Disclaimer: This paper had initially been written for “Crim319 Special Topics: Homicide” at the institution of Simon Fraser University. This is not a published scientific article with the intention to actually explain the psychology behind the actions of Varg Vikernes, but instead an educated assumption. Furthermore, this paper is the property of Simon Fraser University© and its author Darya Arani© written and submitted in November of 2019.
At the time of the murder, the offender, Varg Vikernes was most known for his black metal musicianship in his band “Burzum”. It was not until later in his life that he would become the nationalist so-called- philosopher and youtube video creator, that he is now known to be in his post-prison life. Before spending 16 years behind Norwegian bars, those closest to Vikernes share that he had always been the extroverted-aggressive personality that we can now see in his propaganda videos today.
On August 10th, 1993, Norwegian black metal singer, Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, was found stabbed to death twenty-three times in the confines of his apartment. After several intense months of church-burnings, hate-crimes and general terror by the ‘true Norwegian black metal musicians’, the fear in Norway came to a startling halt at the death of the Satanic group’s leader.
No more than two months of persistent investigations by the Oslo Police Department, they were able to arrest and charge Euronymous’ former friend turned foe, Varg Vikernes, with first-degree murder, amongst other things. The purpose of this paper will be to critically analyze the characteristics, classification and typologies of the offender and the chain of events that led to the crime committed by none other than Varg Vikernes.
Personality Characteristics of the Offender
Through a deep analysis of his childhood to adolescence, I can attest that Varg’s, what some may see as influential, personality characteristics had been deeply established in his youth, which ultimately plays a significant role in his criminal career. Vikernes does not take full credit for his self-asserted beliefs, declaring in interviews that he did while in prison, that a lot of his need for power is because of his upbringing with his nationalistic mother and assertive father. Vikernes’ mother, Lene Bore, confirms these observations in an interview for the popular book Lords of Chaos. Bore shares that he [Varg] “always had very strong reactions to situations and was not good at hiding his true emotions or adjusting his emotions to a more appropriate facade in certain situations” (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003, p.150). Vikernes’ mother also discusses his relationship with his father and how it had been very disconnected because his father had an “authoritarian view and wanted things his way” (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003, p.150).
Bore also shares that “their relationship got bad quite early, he [his father] wanted things his way and Varg had his ideas about how things should be done” (2003, p.150), as well as explain that Varg’s stubborn personality is a result of the frequent corporal punishment that he faced from his father. Criminologist, Theodore Curry argues that children that have faced frequent abuse, tend to exude in later aggressive behaviour to achieve power in social situations (1995). A blatant example of this assertive characteristic can be seen how in more recent interviews, Vikernes does not shy away from the crimes he had committed and brazenly shares that since he was the rightful leader of the Norwegian underground music scene, he did what he had to do to claim that title. This statement, according to both Bore and Vikernes, is similar to the thought process of Vikernes’ father, who would exclaim that he was the rightful boss at his job because he was a white male of Norwegian descent. Comparable behaviour can be seen by Vikernes when he was a child when Vikernes and his family had temporarily relocated from Norway to Iraq when he was a young boy.
In an in-prison interview with Vikernes, Åkerlund asks Varg about his time in Baghdad, and whether the experience had a significant impact on him. To which Vikernes shares that it was, in fact, during his time in an Iraqi elementary school that he had become fully aware of “racial matters”. Vikernes claims it was there that he had learned the level of privilege that can be allotted to an individual when they are of white ethnicity and higher socioeconomic status. In the interview, Vikernes then goes shares a story of the level of power he felt in Iraq, by being a white-male, taught him how he could influence those around him through striking fear into them. Furthermore, Vikernes’ mother, Lene, also recalls how the year that they had spent in Iraq had taught her son that his ethnicity and status could be used as a tool to attain more power and control over individuals of “lower societies”. Ultimately, both Bore and Vikernes claim the move to Iraq was a turning point for Vikernes, despite him being of a fairly young age, both confess that this experience enforced the notion of power and control through the use of aggression and intimidation. These ideas not only play a meaningful role in Vikernes’s teenage years but as well the pre-crime factors of his murder of Euronymous.
