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Black metal music

 This article is an overview
of the heavy metal series.
 Heavy metal
 Thrash metal
 Black metal
 Power metal
 Nu metal
 Doom metal
 Christian metal
 Progressive metal
 Death metal
 Hair metal
 Stoner metal
Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal rock music. Black metal generally consists of heavily distorted, extremely fast guitar playing, screamed vocals, and fast drumming. The genre makes extensive use of repetition, with some songs being quite simple musically. An abraded, very low-fidelity recording style is common to the early albums associated with the genre. Also common are overtly Satanic lyrics which blaspheme against Christianity, as well as other occult themes. A distinct feature of the early bands' image was the use of corpse paint, a special kind of black and white make-up which emphasized their demonic appearance. There has been some concordance in recent years between the black metal sub culture and right-wing nationalist movements in some countries.

The progenitors of modern black metal are bands like Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, and Venom. The movement can be seen in its mature form with the recordings of Bathory in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Black metal congealed in its current form through the influence of Norwegian bands such as Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest, Burzum, Mayhem, Immortal and Emperor, who began with the earlier style and introduced elements from mainstream heavy metal, classical music and hardcore punk and popularized the style to a growing underground audience. Their influence is most apparent in the satanic imagery, blasphemous lyrics and occult themes.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Sub-genres
3 Literature
4 External Links


The most prominent figure of the original Norwegian scene was Řystein Aarseth, (Euronymous), the guitarist in the band Mayhem. In many ways, he was the godfather of the Norwegian black metal scene, being its most vocal proponent and visible figure. The scene was deeply anti-Christian, and had a stated goal of removing the influence of Christianity and other non-Scandinavian religions from Norwegian culture and to effect a return to the nation's Norse roots. The movement was largely directed by an 'Inner Circle', made up of Aarseth and a few close friends, from the basement of Aarseth's record store, Helvete (Hell). That location also housed a recording studio, where records were made by Mayhem and a number of other bands that were signed to Aarseth's independent label, Deathlike Silence. Deathlike Silence's stated goal was to release records by bands "that incarnated evil in it's (sic) most pure state."

Also around this time there was a rash of church burnings in Norway that Aarseth's circle claimed responsibility for inspiring, if not necessarily perpetrating. The most notable church was Norway's Fantoft Church, which was burned by a member of Euronymous's inner circle, and the man behind the one-man band Burzum, Kristian "Varg" Vikernes, aka "Count Grishnakh". Black metal enthusiasts also started to terrorize other notable "death metal" bands that were touring their country or in neighboring countries, on the basis of their lack of apparent "evilness".

The Black Metal scene gained some unasked-for mass media attention in 1990 when Mayhem's frontman Dead committed suicide by a shotgun blast to his head. His note simply read "Excuse all the blood". His body was discovered by Aarseth who, instead of calling the police, ran to a nearby convenience store and bought a disposable camera which he used to photograph the corpse for a future Mayhem album cover. Apocryphal reports also claim that he then took some pieces of Dead's splattered brains and made a stew out of them and/or members of the band took bone fragments from their friend's skull and made necklaces out of them.

The 'Inner Circle' got even more exposure in 1993, when Vikernes murdered Aarseth in his home over some sort of interpersonal feud, stabbing him 23 times in the head and back. Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison and has since distanced himself from the black metal movement, becoming involved in the Neo-Nazi movement and writing extensively on the subject.

By the last few years of the 1990s, the black metal scene had lost much of its appeal to the underground, when recordings from commercially oriented bands such as Dimmu Borgir, using classical-sounding arrangements and prominent keyboards, began to get regular play on European airwaves. Far from the rough, DIY sounds of the early Norwegian bands, this latest wave employed polished sounds more accessible to a mass audience.

However, since the mid-90s, an Eastern European black metal scene has been developing. Bands from these former Iron Curtain lands are recording albums more in keeping with the primitive nature of the early Norwegian artists. Many of these bands' lyrics glorify the pagan roots of their home countries, occasionally injecting elements of indigenous folk music into their arrangements. The Latvian band Skyforger is a prime example of this new aesthetic. The black metal scene in Russia and Ukraine has produced many bands more in keeping with the carefully arranged sounds coming from Scandinavia, but with more appreciation for the low fidelity aesthetic of early black metal. The Ukrainian band Nokturnal Mortum has achieved some recognition in the west; their earlier albums relied heavily on synthesizers, but their current work has a grimmer, more abrasive feel flavored with Slavic folk instruments. Poland's neo-nazi band Graveland has, in recent albums, strived for a 'medieval' feel, much like a much more developed version of later 'viking' Bathory albums, but in the past made much rawer music which still held a certain intangible folk flavor.

There are a relatively small number of American bands playing black metal (sometimes called USBM bands). This movement has not taken a particularly clear form, but better-known groups are Judas Iscariot and the death metal-influenced Averse Sefira.


There are many smaller genres related to, or sub-genres of Black Metal. The main ones are listed below:

Although those above are relatively widely-recognised sub-genres, with a number of bands in each, there are an extremely large amount of "sub-subgenres" like "forest metal," "mass murder metal," "dragon metal" and others distinct to very small regions or specific bands.

See also: Black metal fashion.


External Links