Share
Holy Hell! Storm of the Light’s Bane Turns 20!

Holy Hell! Storm of the Light’s Bane Turns 20!

Why do all the best black metal groups have to be murderers?

Why do all the best black metal groups have to be murderers?

Modern day hand-wringers, wondering if they can simultaneously enjoy the new Sun Kil Moon album while also combating Mark Kozelek’s douchebaggery, got nothing on progressive minded metal fans, who often have to balance a love for stone cold classics with disavowals of the terrible things done by the music’s creators.

The violence perpetuated by the second wave of black metal that originated in the blistering cold of Scandinavia made the forerunners of the British based first wave and the American created third wave look positively cuddly. The unhinged writings, church burnings and murder that were done at the hands of Varg Vikernes clearly point to a vile human being who should probably spend the rest of his life behind bars, but Vikernes also strengthened the foundations of black metal through his Burzum project. Right behind Vikernes on a list of general infamy came Dissection. The Swedish band’s front man, Jon Nödtveidt, was an important member of the Temple of the Black Light, which taught extremist Nihilism and devotion to Satan. Nödtveidt was also either an accomplice or the perpetrator in the murder of Josef ben Meddour, a gay Algerian man living in Gothenburg.

There’s something to be said about listening to music in a vacuum, but the atrocious deeds that Nödtveidt committed taint the music no matter how many years pass. The reason I’m putting all of this out right now is because Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane is one of the best metal albums of the ‘90s, a technical and emotional stroke of genius that helped define its genre and stood up proudly against heavy hitters like Burzum and Death.

Storm of the Light’s Bane is a black metal album, without a doubt; the merciless growls are here, the guitars march at an insane lockstep motion and drums thunder along to the madness. But it’s also a surprisingly melodic and at times beautiful album. Norwegian group Emperor is often cited as a massive influence on Deafheaven’s mix of heavy and glorious, but there’s more than a bit of Dissection on Sunbather. Just listen to the propulsive guitar lead on “Night’s Blood” that seems arena ready, despite Nödtveidt’s acid tinged vocals. The opening guitar/bass/drum wall that crashes down like an avalanche at the start of “Unhallowed” is violently, viscerally crushing, but also strangely gorgeous. Of course, that song eventually descends into a maelstrom of wailing guitars and vicious blast-beats, but those sections of head-banging fury are just as good as the gleaming moments.

Storm of the Light’s Bane also served as a touchstone in the wayward 90s, when metal was at an odd cross road. The big four from the 80s had proved that metal could be happily consumed by the masses, but, the last two great albums from the forefathers came in 1990, with Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace. Then Metallica went pop, and the rest of the four couldn’t replicate their old success. The era of thrash had waned, with a dozen subgenres popping up attempting to fill the void. How else could Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine and Tool all thrive while Iron Maiden lost themselves? When the going gets weird, the weird get better. Storm of the Light’s Bane came out a year after Burzum’s Hvis lyset tar oss and the same year as Death’s Symbolic, all of them signaling that the strange, underground roots of metal had evolved into something even more terrifying than the initial wave created by bands like Venom.

This is reflected in the album’s even more thrashing second half. There are few intros as skull-bursting as the one that leads the charge on the title track, and “Thorns of Crimson Death,” despite its crystal clear opening of silvery guitar, soon mutates into a mid-tempo beat down that allows more room for crunchy riffs and Nödtveidt’s growl to take center stage. Storm of the Light’s Bane closes with the duo of “Soulreaper” and “No Dreams Breed in Breathless Sleep.” “Soulreaper” is a fitting final salvo, a full seven minutes of blistering guitar work that rushes forward at a blinding pace, before it all fades into the tranquil and Bach influenced piano work of “No Dreams Breed.” Themes of death, hatred and blood dominate the album, but even with the grim reaper sitting on the front cover, Storm of the Light’s Bane has triumph flowing through it. In its grand tapestry there are thousands of examples of vile thoughts, evil men and horrid deeds, but there is light in the storm’s eye, just barely surviving in the break-neck tempos and thrilling guitar leads.

The question remains: Should we still celebrate Storm of the Light’s Bane with Nödtveidt’s stomach turning actions embedded in this album? Nödtveidt was released from prison in 2004, reforming Dissection as the only original member. He committed suicide in 2006, allegedly with the Satanic bible by his side. Nödtveidt was a twisted, sick man who also happened to create fantastic music. Storm of the Light’s Bane, just the music, is still one of the finest metal albums of its era, but the vacuum needed to truly dive into the record might be impossible to find. The option to enjoy is in the hands of the listener, and the listener only.

        Leave a Comment