Pseudonym week: Mayhem
A stage name is special. Oftentimes, it’s a unique representation of a creative identity that an artist feels his or her given name does not properly personify. While some pseudonyms are randomly generated nonsense (i.e. Childish Gambino), an analysis of many stage names can inform the art associated with them, helping us consumers further personalize the creations we consume. With this idea in mind, we’ve decided to take a dive into the world of fake names, exploring where they come from and what, if anything, they’re supposed to represent.
— Mike Watkins, Daily Music Editor
When people hear the term “stage name,” they typically think of pop superstars like Elton John, Drake or someone of similar acclaim. These figures chose their stage names so they could make themselves more recognizable, while also being simple enough for anyone to remember. However, in the black metal world, specifically in the infamous Norwegian scene in the 1980s, stage names serve an entirely different purpose.
In Norwegian black metal, stage names are chosen to advance a band’s aesthetic and sound. How could someone be in a band with a name like Darkthrone and be named Leif Nagell? They couldn’t be. To combat this issue, the members of these bands started to adopt stage names, some more over-the-top than others. None, however, could beat Dead of the band Mayhem, not even his fellow bandmates, with names like Euronymous and Necrobutcher.
Sure, “Dead” isn’t the most creative name, but it fits the atmosphere and attitude of Mayhem so well. Dead’s story is complex and troubling, after all: He was allegedly announced to be dead for several minutes as a young boy, but his story is also easily researched. However, what needs to be explained is exactly why his name fit Mayhem’s music so well. Dead was the Mayhem’s frontman and lyricist. He wrote the lyrics for bone-crushing tracks like “Buried by Time and Dust” and “Freezing Moon,” in which Dead utters the scene-defining lines, “Everything here is so cold / Everything here is so dark,” Dead’s signature tortured, inhuman growl was also the defining voice in the entire Norwegian scene. No one else could replicate Dead’s sound, his lyrics, nor his stage presence. In fact, for many fans, Dead was black metal. His every move, from his on-stage self-harm to his use of “corpse paint,” was deployed by other bands. He wasn’t trying to be cool or pure. He was doing exactly what he felt he needed to do. Dead truly believed in Norway’s scene, and his suicide changed its course forever. Without him, there is no black metal, which is why Dead is the most important pseudonym in the genre.
— Jim Wilson, Daily Arts Writer