Starless Imperium

Morgan Argor Strange, Science Fiction Horror Author

From the Darkest Past

Album cover for legendary black metal band Mayhem's "From the Darkest Past".

Trigger warning: This post talks a lot about suicide, depression and self-harm. So just avoid it if you don’t want to play with fire or whatever.

This afternoon, shortly after I woke up, I was so stricken by this image that I felt like writing a post about it. At first glance, the white background seems like an odd choice–a bizarre juxtaposition out of time and out of place. It immediately makes the eye and the mind question why the castle isn’t rising stark against the cold, dead night.

It’s always listed as a bootleg, and there are several re-releases, all with different covers. So I’m not sure if this image was actually touched by Euronymous or not. The digital additions of the logo make it seem somewhat unlikely, unless it was found in his archives. But the classic “old copy machine” trick always resonates with me.

Personally, I prefer this vision of old Carpathia. Dead would have preferred it too.

Oh, and before we go on . . . If you have no idea who the hell these people are and want to know more, here’s an article I wrote in 2018 about a guy from a Hungarian band called Tormentor selling a piece of Dead’s skull on the internet after he killed himself. It has a “first time?” explanation at the beginning, but also gets into the nitty-gritty of the questionable skull sale.

Anyways, back to the original album cover. As was common during the second wave, someone just stole some classic renaissance painting and slapped a cool font over it. But the song is certainly worth a listen, and the video itself contains a slideshow of Mayhem pics, for anyone interested. It also might be “a glimpse into bloodstained mirrors” for those of you who want a taste of black metal but can’t stand the vocals. This version is an instrumental.

The final version with vocals would eventually appear on Mayhem’s last real album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. (Ironically named, as Dead wrote most of the lyrics and had little interest in Satanism–at least from a writing perspective).

Speaking of Dead, the lyrics that would eventually be added to this song were part of his suicide letter. They came after some black humor and a sad “confession” of alienation and lifelong depression: An explanation that no one needed, and quite frankly, no one deserved.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it, but you know, why not. That’s why I put warnings on these things. If you get to this point I expect this isn’t your first walk through the blackness. I don’t like the idea of helping people wallow in their depression, and the intent of this blog is to heal. But sometimes, in order to heal, you need to look back . . .

“Excuse all the blood, but I have slit my wrists and neck. It was the intention that I would die in the woods so that it would take a few days before I was possibly found. I belong in the woods and have always done so.

No one will understand the reason for this anyway. To give some semblance of an explanation, I’m not a human. This is just a dream and soon I will awake. It was too cold and the blood was coagulating all the time. Plus, my new knife is too dull.

If I don’t succeed dying to the knife I will blow all the shit out of my skull. Yet I do not know. I left all my lyrics by “Let the good times roll” — plus the rest of the money. Whoever finds it gets the fucking thing.

As a last salutation may I present “Life Eternal”. Do whatever you want with the fucking thing. – Pelle.

I didn’t come up with this now, but seventeen years ago.”

Now, I’m certain that anyone interested in my words (or Mayhem) enough to get to this point understands that feeling well. The isolation that cuts so deep that you know the only way out is a bullet. The gutting emptiness, so hollow and black that you would do anything–and I mean anything–just to unwind time and start again. Or to snuff the stars forever and take everyone else down with you. It depends on what kind of person you are. I’ve been all.

But anyways, it seems Dead was more of the martyr type in the end. In the spirit of true masochism, he would often cut himself on stage so deeply that people on the internet are still telling stories about it to this day. Hell, he even took the time to lay out the last of his money for his friends before he pulled the trigger.

He had some extreme “actively self-destructive” tendencies, but he found time for pleasure as well. In his spare time he also enjoyed writing and art. He wrote letters to people all around the world, and even sent them tapes of his music.

In my opinion, he was not hopeless and he could have been saved. He could have embraced his projects and continued to use them as an outlet for the pain (perhaps with just a little less cutting). However, there was no one there to remind him there was something to live for. Maybe. Someday.

Even if there wasn’t then . . . Maybe someday.

I think anyone who would read this far is familiar with that feeling. I know I am.

Dead’s artwork and writing. There are many more examples across the internet.

But anyways, I’ve gone off on a tangent here. Wasn’t I supposed to share the lyrics for Life Eternal, the very song that got me on this rant to begin with? After all, Dead left them along with his farewell note.

“A dream of another existence, you wish to die.

A dream of another world, you pray for death.

To release the soul, one must die.

To find peace inside, you must get eternal.

I am a mortal, but am I human?

How beautiful life is now when my time has come.

A human destiny, but nothing human inside.

What will be left of me when I’m dead?

There was nothing when I lived.

What you found was eternal death.

No one will ever miss you.”

Oh, if only he knew how many people miss him now. Just this past winter there were parties thrown in his honor all across Stockholm, and I’ve personally spoken with people who were fucked up by his death for the rest of their lives.

I was invited to a Morbid reunion concert. Morbid was Dead’s first band, and the original members were performing. I unfortunately had to turn the invitation down. Now the person who invited me has disappeared, and I wonder what happened to him at least once a week.

But what of the masses who blindly drink down Dead’s depressive words, claiming to miss him even though they’ve never met?

In such a miserable and dissociated state, I imagine he would have found it all amusing . . . At best. Or insulting, at worst. Because when you wake up every single day wishing the light would never come, and when the sun sets, you pray to no one that the blackness lingers forever . . . It just doesn’t fucking matter if anyone cares about you. Especially a bunch of strangers that are basing their image of you off a bunch of photos and letters on the internet.

In any case, I see no sign that any of this will stop in the immediate future. Like all of us, inevitably, Dead will someday fade into obscurity and no one will remember his name. But for now . . .

Ha, that was the original Wormheart demo all the way back in 2015. One of my internet friends from Sweden actually took a CD to Dead’s grave and laid it there. I remember writing across it “STEAL THIS AND BE CURSED.”

It showed up in several photos of the grave I found on the internet, months later. Maybe even years . . . It will always bring me solace that my own music (and handwriting) laid atop the ashes of true Norwegian Black Metal Legend. (Well, technically, you could say “True Swedish Proto-Blackened Death metal legend . . .). Does that have a better ring to it?

I wonder who eventually stole the curse.

When this photo was taken, I was laughing . . . But for as long as I can remember, my life has felt like an illusion or a far-off dream. If you talk to Dead’s friends and family, a lot of them will swear they never saw it coming, or he never would have done it if he didn’t go to Norway. And I believe them 100%, as in . . . I believe that they think that.

They probably think that because they look back on photos of him laughing, which I haven’t bothered posting.

Sometimes, you can be smiling and laughing with nothing but a vacant, wounded scar for a mouth. It’s uncomfortable for most people to think about . . . But for those of us that live it, there are days or months that feel like nothing but a blur. Sometimes, even years.

I don’t blame Dead for choosing to pull the trigger. It wasn’t the easy way out. You can tell because his death photos are scattered all over the internet, courtesy of Euronymous. The final chapter in a lonely and sorrowful life that could have been something better. There’s nothing romantic about the bile you puke up as your body convulses from a shotgun suicide. If you’re unlucky enough to miss the mouth, that is.

He was.

Rest in Peace, Dead.

Did you make it all the way to the end? Then there must be a certain morbid darkness, gleaming inside you always.

It will never go away.

But it could get better. Like me, you just need to remember what it feels like to have something to live for. Something tells me that someday soon, you will.

Until then . . .

Trust in Chaos.

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