Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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Black Metal

 

Black Metal is an expression of an intense feeling of emotional pain that you can endure with self inflicted pain. It is no doubt a religious experience but not in the theological sense. It is about depravity, the good and bad aspects of it. And it is always primarily about that certain, very hard to explain, deep feeling.

Some people feel very “at home” with happy things, bright colours and levity, but Black Metallers, at the opposite, adhere better to melancholy and darkness. The maelstrom of all these things related to that –that feeling almost indefinable– has resulted in extreme expressions in nearly every possible way. And Black Metal, in a sense, is a way to hold on to life. Probably most of the individual band members in Black Metal bands would have committed suicide and/or murder and/or mass murder if not for the music.

The first band in Black Metal is Mayhem, formed in 1984. They had their groundbreaking album in 1991 when Black Metal as an underground cult really took off. The name “Black Metal” originally came from a song from the metal band Venom, in the 1980’s. Venom claims to be Black Metal, but many think otherwise.

Black Metal is ravenously aggressive music. But it also makes aggression disappear. When the hunger for violence is felt, it calms you to see someone else do what you would like to do; being extreme. For the musicians, it gives them the activity of putting all their negative energy into something which followers will love and agree with.

It is a movement which demands one’s pinnacle. Here, the whole package is important; not only the music, the lifestyle MUST be analog. The music is not a hobby where being extreme is “only for the show”. It has to be an expression of a part of the personality. When the musicians cut themselves and bleed onstage, it must not be done because of the image. It has to be something that would be done anyways.

Another pioneer for the genre is Darkthrone. They were the first band to coin the words “Black Metal” to name the scene. Since the early days of Black Metal, the genre has changed and has become more melodic for a lot of bands. A Darkthrone member said in an interview; “We are like Neil Young and the scene in modern Black Metal is Garth Brooks.” Venom was a punk-rock band with a satanic image. The occult aura was absent. In the early times of Black Metal, bands were so few that the existing ones would act like the musical police. When new bands emerged, they would be judged, and if they were unsatisfactory to the standard then they would not be allowed to grow. Because part of the idea is to be thought provoking, and to achieve this you must give out the absolute best of yourself. Nothing less than excellence is tolerated. This is also part of the Black Metal mindset; elitism. This came as total surprise to the Norwegians that the feeling is not exclusive to Norway. Another pioneer Norwegian band named Satyricon has its own views of the genre. Sharing the idea of searching for the perfect being, the band aims at being a good band, rather than a good Black Metal band. To them (and to many followers of the scene) BM is a supremacy over other musical genres.

In 1991, Mayhem singer Dead commits suicide. Guitar player Euronymous, in 1993, is assassinated by Varg Vikernes from the genius musical solo project Burzum. After, newspapers printed photos of some of the church burnings in Norway by some Black Metal enthusiasts. The murder caused a rift between many bands siding either with Burzum or with Mayhem. But this is only a small part of the story.

Now, what does Black Metal sound like? It is simpler to present what BM is not. The use of synthesizers as a musical instrument is taboo in the genre as well as having songs with melodies that people can hum, dance to or make out to. Black Metal is a raw sound with shrieking, grainy, rageful demonic voice. BM can be a deeply felt soundtrack to depression, or the electrical fury of total abandonment into war-like extreme misanthropy. In any sense, it has to remain true and extreme. As Silenoz, band member of 8 Dimmu Borgir –the most selling (out) Norwegian Black Metal band–, says; “You are born with a brain. Use it instead of letting others use it for you.”

 

For more info on Black Metal, look up the bands mentioned or go to http://www.anus.com/metal/about/blackmetal.html

 

And others:

Mayhem’s official website. http://www.moonfrost.net/mayhem/

Emperor’s official website. http://www.emperorhorde.com/

Euronymous’s story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%98ystein_Aarseth

Gorgoroth: http://www.gorgoroth.org/

So much fun: http://www.churcharson.com/

(Google “Satyricon”, “Euronymous”, “Darkthrone”)

–Peter Beste. Go see his photos of Norwegian bands: http://www.peterbeste.com/

–And the only book published slightly related to the subject: http://feralhouse.com/titles/music/lords_of_chaos.php