The Legendary Metal Band that Put a Photo of Their Dead Singer on Their Album Cover

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We each process tragedy in our own way. Some of us crumble under the weight of grief, while others distract themselves and repress their emotions until they explode at a later date. It is a unique, deeply personal process that none of us have much control over. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Well, maybe there is a wrong way…

After suffering from prolonged delusions of being a literal walking corpse, Mayhem vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin (aka. Dead) used a hunting knife to slit his wrists and throat before shooting himself in the head with a shotgun in April of 1991. Translated from Swedish, Dead’s suicide note read:

“Excuse 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 wake. It was too cold and the blood kept clotting, plus the 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 it. / Pelle. I didn’t come up with this now, but seventeen years ago”

Initially unable to access their shared residence due to a locked door, Mayhem guitarist Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth found his bandmate’s corpse after breaking into the house through a window. In the first and one of the most notorious transgressions of the second-wave Norwegian black metal scene, Euronymous purchased a disposable camera from a nearby shop and proceeded to pose the body for a series of photographs before calling authorities. In time, rumors of Euronymous cannibalizing his bandmate’s body by cooking pieces of Dead’s brain in a stew began to circulate. Although the band denied these speculations, they did admit to using parts of their singer’s skull to make a necklace.

Having developed the photos, Euronymous sent copies to several friends within the black metal underground. In 1995, four years after Dead’s suicide and two years after the murder of Euronymous, a bootleg began circulating of a live Mayhem set from their Sarpsborg, Norway gig on February 28th. Titled The Dawn Of The Black Hearts, this unofficial release gained notoriety because of its cover image: A photo of Dead’s posed corpse taken by Euronymous on the day of his suicide.

It is widely believed that Mauricio “Bull Metal” Montoya from the Columbian band Massacre was responsible for the initial release of the bootleg, as he had access to the photos and the means to press and distribute it through his label, Warmaster Records. However, these claims are unsubstantiated. Bull Metal would himself die by suicide in 2002.

In 20017, Mayhem officially released The Dawn Of The Black Hearts under the title Live in Sarpsborg. It features a photo of Necrobutcher on the cover, very much alive.

See the NSFW Album Cover of Mayhem’s Dawn of the Black Hearts below

The Dawn of the Black Hearts: Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth), Mayhem, Warmaster Records