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On the Modern Black Metal Scene
by Noctir (Oct. 2007; revised July 2010)
 

When I think about the current state of the modern Black Metal scene, I am filled with disgust. Surely, this kind of music isn't the only one that has these (or similar) problems, but it is the one that I am most familiar with, thus, the one I intend to critique. This isn't necessarily going to be very objective and I don't expect this to change anything. There's no deep motivation for writing this, just a simple desire. Maybe it will open some eyes to what seems to be a growing problem. More likely, it will simply be some form of catharsis. The groups of people that I am taking aim at are not all the same, yet many share the same characteristics. I will do my best to separate them and to bring a little clarity to this rant. I want to take a look at several issues that seem to plague the modern Black Metal scene and analyze them, to a degree.

Disrespect for, or Ignorance of, the First Wave

In the beginning, there was Venom. They took the style of Motörhead and punk rock, along with the atmosphere of early Black Sabbath and made something that was quite unique, at the time. From the start, they laid down the framework for a new sub-genre of Metal. Actually, they were quite influential for a few different ones, also including Death and Thrash Metal, but the focus of this piece is Black Metal. It was all there, right from the first song of their debut album; the hellish sound, the fast pace, the chaotic feeling, the substandard production, the harsh vocals, the occult imagery and lyrics. One could go on for quite some time, outlining just how important Venom was for underground Metal, in general. For one reason or another (perhaps their open admission that they weren't all that serious about their Satanic image), Venom gets written off, even by a lot of fans that do care about the old bands. They seem to think that Bathory and Hellhammer represent the true beginning of Black Metal.

Let's look at Hellhammer, for a moment. Tom Warrior never tried to deny the huge influence that Venom had on his decision to form a band. The story is pretty common, regarding Tom and Steve Warrior, hanging out in '81 or '82, listening to Venom and playing with the speed, slowing down the play-back of "In League With Satan". Now, this Swiss outfit was sloppy as Hell, but they were doing their best to pay homage to Venom and it is safe to say that Satanic Rites and Apocalyptic Raids would not exist without this influence. Furthermore, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion were only possible because of the work done under the Hellhammer name. Of course, we can go down the line and speak of the bands that were influenced by Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, such as Obituary and Darkthrone, for example. And, of course, without the sound that Darkthrone established on their first few albums, a good number of current bands never would have come into existence. And it can all be traced back to Venom.

Bathory was another band that was highly inspired by Venom, despite how many times Quorthon denied it in the early days. Bathory was responsible for taking what Venom had started and really perfecting it. Bathory would go on to record classic albums that influenced Darkthrone (probably moreso than Hellhammer did), Immortal and countless other Black Metal bands, as well as Viking Metal acts that owed a great deal to the later Bathory albums. Yet there would have been no sound to perfect had Venom not created it in the first place. But this isn't being written for the sole purpose of promoting Venom. All of the underground bands, throughout the '80s, added something to this growing sub-genre. One cannot neglect the contributions of others, such as Sodom, Mercyful Fate, Possessed, Kreator, Destruction, Mefisto, Sarcofago, Tormentor, Samael and so on.

It occurs all too often that people boast about what a dedicated Black Metal fanatic they are, only for them to then completely discredit bands such as Venom and Mercyful Fate. Everyone knows to name-drop Hellhammer and Bathory, though whether or not they actually care enough to listen to albums such as The Return... or Satanic Rites is another matter. They mention them because, in interviews that they read of groups that they actually do like, some musician mentioned those bands as influences. So these people respect them in a very shallow manner, if at all. A lot of younger people seem to be the worst when it comes to this. They have no interest in, or respect for, the bands that laid the foundation for this music. In the rare cases that they do mention them, it's only to pay lip service to bands that they know are respected by others, so they give false praise to them just to hide their ignorance.

Another point to make, which should be no shocker to those with functioning brains: Black Metal was not invented in Norway. The Norwegian bands are not the only ones that matter and in no way should anyone think that all a band has to do is hail from that country to automatically be considered great. However, as overrated as a lot of the bands are, some were truly special. If you listen to modern Black Metal, ranging from Watain to Clandestine Blaze to Deathspell Omega to Katharsis and so on, it would be impossible not to hear influences from bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum. The Norwegian scene, whether because of the quality of the music or the media coverage, was very influential and some like to re-write history and downplay their importance. How many bands base their sound off of Transilvanian Hunger, alone? How about old Emperor? Tons. Just listen to the early Graveland albums. People seem very impressed with Deathspell Omega, for example. If you listen to their earliest releases, what you'll hear is nothing more than a tribute to old Darkthrone. The same is true of a lot of other bands, like Craft, Clandestine Blaze, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Armagedda, etc. No one can argue the importance of Darkthrone's earliest Black Metal releases, and these classics owe a great deal to those that came before. If not for the likes of Bathory, Hellhammer, Mayhem, etc. they wouldn't have sounded the way they did. And if they never rose up, the legions of imitators wouldn't have existed either. With all of that said, the focus needs to be brought back to the fact that the whole scene in Norway wouldn't have existed without the '80s bands. So, for those that are obsessed with Norwegian Black Metal, or those that are into bands that exist only because of the Norwegian bands, it seems ridiculous to disrespect or disregard the First Wave bands. Some seem put off because they've heard faster, darker, heavier and more extreme bands, without realizing that it had to start somewhere. For others, it is the opposite; they can't get into the old bands because the music is too much for them. The bottom line is that these bands built the foundation that everything else currently stands on, and it is about time they get a little more respect. I don't mean the common practice of mentioning them out of some sort of obligation but, rather, actually exploring these old albums and learning where all of this came from.

