Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whaddya Mean, Black Metal?

Norway. Vikings, right? Well, what if - just as a thought experiment - what if instead of axes, Vikings had "axes?" Y'know, electric guitars. What kind of music you think they'd make? Maybe Led Zeppelin had it right. "Immigrant Song" would be a great soundtrack for pillaging! But you forget: no axes. So, if Vikings had to actually roll in a concert PA set up, and pillage foreign lands via the music... what then? Black. Metal.

A brief run-down of the stylistic and thematic elements of Black Metal. Evil: evil sounds, evil thoughts, evil deeds. Guitars: abrasive and trebly, no riffs or solos, sustained chords or repetitive tremolo-picking (rapid single-note drones). Drums: technique from the ridiculous to the sublime, often employing blast-beats (rapid single-drum accents). Vocals: demonic, high-pitched gurgle to wailing shriek (not much growling). Themes: alienation from and rejection of modern society, especially the invading, foreign ideology of meek submission, Christianity. Evil.

The Foundation - First wave
1980's. That's right! This is where it all began. Extreme metal was just beginning to one-up the NWOBHM. Metallica would bear the standard for an American underground. But the foreigners were doing some completely different stuff. It wasn't there yet, but archaeologically, it was.

Venom – "Black Metal" – Black Metal (1982)
The song and/or album title that gave the whole genre's name. These guys were notorious jokers, though... which apparently wasn't inherited. (UK)

Celtic Frost – "Into the Crypt of Rays" – Morbid Tales (1984)
One of the coolest band names, and they weren't even Celtic. (Switz)

Hellhammer – "Messiah" – Apocalyptic Raids (1984)
Possibly the most influential, earliest musical roots for it all. (Switz)

Sarcofago – "INRI" – INRI (1987)
These guys apparently feuded with Sepultura. This country isn't big enough for both of us! Hilarious, scary. (Brasil)

Bathory – "For All Those Who Died" – Blood Fire Death (1988)
And here's where the classic/standard BM vocals all begin. (Swede)

Trve [kvlt] Norwegian Black Metal - 2nd wave
Those crazy kids in Norway. They created an all-new monster from the body parts strewn around the laboratory. And when they weren't inventing a new type of metal, they were burning down churches and killing each other.

Burzum – "Jesu Død" [full] – Filosofem (1993)
Solo project of Varg Vikernes, he would combine the cold sterility of home recording with ambient approaches. Thus expanding the palate beyond purely metal sounds. (Nor)

Mayhem – "Freezing Moon" – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994)
The iconic Norwegian Black Metal band. Original lead singer, Dead, killed himself. Rumors abound about what bandmates did before authorities were summoned: brain stew, skull fragment pendants, a quick run to buy a disposable camera. Guitarist Euronymous ran the Oslo record store that the scene coalesced around. He was killed by bassist Varg. They're still going, without any of those three obviously. (Nor)

Emperor – "I Am The Black Wizards" – Into the Nighttime Eclipse (1994)
So awesome!! (Nor)

Darkthrone – "En Ås I Dype Skogen" – Transilvanian Hunger (1994) (Nor)
The main originator of intentionally low-fi recording approach as a Black Metal aesthetic. (Nor)

Immortal – "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" – Battles in the North (1995)
Immortal are terrific, and ridiculous. Much like this awesome video, which was influential on early waves of BM videos. I can watch it over and over! (Nor)

Finland/Sweden - so close!
Beherit – "Sadomatic Rites" – Drawing Down the Moon (1993)
Somewhat experimental for this time period, using synths and all. I honestly don't know a lot about this band. (Fin)

Abruptum – [10 minutes of…] Obscuritatem Advoco Amplectére Me (1993)
On the outer edges of experimental for Black Metal in general, going to very Noise areas. Album-long tracks, crazy sounds. Main guys go by IT and ALL. (Swede)

Marduk – "Glorification of the Black God" – Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered (1996)
Never really listened to much Marduk either. Blasphemous blackened Death, but what isn't these days? Yet another BM band to take an ancient civilization's deity name for themselves. (Swede)

Judas Iscariot – "Spill the Blood of the Lamb (Special Blitzkrieg Version)" – Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten EP (2000)
Judas Iscariot. Spill the Blood of the Lamb. Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten. I mean, come on... (USA)

Absu – "Pillars of Mercy" – Tara (2001)
Plano, TX. Mythological Occult Metal. These guys are ruthlessly awesome, at least in the 21st century! (USA)

It's all true...

