Silencer has one of the richest mythos of all black metal bands and, if real, possibly the darkest. Founded in Stockholm, Sweden by guitarist Leere in 1995, the group didn’t release any material until the Nattramn (real name allegedly Mikael Nilsson, b. 1977) recordings took place during July 2000. The album was released in October 2001 and by then they had already dissolved. This is a highly-polished DSBM outing that has none of the KVLT lo-fi recording techniques or terrible guitar tones of its ilk. It has a meticulous production most BM albums wouldn’t even dream of, yet this doesn’t derogate one bit from the claustrophobia or atmosphere. In a world where black metal is little more than a gimmick, a hyperrealisied version of itself to be put on t-shirts for rebellious rich-kids to wear, the Nattramn lore is one of the more interesting and outre tales since Varg/Euronymous.
Silencer: Death, Pierce Me
Death, pierce me, the opener, begins innocuously with acoustic guitars majestically intertwining like snakes over some heavy kicks from the drums. The piece is a really mature composition that steadily builds beautiful tension until Nattramns demented vocals kick in at about 90 seconds along with the first distinguishable black metal riff of the album. Since this is the probably the first time you will have heard the Sumerian shriek that comes from the notorious vocalist. Coaxed from some deep depression or control of some schizophrenic daemon, Nattramn cut his hands and arms to elicit such wails when recording. Sometimes they’re ridiculous for their Dio on PCP aspect, (if you really listen to some of the moments when the banshee scream stops and Nattramn starts mumbling incomprehensibly like in Sterile nails or toward the middle/end of Taklamakan, it genuinely sounds like a paranoid glossolalia, and is there anything more painful than listening to a neocortex boil like that.
A truly pained man making music, like a dadaist, to shock the audience out of, or into, what? I know that I’ve played this for friends who find it hilarious when the vocals start but who slowly begin to be less energetic as the album continues and they realise it’s not going to stop- it might be real. And such is the major appeal of Silencer and the Nattramn story in general. It’s so transgressive and out there that it seems patently false at the start, and you’re not sure if you want it to be real or not. But then, it would take an unhinged mind to associate oneself with child-attackers and to create this massive game of cat and mouse with the online BM community, which occasionally reaches Holmesian proportions.
Manic-depression seems to characterise the album; for instance, midway through Death, Pierce Me the DSBM-riffs drop out to usher in a gothic-sounding piano section that hops along nicely before EEEEIGIIIGIHGIH, guess who’s back. Some people think the album is unlistenable or ruined by the vocal performance, but I feel that if you put it on and let it go, it just might take you somewhere. Most of the tracks either start soft and crescendo or begin in the middle of a gale and move to the calm eye of the storm. It’s always progressing. But this occurs in a natural, almost geometric way. For someone so demented the album has a polished and excogitated feel. Maybe this is due to the rest of the band who are more musically, and less psychotically, actuated. That said, Nattramn has also composed dark-ambient/power electronics albums under both Diagnose: Lebensgefahr (S/T) and Trencadis (Odelagt). He was also apparently in a project called ‘Mammoth’ that only issued 9 copied of their album, all of which were sent to schools unsolicited except one copy Nattramn kept to spill his own bodily fluids on.
Allegedly, (but now highly doubtful and easily the most spurious legend assoc with the man), he cut off both his hands while on the mic and replaced them with pig’s hooves. There are more holes in this story than pores in an ephebe’s face. Like how did he do both hands alone, especially after one hand had come off? Or how did he subsequently swing an axe at a young girl, or write poetry and draw, with no opposable thumbs. And the fact that you can’t just sow a dead pigs hoof to your hand and not get some toxzcema or something. Also the claims that he attacked a five year-old girl with an axe and attempted suicide by cop, while it sounds exactly like something he would do, might be misattributed. You can read the article which has been translated to english here. It never mentions names specifically but does mention a man escaping from the Växjö Psychiatric Ward and leaving a note bordered in swaztikas regarding plans to attack a young girl.
He also released a book called Grishjarta **or “Pig’s heart” in 2001, a collection of poems and drawings from 1996-2000. The re-release came with a mandatory vial of blood for all Swedish buyers (they had customs problems sending this oversees). All of Nattramn’s artistic offerings are available on HAL, his label and website. The basic philosophy of HAL (Humani Animali Liberati), is that of rejecting the notion of being human, embracing the animal, and thus becoming something that transcends either/or. Whatever the case, Nattramn seems to have a monomaniacal interest in pigs and pig parts, which is suggested to be related to some blashphemic idea of being a new Jesus- a flawed earthly sacrifice, Jesus being the pig (not lamb) of God.
Nattramn is interesting because in a genre that relies on such spectacular personality cults as BM, Nattramn could be the only real outsider artist of the genre. So much black metal is about murder, insanity and satan, while the musicians’ first-hand experience of this are only through Hellraiser VHS and Venom albums bought from Hot Topic. What is known is that he definitely spent time in a sanatorium where he recorded Diagnose: Lebensgefahr over one year, and he definitely maintains one of the most enigmatic mysteries in music. I mean, more people listen to this band because of their notoriety than any other reason, even if it is unknown whether its all a put-on or not, coming from the self-propelling mythologisation of the man.
So, loosely, that is the story, minus some grim filigreeing. You wanna believe an antisemitic maniac made one of the grimmest BM albums of the decade, or would you rather see it as an art-for-arts sake holistic production: a dark avatar, an album, an ongoing narrative and an online treasure hunt to boot? I’m not going to debut or call bullshit or anything. Maybe all this is a great marketing ploy by Silencer who thought their music was a little too weird to be listenable without some character selling it. Maybe, as some suggested, Nattramn never existed. Maybe Mikael Nilsson does exist and is mentally unstable, believing himself to be Nattramn. Or maybe he’s just a cunning marketer who knows that The Regular Man, while superficially moral, has a love of darkness inside. I mean, why else has this okay-but-testing album had such an enduring exposure in underground circles. Even Xasthur and Gorgoroth have never generated the horrified attention Nattramn has.
** if anyone is interested in viewing the book but can’t get a copy, a generous redditor has uploaded it. A google search should suffice.