The Definition of Black Metal

This is a tricky subject. Growing up during the '80s, around a lot of rockers and metalheads (and reading a lot of the magazines), I was fortunate enough to begin studying music at an early age. To tell the truth, I was obsessed with it. While reading through these magazines or listening to these people talk, it was common to hear Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Possessed labeled as Black Metal. What really constituted Black Metal, back then? A certain image played a part, which all of these acts shared (along with other bands, like Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer) but it was mostly about lyrical content as well as the overall atmosphere and presentation. Dark, Satanic and occult lyrics branded you as Black Metal and albums such as Show No Mercy, Don't Break the Oath and Seven Churches filled all of the requirements. Hell, if anything, Slayer was nothing more than a heavier, faster version of Venom, with better musicianship. How much more Black Metal can it get when Satan is mentioned in every song? Even to take a lesson from the Norwegians (more on that in a moment), reading through interviews with the likes of Euronymous, Dead, Varg, Fenriz and so on, from the early '90s, will show that they had a firm belief that it was lyrical content that determined whether or not it was Black Metal.

The Norwegians are brought up because many seem to think that they invented Black Metal and have the final say on the subject. Surely, they did a lot to resurrect it and to give it its sound and aesthetic (though highly influenced by the 80s bands) but it takes more than simply being Norwegian to be Black Metal. Listen to the early albums from Immortal, Satyricon and Enslaved, for example. They had the look and the general sound of Norwegian Black Metal; i.e. the tremolo guitar riffing, the blast beats, the screeching vocals, etc. But they would be the first to tell you that they didn't play Black Metal because their lyrics weren't Satanic. Immortal said that they played "Holocaust Metal". Satyricon called their brand of music "Medieval Metal" and Enslaved claimed to play "Viking Metal", though it sounded nothing like Bathory's Hammerheart album. For them, the lyrical content was as important, if not more so, than the sound. They even cited Deicide as Black Metal, simply because of the Satanic content of the lyrics. They called it 'commercial Black Metal', but Black Metal nonetheless.

This demonstrates two things. First, that lyrical content was one of the determining factors in whether or not something belonged to this sub-genre, thus indicating that the early albums from Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Possessed and Sodom were, indeed, Black Metal and shouldn't be doubted simply because they don't sound like Darkthrone. Another thing to note is that labels can become subjective to the point of insanity. There comes a point between "Medieval Metal" and "Midnight Stroll By the Lake Near the Forest Metal" where someone has to draw a line. The narrower the categories, the more subjective it becomes as something can fit into several different sub-genres. In this case, the point is that some need to have more of an open mind and realize that bands represent different things to different people. The Norwegians did a lot for Black Metal, but they don't have the final say in how its defined. It's done a little differently in Sweden and in the Czech Republic and in Greece and so on and each scene has its own sound. The beauty of the First Wave was that there were so many bands, including Venom, Slayer and Mercyful Fate that had similar themes and some of the same influences, yet they all had distinct sounds. It is completely asinine for some kid to come along and say that Mercyful Fate wasn't Black Metal, because it doesn't sound like the Second Wave stuff. Ironically, though they seem to worship the likes of Euronymous or Fenriz, they missed the point that both made on numerous occasions, regarding the definition of Black Metal. In the end, there's never going to be a true consensus (or, rather, younger people will continue to neglect the facts), so the 'debate' will rage on.

Internet/Bedroom Bands

A prime example of the importance of understanding the origins of Black Metal is the rise of these horrible internet projects. After hearing a few mediocre tracks from modern (and inferior) bands like Nargaroth and Satanic Warmaster, these kids get together and record some wretched noise and then set up a MySpace page to showcase it to the world. In most cases, the music is generic and unlistenable, with the whole thing being more image than substance. No real time or effort is put in, rather, they just imitate what they've heard and assume that now they have "joined" the ranks of Black Metal bands. Nevermind that, even if they bothered to listen, they would never recognize nor appreciate the nuances and subtleties in the songwriting of true classic like Transilvanian Hunger. Even more unlikely is the possibility that any of them would dare listen to something like Welcome to Hell, In the Sign of Evil or Live in Leipzig, for that matter. I experienced this, firsthand, from a "band" that asked me to do vocals for them.
 
