DB HOF NO. 25
The making of Darkthrone’s “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”
When Darkthrone’s monumental epic, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, hit the shelves in 1991, it was an album of hesitant firsts: the first Norwegian black metal album (Mayhem’s Live in Leipzig came out earlier but with faulty distribution); the first major second-wave black metal album, globally (Czech group Master’s Hammer had released Ritual a year prior, but with less impact); the first truly blackened death metal album; and the first to chime DM’s death knell in popularity. The most shocking feat was the transformation the band made from playing technical death metal on their debut, Soulside Journey, to the hybrid black metal on Blaze. Losing their bass player in the transition, the then 19-year-old guitarist/vocalist Ted Skjellum became Nocturno Culto, drummer Gylve Nagell (who’d previously gone by “Hank Amarillo”) became Fenriz, and second guitarist Ivar Enger transformed into Zephyrous.
Metal arguably hasn’t seen such a monumental and successful transition since. With primary inspiration from Celtic Frost, Bathory, and Motörhead, Darkthrone, along with Burzum and Mayhem, galvanized a new frontier for black metal. Zephyrous soon split from the group—his last recorded contributions appearing on Under a Funeral Moon—and disappeared into normal life. Despite Nocturno Culto’s insisting he participate in this Hall of Fame article, he declined to be interviewed. Rather than just let these rare and candid interviews rot on our desktops, we’ve decided to allow both Culto and Fenriz to recount everything that went down to spark black metal’s longest-burning blaze.
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