“The history of one of Norway’s most important albums is now secured by the dedication and sublime work by Mr. Rødland” ~ Kark of Dødsengel

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas, which is widely regarded as the definitive black metal album, we have chosen to honor the man who has done more than anyone to promote its legacy: Without the slightest doubt or room for contest, Finn Håkon Rødland is not only the leading black metal expert, but he also stands as one of the most important figures in the movement. As a former black metal columnist, I will say that no one’s knowledge on the subject even rivals that of Mr. Rødland. For this reason, Rødland has always been one of my very favorite people to report on. Interview discussions with him inevitably prove ridiculously rewarding. This walking encyclopedia has painstakingly constructed the most high quality, and what the Norwegian paper Aftenposten has referred to as the “biggest,” black metal collection in the world.

First of all, every aspect of both the vinyl and CD versions of this box is absolutely gorgeous. A man of great sophistication, Rødland has a superior understanding of aesthetics. Under his supervision, the packaging turned out stunning for the individual musical gems contained — the album itself as remastered by Enslaved’s Iver Sandøy at Solslottet Studio; Vocal Session — Grieghallen, April 30th-May 2nd, 1993; Instrumental Rough Mix — Grieghallen, June 22nd-29th, 1992; and Studio Rehearsal — Møllergata, May 16th, 1992. Some of Rødland’s photographs were used for the recordings and the book, which not only contains images of the artists and gear, but also sketches, lyric sheets, and so forth. Indeed, Rødland happens to be an absolutely superb photographer — one of the greatest in metal, as I’ve repeatedly written.

Rødland knows how to put together an ideal team. Therefore, a number of other amazing individuals added to Rødland’s box with artwork, photos, texts, etc. Christian Moen, for example, provided Rødland with much assistance in terms of research, creative input, interview questions, and so forth. Slayer Mag’s legendary Metalion, Svein Strømmen, and Paweł Kaczyński are similarly thanked for interviews, questions, and support. Strømmen aided Necrobutcher in penning the section with his story. Metalion, along with ex-Mayhem’s Maniac and Iver Sandøy, furthermore contributed liner notes. Roy Kristensen handled proofreading. Rødland consulted Dødsengel’s Kark due to his knowledge as a studio owner. One of Norway’s top talents, whose sophomore album, Mirium Occultum, has been ranked among the top releases in the genre, Kark has weighed in on DMDS XXV: “The gold standard of re-issues. If you see other classic album re-issues meet this standard, chances are high that it is another work by Mr. Rødland.” The list of outstanding people involved continues…

All the same, the epic wonder of a book was ultimately mostly penned by Rødland. Although four years have passed since the initial release of DMDS XXV, Rødland’s hardcover still, and always will, remain the greatest source on the topic. Given his mind-blowing insider knowledge and skill, Rødland occupied the optimal position to ask the perfect interview questions. Needless to say, his meticulousness and tact likewise enhanced the final results. I have long held the opinion that Rødland is the best extreme metal interviewer and author period.

Rødland always selects the right subjects to shed light on his chosen topics. (The guidance that he gave the filmmakers behind Helvete in this regard and others is what made the documentary truly excellent.) Rødland’s book presents us with various accounts straight from the artists themselves, those surrounding the band, and so forth. Having so many perspectives infinitely increases the usefulness of this publication. The information offered proves truly invaluable. I have learned an absolute ton from this book. Thus, I have read it several times. It is a must-have reference for both new fans and die-hard Mayhem enthusiasts.

Readers will enjoy fantastic discussions with the likes of Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson together; Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath and Silenoz separately; Arcturus’ Sverd; Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto; ex-Emperor’s Faust; Watain’s Erik Danielsson; Mysticum’s Dr. Best; Behemoth’s Nergal; Mare’s Kvitrim / HBM Azazil; ex-Old Funeral’s Tore Bratseth; Jørgen Lid Widing, who created the lyric scrolls; etc. We have Metalion in this respect in addition to the other said capacities. Among the parts that I consider to be highlights are the conversations with Thorns’ Snorre Ruch, Mayhem’s Attila Csihar, Mayhem’s Hellhammer, and Pytten.

Pytten is known as the greatest black metal producer of all time and a co-architect behind the movement’s sound. Besides producing and mixing De Mysteriis, he has lent his expertise to an endless list of other insanely influential classics that now serve as blueprints. Last year, his achievements were honored at the National Library of Norway. As Bratseth comments on Pytten in DMDS XXV: “I would say he has been instrumental for Norwegian Black Metal. He is a brilliant producer and engineer… Without Pytten both the music and the scene might have been different. He deserves a medal from the Norwegian King.” Thus, we should all be especially grateful that Rødland did such a stellar job documenting Pytten’s work here. The book actually includes a letter from Euronymous to Pytten, both in its original form and as translated into English by Rødland.

The inclusion of Kvitrim, for instance, who is one of the torchbearers belonging to a newer generation, represents one of the various types of wise decisions that set Rødland apart. Despite the enormous amount of respect and support for Azazil’s music from intelligent circles within the scene, unfortunately, some numbskull authors and journalists lag behind and often ignore this artist and his Nidrosian black metal brethren out of sheer laziness and stupidity, perhaps preferring to report on whatever poser band happens to be trending.  

The relevance of DMDS XXV will never wane not only because, as mentioned, Rødland’s work cannot be touched, but also due to De Mysteriis’ status. As we began by affirming, this title is viewed as the definitive black metal record. Rødland quoted Metalion: “… there is no doubt that ‘De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas’ is the best album ever recorded, not only in Grieghallen but in Norway itself.” Meanwhile, Grutle Kjellson told Rødland: “‘De Mysteriis Dom. Sathanas’ is by far THE milestone in extreme metal…” This masterpiece has clearly earned “Life Eternal” and will never be “Buried by Time and Dust.” As Rødland makes clear and others have also asserted, De Mysteriis deserves a place alongside the feats of Grieg. In fact, black metal has been dubbed Norway’s biggest cultural export since Grieg and Munch.

We eagerly await Rødland’s next box sets: He is currently in the process of tackling Mayhem’s Deathcrush as well as Thorns’ terribly important Grymyrk demo, a remarkably exciting idea that will surely amount to a much-needed offering. In the meantime, for unsurpassed music recommendations, information, images, and so forth, make sure to follow Rødland’s Instagram account The True Mayhem Collection here. No one will convince me that it is anything other than the very-very best black metal account.

I will conclude this review with a humble request: I beseech the Spellemann / “Norwegian Grammy” committee to honor Rødland with Årets Hederpris, or “The Honorary Award.” Indeed, Necrobutcher gifted Rødland with a mini version of his Spellemann harp, and I hope that those in charge will realize that they should take the hint and make Rødland an official recipient. He has not only proved an irreplaceable asset to Norway, but also an international treasure. After all, as Rødland has stated: “For me, this genre, and Mayhem in particular — it’s world heritage. It’s Norwegian music, but it’s kind of world heritage.”

Score: 5/5