Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 3. Gorgoroth
Band Photo: Gorgoroth (?)
Black metal, as we’ve seen over the past month, can be a highly controversial genre. Neither bands nor fans are afraid of facing backlash for their beliefs, name or artistic integrity and some have even had clashes with the law, often receiving prison sentences. It can be said that Mayhem has one of the most violent and shocking biographies in black metal, but if they were to be rivalled by anyone in this department, it would surely be by their fellow Norwegians, Gorgoroth. Gorgoroth was formed in 1992 by guitarist, Roger Tiegs, who took the stage name, "Infernus," who was inspired to start the band after making "a pact with the devil." He recruited a vocalist named Hat, a bassist called Kjettar and a drummer with the almost amusing moniker, Goat Pervertor and together they recorded the first Gorgoroth demo, "A Sorcery Written in Blood" in 1993, which helped gain them front page attention from, Firda, one of the major Norwegian newspapers, which was formed in the bands home county of Sogn og Fjordane.
The exposure almost certainly helped the band sign their first record contract soon afterwards, when they partnered with Embassy Productions to release their debut album, "Pentagram." The record received extra credibility for featuring Emperor member, Samoth handling the bass duties and was received quite well amongst both music critics and black metal fans. Shortly after the release of the album, drummer Goat Pervertor left the band and was replaced by Satyricon skinsman, Frost, who joined in time to perform with Gorgoroth at their very first live appearance, which was part of a four day black metal festival featuring such other bands as Enslaved, Marduk and Dark Funeral, who were also performing their first gig. This appearance was followed by further gigs with Enslaved before returning to the studio to record their sophomore album, "Antichrist," which was released once again to a mostly positive response.
Although Hat recorded vocals for "Antichrist," he had already made it known to the rest of the group that he wanted to leave. He was replaced by Obtained Enslavement vocalist, Pest, who made his live debut with the band in London at the end of 1995, at a show headlined by Cradle of Filth and also featuring Primordial. They then embarked on a European tour with Satyricon and Dissection, before "Antichrist" was finally released in the summer of 1996 through their new label, Malicious Records. They also recorded a live EP entitled, "The Last Tormentor" and performed a one off show in Germany with up and coming Polish outfit, Behemoth. These shows and releases had helped the band firmly establish themselves within the black metal scene, with many mentioning their name along with such other respected artists such as Emperor and Mayhem.
They were soon back in the studio recording another album, "Under the Sign of Hell," which was completed just before the band added a new guitarist, Tormentor. This third album was released the next year and is considered by some fans to be their best album to date and certainly their most well received critically at the time. The response to the record allowed them to hit the road as a headlining act for the first time, trekking across Europe with Mystic Circle as support. The growing popularity of the band had not escaped record labels and whilst on the tour, the two guitarists were approached by Nuclear Blast Records, who wanted to sign the band, an offer which was eventually accepted near the end of 1997, much to the dismay of some black metal purists, who thought the band were selling out by signing to a label of Nuclear Blast’s size.
Their first release through Nuclear Blast was 1998’s, "Destroyer," which was notable for featuring no less than four people handling lead vocals, including Infernus himself, who sang on the tracks, "Blodoffer" and the Darkthrone cover, "Slottet i det fjerne." Pest sang on four songs, while bassist, T-Reaper could be heard on the "The Devil, The Sinner and His Journey." However, the band’s new permanent vocalist could only be heard on the opening, title track, an enigmatic, imposing figure who went by the name of Gaahl, who had previously fronted the band, Trelldom. Their move to a bigger label appeared to pay dividends, as another tour with Cradle of Filth was followed by appearances at such festivals as Wacken and Tuska Open Air, before returning home to begin work on another new album, which would mark the introduction of another prominent new member, King Ov Hell on bass.
Whilst they remained very much a black metal band, Gorgoroth brought in some new sounds and influences on their next album, "Incipit Satan," which was released at the beginning of the new millennium. It included elements of noise, industrial and ambient music in addition to their black metal sound, as well as some clean vocals and at times a progressive nature. They promoted the album by embarking on another headlining tour of Europe, this time with Krisiun and Old Man’s Child supporting them, before taking part in the first Hole in the Sky festival, which was set up to honour the memory of their former drummer, Grim, who had committed suicide the previous year. Touring for the album was also notable for their only performance in the United States to date, when they appeared the Milwaukee Metalfest in August 2001.
