory effects, led their audiences to feel that they had personally experienced the sites shown; such technologies were praised as ‘reality itself’. The success of these depictions of Gothic architecture resulted in an excess of caution in contemporary scholarly works; erosion, texture, light, and other details evoking sensation disappeared in favor of a turn toward supposedly objective representation.