Gaahl Reaffirms His Position on Church Burnings: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Wrong’
The recent casting of Kristian 'Gaahl' Espedal, the former frontman for Gorgoroth and God Seed, in a state-funded musical has stirred up controversy in Gaahl's Norwegian homeland because of comments the black metal maestro made several years ago about the church burnings that were commonplace during the early Norwegian black metal era. And now, it looks as though the musical's art director is rethinking the decision.
Gaahl's been cast in a musical based around Svartediket's self-titled concept record, which took its inspiration from the myths and legends of the lake Svartediket, which is situated just outside Bergen, Norway. Billed as the "first-ever black metal musical," it's scheduled to premiere May 26 at the Bergen International Festival at Bergen's National Stage Theatre. The casting has sparked the ire of Lutheran bishops, as the theater and its productions are funded with government .
Halvor Nordhaug, the Lutheran bishop in the diocese of Bjørgvin, has protested the casting because of comment's Gaahl made in the 2005 documentary "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey." In it, Gaahl seemed to support and even advocate church burnings.
"Church burnings are, of course, a thing that I support one hundred percent," he says in the 2005 film. "It should have been done much more, and will be done much more in the future. We have to remove every trace from what Christianity, and the Semitic roots, have to offer this world."
Well, it seems Gaahl's views have remained unchanged, despite his involvement with "Svartediket." He reaffirmed his views in a recent interview, saying, "I have left my past behind, but I still have an anti-Christian attitude. Christianity has no place in this country. As long as the church has the power it has and supports oppression, we shouldn't give the church any sympathy. Therefore I don't think it's wrong if [a church burning] happens again. The symbolic value of burning down churches is important."
Gaahl's remarks prompted Nordhaug to tell the Bergens Tidende newspaper that the metal singer "displays some scary attitudes by defending church burnings. He says nothing about the fact that human lives were lost during one of the church burnings in the 1990s. I think everybody, no matter what their religious beliefs are, agrees with me that his attitudes are scary, but it could still be possible that his role at [National Stage] will provide him with some kind of legitimacy, which is unfortunate."
According to reports Thursday, the musical's art director, Bjarte Hjelmeland, is being pressured by the clergy and his bosses to recast the role. Hjelmeland plans to travel to Oslo to have "a long talk" with Gaahl about his recent statement, before making a decision on whether to allow the singer to stay involved with the production.