|Studio album by|
|Recorded||July 11–15, 1994|
|Label||Nuclear Blast Records|
Metal Mind Productions
Hellig Usvart is the debut album by Australian unblack metal band Horde, released in 1994 on Nuclear Blast Records. Upon its release in 1994, the album created a controversy among many black metal fans; death threats were sent to Nuclear Blast demanding the label to drop the album from its catalogue because the album contains Christian, anti-satanic lyrics that counteract the usual black metal thematics at the time. Because of the strong lyrical contradiction, the album was thought to be a parody of the Norwegian black metal movement by magazines such as Morgenbladet in 1995.
The sole member of the band, Jayson Sherlock who used the pseudonym Anonymous, has later stated in interviews that the album was intended to bring "some hope, some light to the bleak black metal subculture." Rowe Productions and Metal Mind Productions have re-issued the album since, as Hellig Usvart achieved a respected landmark status in the Christian metal movement, and it is regarded as the first and most groundbreaking Christian black metal album.
In 1993, drummer Jayson Sherlock had just parted ways with the death metal band Mortification and joined the band Paramaecium. During this time, Sherlock was charmed by Northern European black metal music but did not like the malicious lyrical approach of the movement. He decided to record similar music with a Christian message, with intent to bring hope to the bleak black metal subculture. Sherlock ended up forming a solo project, as he could play guitar, bass and keyboards aside with drums, his main instrument. In 1994 he formed a solo project under the name Beheadoth and recorded the song "Mine Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)" for a compilation album by Rowe Productions. Later, Sherlock changed the name Beheadoth to "Horde." He took advantage of his former band Mortification's relationship to Nuclear Blast Records, and talked to the label owner Markus Staiger about releasing Horde's album. Staiger became interested in the project and decided to release the album.
Sherlock recorded an album between July 11–15, 1994. He played, produced, and mixed everything himself. A person under the pseudonym "Unblack Mark" handled the studio and recording techniques. As a graphic artist himself, Sherlock created the album's packaging and cover picture. Sherlock marked himself under the pseudonym "Anonymous" in the album's booklet since neither he nor the record company were supposed to reveal his identity. The album was named Hellig Usvart, which is Norwegian for "holy unblack". Sherlock said in an interview about the name: "I read on the back of an early Dark Throne album, 'Dark Throne play Unholy Black Metal'. Horde was always going to be lyrically the opposite of this, hence: 'Holy Unblack Metal'. I guess this is how the 'unblack' name or title came about. The music sounded like BM, but because of the lyrics and the spirit behind it, it is not BM."
Musically, Hellig Usvart features a musical output similar to the early 1990s Norwegian primitive, lo-fi, old school black metal music. The first three songs feature a more obscure output, while songs such as "Thine Hour Hast Come" and "Invert the Inverted Cross" are more groovy. The album is said to contain outstanding drumming, for Sherlock was primarily a drummer. Lyrically, Hellig Usvart features indirect praise for God, and is known for its anti-satanic approach, as implied by the song titles.
Upon original release in 1994, 4,000 copies of the album were printed. In 1999, Rowe Productions purchased all remaining copies and distributed them worldwide. The album has since been re-released on this label with an additional track entitled, "My Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)". However, in 2004 the Australian label Soundmass re-issued Hellig Usvart as a 10-year anniversary edition. Also in 2008, the Polish label Metal Mind Productions re-released the album in a digipak format.
Upon the initial release of Hellig Usvart, a publicity campaign was launched throughout the black metal community, revolving around Sherlock being credited as "Anonymous". Unsuccessful death-threats were given to Markus Staiger at Nuclear Blast to reveal the identity of the anonymous musician who had created the album, although the identity of the musician was later revealed as Jayson Sherlock. Horde as an entity also received death threats for being a Christian band playing black metal. In an interview with Son of Man Records' Erasmus, Sherlock says: "I only ever heard about them [death threats] second hand. I never personally received any death threats at all, not one. I kept hearing but that was all." Because of the intense, furious anti-satanic themes of "horn crushing" and "goat violence," the album was widely thought to be a parody of the black metal scene. As evidence of that, on June 6, 1995, the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet wrote an article about the phenomenon of Horde, writing: "Horde's album is an abrupt satire of the Norwegian black metal movement." The same article says of Hellig Usvart that "all the obligatory Spinal Tap references are here: [the liner notes of the album says that] Anonymous plays 'Total Apocalyptic Lead Guitar' and 'Cataclysmic Bass Rumblings'. Obviously 'amplified to eleven'." However, Sherlock clears the parody controversy up in a 2006 interview:
Within the black metal scene, watching all the way across the world, all I could see was a bleak, dark, hopeless, lifeless and negative void. All I wanted to do was to shine a light into that darkness. Give an alternative that was comparable in sound to the scene I was trying to infiltrate, to provide some hope, some light. That was all. No mockery, no parody, no jokes. I would never mock any style of music, nor would I mock the musicians themselves. I have great respect for them. The music of Immortal, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, etc. is incredible, masterful. One can still show respect, while disagreeing with certain lyrical content. I wanted to remain unknown for as long as I could, to sustain the mystery. I could not resist the similarity of Anonymous to Euronymous, so, regardless of the existence of Euronymous, I was still going to be known as Anonymous. Just a coincidence that both the words were so similar. Also the reference to 'Unblack Mark' was a play on 'Black Mark Records' which is Bathory's label. This was the only light hearted element of the entire project.