Black Metal ist Krieg
Beyond the Second Wave...
Bands start breaking from the pack, exprimenting with punk sounds, industrial sounds, symphonic crap, crazy political ideas. Black Metal begins to lose its "purity of essence."

Nargaroth – "Black Metal ist Krieg" – Black Metal ist Krieg (2001)
Title has become quite the rallying cry, as you might imagine. I think it's the only thing I know about Nargaroth at all. (Ger)

Anaal Nathrakh – "The Supreme Necrotic Audnance" – The Codex Necro (2001)
They had me at the Excalibur references, but I really dig this band. They mix in other heaviness, like Death, Grind, and Industrial. Good stew. (UK)

Aborym – "With No Human Intervention" – With No Human Intervention (2003)
According to Wikipedia, they call it "hard/black alien industrial metal," which seems only fair. I like this band also, although I'm not familiar with their post-Attila stuff. (Nor/Ita)

Hate Forest – "Domination" – Purity (2003)
Nationalistic BM. Aryan, Nietzschean, but also Slavic. (Ukraine)

Dimmu Borgir – "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" – Death Cult Armageddon (2003)
Hey, I don't like it any more than you do, but Symphonic Black Metal refuses to not exist. (Nor)

Folk BM
Several bands go the opposite direction, incorporating non-BM roots into their music.

Windir – "Saknet (The Longing)" – Arntor (1998)
This is a good album. The main guy died a few years later, wandering the Norwegian forest in winter. Black Metal. (Nor)

Melechesh – "Genies Sorcerers And Mesopotamian Nights" – Djinn (2001)
From Jerusalem. Drummer from Absu was with them for a few years. That's all I know right now. (Isr)

Drudkh – "Furrows of Gods" – Blood In Our Wells (2006)
Some overlap with Hate Forest, but somewhat more folkloric than straight nationalism. Although it's more like modern national heroes, poets, etc... (Ukr)

Mount Eerie
The center cannot hold...
It's like no-one actually plays true Norwegian-style Black Metal anymore. And honestly, it becomes more interesting. Sonic experimentation, theoretical concepts, personal expression, pretty sections. Nothing's too crazy anymore!

Blut Aus Nord – "Our Blessed Frozen Cells" – The Work Which Transforms God (2003)
BAN recently returned from the industrial experiments to their Black Metal roots. New album is great: #11 Metal Next 10! (Fr)

Deathspell Omega – "Carnal Malefactor" – Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (2006)
Academically rigorous metaphysical investigations into the teleological underpinnings of Satanism. For real. (Fr)

Xasthur – "Prison of Mirrors" – Subliminal Genocide (2006)
So sad. (USA)

Wolves in the Throne Room – "The Cleansing" – Two Hunters (2007)
Subject of the original Black Metal classic post. Black Metal + ambient beauty = hit parade!! (USA)

Krallice – "Wretched Wisdom" – Krallice (2008)
The newcomers. Technical and urban, rather than scuzzy and wooded. (USA)

2009 (or just more recently)
Mount Eerie – "Wind’s Dark Poem" – Wind’s Poem (2009)
And now we get to where we are now. A mumbling indiexperimental singer-songwriter kinda digs Black Metal, and incorporates it into his new album. Sounds good, great press! (USA)

And here's more newer stuff from bands already covered:
Beherit – "Axiom Heroine" – Engram (2009)

Immortal – "Norden on Fire" – All Shall Fall (2009)

Blut Aus Nord – The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers)" – Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue with the Stars (2009)

Absu – "Night Fire Canonization" – Absu (2009)

Wolves in the Throne Room – "Ahrimanic Trance" – Black Cascade (2009)

Marduk – "Accuser, Opposer" – Rom 5:12 (2007)

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