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Back in the days when MTV hosted a show called Headbangers Ball the times were better. Not only in terms of this music channel, but it was actually possible to turn on the TV without feeling the urge to throw up; what happens today with the overall deteriorating quality and moderators whose outstanding performance remind us on the widespread problem of brain farts. In this particular show on MTV, metal was thrown unto the masses of metal fans and even though it could be discussed whether all the music the channel played was good -- some might point to the extensive coverage of Machine Head's The More Things Change...-- Vanessa Warwick -- the woman with the ever-different coloured, really long hairs, cool metal outfits, cuteness ... I am drifting off -- was to me the impersonation of a 'metal bitch' and looked really adorable. Further, the last roundabout thirty minutes of the aforementioned show provided me with some neat videos of extreme music; my introduction to this peculiar and weird realm. Black metal and death metal bands were shown there and also this band, Immortal, from Norway made an appearance now and then. Both videos by them were made available later on a VHS record... at least this is they way I own them.
Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)
This was the video clip I saw of the band back in these 'better days' and it is impossible to name the total number of views by me. Again and again I watched it, thanks to a video tape with which I had preserved it. No, there were no Youtube or download sites where I could get it; today the fans live in luxury, as fifteen years ago it was a lot of work to preserve all these nice clips on a VHS on a decent quality.
On the video: here, some form of unity is reached; the music goes very good along with the acting as well as the effects. It is no stupid and boring showy stage performance ... no Sir ... this is running around in the cold with only a few cloths on, with painted faces and, this would be the most important thing, not only looking in camera as if this would be the most common thing to do, the grimness of the music had to expressed properly as well. In interviews Abbath talked about what they had to go through in these icy plains and how cold it was... actually, I wonder whether they are actually satisfied with the results.
Unlike the hilarious Call of the Wintermoon clip, the Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) one gives rather the impression of being serious and a real attempt to cover some of the imagery the band deals with on their albums. The settings are limited, but Immortal made the best out of it and especially the shots with Abbath are quite good: short before the interlude starts, with the lightnings in the background; those with him in front of the pictorial Norwegian landscape. Of Demonaz similar comment cannot be made as his parts in the video are limited and it becomes clear that his role expresses not much dominance; he is rather something like an appendix. His best moments are those of close-up shots of him playing the guitar; which is not much compared to the coverage of his band mate. But maybe there has always be one to lead and one to follow, but it is interesting to see this kind of role allocation here nonetheless.
Beyond the acting of the two musicians, the attempt in the process of recording the video lay also in creating something which would work together closely with the song; Abbath 'fist-shaking' at the beginning works neatly with the bass drum; some blast segments are either in black and white or with lightnings in the background. The shots are generally still and not shaky and switch often enough to make the video interesting and not too often to confuse the viewer about what is going on. There is a balance between these two extremes and the atmosphere of the music is caught quite well. Certainly, it has to be admitted that the low amount of lyrics helped Immortal to create this very atmospheric piece, because through this the camera does not have to concentrate on the vocalist, but can drift off to other regions. Further, only two persons -- and a raven -- appear here, hence the coverage is way easier then to deal with a full line-up.
Some rather amusing stuff:
Nice defective tooth position by the way. Have problems with the eating as well as brushing your teeth now and then Abbath? Or did you make enough money with the music already, to get rid of it, hm?
Abbath's attempt to headbang makes his hair stick to the corpse paint. Yes, it is pain to wear it, isn't it?
One of the finest black metal videos and an excellent attempt of combining visuals and music, while avoiding the use of the typical satanic imagery the black metal genre is often associated with. Hundred points are appropriate.
Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms
There is a huge difference between Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) and Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms and it all comes down to the main point of attraction. Here the band would be the focus and of the nature only little is shown. 'Band' is in this respect not only Abbath and Demonaz, Hellhammer makes an appearance as a drummer, even though he was not involved in the process of recording the Battles in the North album. Especially shots in which all three musicians would appear are rather boring and show the inability of them to deal with the situation. Some walking around a bit, some posing, some head banging ... and that was it. This time the band is unable to get the message across and to create some form atmosphere through the visuals. The acting remains bland and vague and the reasons for giving this piece little airtime become obvious; I never saw this on MTV for instance. Especially the strange shot of Demonaz' the solo at the end -- to me the best part of Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms -- is something that annoys. Who gives a fuck about a close-up shot of his fingers? Why not some cool posing while he is playing this part? Further, unlike in the preceding Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark), a lot of fast switches between shots can be found, but these are not well executes and look rather chaotic than structured or with some idea behind them. Actually, this whole clip looks rather like a vague assembly of different settings whose only common feature is the band and not some underlying atmospheric concept.
Especially Hellhammer looks displaced, because he has not corpse paint but also due to his absence on the previous clip. While the Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) attempted to bring visuals, music and lyrical background in some unity, Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms on the other hand emphasizes rather the musical part of it all; even though glimpses of what the band wanted to express with this composition can be found now and then. From a broader perspective though, this clip leaves a lot to be desired and a good deal of facets remain vague and unclear; especially the part of Abbath's vocal segments; him behind ice? The limitation in atmospheric elements as well as the too large focus on covering all members in uninspiring shots falls back on the perception and make it a pretty boring video. Fifty points for this one is quite generous.
Final bits and bytes
Two things go for me hand in hand and these are: a snow storm and the Battles in the North album. Looking back, then I have to admit that walking around in the snow and listening to the music by Immortal made sense to me and maybe these two clips -- or better said Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) -- had an impact on how I perceived the icy time of the year. Beyond the description above, the issue on how to actually create and compose a black metal video is of importance. From my perspective, the Immortal's attempt is certainly preferable over for instance, the one done by Emperor for The Loss and Curse of Reverence -- limited in its composition and visual impressions and due to the flaws in the song-writing not entirely able to fascinate -- or the hilarious attempt by Hecate Enthroned for An ode from a haunted woods -- well, it is not necessary to waste much words on this one, as there are so many things going wrong. Satyricon's Mother North is in the right direction, but the emphasis there lay rather on the visuals and these did not always went along well with the music; accordingly is it bland in some respect and rather praised for some impressions; yet, I actually fail to understand the aspect of the dancing naked woman, but at least it is something for the eye I guess.
Anyway, the Blashyrkh one really makes sense, because Immortal wanted or were able to show to the listener what (their) black metal basically was all about: pure energy. Actually, this phrase captures a good deal of the idea behind the black metal genre, as certain facets of the music have the tendency to reach for faster and aggressive regions; yet, with the current on-going depressive/suicidal/'black doom' trends this impression has been diminished in some respect. So, even though the performance is loaded with cliché, it is not overdone and the 'trueness' factor not pushed too much. So, the one essential video by this band can be found on the VHS -- with another one that can basically be ignored -- and today even on several sites on the Internet. In order to get a good impression of how good black metal can look like and how the visuals might work together with the music, it is important to know the Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) one.
Eighty points can still be justified.
Note: A making off and excluded scenes would have been a nice thing to have.