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Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 3. Thorns

If there's one place that springs to mind when one thinks of black metal, it's Norway. The Scandinavian country may not have invented the genre, but they certainly shaped it into what we know today. Many of the most famous names in black metal were formed in Norway, including Immortal, Darkthrone and Dimmu Borgir, but there were also plenty of cult (or should that be kvlt?) favourites, including today's featured band, Thorns.

The roots of Thorns dates back to 1989 in the city of Trondheim, when guitarist Snorre W. Ruch and vocalist/bassist Marius Vold formed the band, Stigma Diabolicum, with whom they recorded one demo, "Luna De Nocturnus," as well as releasing a rehearsal tape and a live recording, "Live in Stjørdal." They soon added to their ranks, bringing in a bassist named Harald Eilertsen, allowing Vold to concentrate on vocals, as well as drummer Bård G. Eithun, better known to black metal fans as "Faust," who would later join Emperor. The quartet changed their moniker to Thorns around 1991 when the use of Latin was becoming more prominent in black metal.

Coinciding with the name change, the band entered the studio to record their first demo tape as Thorns, which became the highly praised, "Grymyrk." This release was not only popular, but very influential, with Darkthrone drummer Fenriz claiming that it was on this demo that Snorre Ruch co-created the Norwegian black metal guitar sound, along with Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. A year later, Thorns recorded and released their second demo, "Trøndertun" in 1992, which also became a favourite among the black metal faithful and continued to earn the group a great deal of respect from their peers.

Despite their growing reputation, even the simple act of rehearsing was difficult for the group, as all four members lived across Norway, making it a challenge to all come together to work. Eventually it was decided that they would find an apartment in the capital city of Oslo in order to become more organised. However, the band were unable to find anywhere to rehearse and as a result, several members became uninterested in Thorns and didn't want to write any music. Frustrated by this, Ruch decided to accept an invitation to join local legends Mayhem as the second guitarist, putting Thorns on hold for a while.

His time with Mayhem was to become infamous and end in perhaps the most notorious event in metal. Ruch hung out with Burzum's Varg Vikernes quite frequently, moving in with him in Bergen in 1993 after nearly being committed to a mental institution. According to Vikernes, it was Snorre who revealed the plans of Euronymous to torture Vikernes to death, by calling him over to listen to a phone call with the Mayhem guitarist, wherein he discussed his plans.

The two traveled to Oslo from Bergen in order for Vikernes to sever ties with Euronymous (Snorre accompanied him because he wanted to show his bandmate some riffs,) and as we all know, when they arrived, a scuffle broke out between Vikernes and Euronymous, which resulted in the guitarist's death. Ruch was waiting outside of the apartment and when Vikernes appeared with blood on his clothes, the Thorns founder panicked and tried to run away, though Varg had to catch up with him because Ruch had his car keys.

It wasn't long before Vikernes was arrested for the killing and subsequently given the maximum Norwegian prison sentence of twenty one years, but Ruch was also sentenced to eight years in prison for being an accomplice to murder, despite the insistence by Vikernes that Snorre was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time and had no part in the death of Euronymous. He was released before the full eight years and in 1998, Thorns returned by releasing a split record with Emperor, which included each band covering a song by the other.

Following the split release, Ruch began recording the eponymous debut Thorns album, which was released in 2001. The album featured several guest appearances from the likes of Satyricon frontman, Satyr (who Ruch credits with reigniting his interest in Thorns,) Mayhem drummer Hellhammer and Aldrahn of Dødheimsgard (also known as DHG.) It was greeted with much enthusiasm and praise but was notably influenced by industrial music, shifting away from the cold black metal style they had helped pioneer, leading Ruch to create the electronic spin off group, Thorns Ltd. who have created music for several art shows. Since then, Thorns has been largely inactive and Ruch has spent more time with Thorns Ltd. but the short catalogue of music that Thorns crafted will forever be hailed as one of the most important in the Norwegian black metal scene.

Thorns - "Thule"

Thorns - "Aerie Descent"

Thorns - "Existence"

Thorns - "Stellar Master Elite"

Thorns - "Interface To God"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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