Brown, Josh-Ancient Black Art: Nidrosian Black Metal (Book Review)

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Reviewed: January, 2023
Published: 2022, Cult Never Dies
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

My first thought when I read the word ‘Nidrosian’ was, “What the hell does that mean?” On page 6, author Josh Brown explains that Nidaros is “The medieval name for the city and municipality known as Trondhiem. Nidaros was the capital of Norway from 997 AD to 1217 AD.” A book about Norwegian Black Metal from Trondhiem? That sounds right up my alley!

Extreme Metal publishing titan Cult Never Dies issued this book in late 2022. This slightly oversized hardcover book is about 150-pages long and printed on nice glossy paper. It is interesting to note that the author decided against having his name on the cover, back cover or spine.

ANCIENT BLACK ART is a visual exploration of the Trondhiem scene. Author Brown explains it is not ‘official’ but it seems very well designed and produced. The book starts with a very brief introduction and a handy map of Norway. There are lists of bands from the area, musicians in the scene and other notable Black Metal musicians who went onto other places.

When we get into the visual component we are treated to a wide range of images from across the ages. Photos, flyers, lyrics sheet, excerpts from fanzines, logos, poetry, album covers advertisements, this an incredible documentation of the scene. It is a darkly beautiful to look at.

I was impressed and learned about the depth of the Nidrosian scene. Most people are more familiar with the bigger name bands from other parts of the country and those regional scenes have already been well documented in various books including Beste’s photo essay NORWEIGAN BLACK METAL.

I do have some very minor criticisms and these next comments are a point of personal preference. They do not impact the quality of the book. I would have liked to see the image/photo credits and/or explanation on the actual page the image appears. As it is all the images are credited in the back (Page 151) and you have to keep flipping back and forth to see what you are looking however. However, it was probably an artistic choice to keep the images pure and uncluttered with footnotes and text. Lastly, I would have enjoyed a bit more script. Brown is obviously entrenched and very knowledgeable, so it would have been great if he had a few paragraphs scattered here and there describing the origins of the scene, key bands, certain notable figures and so on.

The book also acts as a fine tribute to Steingrim Torson Brissach (a titan of the local scene) who passed away in 2009. It is his photo we see on the cover and the last image in the book is of his gravestone.

ANCIENT BLACK ART is a fine tribute and documentation of that scene.