On the show last Tuesday myself and special guest and friend of the show Roman, discussed Black Metal for the entirety of the evening.
Perhaps more of a genre exploration episode more than anything else, Roman, well versed in the Black Metal scene, (having himself over 20 hours of the stuff on his computer) was my resident expert and helped the listener and I make sense of a remarkably complex genre and its history. Black Metal, particularly that which came from Norway, known as the “Second Wave” of Black Metal carries with it a dark and torrid history, with acts of arson suicide and murder dominating the scene. This coupled with the extreme, and often inaccessible nature of the music, as well as a penchant for pagan and anti Christian sentiments means that many are dismissive of the genre, even within the metal community. The beliefs carried by individuals within the scene, such as Varg Vikernes of Burzum and Mayhem fame have also raised a few eyebrows from more traditional metal fans. However, history and ideologies aside, Black Metal is an incredible and deeply moving genre of metal, and the music itself is often overshadowed by the behaviour and beliefs of individuals within the community.
As I mentioned in the show, I liken Black Metal to a great book. Multiple listens reward those with patience and you are able to pick out subtle intricacies within the composition. Black Metal, like a good book must be listened to “between the lines.” Arguably more melodic than Death Metal, Black Metal seeks to evoke emotion through sweeping melodies driven by drum blast beats and surging guitars that swell through a vast sonic landscape. Intricate flourishes lay hidden, and when discovered add that next layer to the music.
This coupled with deep and introspective lyrics (that are admittedly a bit difficult to understand) turn Black Metal into the thinking man’s metal. As stated by anus.com “Songs fashioned from primitive elements end up telling complex tales, embarking on a journey where the greatest human fears — meaninglessness, predation and violence — end up being salvation from the frustrating world of entropy-bound stagnation.”
Finally, Black Metal’s underground and DIY aesthetic is impressive beyond measure. Much in the same way that punk was originally distributed by mail and promoted through independent home made zines, so too was black metal. True fans continue this traditon, eschewing the spotlight and working to keep Black Metal underground and about the music. This is in stark contrast to Punk which has since sold its soul. True, there are “sellouts” in the Black Metal scene, but for the most part they vastly outnumber those in the Punk scene.
On the whole then, Black Metal is a fascinating genre for its history, music and refusal to compromise itself to be accessible.