Home | Reviews | Interviews | Articles | Horror | The Abyss | Contact

On Black Metal Elitism
by Noctir (May 2011)

There has long been a struggle, within the realm of Metal, between those that wanted to keep things underground and those who sought to reach as wide of an audience as possible. This has been especially true with Black Metal. In maintaining relative obscurity, many felt that this would ensure a certain level of purity. Only the most dedicated musicians and fans would be involved, leaving casual listeners to their trends. In a sense, it was an attempt to keep this art form away from those that would cheapen or corrupt it. However, as with most meaningful movements, it was impossible to prevent outsiders from infiltrating and diluting the Black Metal scene.

As Death Metal experienced a surge in popularity, in the early 90s, this attitude was reinforced as many did not wish to see the same thing happen to Black Metal. It was often noted how one could easily see normal people walking around with shirts from such bands as Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Obituary, Entombed and so on. As well as reaching a wider audience, most of these bands had also forsaken their previous styles and evolved into something more acceptable, in sound and appearance. Part of the movement known as the Second Wave was that it was very anti-trend and was in part a rebellion against what had transpired with Death Metal. If Death Metal bands were going for a slick, modern production for their albums, Black Metal bands would hearken back to the 80s and deliver records that sounded ugly and primitive. Instead of using artists to make elaborate paintings for their album covers, some opted for obscure photographs. The mentality had become so extreme, in some cases, that any band that made a dime off of their work were considered to be sellouts.

Mayhem guitarist, Euronymous, once expressed that his band was suffering because of these underground values. He also stated that only those that truly deserved to be included should even have access to their music. One outlandish idea called for interested fans to send in a photo of themselves and a letter that told some info, before being allowed to buy records from Euronymous. Of course, this type of mindset would have killed the entire movement dead in its tracks. Money was needed, to keep things going, so it was deemed a necessary evil to allow casual fans to purchase such albums. Later on, he cited how Venom did things on a large scale and were not beholden to any such underground code. He decided that the important thing would be to make as much money as possible and spread the evil far and wide.

Other than simply using posers for their money, the argument can be made that many of these people simply don't know any better, since they have not been exposed to the right music. Given the opportunity, they could become just as dedicated as the next person. Keeping Black Metal as such an exclusive and secretive art would prevent many that would be rightfully drawn to its black flame. With the rise of the internet it was no longer a possibility to keep things private or maintain a cult following. While this has helped expose people to something special that they might not have otherwise discovered, it has also greatly cheapened it.

These days, any trendy band can come along and hear a few songs, then mimic something enough to get signed by some small underground label and to then water down the scene even more. To be fair, it is not only the fault of the internet when it comes to the current state of Black Metal. Many of the musicians played a role in expanding the audience beyond what it should have been, mostly through the activities of several figures in the Norwegian scene, in the early-to-mid 90s. Once it had garnered so much attention, the mindless sheep began to flock to it based more on the controversy than for the actual musical appeal. In turn, they started their own bands in order to rip off this sound and try to be a part of something that they hardly even understood. This diluted the meaning even more.

So the question is whether or not this should be preserved for the few or if bands should attempt to spread the darkness by reaching as many people as possible. In this age, there is no such thing as Black Metal for the elite. Despite those that carry such an attitude, the fact remains that any 12-year old kid with internet access can download all of the classic albums in the span of a few hours and transform himself into a self-proclaimed expert by the end of the weekend. So in attempting to keep things small and avoid attaining any level of success or notoriety, only the bands and true fans are hurt in the long run. Posers have always plagued any artistic movement and Black Metal is no different. Attempting to limit the audience will only exclude those who could have potentially understood it for what it truly is, and gone on to contribute in some way or another.

Copyright 2006-2020, Noctir