|VON - Black Metal Pioneers.
Von were ahead of their time - way ahead. In the early 90's, a time when their peers in the North American metal scene were playing technical and complex death metal these 3 individuals trod new ground with a wholly original sound.
Coming from California's Bay Area, a scene that included such legendary bands as Death Angel and Exodus, Von broke tradition and took their influence from much rawer bands like Bathory and Sodom. Black Metal as we know it today was practically non-existent, certainly in Von's native San Francisco where thrash metal reigned supreme, and arguably only a handful of bands worldwide had played what could be called black metal - Sarcofago from Brazil, Blasphemy from Canada and obviously Hellhammer, Bathory and Venom.
Von started to play an extremely simple and minimal brand of metal that was built on repetition and trance-like song structures. The emphasis was on creating an evil atmosphere rather than showmanship or musical progression.
Von songs often contained no more than 3 or 4 notes played over and over, hypnotic blasting drums relentlessly pounding throughout whilst echo tinged goat-vomit vocals barked almost abstract blasphemous incantations.
Although this basic formula would be expanded upon later by other bands, it was Von who drew up the blueprint for modern black metal, influencing just about everybody from the notorious scandinavian black metal scene in the early 90's.
Von's music was more of a soundtrack to some candlelit satanic ritual than traditional heavy metal and the image that band put across complimented this perfectly. Song titles were short and often contained simple words that took on a more sinister tone in their new surroundings - 'Lamb' and 'Devil Pig' hinted at ritual sacrifice whilst 'Watain' and 'Veadtuck' spoke an eerie new tongue, a language not of this world.
|Von live 1991|
|Von's members were as mysterious to the outside world as their song titles or lyrics.
Von - Guitar, Vocals
Kill - Bass
Snake - Drums
Again, single word titles helping to form Von's elusive and anonymous image. No clues as to who was making this music leaving the listener to imagine the worst.
Note - guitarist/vocalist Von is featured in some sources as being called Goat.
Of course, Von were largely ignored by the metal world at the time, only known to an elite few who could recognise the value in Von's mesmerising, repetetive ritual music. Their influence would be far reaching however, thanks in part to the infamous Varg Vikernes of Burzum who was among the first to champion their demo 'Satanic Blood' and distribute it to the fledgling scandinavian scene. He was also pictured wearing a Von t-shirt to one of his many church burning/murder court appearances and, in a misquote in Kerrang magazine, appeared to suggest that VON stood for Victory Orgasm Nazi's. This is not the case, he was simply using those words to spell VON to the interviewer - 'V as in Victory, O as in Orgasm, N as in Nazis'.
Undeniably, black metal would not be the same without Von and the 'Satanic Blood' demo, from the underground necro bands to the more commercially successful black metal outfits that may even have signed to major labels - Von's influence is felt throughout.
But Von, long since disbanded, remain a truly cult band. Not everybody has heard of them, and even less own their material. Those black metal fans who worship the symphonic, the melodic, the multiple-layered-classically-influenced and the progressive may not get much from Von, but should be able to trace the roots of their favourite bands back through Burzum or Mayhem or Emperor and back to Von.
"Pray Satan Pray Satan Pray Satan Pray Satan...."