Per Yngve Ohlin (16 January 1969 – 8 April 1991), better known by his stage name Dead, was a Swedish black/death metal vocalist and lyricist best known for his work with Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. He also performed as vocalist of the Swedish death metal band Morbid on their demo December Moon.
Roadrunner Records ranked him No. 48 out of 50 of The Greatest Metal Front-Men of All Time.
Per Ohlin (sometimes called "Pelle") was born in 1969 in Stockholm, Sweden. As a young child, he suffered from sleep apnea. At the age of ten, he suffered internal bleeding when his spleen ruptured, after what he alleged was an ice skating accident. In the Swedish metal book Blod eld död however ('Blood Fire Death', named after Swedish band Bathory's fourth album Blood Fire Death), his brother said in an exclusive interview that Dead was bullied in school and one day the beatings got out of hand causing the ruptured spleen. He had to be rushed to a hospital, where he was for a time clinically dead.
He later developed his taste for heavy music, citing bands like Black Sabbath, Kiss, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Motörhead, Venom, Sodom and Mercyful Fate as his favourites.
In early 1986, he founded the Swedish death metal group Morbid, with which he recorded a demo tape called December Moon. Shortly afterwards, he decided the band wasn't going anywhere and contacted the members of Mayhem. According to Mayhem bassist Jørn 'Necrobutcher' Stubberud, he initially sent them a small package containing a demo tape, a letter, and a crucified mouse. Although Necrobutcher lost the package itself, he kept the tape which had Dead's contact details. Dead moved to Norway and joined the band in early 1988.
In interviews, fellow musicians often described Dead as odd and introverted. Mayhem drummer Jan Axel 'Hellhammer' Blomberg described Dead as "a very strange personality […] depressed, melancholic, and dark". Likewise, Mayhem guitarist Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth once said: "I honestly think Dead is mentally insane. Which other way can you describe a guy who does not eat, in order to get starving wounds? Or who has a T-shirt with funeral announcements on it?" Former Mayhem drummer Kjetil Manheim later likened Dead's personality to that of Marvin the Paranoid Android.
According to Emperor drummer Bård 'Faust' Eithun:
"He [Dead] wasn't a guy you could know very well. I think even the other guys in Mayhem didn't know him very well. He was hard to get close to. I met him two weeks before he died. I'd met him maybe six to eight times, in all. He had lots of weird ideas. I remember Aarseth was talking about him and said he did not have any humor. He did, but it was very obscure. Honestly, I don't think he was enjoying living in this world, which of course resulted in the suicide."
The cover of Mayhem's Live in Leipzig contains part of Dead's suicide note: Jag är inte en människa. Det här är bara en dröm, och snart vaknar jag. Det var för kallt och blodet levrades hela tiden (roughly translated: I am not a human being. This is just a dream, and soon I will awake. It was too cold and the blood kept clotting all the time). In an article, journalist Chris Campion wrote that Dead may have suffered from Cotard delusion, meaning that he believed himself to be dead as a result of childhood trauma.
For concerts, Dead went to great lengths to achieve the image and atmosphere he wished. From the beginning of his career, he was known to wear "corpse paint", which involved covering his face with black and white makeup. According to Necrobutcher, "[i]t wasn't anything to do with the way Kiss and Alice Cooper used makeup. Dead actually wanted to look like a corpse. He didn't do it to look cool". Hellhammer claimed that Dead "was the first black metal musician to use corpse paint". To complete his corpse-like image, Dead would bury his stage clothes and dig them up again to wear on the night of a concert. According to Hellhammer:
"Before the shows, Dead used to bury his clothes into the ground so that they could start to rot and get that grave scent. He was a corpse on a stage. Once he even asked us to bury him in the ground — he wanted his skin to become pale."
During one tour with Mayhem, he found a dead crow and kept it in a plastic bag. He often carried it about with him and would smell the bird before going onstage, to sing "with the stench of death in his nostrils". He also kept dead birds under his bed.
Dead would cut himself while singing onstage. During a gig in 1990, he slashed his arm with a broken bottle. Faust claims that Dead had to be taken to hospital after the gig, but arrived too late and so "it was no use to give him stitches".
In an interview done by Marduk guitarist Morgan 'Evil' Håkansson and published in Slayer fanzine, Dead explained how he and the band tried to weed-out poseurs at their concerts:
"Before we began to play there was a crowd of about 300 in there, but in the second song 'Necro Lust' we began to throw around those pig heads. Only 50 were left, I liked that! [...] We wanna scare those [who] shouldn't be at our concerts and they will have to escape through the emergency exit with parts of their body missing, so we can have something to throw around. [...] If someone doesn't like blood and rotten flesh thrown in their face they can FUCK OFF, and that's exactly what they do."
