Vikernes 'irrelevant' and a 'national treasure'

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Varg Vikernes (C) in a Norwegian court room in 1997. File photo: Cornelius Poppe/Scanpix
09:55 CEST+02:00
A Norwegian black metal expert has said that Varg Vikernes, the Norwegian neo-nazi arrested by French anti-terror police on Tuesday, has built up a cult status among fans around the world.

"All over the world, he has a very high status as a musician and an artist. I've noticed it in China, Asia, western and eastern Europe, but his status as an ideologue varies," said Norwegian author Håvard Rem, who published the book Native Scream (Innfødte skrik) in 2010 about the history of black metal culture in Norway. Rem said that the Norwegian manslaughter and arson convict had a particular fan base in Russia, but also in Romania. Some non-European fans also appreciated Vikernes' focus on heritage, he added.

"In countries that don't have a connection to migration to Europe, such as China, Indonesia and Singapore, he is a role model when it comes to looking back at original culture," Rem said, adding that he had bumped into Vikernes once during his travels in black metal milieu across the world. Vikernes has released 17 albums under his own label Burzum, with texts about Nordic mythology. Rem classified the genre as Ambient Black Metal.

"He doesn't give concerts and gives very few interviews. That's how he builds up his cult status," Rem told Aftenposten.

Vikerness, who was convicted of killing another black metal musician,  Øystein Aarseth, in Norway in 1994, as well as being felled for arson for torching three churches and one church steeple, had little or no ideological following left in Norway, Rem added.  In March, however, the music critic Bjørn Gabrielsen at at the Dagens Næringsliv newspaper said he thought Norwegians were far too uncritical in listening to Vikernes' music, saying in an interview with Dagbladet that the exiled convict risked becoming a "national treasure". In particular, Gabrielsen noted, Vikernes has never tried to downplay his anti-Semitism. 

"To concentrate solely on the sound and musical frames of reference when referring to a new release of Vikernes is intellectual fraud," Gabrielsen wrote, adding that Norwegians had become too tolerant of intolerance. 

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"We Norwegians can be a bit too tolerant of totalitarian expressions. Historically, for example, there have been Norwegian intellectuals who defended Stalin. Accepting Vikernes is something I would call a sign of our decadence. We have our secure lives and accept things," Gabrielsen wrote at the time. 

Vikernes, who had been sentenced to spend 21 years in prison, was released in 2009 but still owed 18 million kroner ($3.3 million) in damages for the fires he planted. In February, he wrote on his blog that he had been "forced" to leave Norway by "greedy lawyers", which Aftenposten tied to the claims against him to start downpaying outstanding damages. 

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