Black Metal by Goth Metal Raver
Black Metal has its origins with Venom. Part of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), Venom combined satanic themes in their lyrics with an early form of Thrash Metal to create the first template for Black Metal. The lo-fi production and the adoption of dark pseudonyms were also precursors to the Black Metal style. On their first two albums, Newcastle band Venom really set extreme approaches to Metal in motion. Their second albumís title even christened the future Black Metal genre. There is no doubt that Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982) are highly influential albums on the development of Heavy Metal as a whole.
Next came Mercyful Fate who carried on the satanic leanings with their own mixture of Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal. With his high pitched vocals, King Diamond would also be an influence on Power Metal but itís as Metalís first seriously satanic band that Mercyful Fate are recognised today. Hailing from Denmark, on their classic albums Melissa (1983) and Donít Break the Oath (1984) Mercyful Fate took the jokey satanic approach of Venom and upped the notch to create genuinely satanic music, praising Satan and sympathising with the witches burnt in his name. King Diamond also sported Kiss inspired makeup, this union between ghoulish make-up and darkly satanic music being another feature of Black Metal (the make-up is called Ďcorpse paintí in Black Metal circles). So although not musically Black Metal, Mercyful Fate were a massive influence on the growing trends towards it.
Perhaps the first bands who could be considered Black Metal in a strict musical sense were Celtic Frost and Bathory. Switzerlandís Celtic Frost emerged from the band Hellhammer who released a couple of EPs of under-produced grimy sounding dark thrash metal, and Celtic Frost continued in this vain but with extra attention to creating a creepy atmosphere and more desire to experiment with their sound. Morbid Tales (1984) and To Mega Therion (1985) in particular are highly influential on the Black Metal genre.
Bathory however are the band widely considered to have given Black Metal its true birth. Hailing from Sweden, Bathory released three albums of Black Metal brilliance with Bathory (1984), The Return... (1985) and Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987). Bathory later changed their style to a mixture of folk and metal that dealt with themes of Norse mythology and the Viking lifestyle, thus inventing Viking Metal.
It was Norway however that proved to be the true home place of Black Metal. Beginning with Mayhem, a plethora of bands hailed from Norway, adopting corpse paint and growling their way through lyrics that ranged from hatred of Christianity, praise of Satan and revelling in the mysteries and darkness of natureís wilderness. Mayhem were the first, and their history is peppered with misfortune. Early vocalist Dead shot himself and the band members made necklaces from pieces of his skull. Then one Varg Vikernes who sometimes played bass with the band murdered guitarist Euronymous, apparently over an argument involving money. Vikernes (aka Count Grishnakh and with his own solo project known as Burzum) was imprisoned for this murder and also for incidents of church burning. While in prison he also made clear his anti-Semitic and racist political views. Vikernes is what is known as a Ďwhite nationalistí.
These unsavoury activities, views and incidents have made the Norwegian Black Metal scene notorious. Several Black Metal artists have white nationalist views and there has even been a subgenre created called NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal). Many are put off by this extreme politics and donít like Black Metal on principle. Church burnings were also performed by other Black Metal musicians (members of Emperor for example) and this anti-religious sentiment, along with general ghoulishness is considered a step too far by some people, even by fans of Death Metal. Itís one thing to sing about such things, itís quite another to live your life according to them. Yet this hardcore extremism has also won the genre many fans, and others listen to the thrillingly dark, raw and mysterious music and decide to ignore the sensationalism surrounding the genre and simply enjoy the sounds it offers.
Mayhemís De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994) is a pivotal album in the Black Metal scene, including as it does both Vikernes and Euronymous and itís definitely the ďif you own one Black Metal album...Ē album. Other important Norwegian Black Metal bands are Darkthrone, Immortal, Satyricon and Emperor. Darkthrone have a particularly raw sound that isnít to everyoneís tastes but three albums in particular are considered classics by fans. They are A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992), Under a Funeral Moon (1993) and Transylvanian Hunger (1994). Immortal sing songs about northern wastelands, having created their own imaginary world called Blashyrkh. Highly enjoyable, early albums such as Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism (1992), Pure Holocaust (1993), Battles in the North (1995) and Blizzard Beasts (1997) cemented their reputation while At the Heart of Winter (1999) and Damned in Black (2000) saw a departure from Black Metal to a sound influenced by Bay Area Thrash Metal. Meanwhile, Emperorís Into the Nightside Eclipse (1993) ushered in the symphonic Black Metal sound while Burzumís early output also created some of Black Metalís formative classics.
Other countries have created their own takes on Black Metal. Swedenís Marduk and Dark Funeral play a particularly brutal brand of Black Metal, while Finland and Poland have emerged with their own Black Metal bands (Barathrum from Finland, Behemoth from Poland). Thereís even an important Black Metal band from Greece called Rotting Christ.
Black Metal has even crossed over to a wider Metal audience thanks to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. From Norway, Dimmu Borgir made the Black Metal sound more palatable to the uninitiated and then Londonís Cradle of Filth added gothic elements, thus allowing their own brand of Black Metal to crossover to fans of Marilyn Manson and alternative metal. Purists snubbed both bands for commercialising Black Metal but in reality both acts kept the uncompromising ghoulishness and devilry of the music, including the extremeness of the guitar and vocal styles but simply added other elements to broaden the appeal and lost the primal rawness for a glossier (read Ďbetterí) production.
Although not as popular as it was during the nineties, Black Metal has retained its influence, considered by some to have usurped its close cousin Death Metal to become the new voice in Metalís dark extremes. In truth though, both genres have retained their popularity somewhat, even though challenged these days by the almost ubiquitous presence of Nu-Metal and Metalcore. Black Metal, particularly the Norwegian scene, will always be remembered in Heavy Metal history for the defining moment when the dark fantasies of extreme metal became a real lifestyle choice for some and the dark activities of those in the Norwegian scene shocked the entire world