Impact and legacy
Hellig Usvart was a seminal, highly influential album for the Christian black metal movement. The album spawned some imitators, especially in South America, with groups such as Poems of Shadows taking apparent influences from Horde's style on their album Nocturnal Blasphemous Chanting. The raging lyrics of anti-satanism would dominate the unblack scene for years. Concerned about that, Erasmus of Son of Man Records asked Sherlock in a 2006 interview: "Do you feel that unblack metal will be able to efficiently continue its response to black metal if it does not grow beyond 'horn crushing'?" Sherlock responded, "No I do not. The lyrics on 'Hellig Usvart' were written 12 years ago. I'm sure that if another Horde album was written today, the themes would be quite different and much more mature, to counteract the poetic and intelligent (albeit misguided) lyrics of modern BM."
After the release magazines such as HM gave Hellig Usvart good reviews, and later critics such as Matt Morrow of The Whipping Post gave the album 10/10, writing "...this album was made more than anything, to make a point. It made that point loud and clear, and it also kicked the door wide open and paved the way for many Christian black metal bands in the future to bring the light of Christ to an extremely dark music scene." In 2010, HM Magazine listed Hellig Usvart #63 on its Top 100 Christian Rock Albums of All Time list stating that it "kicked off a Christocentric infiltration of black metal culture" and it "holds up as a righteously furious assault".
- All songs written and composed by Anonymous (Jayson Sherlock).
|1.||"A Church Bell Tolls Amidst the Frozen Nordic Winds"||1:02|
|2.||"Blasphemous Abomination of the Satanic Pentagram"||0:47|
|3.||"Behold, the Rising of the Scarlet Moon"||3:22|
|4.||"Thine Hour Hast Come"||4:05|
|5.||"Release and Clothe the Virgin Sacrifice"||5:37|
|6.||"Drink From the Chalice of Blood"||3:59|
|7.||"Silence the Blasphemous Chanting"||5:37|
|8.||"Invert the Inverted Cross"||3:10|
|9.||"An Abandoned Grave Bathes Softly in the Falling Moonlight"||5:09|
|10.||"Crush the Bloodied Horns of the Goat"||1:26|
|11.||"Weak, Feeble, and Dying Anti-Christ"||3:32|
|12.||"The Day of Total Armageddon Holocaust"||1:43|
|13.||"My Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)"||2:56|
- Anonymous (aka Jayson Sherlock) - vocals, lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, drums
- Executive Producer: Markus Staiger
- Arranged, Produced & Mixed By Anonymous
- Recorded & Engineered By "Unblack Mark"
- Waters, Scott. Horde. No Life 'til Metal.
- EvilVasp. "Horde - Hellig Usvart". Necromancy. Open Publishing. Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "MusikkOpp-ned oppnedkors!". Morgenbladet (in Norwegian). Oslonett. 1995-02-06. Archived from the original on 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- Erasmus (2006). "Horde Interview". Unblack.de. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
- Jonsson, Johannes. The History of Christian metal, 1994. The Metal for Jesus Page!
- Morrow, Matt. "Horde - Hellig Usvart". The Whipping Post. Open Publishing. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "Metalmind". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Morrow, Matt. Poems of Shadows - Nocturnal Blasphemous Chanting. The Whipping Post. Retrieved on 2007-12-01.
- HM Staff. "Top 100". HM Magazine. Open Publishing. Archived from the original on 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2010-07-17.