When your entire back is covered with an eldritch, biomechanical gorgon, people tend to ask questions. Just ask Olga Bellemor, the Russian model and photographer who's spent the past two and a half years getting Meshuggah's "25 Years of Musical Deviance" artwork etched into her skin. Over email, she lets Revolver in on some of the typical queries she receives from strangers: "Don't you feel sorry for your skin?'"Is that Medusa?" and Bellemor's personal favorite: "How are you going to find a husband now? Nobody will marry you with such a vast tattoo!"
But this Moscow-based metalhead has no time for all the finger-waggling over her sick ink — certainly not when the Swedish proto-djent icons shared the tattoo on their socials, or when Nuclear Blast sent her a Meshuggah care package. At the end of the day, it all comes down to Bellemor's predilection toward darkness, beauty and heavy metal. We caught up with the model to discuss how those passions got translated into one of the most badass tattoos in recent memory, how she fell in love with Meshuggah and much more.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET YOUR MESHUGGAH TATTOO?
OLGA BELLEMOR Choosing a tattoo sketch was a serious deal for me. I wanted to get something unique, something that would reflect my inner world, the combination of brutality and refined beauty. That year, [the artist] Luminokaya drew "Warlords of Atlantis" — it's a working title as far as I know — for Meshuggah. The image had a deep meaning for me. If there is an abstract Supreme Being, I thought, it should look like this.
That's a good reason to pick the image, isn't it? I knew it would be my new back at the first sight! The fact that this picture was drawn for one of my favorite bands was an added bonus, but not the bottom line. I recently read this comment about my tattoo: "OMG! she's a crazy fan because she went for it!" It's funny that people think so!
Luckily for me, my preferred tattoo artist, Pavel "Angel" Arefiev, works in Moscow, and the picture matches his style. He's one of the best biomechanical tattoo artists ever. He agreed to work with me right away, and with his help, the picture fit my body shape perfectly! It's been over two and a half years now, and the tattoo is still in progress. Right now, we're going back and adding details, shadows to get more volume, and so on. I want it to look perfect.
How did you get into Meshuggah?
I don't remember exactly, it was a long time ago ... but I do remember my feelings listening to the music. I realized that I was listening to something extremely unusual. I remember thinking how the dissonant elements of their music sounded so enchanting! It was magic, pure and incomprehensible! More importantly, it struck a responsive chord in my heart.
Tell us more about the experience of getting your epic tattoo done. How painful was it? Did you listen to Meshuggah during the sessions?
To be honest, it was very painful to make it, especially the parts on my spine, shoulder blades and lower back. I'd rank the pain a 10 out of 10 when it comes to those spots. I have a low threshold for pain, so sometimes I wanted to bite into the chair, or scream at the tattoo artist. But hey — I'm a patient, grown-up girl. To be frank, I required anesthetics a couple of times, but I made it through most of the sessions without needing painkillers. As for listening to Meshuggah while getting the tattoo done ... I believed they played it in the tattoo shop one or two times.
Has getting your tattoo had any effects on your modeling career, such as who you work with or what types of clothes you model? Do you want to get more metal ink?
My life hasn't changed much. I go on working the same way as before, and I'm open to new proposals from any brands, designers, musicians, photographers, etc. I didn't plan to get famous for my tattoo initially — still, I'd be glad to get any new interesting suggestions! That said, I think I won't get any more huge tattoos anymore. I have no wish to become a tattoo model. Some girls covered with tattoos from head to toe look really stylish, but that's not for me. Too much of a good thing is good for nothing, you know?
How did you get into heavy metal?
I got interested in metal at the age of 13. Like many teenagers, I ran mad after goth subculture: the philosophy of death, mystics, decadence, vampire romances, the aesthetics of darkness and so forth. There was only one radio station that played metal music in Russia during the 2000s, and it wasn't easy to buy a CD or a tape. The first bands I listened to were HIM, Cradle of Filth,Type O Negative, etc. — typical of a young girl. Later, I learned of Black Sabbath and others.
Of course, my tastes are different now, but still I feel nostalgic for those times. The music I prefer now is more complex and technical, but I don't limit myself to one genre. Here are some of my favorites: Death, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend Project, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Cynic, NIN, Anaal Nathrakh, Faith No More, Mr.Bungle, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Clawfinger, Ihsahn,Tesseract, Gojira, Cult of Luna, Mastodon, Igorrr — and obviously, Meshuggah as well!
What is the metal scene like in Russia?
Out of all the Russian metal bands, I can name only three world-known groups: Arkona, Katalepsy and Abominable Putridity. This is not what I actually prefer in metal, but these guys are popular in many countries and that's really awesome.
There are also few up-and-coming bands that aren't too well known outside of Russia. My favorite — and the only Russian band I listen to — is Melancholy, a band from a small town not far from Moscow. Most Russians don't consider music to be a real job, unless they're a successful pop artist. Everything else is more of a hobby. Also, there are no world-class metal labels, like Nuclear Blast, in Russia, so it's unbelievably hard for bands to promote their music.
Last but not least, what is your favorite Meshuggah album and why?
Oh, I can't choose a favorite one! Here are my top three: Destroy Erase Improve, Nothing and obZen. To my mind, Meshuggah outdo themselves on each of those albums.