Dead also makes a brief appearance in the Candlemass music video "Bewitched".
Self-harm and suicide
In time, Dead's social situation and his fascination with death caused his mental state to worsen greatly. He would try to cut himself while with his friends, who would have to subdue him and patch him up. Although this upset many of his friends, Euronymous became fascinated with Dead's suicidal tendencies—seemingly because it fit Mayhem's image—and according to them, he encouraged Dead to kill himself. Manheim said: "I don't know if Øystein did it out of pure evil or if he was just fooling around."
By 1991, Dead, Euronymous and Hellhammer were living in a house in the woods near Kråkstad, which was used as a place for the band to rehearse. According to Hellhammer, Dead spent much of his time writing letters and drawing. He "just sat in his room and became more and more depressed". Mayhem bassist Necrobutcher said that, after living together for a while, Dead and Euronymous "got on each other's nerves a lot". Hellhammer recalls that Dead once went outside to sleep in the woods because Euronymous was playing synth music that Dead hated. Euronymous then went outside and began shooting into the air with a shotgun. Varg Vikernes of Burzum claims that Dead once stabbed Euronymous with a knife. He also claims to have sent Mayhem ammunition, including shotgun shells, as a Christmas gift, although he claimed those were not the shells Dead used to kill himself, and that he saved a special shell for his suicide.
On 8 April 1991, while left alone in the house, Dead slit his wrists and throat with a knife and then shot himself in the forehead with a shotgun. He left a brief suicide note apologizing for firing a gun indoors. The first sentence Dead wrote on the note was: "Excuse the blood".
The body was found by Euronymous, who had to climb through an open window as the doors were locked and there were no other keys to the house. Before calling the police, he allegedly went to a shop and bought a disposable camera with which he photographed the body, after re-arranging some items. In time, rumors spread that Euronymous had made a stew with bits of Dead's brain and had made necklaces with bits of his skull. The band later denied the former rumor, but confirmed that the latter was true. Moreover, Euronymous claimed to have given these necklaces to musicians he deemed worthy, which was confirmed by several other members of the scene, like Bård 'Faust' Eithun, Metalion, and Morgan Håkansson.
Euronymous used Dead's suicide to foster Mayhem's 'evil' image and claimed Dead had killed himself because death metal had become 'trendy' and commercialized. Necrobutcher speculated that taking the pictures and forcing others to see them was a way for Euronymous to cope with the shock of seeing his friend's body. After Hellhammer developed the photos, Euronymous initially promised to destroy the pictures, but ultimately did not. He kept them in an envelope at his record shop Helvete. Euronymous allegedly sent one of the pictures to the owner of Warmaster Records in Colombia and it was used as the cover of the bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts, which was released in 1995.
The suicide caused a rift between Euronymous and some of his friends, who were disgusted by his attitude towards Dead before the suicide, and his behavior afterwards. Necrobutcher ended his friendship with Euronymous. Manheim later speculated that Euronymous had wilfully left Dead alone in the house so that he would have a chance to kill himself. Dead's suicide was said to cause "a change in mentality" in the black metal scene and was the first in a string of infamous events carried out by its members.
An obituary in a Swedish newspaper stated that Dead's funeral was held at Österhaninge kyrka (Eastern Haninge Church) on Friday 26 April 1991. He was buried at Österhaninge begravningsplats (Eastern Haninge graveyard) in Stockholm.
Fellow Swede Tomas Lindberg, of the band At the Gates, dedicated the lyrics of the song "At the Gates", from Gardens of Grief, to Dead.
Dead's suicide note
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 awake. It was too cold and the blood kept clotting, plus my 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 the fucking thing. / Pelle.
I didn't come up with this now, but seventeen years ago.
|Morbid Rehearsal||Morbid||7 August 1987||Demo album|
|December Moon||Morbid||25 December 1987||Demo album|
|Dawn of the Black Hearts||Mayhem||28 February 1990||Bootleg live recording|
|Freezing Moon/Carnage||Mayhem||29 April 1990||Studio recording|
|Live in Leipzig||Mayhem||26 November 1990||Live performance|
|Out from the Dark||Mayhem||Early 1991||Demo album|
|De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas||Mayhem||24 May 1994||Studio album (Only in Lyrics)|
|Live in Stockholm||Morbid||2000||Live album|
|Year of the Goat||Morbid||4 April 2011||Compilation album|