Reviewed: [August 2020]
Released [2020 Nuclear War Now! Productions]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
If Mayhem were the literal and figurative poster children for early Norwegian black metal’s dead seriousness way back in the day, the ironically named and short-lived 666 were perhaps just the opposite. Despite the satanic connotations of their name, songs like “Alkohol” and “Love And Kiss” hinted at far different motivations – even if their stage shows featured the usual black metal staples of blood, fog and inverted crosses – and few images of the band show smirks and smiles instead of corpse-painted scowls.
666 were there and gone before the “black metal” term even really took hold and their more notorious countrymen got the whole “Lords of Chaos” thing rolling and brought it international attention and infamy on a wave of arson and murder. And they never actually released any studio recordings, so 666 are often but a curious footnote in the scheme of things.
Still, they made enough of a mark to warrant continued cult interest. And in 2012, frontman Tom Arne Hermansen, bassist Bjørn Olav Helberg and drummer Knut Nilsen regrouped with new guitarists Håvard Stangnes and Harald Amundsen to perform a special hometown show with some other old bands from Tromsø. After the gig, they opted to keep the band running, but while they have played a few subsequent gigs, nearly a decade later there is still no studio output to be found from 666.
But Nuclear War Now! Productions has dusted off a collection of live material from three concert CDs their manager issued between 1998 and 2003 – fittingly titled Live I, Live II and Live III – for anyone curious to hear what 666 were all about. The recordings are predictably crude, sounding like garage band demos. And the music is a pretty far cry from what most would consider black metal – although there is a Venom-like quality in its relative simplicity.
Instead, if sounds more like The Stooges, MC5 or Motorhead in its ragged, full-throttle rawk – much of it sung in Norwegian. This is three chords and a cloud of dust sort of stuff that sometimes approaches speed metal velocity and probably went over well at the local rec center or wherever the shows were recorded – especially when they busted out their cover of “Louie, Louie,” which is not included here.
The music is spunky and a bit sloppily, though competently played. But aside from some passing vaguely satanic references it bares little if any resemblance to the genuinely sinister expanse that came later in the “true Norwegian black metal” of Bathory, Mayhem, Emperor, Burzum., etc. Still, these guys did have the schtick, corny though it may have been, before the others would take it way over the top with pig/goat heads, the ritualism and crucifixions and tons of pyro. So footnote or no, they can hang their hats on that.