Rocking out with Norway's extreme metal singers

Story highlights

  • Jonas Bendiksen photographed singers in Norwegian metal bands
  • His exhibition in London also comes with sound files of each singer's isolated vocals

(CNN)Norway has been ranked as the world's most prosperous country for seven years running.

For the last 12 years, it has been ranked No. 1 on the United Nations' list of most livable countries.
    It is renowned for its skiing, Viking landmarks and breathtaking fjords.
    But the country's extreme metal music might be its most far-reaching attraction.
    "Wherever I have traveled in the world -- whether it be in the middle of Africa, Asia or wherever -- I meet people who fire up the moment I say I'm from Norway, because they are completely into the country's extreme music," photographer Jonas Bendiksen said. "So I wanted to photograph that somehow."
    Bendiksen got up close and personal for his series "Singing Norwegian Singers." The project, commissioned by Leica UK, is on exhibition through October 27 at the Leica Gallery Mayfair in London.
    Photographer Jonas Bendiksen
    Bendiksen's gritty portraits show every detail of band members' faces as they scowl and growl through their performances. Some wear elaborate makeup. Most have long hair and thick beards.
    The red eyes -- a result of Bendiksen using flash in dim light -- add to the intensity.
    "Overall it is pretty brutal and in-your-face music," Bendiksen said. "That's why I tried to photograph it a bit brutally as well."
    At the Leica exhibition in London, each singer's image comes with a sound file so that viewers can also hear their isolated vocals.
    The bands represent various metal subgenres, such as thrash metal, death metal and black metal, and the lines between them are easily blurred. But all of them share an unmistakable aggression.

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    "Some say it is the biggest cultural export from Norway," Bendiksen said. "Whether that be true or not, the volume of records sold is enormous and the big Norwegian metal bands play gigs all over the world."
    The photographer calls himself "nearly a complete omnivore" when it comes to music.
    "One morning in my office I can swap between blasting Bach, Bob Dylan, Russian folk music and aggressive rock on my speakers," he said. "For me the only thing that matters is whether the music is done extremely well and it suits my mood and my energy at that moment."