Metal!

All Hail Hulder: The Wicked Witch of Black Metal

Hulder, the mysterious black metal artist, from the Pacific Northwest.
Hulder, the mysterious black metal artist, from the Pacific Northwest. Courtesy Hulder
The artist known as Hulder lives in a cottage buried within a dense, unnamed forest of the Pacific Northwest, where it always rains and the daggers of sunlight brave enough to pierce the shroud of foliage are met with a hiss. Holed away from modern civilization, she spends her days brooding and forging medieval music so evil-sounding that it’d make Smaug whimper, before releasing it on the unsuspecting masses like a wicked witch.

At least that’s the impression one gets when listening to the black-metal conjurings the Belgian-American makes by herself. In reality, she’s lived in Oregon and Washington State most recently, including her current hearth in the shadow of Mount Rainier, after her family moved stateside from their native Belgium.

Hulder, whose birth name has never been made public since she started releasing her brand of black metal in 2018, explains that her introduction to the dark side started simply enough many moons ago.

“My interest in black metal began similarly to most, I would imagine. The first exposure that I had to metal was when I was young and bought a copy of Iron Maiden's Killers at a flea market. The imagery on the front cover is what drew me in and sparked my interest in the dark and macabre,” she says. “From there, the path to more extreme music was laid out. As far as my first exposure to black metal, I would say that it was either The Somberlain, by Dissection, or Moonsorrow's V: Havitetty that really pulled me in and ignited the flame within me.”

Growing up, she dabbled in music, playing with peers here and there, but it would be years before Hulder seriously considered starting a solo black-metal project. A move to Oregon in 2017 spurred the idea, and she’s been actively cultivating it ever since.

“When my family moved to the United States from my home country of Belgium, I found that there was ample opportunity to play music, but I was never able to find a group of individuals that were interested in playing the music that I envisioned. This caused me to find a musical outlet in other areas but always left me wanting to create something of my own in the future,” she says. “After having made the move up to Oregon in 2017, much of the winter was spent recording the Ascending the Raven Stone (her debut demo released in 2018), and it was the first time that I found myself in full control of my own musical direction. That certainly was somewhat of a creative awakening, and I've been making changes in order to craft an environment of creative solitude. A few months ago, I moved to Washington State and have been living in a cabin near Mount Rainier. It has been great to be away from the fast-paced nature of the city and has served as a strong creative influence.”

After 2021’s Godslastering: Hymns of Forlorn Peasantry — an album universally lauded in the underground for its modern take on folksy, Norwegian black metal — Hulder has left the homestead to spread what she calls “Dark Medieval Black Metal” across the country. She’ll be in Denver on Saturday, June 25, playing TRVE Brewing’s 10th Anniversary Bacchanal at the Gothic Theatre. Khemmis, Panopticon, Vastum and Dreadnought are also celebrating the occasion.

“It is, of course, a different experience than writing music in the controlled environment of my home, but it is a necessary element to further the reach and interest in the music,” she says of life on the road, including plans for her upcoming headlining tour to promote the mini-LP The Eternal Fanfare (July 1, 20 Buck Spin). “By nature, I am not a very social person, and as such, I have found that being on the road can be a bit much for my taste, but I embrace the experience and am looking forward to what the future has in store for Hulder's touring schedule.”

Why have so many people fallen under black metal’s spell since a spate of church burnings and murders in Norway ignited the scene during the 1990s, sparking a worldwide media frenzy and police investigations that included funerals, arrests, prison sentences and ultimately the inevitable collapse of one of music’s most insular scenes? It’s a question that no one has been able to satisfyingly answer, but that’s how the underground works: It has kept black metal alive against all odds, making it stronger than death in that sense.

“Black metal has always had a firm hold on the underground. While the mainstream media had its heyday almost three decades ago, the genre has remained strong through years of ebb and flow. I can't speak to why the genre has remained appealing for fans, but I can say that I am glad to see a seemingly renewed interest in the last few years,” Hulder says, adding "extreme music and black metal, in particular, have been an integral part of my life for many years."

It’s safe to say the intrigue, the fantastical veneer of corpse paint and grainy black-and-white photos of artists with pseudonyms is part of it as well.

“Those who experience Hulder in a live setting can expect to experience a conjuring of Dark Medieval Black Metal. Nothing less,” the mage of Mount Rainier promises.

Hulder, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 25. Tickets are $27.50-$30.
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