The February 8 print edition of the Bergen, Norway-based newspaper Bergensavisen (BA) published a two-page interview with Tom Cato Visnes (a.k.a. King ov Hell; GORGOROTH, GOD SEED) about his new band OV HELL, also featuring fellow Norwegian musician Stian Tomt Thoresen (a.k.a. Shagrath; DIMMU BORGIR, CHROME DIVISION).
"The church is more satanist than we are. They are the ones who are concerned with Satan, not us," King is quoted as saying in the article.
The former composer and bassist of the controversial band GORGOROTH cannot relate to the media stories about black metal, church burnings, Satan worship and violence.
"It concerns me very little," he says. "Black metal is not a belief system. I anyway do not have much in common with most. My view is that the world in itself is not black or white, good or bad. It is the people who give values to the actions that surround them — a sort of subjective assessment where one makes oneself God."
OV HELL has just released its debut album, "The Underworld Regime".
"In the old days I used to go by an alias, King of Hell, without there being any deeper meaning to it," King says.
Bergensavisen: Are you trying to provoke?
King: "No. The music, the images, the lyrics — all this is part of an artistic expression. Many find it provocative and scary, yes, but to us it is only parables."
Bergensavisen: You are still met with a lot of prejudice?
King: "That is how it is when you take the 'life lie' from people and question established beliefs. We are reflective about the things we do. Take the church. They have chosen Jesus as their heroic character. But at the time when he was alive there were lots of other heroic characters who possessed the same abilities. The church chose one of them, and started writing about him 40 years after his death. That the church has been serving people lies and constructed a false sense of values is a much bigger violation than us praising something which is life-giving."
Bergensavisen: You mean Satan?
King: "No. The so-called Satanist circle in Bergen was created by a journalist from BT [the newspaper Bergens Tidende]. I have never related to it, nor have I related to the Varg Vikernes character. The church is much more concerned with Satan than I am. We take seriously what is dark in nature and the human mind. Concervative Christian forces are much more dangerous."
King does, however, see how some can be provoked by former GORGOROTH singer Gaahl's philosophy that there is nothing wrong with church burnings.
"That is, anyway, not a matter that concerns me," King says.
Bergensavisen: Gaahl was supposed to sing on the new album?
King: "The album has its basis in songs which I wrote in 2005-2006. These were originally meant for GORGOROTH, but after the trial this was not an option anymore. Then I thought Gaahl could still do the vocals. But suddenly he withdrew from extreme metal — he more or less retired.
Bergensavisen: That's when Shagrath appeared?
King: "We had spoken for years about working together. I have always played in many bands and with different musicians, so we entered the studio. And we got Frost (SATYRICON), Ice Dale (ENSLAVED) and Teloch (GORGOROTH) to come with us. But it is doubtful that this will be our live band."
King believes that he and Gaahl will collaborate more in the future. "We have not ended the cooperation, just put it on ice," King tells Bergensavisen.
King and Gaahl were involved with GORGOROTH from 1998 to 2007. But when they tried firing founding guitarist Infernus, all hell broke loose. A legal dispute ensued, and Infernus was awarded the rights to the band name while King and Gaahl formed GOD SEED.
"There were conflicts of interest between us and Infernus, so it is not a problem for us that it ended, or that he keeps the name," King says. " But we had spent a lot of time and energy on the music, which is why it was important for us to look after our interests."
Bergensavisen: So today's GORGOROTH has nothing to do with the past?
King: "No. Infernus did not participate in the inner life of the band, nor did he write songs. The fans know what's what."
Gaahl being gay is of little concern to King, nor is the fact his former bandmate will be performing in the musical "Svartediket" at DNS (the renowned Norwegian theater Den Nationale Scene).
"I probably would not have done it, no, but I may still check out the musical," King says. "Gaahl and I are very different, but musically we worked together very well."
Bergensavisen: What about the criminal convictions for violence and GORGOROTH's shocking concerts?
King: "A lot of this is just myths that have lived on. We who know the truth have a different view on what is real."
GORGOROTH, DIMMU BORGIR, IMMORTAL, SATYRICON, ENSLAVED and others have achieved great success abroad. That is why there is a lot of buzz when musicians from several of these bands join forces in OV HELL.
"I don't think most people in Norway understand how big black metal is abroad," says King.
"Our album will be released in all countries," King says. "Big product campaigns are being made. And the major players in the business are working for us."
The Bergen-based composer also plays in SAGH. He is also a former member of AUDREY HORNE, and wrote half of the Spellemann (Norwegian Grammy equivalent) award-winning album "No Hay Banda". "I also have a project with people from ANTHRAX and CRADLE OF FILTH," King says. "I write music constantly, for different musical genres. I previously did a lot of jazz work. I used to be a teacher for many years, but now all my concentration is focused on writing music."