Varg Vikernes – To Hell and Back Again: My Black Metal Story (2024)

To Hell and Back Again: My Black Metal Story (Norway 1991-1993)
by Varg Vikernes
150 pages, Ancestral Cult Productions, $13

This short book serves as a teaser for a longer work, since most Burzum fans want to know the origins of the events described here. To Hell and Back Again speaks most of the signature events of black metal, namely the murder of Euronymous, and interactions between Vikernes and other bands.

Vikernes seems to be a natural writer, with good rhythm to his sentences and an innate ability to know how much detail to give in most scenes, avoiding the twin entropy tipping points of too much detail and too sparse of a narrative. There are hooks here for our minds to attach to.

Contrary to mainstream narrative, we see a very open-minded fellow considering his mistakes, and acknowledging where his worldview is wholly incompatible with normal society. While much of the book concerns the tabloid headlines stuff, we also get gems of the concept behind the music:

If you will, I can explain how Burzum was intended, by me. First of all, when I produced the albums, the microphones for the drums were set up so that when you put on a headset and started listening to it, you would hear it from the perspective of the musician playing the music. Mainlyh from the perspective of the drummer. You were that musician, in a sense, playing the music, when you listened to it. (124)

Perhaps this book is a starter volume and later the author will return to chronicle his childhood, classical influences which are mentioned but not named, concept of art, knowledge of honor, and how he entered his political and philosophical realm, as well as how he learned music before metal.

There are many areas of interest in not just the black metal story, and not just the Burzum story, but the Varg Vikernes story. Like it or not, he is a cultural signpost, both for embracing Darwinistic politics and for his uncompromising lack of tolerance for peer pressure.

The centerpiece of the book, the killing of Euronymous, combines the narrative of self-defense (“he wanted to kill me”) with retaliation against someone who used social pressure to cage the music of Burzum, resulting in a provocation that begat an unplanned but long-idealized murder.

I killed, or if you like their version better, murdered, a guy who planned to murder me. In fact, a guy who planned to torture me to death whilst filming it. Damn! I had all the right in the world to kill/murder that piece of shit!

“It is praiseworthy to do what is right, not what is lawful,” as the Romans put it. (62)

Vikernes offers numerous reasons for the conflict, but explains it best as a “status” conflict: only one person could be the leader of the black metal subgenre, and Burzum had seized the lead, so Euronymous suppressed Burzum so that Mayhem could remain relevant, creating enduring resentment.

Even under common law, the Varg narrative has some legal troubles, mainly that he responded to a fistfight with a knife, and that he pursued a fleeing aggressor. He addresses these somewhat indirectly and points out that he admitted to murder two at his trial.

However, democracies are still following the Jacobin agenda, and so when black metal bands were associated with church-burning and killings, a scapegoat had to be found and beheaded, or in this case given a twenty-one year sentence.

Interestingly, Vikernes does not address the escape attempt in 2003 nor his daily life in prison, but he intuits (probably correctly) that the audience for this book have seen Until the Light Takes Us and read other metal histories.

There is much more of the story here, since a full history of black metal and Burzum would bring in more of the events leading up to his viewpoints that led to some of the clashes in the book. There is also the question that all want to know, namely how he converted metal from bombast to transcendent introspection.

Some has asked me if I had any musical training, and whenever someone asks me this, I always stress that if I had any formal training in this context, I would probably not have been able to make any music at all. Or if I had been able to, it would not have been any different from other music in any way. Formal education removes originality, different ways to look at things and basically ruins your ability to make original music. You learn how to play well, but you learn how to play just like everybody else do it…

The truth is that Burzum was indeed fairly original. Not everything was, and you can see clear influences there from “un-typical” genres, in this context. I was influenced more by classical music than by other metal, and more by Balalaika than by other metal bands when it came to how I played the guitars. (132)

Like many of the best books that have crossed this desk, To Hell and Back Again (yet another Tolkien allusion) runs on a steady diet of adrenaline provided by these little side-notes and observation.

The author tells his tale but tells of life in the margins, like how Knut Hamsun penciled his great works between the lines of other books to get around prison authorities. Much of the story is not about some great external influence, but a massive internal one.

