"Since black metal, what’s the next dangerous thing?": Ihsahn reflects on black metal's place in rock'n'roll history

(Image credit: Andy Ford)

Although black metal finds its roots in the 80s, it was the 90s that turned it into one of metal's most notorious subgenres when a spate of church burnings and murders centred around the Norwegian black metal scene - and the band Mayhem in particular - made international headlines.

In a new interview in the latest issue of Metal Hammer, Emperor frontman Ihsahn reflects on black metal's place in rock'n'roll history - and if there's anything that the next generation could do that would shock those in the 90s black metal scene. 

“I have been wondering," he muses. "I hope my kids don’t have to be part of it but what’s the next shocking thing? There was something every decade since Elvis and his hips. People said it can’t get any worse than punk. But since black metal, what’s the next dangerous thing?”

Elsewhere in the interview, he also discusses the importance corpsepaint played in making black metal so distinct. “When you’re doing music, it’s an artform that kind of uses you," he explains. 

"I guess it feels natural to distance it from the private, everyday part of who you are. Especially when you’re young and trying to convince yourself more than anyone else, you try to make yourself into this character you want to be. 

Pre-internet we only saw this one picture of Quorthon with the pentagram and this one picture of Tom G. Warrior with the bullet belts. It felt very natural to go that route, to really live it." 

At the same time, Ihshan also admits the prevalence of social media and access to artists isn't always beneficial to developing a connection with music.

“Going to sleep wasn’t in the mentality of black metal," he says. "With social media these days you get so close to the artist, which is not necessarily a good thing. It’s almost like a counterpart when you see bands like Ghost or Sleep Token maintaining that distance between artist and music. I’m not sure if people would have connected to our early albums if they’d had this image of spotty teenagers!”

Read the full interview with Ihsahn in the latest issue of Metal Hammer, on-sale now. Order a copy of the Ihsahn bundle and get an exclusive Ihsahn cover as well as a copy of his latest album on cassette. Order your copy now and get it delivered right to your door. 

Ihsahn bundle

(Image credit: Future)
Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.