Mayhem is an infamous Norwegian black metal band, originally formed in Oslo, Norway in 1984, and they were one of the original founders of the Norwegian black metal genre.

This would be interesting enough, but there is quite an insane story surrounding the band. I first learned about Mayhem when I randomly watched the 2019 movie Lords of Chaos. I would actually recommend watching that movie if you have not seen it before reading this if you are interested. Though I will warn it is technically a horror movie and quite gory. I digress...

The story itself has reached urban legend status and is stranger than fiction....


Euronymous, Necrobutcher, and Dead.

The founder of Mayhem was a guy named Euronymous, who was the guitarist for the band. Euronymous also had a record shop named "Helvete" (Norwegian for "hell") in Oslo, which opened in the Spring of 1991. This became a hot spot for Norwegian black metal musicians to meet up here, including fellow musicians Varg and Faust. Euronymous also started an independent record label "Deathlike Silence Productions" which was based at Helvete. Helvete was pivotal in the creation of Norwegian black metal. The fanzine Slayer stated:
Within just a few months [of Helvete opening], many young musicians had become obsessed with Euronymous and his ideas, and soon a lot of Norwegian death metal bands transformed into black metal bands.
Also in the band was bassist Necrobutcher, and they were later joined by drummer Hellhammer, and their lead singer, Dead.

Dead's joining of the band made them notorious in the black metal scene. He was known for his use of corpse paint, and would bury his clothes in dirt to later wear them in his concerts, to appear more corpse-like. He lived and breathed the dark and disturbed. During concerts, he would also cut himself with knives and shards of glass bottles on stage. The band also on occasion would have decapitated pig and sheep heads on the stage. Dead would also smell dead animals before singing, to further portray the image.

The members of Mayhem hung around several others in the Norwegian black metal scene, and formed somewhat of a Satanic cult. A musician (not in Mayhem, but a friend of theirs) named Faust was a member of this inner circle, and notably committed and was charged with a murder in August of 1992, at the time it was thought he committed this murder at least partially to promote the black metal image of his own band, though later stated that wasn't true.

Also in 1992, across Norway there was a wave of church burnings. In June of that year, the Fantoft Stave Church was burnt down; it was strongly suspected that this was done by Varg Vikernes, the later bassist of Mayhem. The Holmenkollen Chapel was also burnt down, this was believed to be done primarily by Varg and Faust, and Euronymous was present during it. Faust stated he believed that Euronymous got involved because he "felt he had to prove that he could be a part of it and not just in the background".

It is thought that these church burnings inspired other musicians and fans of the black metal scene in Norway to further burn down churches. Varg and Euronymous were also planning on bombing the Nidaros Cathedral to coincide with the release of Mayhem's upcoming album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.


Dead and Euronymous.

On April 8, 1991 Dead committed suicide by shotgun when he was 22 years old. He had been suffering a continuously deteriorating mental state, he also was suffering from depression brought on by years of bullying he experienced in adolescence.

At the time of Dead's death, he and Euronymous were roommates. Upon coming home and discovering Dead's body, rather than calling the police immediately, Euronymous went to the store to buy a disposable camera and photographed Dead's body with intent to use it as an album cover, and even posed his body in a different way to make for better photos. Supposedly he also collected fragments of Dead's skull, and made them into necklaces to be distributed to fellow musicians he deemed worthy.

The movie Lords of Chaos portrays the necklaces bit to be just a legend, and that what Euronymous actually had were chicken bones that he told people were Dead's skull (I'm not sure which is the truth, it could easily be urban legend). There was also a rumor that Euronymous made stew with Dead's brain, but this was false. Necrobutcher was so disturbed by Dead's suicide and Euronymous' reaction to it that he left Mayhem temporarily.

It may be worth noting that Euronymous himself was quite young - 23 - and was probably in quite a shock of discovering his good friend and bandmate having killed himself. This is the angle the movie portrays as well, that although outwardly he pushed that Dead's suicide contributed well to their black metal image, inwardly he was reeling in shock.


This is a photo from the 2019 Lords of Chaos movie.

After the suicide of Dead, Mayhem continued playing, and in 1992 Euronymous invited bassist Varg Vikernes to join Mayhem.

Initially they were friends, but that friendship soon turned to rivalry. Faust stated "It sounds really silly, but I think there was a little bit of a contest between them to see who could be more evil. It created a very difficult situation, especially for Euronymous, who wanted the glamour and the showbiz. With him, there was a lot of smoke but not so much fire".

For the next year or so, Euronymous, Varg, and the rest of Mayhem continued to cultivate their image, most notably with their church burnings. The rivalry between Euronymous and Varg continued all the while, and there was also a financial dispute between the two of them; Euronymous apparently owed Varg money and had not been paying him back.

On August 10, 1993, Varg went to Euronymous' apartment and stabbed him to death. Varg claimed that this was done in self defense, apparently Euronymous had been spreading it among their ranks that he was plotting to kill Varg and make a snuff film of it, though he had never up to this point attempted to do so.

Varg was arrested on August 19, 1993 for the murder of Euronymous, the arson of three churches, the attempted arson of a fourth church, and for the theft and storage of 150 kg of explosives.


Varg served 15 years for the murder of Euronymous and was released in 2009. Since freed, he has spent much of his time posting his neo-nazi ideology on the Internet.

Hellhammer and Necrobutcher decided to continue with the bands upcoming album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Euronymous' family asked Hellhammer to remove the bass tracks recorded by Varg, Hellhammer said "I thought it was appropriate that the murderer and victim were on the same record. I put word out that I was rerecording the bass parts, but I never did". De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was released in May of 1994 and features both Euronymous on guitar, and Varg on bass.

Hellhammer and Necrobutcher recruited a few other members in early 1994, and continued to play and record as Mayhem. They have continued on for several years to come and released an album as recently as 2019.

As for my thoughts... Hopefully I don't sound too biased towards Euronymous, I may be a little biased because in Lords of Chaos he is played by Rory Culkin, who I rather like... Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that Euronymous liked to talk big to further cultivate the black metal image, and was more bark than bite. In any case, he is deceased and can't tell his side of the story, we can only hear Varg's. Though I raise this, Euronymous died of 16 stab wounds to his back, and yet Varg claimed self defense, yeah right...

Everyone in this story is pretty wack, the one I feel the most sorry for is Dead. Varg is a psychopath and it is pretty wild that he is free. Euronymous was questionable but definitely didn't deserve to be murdered. In any case Mayhem has quite the memorable evil spirit attached to it which I think all previous and current members would be satisfied with.


Ã…kerlund, Jonas. (2019). Lords of Chaos. Insurgent Media.

Mayhem (band). Wikipedia.

Dead (musician). Wikipedia.

Euronymous. Wikipedia.