Beste, Peter – True Norwegian Black Metal (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: December 2010
Released: 2008, Vice Books
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: JP


The definitive illustrated photo guide of Norwegian Black Metal.

This is one of my favorite Metal related photo books of the dozen or so photo books in my collection. When I say photo books, I mean primarily art, album covers, and/or photography collected in book form. TRUE NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL is an enormous coffee table book featuring photos of…well, I’m sure you can figure it out.

Hard bound and oversized, this monster collection is probably the largest book in my library. At about 185 pages, each page is a giant, glossy plate on high quality paper, documenting Beste’s photo-study of the genre. This mammoth project was eight years in the making and documents in painstaking photo-journalistic detail, many aspects of the genre we know and love, and love to hate.

The book has a quite unique layout in the sense that there is no real linear composition or sequencing. There are some photos, some quotes then an introduction by Peter and Jon Kristiansen, then more photos, then a written two- pages overview of the genre, a time-line, more photos etc. It doesn’t really flow in my opinion but that is the ONLY complaint I have about this magnificent collection.
The intro and overview are written, as mentioned, by Kristiansen, founder of the legendary Slayer fanzine. The time-line is a very detailed, 3-page fold out which captures all of the key points, significant events, dates and so on.

Beste’s work covers a wide range of subjects. There are shots of live gigs, pre and post gig shots, and there are several shots of fans as well. There are quite a few nature shots, which might seem surprising at first, but these photos truly serve to capture the stark environment which many of these artists drew inspiration, both spiritually and lyrically. Many of the shots in and around the homes of the fans and musicians show how spartan their lifestyles are. It seems that Gaahl of Gorgoroth for example lives in what could be best described as a shack or cabin in the middle of nowhere, just like a hermit.
The shots of people in corpse-paint in urban settings, provide a visually arresting contrast to the mundane surroundings. Some of the shots are very striking, the sparse, but effective use of colour contrasting well with the predominantly black and white corpse-paint. Some of the candid shots could be deemed unnerving, such as the photo of Nattefrost, apparently drunk/passed out in the bathtub, but the photos do represent the human condition. Some of the photos are quite intense and the lens does not shy away from capturing some of the darker aspects of the subjects.

At the end of the formal photo essay section there another 30 pages of fascinating material. There are pictures of flyers, a Helvete catalogue, covers from Slayer ‘zine, personal letters and writings from various musicians such as Euronymous, magazine articles and a reproduction of the infamous Kerrang BM feature of March 1993. These all add remarkable insight into the inner working of the scene.
TNBM is a visually stunning, pioneering work combined and presented in an extremely high quality presentation and package. A (black) crowning achievement.

Track Listing:

Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Publisher: Vice Books
Pages: 185