Iceland, a popular travel destination in recent years, has a culture rich beyond tourism. Photographer Verði ljós, the alter-ego of Hafsteinn Viðar Ársælsson, founder of solo music project Wormlust, has been documenting the thriving black metal music scene.

Over three years, ljós photographed bands in addition to Wormlust, including Abominor, Auðn, Carpe Noctem, Draugsól, Mannveira, Misþyrming, Naðra, Norn, Nornahetta, Núll, Nyiþ, Sinmara and Svartidauði, which he published in his book “Svartmálmur,” along with a selection of lyrics.

ljós told In Sight about his inspiration for the project. “I had seen a book on Iceland’s ’60s psychedelic scene called ‘Poppkorn’ [by Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson] and started thinking to myself that there was nobody here documenting my own scene — the visual world would be lost to the sands of time. … Being a musician myself as a teenager I saw photos of Icelandic bands like Potentiam that inspired me and started my musical journey, so [I’m] transferring some of that magic to those that come after us.”

Elements of fiction are present in the work. ljós explained that the medium of photography can inspire subjects to behave how they want to be portrayed. “When the pomp and circumstance of photographing begins, then an internal narrative of how they want their efforts to come across shines through. That’s always an interesting moment to me, seeing how they want to portray this uncapturable and visceral world through their own being.”

He hopes that people learn about the layers in black metal culture through his work.

“There is artistry and deep thought behind it — particularly in our niche of that world where veils, blood and smoke go hand in hand with cosmic philosophy,” he said. “That it is far removed from the airhead stereotype you would associate with that label.”

Svartmálmur was published by Ditto in May 2018.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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