True Norwegian Black Metal is arguably the most brutal and severe music genre, and Gaahl, the vocalist for the band Gorgoroth, is quite possibly the most fearsome personification of the music and its philosophy. So, it has come as quite a surprise to find that Gaahl’s current venture takes him into the world of women’s fashion. Gaahl (given name Kristian Espedal) and partner Dan DeVero, agent for DXD Models, are financially backing a women’s collection designed by Bergen-based Sonia Wu. Their label is titled Wynjo, an ancient Norse word meaning “happiness” or the search for happiness.
This revelation has sent shockwaves through the Black Metal scene, where many ardent fans are appalled. Further, much of the focus has shifted to Gaahl’s confirmation of his homosexuality, in answer to rumours that had become widespread when his foray into fashion became known and the nature of his relationship with DeVero raised curiosity.
Previously, otherwise categorically masculine rock stars have come out of the closet with little detriment to their name. And if Slash were to embark on a career in fashion (such as Kanye now proposes), most fans would just assume the ulterior motive: a bounty of young nubile models. But Black Metal is a very different beast.
Black Metal and women’s fashion appear diametrically opposed in both aesthetic values and ideological spirit. To illustrate: an infamous Gorgoroth show in Poland featured inverted, crucified, naked, blood-smeared bodies amid impaled sheep heads. On stage, Gaahl appears in bullet belt, spikes and corpse paint (white facial make up with the eyes blackened out), a terrifying presence. This is a man who has done two prison terms for assault charges (one involved an alleged prolonged torture with threats to make the victim drink his own blood) and now he is working with a woman who speaks poetically of “woman as a flower” when discussing her Spring/Summer 2009 collection.
The irony, is that Gaal is in keeping with the Nietzschean extreme individualist beliefs that his music is feuled by, in being true to himself and courageously coming forward about his lifestyle, and yet he is now, from some factions, facing ridicule and scorn as a result.
The relationship between fashion and music has been long standing. Black Metal is a genre that relies heavily on costume, as it is as much about projecting a singular vision as it is performance art. It will be truly interesting to see is how apparent contrasts between the Black Metal sensibility and the feminine ideal will collude to form the Wynjo collection. If one understands Black Metal, one will realize that it shares with fashion it’s pursuit of beauty, power and individuality.