Description of the Offense Chain and Criminal History
It was before the murder of Euronymous in August of 1993 that Vikernes had first experimented with his delinquent fantasies of using violence to achieve the power he so craved. On June 6th, 1992, Vikernes set fire to the famous 12th century Norwegian Church called The Fantoft Stave Church. By January 1993, arson attacks had occurred on at least seven other major Stave churches, including one on Christmas Eve of 1992. However, it was not until later, during the trial for the murder of Euronymous, that Vikernes would be found guilty of several of these cases: arson and attempted arson of Åsane Church and Storetveit Church in his hometown of Bergen, the arson of Skjold Church in Vindafjord, and the arson of Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo. He was also charged with the arson of Fantoft Stave Church, although the jurors found him not guilty.
When the reports of church burnings first hit many of the major European media outlets, there had been emphases that the church burnings had been associated with theistic Satanism. This created a sensationalization of Vikernes, the Black Circle and generally the Norwegian Black Metal group. Some began to idolize these groups, and some, mainly the elders, banned just the mention of them. However, in later interviews with Vikernes from his time in prison, he said that they [the church burning] were not Satanic, but instead revenge for the Christian desecration of Viking graves and temples (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003). Nonetheless, this was reported much later, so the hype of satanism and copy-cats had been ignited, and people that the adolescents that wanted to be in this Black Circle group began intently following Vikernes’ every move.
It was these church burnings that allowed Vikernes to exercise an insatiable need for control. The church burnings had been the first step for his learning process of instrumental aggressing. Instrumental aggression is the act of utilizing force or violence to obtain a readily apparent goal, such as power, money, sexual gratification and Vikernes is the reoccurring case, social power (Curry, 1995). Vikernes even shared after the church burnings, to those in the Black Circle, that he would not ever be caught because he had gained the respect in the Norwegian black metal scene, thus no one would dare to expose him to his actions. throwing that the power he has gained from the church burnings allowing him to live his fantasies as this “master of the universe” that he desires to attain.
Pre-Crime factors and Identification of the Motivation
Power and control, the driving factor for Varg Vikernes’ criminal career. After the church burnings, all the attention was him and he accumulated enough followers to gain exposure for his band, Burzum. Or, so he should have. Despite all of Varg’s attempts to gain his desired spotlight, it was was still Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, that was reigning as leader of the scene.
Those that had once been deeply involved in the Norwegian Black Metal scene had shared in later interviews that, throughout the years Vikernes’ had been involved with the Black Circle, there was a blatant understanding within the social group that the competition between Varg and Euronymous would result in bodily harm and/or death, whether it had been Varg killing Euronymous or vice-versa. There was no avoiding it.
Euronymous was the owner of the extreme metal record label called “Deathlike Silence Production” (DSP), as well as the popular record shop in Oslo called “Helvete”. Both these businesses created a big spark amongst the adolescents living in all of Scandinavia, those that felt a reject from society and gravitated towards the “darker” lifestyle wanted nothing more than to be in a band under DSP, as well as be seen hanging out at Helvete. Since both of these projects were under Euronymous’ management and wallet, he was quickly appointed the “leader” within the black metal scene.
With Euronymous’ prominent position in this underground scene, the store was quick to gather strength as a focal point for the hangout spot for those who want to be either involved in the Norwegian Black Metal scene or look like they are a part of the group. By mid-1991 the inner core friends that included members of the more established black metal bands. Throughout this time of business growth for Euronymous, Varg Vikernes had managed to get his band “Burzum” to make acquaintances with outside members of the “Black Circle”. Vikernes would make extended visits to Oslo, from his hometown of Bergen, in hopes of becoming acquainted with Euronymous to get his band on the DSP label, and to gain exposure within the scene by having ties to Euronymous (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003).
After several trips to Oslo, Vikernes had succeeded in his goal and Aarseth [Euronymous] had agreed to sign him and release his record. It was from this moment when those within the Black Circle became more aware of Vikernes’ jealousy of Euronymous’ control over the scene. One of the most crucial factors to becoming entrenched within this underground black metal scene is being the most anti-establishment, anti-social-standards, and put “masochistic”. Before Vikernes had begun burning churches, spewing Nazi propaganda, and so forth, people were hailing Aarseth the King of black metal, due to the fact he had supposedly aided in his former bandmates suicide.