Gorgoroth once again went home to Norway to write material for their new album but were soon dealt a major setback when Gaahl was arrested and imprisoned for assault, for which he spent just under a year incarcerated. While he was away, Tormentor decided to leave as he felt he could no longer continue working with King, leaving King, Infernus and Kvitrafn as the only available members left to work on the new album, "Twilight of the Idols," which takes its name from a book by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Gaahl was released from prison in December 2002, by which time the rest of the group had finished writing music for the album and he simply had to add his vocals. The album was released in the spring of 2003 and marked a return to a purer black metal direction, although it sounded quite different from their early black metal material, most likely thanks to the contributions of King and Infernus being less involved in the writing process than usual.
In February the next year, the band was to encounter one of their most high profile controversies when they recorded a live DVD in Poland. The concert was an extravagant event, featuring four naked models on crucifixes, sheep heads and blood and other Satanic symbols. Unbeknownst to the band, they were violating Polish blasphemy laws and were for a time, under investigation by the police. Although the authorities decided not to press charges against the band, since as they were foreigners and unaware of the laws, they could not know they had broken the law, Gorgoroth were dropped from Nuclear Blast.
Despite being without a label, the band toured across South America in 2004 to considerable success, as well as performing various shows across Europe, mostly in their native, Norway. Eventually they were able to sign a new record deal with Regain Records, who released their next album, "Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam" in June 2006. The album spawned a music video for the song, "Carving a Giant," which was based off of the infamous Krakow concert they had filmed two years before and was very well received by fans and critics alike, as well as featuring the return of Satyricon drummer, Frost, though this time only in the capacity of a studio musician. Although the album performed well, the band would not get a chance to promote the album on the road, as soon after its release, King announced that he was leaving the band, leaving Infernus and Gaahl as the only remaining permanent members, a matter which was made all the stranger by both being arrested the same year. Infernus was charged with negligent rape and served four months in prison, while Gaahl served another sentence for assault, where it was rumoured that he had tortured his victim and collected his blood in a cup.
Nevertheless, once the two members were out of jail, work on new material resumed, which was aided by the return of King to the fold. The trio did not record another album together but toured across Europe in the summer and South America in September 2007. Only a month later, Infernus put out a statement to say that King and Gaahl had decided to leave the band, to which the aforementioned musicians replied that they had fired Infernus from the group. An argument soon ensued over who had the right to the name and for a time, two versions of the band existed, with the Gaahl/King version even performing at such high profile festivals as Wacken Open Air. The dispute was taken to court in a case that seemed to last a lifetime, but was eventually resolved in March 2009, with the court declaring that Infernus was the rightful owner of the Gorgoroth name. The version featuring Gaahl and King now go under the moniker, God Seed.
Whilst Gaahl and King had been performing, Infernus had been writing in 2008 and announced that the next Gorgoroth album would be entitled, "Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt," a statement which would come true after he won the court case. For the album, he brought former vocalist, Pest and guitarist, Tormentor back to the fold and recruited a new drummer named Tomas Asklund and Obituary bass player, Frank Watkins, who adopted the stage name, Bøddel, which is Norwegian for "executioner." The same year, Metal Mind released the controversial show in Poland on DVD under the title, "Black Mass Krakow 2004," which performed very well in the Norwegian DVD charts. The new album eventually hit the shelves in October 2009 and was met with strong reviews, many comparing the record to their earliest outputs, particularly, "Antichrist." They decided to re-record the album, "Under the Sign of Hell" and toured frequently in support of the album before announcing in 2012 that the band had been working on a new album, which would be called, "Instinctus Bestialis." However, shortly after this declaration, Pest was fired from the band for informing the other members that he was unable to take part in a tour of Latin America. His place on the tour was taken by Taake singer, Hoest and then on a permanent basis by Serbian native, Atterigner. The new singer will be heard on “Instinctus Bestialis,” which the band recently confirmed had been completed. What this new album will sound like remains to be heard, but it almost certainly won’t disappoint the longtime fans of the band, who have seen Gorgoroth overcome adversity, controversy, the law and even their own egos to write their place in the black metal history books. An entry which will probably be written in sheep’s blood.
Gorgoroth - "Måneskyggens Slave"
Gorgoroth - "Bergtrollets Hevn"
Gorgoroth - "Revelation Of Doom"
Gorgoroth - "Destroyer"
Gorgoroth - "Unchain My Heart"
Gorgoroth - "Carving a Giant"
Gorgoroth/God Seed - "Teeth Grinding"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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