Another older article, this time about what it means to be “Black Metal”.
Losing the theatrics of the early and mid ’90s – Euronymous’s constant attempts to portray both the Norwegian scene and himself, as the leader of the scene, as “evil”; the exterior façade of Les Légions Noires, seeking to out-do the Norwegians’ supposed Satanism – many purveyors of modern Black Metal experience only cold, sharp capitalism. To the mind of the mundane man, the entirety of what occurred in Black Metal, both musically and otherwise, is “entertainment”, a short distraction from the drudgery of everyday life, something to laugh and joke about with friends and colleagues. Money goes in; fun comes out. We’ve already ascertained that these people will leave the movement alone, as, indeed, they are doing now, with the endless waves of Hipster Black Metal beginning to falter and fail, and the dominion of Hessiandom rising. However, what is left of something once it has been milked for all it was ever worth?
We should reject the usage of the term “Black Metal” to refer to a specific style of music, a specific way of playing and writing. The core ideas which influenced the early musicians (and by “early musicians”, I’m referring to the second wave, circa ’89 to ’94) yielded vastly different forms of music, from the doomy, atmospheric dream-journeys of Burzum, to the lightning fast battle songs of Immortal, with forays into the musical landscapes of Emperor and the Wintry occultism of Darkthrone and Mayhem. From a technical point of view, Darkthrone stated that palm-muting “was not Black Metal”, despite the fact that Burzum used palm-muting up to and including Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Euronymous’s playing style relied on tremolo picking and ringing minor chords, whereas Burzum and Emperor made copious use of broken chords and dissonance. Darkthrone inhabited a realm of their own, focusing on absolute simplicity, and rarely deviating from tremolo picked intervals/single notes played over blast/d beats. Even vocal styles were vastly different between these bands, with Burzum opting for the trademark wail, Emperor making use of a subtlely disturbing screech, Darkthrone employing mid-range growls, and Mayhem’s Attila delving into the inner workings of the human voice on every single track, unveiling the extremities of tone and effect therein.
The prime concern of the moment, therefore, is not a solidification of style (which was never the intention until the “third wave” of musicians arrived), but, rather, a solidification of intent. What is the purpose of our music? What are we attempting to evoke (or invoke)? How is our understanding of Reality and its many facets translated into sonic Art?
The observed traits of Black Metal are as follows; understanding of the failures of the modern (human) world (consumerism, materialism, capitalism, individualism); hearkening back to ancient values and concerns (truth, honour, glory, God); respect and reverence for Nature and the natural world (forests, the Moon, wolves); submission to the inevitability of Reality through acceptance of our intrinsic yet surpassable humanity (tl;dr: WAR, bloodshed, struggle); opposition, playing the devil’s advocate (quite literally – “Satanism”, “Nazism”, and so on).
The goal of any artistic endeavour is to “lift the veil from Reality”, in the immortal words of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Through Black Metal, we sift through the awful pleasantries of modern society (humanitarianism, political correctness, social guilt, etc.), and take a peek at what’s really there – Nature, the Supreme Ideal, Death, Suffering, and Power. We, as musicians and artists, must bring these things (and their compatriots) to the centre of our attention, so that we might best enlighten both ourselves and the listeners/viewers/readers.