The infamous Dead-Euronymous partnership that resulted in the literal death of “dead” caught the attention of many when news broke that Euronymous had not only taken photos of the aftermath of the suicide and published it as an album cover. He had also, allegedly, eaten pieces of blown brain, took pieces of the skull to wear, and kept the blood-covered shirt for a souvenir. Vikernes was widely known to be very jealous of these so-called-accomplishments and wanted nothing more than to do outdo him. This is where the once underground scene took national headlines for crime after crime and ended with the Vikernes’ brutal murder of Euronymous.
Description of Victimology and How It Has Contributed to The Crime
After a few years of what can be seen as a superficial “friendship” and music partnership, the tension between Vikernes’ and Euronymous grew to an obvious issue. Those close to the Norwegian black metal scene agreed that the murder had ultimately been the result of a power struggle between the two in reigning as the “leader” and “originator” of the underground Black Metal Scene. Before the murder of Aarseth, there had been rumours that Euronymous was planning to torture and murder Varg for his disruptive, compulsive need for attention that had reached to the point of burning churches. Euronymous, unlike Vikernes, had begun shifting his attention to the business aspect of music; and had become irritated with Vikernes’s focus on obtaining the “edgy” and “scary” imagery of satanism, death, and pyromania. All of which Varg had been very aware of, regularly identifying Euronymous as a poser, not true to the scene, had begun planning ways to remove Euronymous from the scene.
Initially, Vikernes’ claimed he only intended to ask Euronymous to sign a contract with DSP to reclaim the rights and remove Burzum from Euronymous’ reach. However, Vikernes’ had speculated that it would be more complicated than a simple contract and signature. Which is why Vikernes rounded Snorre Ruch, Euronymous bandmate, to accompany him to Oslo, where Vikernes claimed he would abruptly end his business ties to Euronymous at whatever extent it would take. In an interview in prison, Vikernes’ shares to Åkerlund that although he had and Snorre had not driven to Oslo from Bergen intending to commit murder, they had left with the knowledge that they would be willing to end Euronymous’ life if need be. Vikernes then went on to share that he has no regrets or remorse that it had to end with the fatality of Euronymous and if anything, he feels as if he did the True Norwegian Black Metal community favour because Euronymous was nothing but a poser (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003).
Classification, Typologies and Theory of the Offender
Previous literature on homicide data of men offenders with male victims often found that almost a quarter of all male homicide victims were killed by an acquaintance or other person known to them (excluding friends and criminal or commercial associates) compared to just 9% of female victims. A study by Fiona Brookman (2003) found that 33% of the men involved in homicide had previous convictions for violence, which amounts to around one-third of the total number of all victims and offenders. Furthermore, these previous violent crime convictions can be correlated to how homicide is interactional and is often used as a tool by men, specifically, as a means for ending competition and gaining the “role of the victor” with their victim, when a victim is a man.
Brookman concludes her study with the notion that it is most often that men with previous convictions for violence are those for whom violence is a feature of their repeated reactions to tense situations. As mentioned previously, considering the highly competitive relationship between the offender at hand, Varg Vikernes, and the victim, Euronymous, one of the most plausible classifications of typologies is a power-control homicide.
According to Snorre Ruch, who is Vikernes’ accomplice in the killing, Vikernes had been envious of the fellow black-circle member, Bård, because Bård had killed a man, which created a shift in attention from Euronymous to Bård in terms of “the edgiest and aggressive”. Snorre quotes that Varg repeatedly exclaimed that “what Bård had done was uncool” and that “anyone’ could have killed a homo” and would get expressively irritated when fellow black circle members would talk about the slaying of the “homosexual” committed by Bård (Moynihan & Søderlind, 2003).
Many of Vikernes’s actions are parallel to the findings of Tomsen in 1997, who conducted an ethnographic study of assaults in public drinking venues. His study illustrated how some males, specifically aggressive males, tend to “seek out” violence as part of a night out to “prove oneself”.
He concluded that some men may be “prone” to resort to violence when challenged or aggrieved, while others may actively seek out violence and previous criminal convictions for violence may be one indicator of this. Those who were close to Vikernes at the time of the murder said he was always looking for an opportunity to prove his dedication to the black metal scene, which had been very violent at the time.