To Hell and Back Again can be seen as the story of one totally alienated person stranded in a dying civilization, making one last stand for sanity and appreciation of our world before plastic humanism took over and eradicated any last naturalistic realism with rote symbols.

It brings to mind some words from T.S. Eliot:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Black metal cannot be characterized as a form of metal alone because its biggest influence was spiritual, a desire to un-do and push back against the sickness of not just conformity but illusion based in individualism that took over the West and ate it from within.

In this book, you can see black metal more as an artistic movement than another variety of entertainment, and this view is too heady for most, so Vikernes side-steps into it and lets us absorb it rather than face it head-on.

For that reason, this book — which reads like a hybrid between Ernst Junger and Hunter S. Thompson — may serve as the best introduction so far to black metal from a top-down view, answering the question of why before how, excepting our FAQ of course.

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37 thoughts on “Varg Vikernes – To Hell and Back Again: My Black Metal Story (2024)”

  1. Talking about the moment of clarity which shocked him into getting sober after years of over-indulgence with drugs and alcohol, the guitarist, real name James Shaffer, pinpoints the day in 2008 when he was dragged from his beach-front home in California by an armed SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team, arrested, and locked up in a psychiatric ward.

    Korn should be arrested for being so fucking retarded and gay…

    Hey Brett could you get wasps to kick Korn’s gay ugly retarded shemale stupid destructive pointless moronic gay asses and I promise I’ll marry a black woman too?

    1. Ro says:

      Blackie Lawless is pretty old; I don’t think he could do much damage to Jonathan Davis.

      1. pope Benedict - from Hell says:

        These days “blackie” goes by the name of Whitey Abiding Lawfull… also he does not fuck (like any beast) anymore…eating however is high on his list and these days, defecating is his pastime…he defecates on his fans, thru his “music”

        1. Tripledicks says:

          Well he’s still got killer pipes and that’s no accident and he’s also not a fag like you

            1. pope Benedict - from Hell says:

              brad stevens you are your own parody! these days the jokes write themselves, you old pedophile

          1. gosta says:


            1. That's great says:

              Rest in penis

  2. No milk in my coffee says:

    Nah black metal is clearly about Satanism and definitely not about promoting any form of humanism like Jarl-Pastor Brettnik contradictorily pushes despite claiming otherwise. Varg’s “black metal”, at least in most of his works, is more akin to so called pagan metal along the morally grey lines of Enslaved, latter Graveland and latter Bathory, whose influence is not that relevant to the true version of black metal we today as originated by Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Sarcofago, Blasphemy, Profanatica, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Emperor, Immortal and heck, even the crappy overpraised Venom.

    Adding either left or rightwing politics to black metal is dumb as fuck.

    “BLACK metal is about Satanism and black METAL is about musical wankery. We play BLACK metal for Satan.” – Ritual Butcherer

    Even Averse Sefira said it:

    “Wrath pointed out that Averse Sefira never had any link with Nazism; and Sanguine sees “it as somewhat contradictory that people are linking national-socialism and satanism together, although it seems that most of the NS bands are dumping their Satanic roots. Adopting National-Socialism seems like a last ditch shock tactic.”

    1. I disagree. Later Bathory was current when black metal was born, and realism of any form is hostile to the Left, leaving one option. It was always clear that the Satan of black metal lore was closer to a restatement of the pagan gods than any Abrahamic conception of evil.

    2. Also, realism is the opposite of humanism. Luciferianism focus on realism and denies human narcissism.

    3. Goatfucker says:

      Well, a lot of black metal is about shock tactics, isn’t it? Some sort of attempt at awakening humanity by scaring it off its current hiccups. “We shock people,” as Demonaz said.

    4. CapnCrunch says:

      Mate, you need to hear The Return again. Virtually every strain of black metal has its provenance there and on the next three records. The debut too but it hadn’t really started to break away from its influences yet.

      1. If you take the second Bathory, Hellhammer and first two Celtic Frosts, add Slayer and Sarcofago, you have a pretty good idea of where black metal was going. Vikernes also mentions Morbid Angel Altars of Madness but I suspect the first Deicide is in there too. Then all that great Swedish melodic death metal…

        1. Svmmoned says:

          I vaguely remembered that he had mentioned first Deicide before and yeah, it’s there:

          1. Makes sense. I hear some Merciless and Godflesh as well.

        2. Thorns & Stigma Diabolicum contribution seems no less than critically important as well, in case of shaping grim norwegian distinctiveness.

