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Woodcut image from . It is proposed by some authors that the berserkers drew their power from the bear and were devoted to the bear cult , which was once widespread across the northern hemisphere.
In battle, the berserkers were subject to fits of frenzy. They would howl like wild beasts, foamed at the mouth, and gnawed the iron rim of their shields.
According to belief, during these fits they were immune to steel and fire, and made great havoc in the ranks of the enemy.
When the fever abated they were weak and tame. Accounts can be found in the sagas. To "go berserk" was to "hamask", which translates as "change form", in this case, as with the sense "enter a state of wild fury".
This has sometimes been interpreted as the band of men being "hamrammr", though there is no major consensus. In Norse mythology, the wild boar was an animal sacred to the Vanir.
They have been described as the masters of disguise, and of escape with an intimate knowledge of the landscape.
Berserkers appear prominently in a multitude of other sagas and poems , Many earlier sagas portrayed berserkers as bodyguards, elite soldiers, and champions of kings.
This image would change as time passed and sagas would begin to describe berserkers as ravenous men who loot , plunder, and kill indiscriminately.
Within the sagas, Berserkers can be narrowed down to four different types. Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight. They form a closed group. The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men Who hack through enemy shields.
The "tasters of blood" in this passage are thought to be ravens, which feasted on the slain. The Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson — wrote the following description of berserkers in his Ynglinga saga:.
This was called Berserkergang. Emphasis has been placed on the frenzied nature of the berserkers, hence the modern sense of the word "berserk".
However, the sources describe several other characteristics that have been ignored or neglected by modern commentators. The sources frequently state that neither edged weapons nor fire affected the berserks, although they were not immune to clubs or other blunt instruments.
These men asked Halfdan to attack Hardbeen and his champions man by man; and he not only promised to fight, but assured himself the victory with most confident words.
When Hardbeen heard this, a demoniacal frenzy suddenly took him; he furiously bit and devoured the edges of his shield; he kept gulping down fiery coals; he snatched live embers in his mouth and let them pass down into his entrails; he rushed through the perils of crackling fires; and at last, when he had raved through every sort of madness, he turned his sword with raging hand against the hearts of six of his champions.
It is doubtful whether this madness came from thirst for battle or natural ferocity. Then with the remaining band of his champions he attacked Halfdan, who crushed him with a hammer of wondrous size, so that he lost both victory and life; paying the penalty both to Halfdan, whom he had challenged, and to the kings whose offspring he had violently ravished This appears as early as Beowulf where it is a characteristic attributed to Grendel.
Both the fire eating and the immunity to edged weapons are reminiscent of tricks popularly ascribed to fakirs. By the 12th century, organised berserker war-bands had disappeared.
The Lewis Chessmen , found on the Isle of Lewis Outer Hebrides , Scotland but thought to be of Norse manufacture, include berserkers depicted biting their shields.
Scholar Hilda Ellis-Davidson draws a parallel between berserkers and the mention by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII CE — in his book De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae "Book of Ceremonies of the Byzantine court" of a " Gothic Dance" performed by members of his Varangian Guard Norse warriors in the service of the Byzantine Empire , who took part wearing animal skins and masks: This condition has been described as follows:.
This fury, which was called berserkergang, occurred not only in the heat of battle, but also during laborious work. Men who were thus seized performed things which otherwise seemed impossible for human power.
This condition is said to have begun with shivering, chattering of the teeth, and chill in the body, and then the face swelled and changed its colour.
After disagreements and financial issues, Kenny returned to Australia and worked with friend Sam Bean, who recorded guitar parts, as well as backing vocals.
The album received wide praise in underground metal magazines, and the band was compared to Napalm Death and Strapping Young Lad. Videos for the songs Reality and Forever were released, but were rarely aired on MTV and other mainstream outlets.
MTV refused after they received threats for "heads to roll. The Berzerker had their first full U. Although the shows were well received, the band did not function through the rigors of touring as a unit and at the end of the tour the session musicians, drawn from Melbourne band Alarum , departed.
For some months it seemed doubtful that The Berzerker would last for long. There had been constant setbacks at every stage and any momentum gained was now lost with the departure of the live act.
However, the arrival of two replacement members injected new life into the band — drummer Gary Thomas from Perth band Plague and guitarist Matt Wilcock from Melbourne death metal band Abramelin , currently in Akercocke.
With the arrival of these new members The Berzerker set about recording their follow up album Dissimulate.
The band celebrated by playing live shows which resulted in onstage violence in Melbourne for months [ citation needed ] before heading off for a world tour lasting from to This culminated in an infamous Earache Christmas Party appearance, where the band terrorised both record label and the audience.
Disaster struck in New York however when Thomas had an altercation with a bouncer that resulted in a broken foot and cracked vertebrae. The band could not pull out of the tour as there was still a week left, and each show had to be played to allow them to afford to make plane flights to the next tour because members of the band were poor.
To solve the problem, Kenny took on playing the drums as well as vocals. At the end of that tour, the band spent ten days in Florida before their headline tour of the UK and Europe began.
With no drummer, auditions were organised and the band selected a local drummer to take on tour. The new drummer was required to learn the full headlining tour set in six days [ citation needed ].
The Berzerker hit the UK for its next round of headlining shows featuring snuff footage, locals being abducted, and audiences getting punched in the face, then headed out to Europe for their first-ever appearance there.
Finally after five months of touring the band headed home. Luke Kenny decided to focus the downtime into compiling all the footage he had recorded of the band, producing a DVD titled The Principles and Practices of The Berzerker.
This DVD ended up being over four hours long, consisting of one professionally shot show, another concert-worth of assorted bootleg footage, backstage recordings, band rehearsals, and touring.
Also included was documentary-style footage of the recording of both albums including many unflattering incidents , full interviews with band members, the making of the masks and artwork, and contributions from fans, including one who had tattooed the dragon logo onto her back.
The DVD was recommended by Kerrang! Following this, a decision was made to lose the masks altogether. With Thomas healing in Perth and Wilcock moving to the UK to join Akercocke, The Berzerker decided to record the third album World of Lies over Christmas with the original lineup from the debut album.
It was recorded spontaneously over a week, with no prior planning in direct opposition to how they had created albums in the past.
In other changes, all guitar tracks were recorded directly into a laptop via an analog to digital converter without a guitar amp and no live drumming featured on the album.
Subsequent live performances featured Dave Gray of Akercocke taking over drumming duties. The album was well received by many critics and one said that "it is a masterpiece of work, that was created in only a matter of minutes".