Moreover, Snorre shares that Vikernes had very publicly shared his dislike in Euronymous by regularly sharing his confusion as to why everyone followed him [Euronymous]. Vikernes was allegedly “disgusted” [quoted by Snorre] by how much of a poser Euronymous was in terms of the ‘satanic imagery’. Although these statements were alleged, it was well-known that Aarseth [Euronymous] used the satanic imagery as a business tactic, which upset Vikernes and his followers, and thus they had found Euronymous disinterest in the true occult practices to be disrespectful. Vikernes had done everything in his power through the church burnings, and “elimination, as many Black Circle members called it, of Aarseth, to assert the image of Norwegian Black Metal.
Furthermore, as explained throughout the paper, the offender of this crime, Varg Vikernes is a man of strategy, a man of plan and action. Since his early childhood, Vikernes has learned that he can use the threat of violence, as well as the purpose of violence, as a means of achieving his goal of having control over people. Therefore, one theory that is applicable concerning Vikernes and his power-control murder is the rational choice theory.
The rational choice theory argues that a would-be offender rationally weighs the expected costs and benefits of criminal conduct before acting (Bouffard, Exum, & Paternoster, 2000). The costs of criminal behaviour include, among other things, the possibility and severity of being caught, captured, and the legal sanctions that result from these repercussions. Contrarily, the offender weighs the benefits that can come from engaging in delinquent behaviour in question, such as the perceived material gains and any enhancement of respect that might accrue as a result of criminal behaviour. Varg had been very aware that by murdering his former-bandmate, and enemy in the Norwegian black metal scene, he could finally claim his title as the leader of the black circle. To Varg, there was no other option, and he had become so transfixed on this idea that he lost his sense of reality by believing that he would not even be caught, and if he was, that people would understand Euronymous needed to be “out of the picture” as Vikernes himself claims.
The behaviour exhibited by Vikernes once again reflects the study by Fiona Brookman (2003). Brookman argues that the more intense the emotion, such as murder through the act of passion, the visceral/emotional factors intensify, they narrow the content of the person’s attention to those activities associated with the factor.
Furthermore, criminologist Jack Katz (1988) explains that the typical homicide involves distinct emotional layers that correlate with the rational choice theory. First, the “would-be” killer, as Katz labels it, must work himself up to the emotional state where he defines himself as defending the act. Furthermore, the killer “ must understand not only that the victim is attacking what he, the killer, regards as an eternal human value, but [also] that the situation requires a last stand in defence of his basic worth” (1988, p.18-19). In other words, the killer must enter the emotional state of being self-righteousness—that even in the act of killing he or she is defending the good against evil.
These sentiments significantly apply to the acts committed by Varg Vikernes. Vikernes has regularly expressed that he saw his act of killing Euronymous as a great deed to the black metal scene. According to Katz, although Vikernes’ level of self-righteousness is not sufficient to propel someone into violence, because it can be dealt with silently by enduring humiliation. If, however, the humiliation is transformed into a rage in which the impotence of humiliation is turned on its head (i.e., rage against humiliation), then a violent, and often fatal, confrontation is more likely. Which again, applies to the murder committed by Vikernes’ as Euronymous title of leader, humiliated Vikernes’ since he was committing all these crimes and still not getting the title he wanted.
Conclusively, in 10 years, from 1984-1994, Norway’s underground music scene had been filled with arson, violence, hate-propaganda and ultimately, murder. After the death of Euronymous, and the imprisonment of Varg Vikernes, the “true” Norwegian Black Metal scene had never been the same. Many argue that due to the long-term imprisonment of Vikernes, there had never really been a new leader to control the scene which ultimately led it to crumble and leave it at the death of Euronymous. Some try to relight the flame of the Black Circle, but from the words of Varg Vikernes, it will never be the same until he, himself, picks up that torch again.
Brookman, F. (2003). Confrontational and Revenge Homicides Among Men in England and Wales. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 36(1), 34–59. doi: 10.1375/000486503764805275
Bouffard, J., Exum, M. & Paternoster, R. (2000). Whither the beast? the role of emotions in a rational choice theory of crime. In S. S. Simpson (Ed.), Of crime & criminality: The use of theory in everyday life (pp. 159-178). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452232232.n9
Moynihan, M., & Søderlind, D. (2003). Lords of chaos: the bloody rise of the satanic metal underground. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House.
Tomsen, S. (1997). A top night out: Social protest, masculinity and the culture of drinking
violence. The British Journal of Criminology, 37(1), 90–102.
Katz, J. (1988). The seductions of crime: The moral and sensual attractions of doing evil. New York: Basic Books.
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