The Norwegian foreign ministry has begun training aspiring diplomats in “TNBM – True Norwegian Black Metal” – after foreign service missions reported a rise in enquiries about the musical genre from around the world. Indeed, the popularity and scale of the black metal phenomenon were demonstrated recently as one of the style’s foremost proponents, Dimmu Borgir, took the stage in Oslo with an orchestra and choir in a collaboration that has gained widespread media attention.

The head of the foreign ministry’s centre of excellence, Kjersti Sommerset, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv that “we now have 106 foreign service missions and they get many enquiries from people who want information about Norwegian black metal as a phenomenon. In the training program, we have a large cultural program in order to give the trainees a good understanding of Norwegian culture and the cultural industry.”

Black metal “is clearly a part of this,” Sommerset added.

‘Global awakening’

Author Håvard Rem, the author of a leading book on TNBM called Innfødte skrik (“Native calls”), described the phenomenon to Dagens Næringsliv as “a global awakening that gets the children of the ‘68ers to search for their roots from pre-colonial and pre-Christian times.”

Rem suggests that “young people all over the world identify with this search,” and explained that where young Norwegian boys might find “Norse religion and Odin” in their cultural roots, “in Asia, Vedic metal has arisen with TNBM as its inspiration.” Rem supports efforts to train budding diplomats in the subtleties of black metal, stating that “for people under 40, it is this that they connect to Norway” and that “even if one does not like the music, it quickly becomes a topic for discussion.”

Rem’s own lectures to the foreign ministry trainees also include information about a dark period in black metal history during the 1990s, when a number of murders, acts of violence and incidents of church-burning occurred that put the movement under the spotlight. “You have to realize that this is the history, but it was 20 years ago and, today, Norwegian bands are acceptable,” Rem told Dagens Næringsliv. He stressed that the past problems of Norwegian black metal were not necessarily relevant to selling the genre today, stating that “one can talk about Norwegian salmon without talking about salmon lice, and Ibsen was seen as destructive in his day.”

Aspiring foreign policy professionals themselves are reportedly keen on the move. Silje Bryne, who will work in the Norwegian mission in Paris next year, told Dagens Næringsliv that she feels she “will have a very big use for this” in the future. “I see the value in not just talking about Ibsen and fjords when one talks about Norway, but also about the export product that is black metal.” Bryne added that having “such a strong brand that means that we stand out among the Nordic countries is worth its weight in gold, it’s black gold.”

‘Goosebumps all over’

Meanwhile, in Oslo, leading black metal band Dimmu Borgir has received much attention for its most recent concert in Oslo, for which the band took the stage with Norwegian Broadcasting’s Kringkastingsorkestret (the Norwegian Radio Orchestra) and Schola Cantorum, a chamber choir associated with the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo. In total, 96 musicians graced the stage at Oslo Spektrum and gave the 3,500 audience members an enhanced experience of the symphonic black metal sound, with Dimmu Borgir playing a number of songs from classic albums such as Death Cult Armageddon and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.

Many commentators were impressed by the spectacle but noted that the different sounds often cancelled one another out. Nonetheless, newspaper Aftenposten commented that “when it works, you get goosebumps all over.”

Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
Views and News from Norway

Merci Carolyne Weldon