  3. This book review may be the most overt example of homosexual fandom I’ve ever seen. How long did it take after reading this before you were overwhelmed by the urge to squeeze into your sister’s panties and grind on your Varg poster? 6.66 seconds?

    1. Robert says:


    2. “Overt homosexual fandom” is kind of a catchy sub-title for the site.

      1. gosta says:

        catching not pitching? brett you old shemale

    3. are you pretty boy says:

      Nah son, praising Belus or Fallen would be homosexual fandom. Based on the snippets this review seems balanced. Keep working on that gaydar of yours!

      1. Burzum albums ranking:

        1. Burzum (1992) A+
        2. Aske (1992) A-
        3. Det Som Engang Var (1993) A
        4. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1993) A+
        5. Filosofem (1995) A-
        6. Daudi Baldrs (1997) A
        7. Hlidskjalf (1999) A
        8. Belus (2010) B
        9. Fallen (2011) C
        10. Umskiptar (2012) C
        11. Sôl Austan, Mâni Vestan (2013) B+
        12. The Ways of Yore (2014) A-
        13. Thulean Mysteries (2020) C+

        1. Metalhead you’re not a metalhead says:

          This guy can’t even distinguish between A and A+, Det Som Engang Var is A+ with a congratulatory bouquet and a kiss from the teacher! Take him away boys!

          1. Ashley Biden's Gaping Raped Anus says:

            Any of the albums from Hjkliasdf and before are great. After that, only the Ways of Yore and Sol Austin, Mani Vegas really appealed.

          2. Kill Communists. Do It Now. Kill Them All. says:

            I always ranked “Det Som Engang Var” lower than the first Burzum. I didn’t like it when they grafted “Aske” onto it. That first album is his pure idea of dark gothic rock, European techno, and metal merging into one.

  4. Crow says:

    90% of the book is Varg shitting on Euronymous, with the remaining 10% being anecdotes and insights as mentioned in this review. 10/10 would read again.

  5. GG Allin says:

    Burzum is a fantastic project. I find enjoyment in everything he has recorded under the Burzum banner. I also respect Varg’s contributions to black metal, and honestly find him an intriguing person. The book is a fun, interesting read.

    But Varg is so completely full of shit and can only see things from his warped, made-up point of view. He directly contradicts himself so many times especially his ongoing insistence that he “doesn’t care” what people think of him. On the contrary, his constant re-writing of the truth and attacks of everyone else involved in the scene during this time is getting old.

    Over the years Varg has demonstrated some decent writing experience, but based on this book, I have to totally disagree with your assessment that “Vikernes seems to be a natural writer” – as this entire book (as entertaining as it may be) reads like a very long, rushed blog post. Hell, he even uses the “;)” emoji in a paragraph. Numerous typos and misspellings litter the entire book as if demonstrating that the only thing Varg hates more than immigration is automatic spell check.

    It’s just more of Varg’s usual bullshit, but like I said, still an interesting read.

    1. says:

      I wonder why more people aren’t mentioning Varg’s notoriously “creative” recollections. Regardless, I’ll probably pick this up.

      More interestingly, though: what is this “This short book serves as a teaser to a longer work” shit, Brett?

      What is this longer work? Is this just your interpretation based on the format of the book?

      1. This is my take on what he is doing, based on his comments on Twitter and how he wrote it. It is like an outline that he is going to go back to and expand.

        1. says:

          That would be great but I’m not going to hold my breath. You know, due to it being Varg.

          1. Apparently he has seventy pages or so of a book about his early life finished.

    2. He’s using a Macintosh, poor guy.

      I can see how this was written quickly. I think it is hard for him to sit down and think about the past, so he picked a few recollections mostly to nail points in time, and there is more to be told. My guess is a 300-page version at some point in the next year, but he may have different plans based less on world conquest.

  6. Svmmoned says:

    Interesting tidbit about the drums. Is there anything about how he recorded guitars?

    1. Yes, although not as much as fanatics would like. I think he keeps his secrets to a degree.

  7. Flying Kites says:

    I would have and still Loved to see how I and Dead would get along. Hell, I might have recommended His suicide.

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