In the ‘90s, the antics of Varg Vikernes and several others pushed black metal into an unwelcome, possibly unintended spotlight (though one can argue razing Stave churches was an attention-garnering move). But black metal, from a Norwegian perspective, is no longer musica non grata.
Having witnessed in person Dimmu Borgir’s NRK-funded and sponsored (effectively the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) Forces of the Northern Light performance, where the group performed with a 50-piece orchestra and a 30-piece choir to the delight of several thousand goat-throwers, it’s fair to say higher-ups in Norwegian art and culture look to black metal as the country’s finest export since…well, patterned sweaters and North Atlantic crude!
So, no surprise then that the foreign ministry of Norway is now educating diplomats in the fine craft of True Norwegian Black Metal (or TNBM). From Darkthrone, Burzum and Mayhem to Enslaved, Carpathian Forest and Dimmu Borgir, it appears (though we’ve had no official contact with the Foreign Ministry of Norway) as if Norwegian black metal is an oft-asked question not just by magazines such as ours but by curious politicians from all corners of the world.
In fact, they—specifically, the head of the foreign ministry’s centre of excellence Kjersti Sommerset—have created training manuals to instruct diplomats on “Norwegian culture and the cultural industry”. Interesting. It’s hard to imagine two decades ago the Norwegian government giving black metal a positive cultural spin, but today it’s all water down the fjord.
Sort of like Ibsen. Once maligned now revered. TNBM is officially no longer “the adversary”, but an important musical movement thriving in the wake of A-ha’s recent self-imposed demise and the very-cringe worthy, still-reverberating sounds of “Barbie Girl”.