Black Metal succeeded where Nobel Peace prizes, fjords, oil exports, and even chess player Magnus Carlsen failed: putting Norway firmly on the map.
Few people know much about this cold, sparsely-populated country, a stone’s throw from the North Pole, but the bloodcurdlingly intense Black Metal scene has produced some of Norway’s best-known cultural exports.
“I’ve met people in tiny villages from Bangladesh to Venezuela who almost self-ignite with excitement the moment I mention Norway,” explains Norwegian Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen, who was struck by the recognition and impact of Black Metal as he travelled the globe on assignments.
In tribute to his homeland’s most well-known cultural export, Jonas set out to document the scene, getting up close and personal with metal titans like Gorgoroth, Burzum and Darkthrone, as well as up and coming new challengers for the Black Metal crown.
“In the early 1990s, Norwegian Black Metal made its shocking entry on to the world stage with church burnings, homicides, stagecraft, with an intensity few had seen before,” Jonas explains. “The growling vocals and intense riffs of metal music made in Norway somehow hit a primal dissonant note all over the planet. I wanted to photograph the music with the same directness and intensity. I took a flash and photographed Norwegian singers singing, head on.”
His photo series Singing Norwegian Singers, commissioned by Leica, does exactly what it says on the tin – putting viewers face to face with the icons of Norway’s Black Metal scene, so close that you can see the demonic redness of the camera flash in their eyes and almost feel the flecks of saliva hitting your face.
Jonas Bendiksen’s Singing Norwegian Singers goes on display at Leica Gallery Mayfair from 17 – 27 October 2016.