Eventually, I learned that they had only formed a few months before I met them. Up until then, they were playing some awful form of progressive Death Metal. Upon meeting me, they were inspired to switch their style and play Black Metal. The band was terrible, so any kind of change would probably have been beneficial. The drummer and bassist (somehow, the 'brains' behind this group) were barely out of diapers. The guitarist was a few years older than me, but his main background was in Thrash and so on. The problem was, and this is something that is very typical these days, none of them knew the first thing about Black Metal. Once I was told of their new direction, I gave them several recommendations to get them started, and wished them luck, thinking they may get some feeble grasp on things within a year or two. Instead of going out and getting the albums and truly studying them and understanding what Black Metal was, the one kid simply downloaded a handful of songs and then began to imitate what he heard, without so much as listening to a single album in its entirety! They called me back and asked me to rehearse with them and, sadly, I had to witness this atrocity for myself. I saw as they pieced together a few songs, right in front of me, by listening to bits and pieces of random songs (at least sticking to some of the bands I had recommended, such as Bathory and Mayhem) and created some truly horrible shit and had the nerve to expect me to be impressed by this. Needless to say, I broke contact with them.
 
This wasn't an isolated case, by any means. There are countless bands, legitimate or otherwise, that hear a few seconds of a Black Metal song and deem themselves experts, ready to make their own and show everyone how it's done. Yet they know nothing. They don't bother to study the music, to go back and see how it began or to really understand why it even exists. They just want to make something 'extreme', so they copy whatever mediocre stuff they download and record their own horrid filth. There is no meaning to it, beyond mimicking what they've heard. This isn't just limited to the internet bands; this includes a lot of bands that are actually signed to small labels and so on. They churn out senseless garbage that adds nothing to the music and is 100% imitation of what has already come before. The influence of Bathory and Hellhammer is obvious on the old Darkthrone records, yet they also incorporated their own style and blended it together in such as a way as to create something different. If newer bands, whether real or just bedroom projects, would take the time to learn about the history of this music, as well as focus more on creating something with depth and meaning, then maybe there wouldn't be so many grouchy fans that stereotype 99% of new music as garbage because it's such a waste of time to sift through all the trash to get to anything that might be worthwhile. It appears that they don't know where the music came from or why, they just know that they need to copy it to feel cool or to be accepted in some manner. That's one reason why so many bands exist today that are completely worthless. Their music has no meaning because, while they know which notes to play, they have no idea why they're playing them. As time goes on, each new generation seems to only be looking to the ones that directly preceded them, failing to look to the beginning as well as to delve into the things that influenced the first ones. The essence becomes more and more diluted, thus the empty and meaningless trash that so quickly multiplies yet has no impact.

"Born-again Nordics"

Scandinavia has a long and rich history. Jordanes called it the "womb of nations". The area of southern Sweden and northern Germany is the birthplace of Germanic culture and history shows that this has been very important in the development of Europe and the development of the world. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was the Germanic tribes the reshaped Europe to their liking. From the Goths that descended from Scandinavia and set up kingdoms in Italy and Spain to the countless other Germanic people that established England and the Franks who went into Gaul and laid the foundation for France, or of the Germanic tribes that established the Holy Roman Empire and ruled for centuries until finally forming modern-day Germany, Germanic culture has had a lasting effect on the world. From the earliest Viking raids in the 8th century, along the coast of England to the Danelaw or the establishment of Normandy (from which the Normans would later invade England in 1066) or Kievan Rus (which became Russia and, later, the Soviet Union) the effects of Scandinavian exploration have been felt far and wide. They served as the imperial (Varangian) guard for the Byzantines, established trade routes through their skill an ship-building and navigation and they managed to discover Iceland, Greenland and Vinland (North America). They discovered North America several centuries before Columbus and their great sagas were preserved for later generations to study. Even as late as the 18th century, the Swedish Empire was one of the great powers of Europe.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the achievements of the Scandinavian people, which go far beyond music, and it doesn't begin to describe the natural beauty of the landscape. Photographs don't do Norway and Sweden any justice as you really have to be there; to go through the forests of Sweden and the mountains of Norway to truly understand how special it is. I have seen all of this for myself and I highly recommend that those interested in traveling to Europe make the time to visit the countries in the north.

What does this have to do with the music? Well, it appears all too common in discussions online and in person that a lot of music fans have these strange ideas about Norway, in particular. They talk about wanting to go there and they're always incredibly impressed to hear that I have been. That would be great, but it's usually for the wrong reasons. Their only interest in Norway or Sweden rests in the music that has come from those countries. They care nothing for the history or the natural beauty or even the pleasant climate. Much like potheads that want to move to Amsterdam, these people have some idealized view of Norway and talk about how bad they want to go there. It is as if they think the streets run red with the blood of Christians and Black Metal is always emanating from the rooftops. But this isn't the worst of it.

There are these people that I have described as "born-again Nordics" that seem to get into the music and, suddenly, discover their Scandinavian bloodline. They go on Myspace and put a lot of images of Thor's hammer (or even get a tattoo) and talk about the ways of "their" people and how proud they are of their ancestry, which they usually describe as "Viking" rather than Swedish, Norwegian or Danish. Unfortunately, I encountered one of these losers, last year.

This anonymous person contacted me and began speaking about music (especially Watain), but seemed to be trying too hard to impress me. My suspicions led me to give a closer look to her page, and learned quite a bit from the excessive blog posts, as she was one of those to spill her guts for the whole world to see. Looking back through the entries, the story unfolded. She had just gotten into Black Metal about six months earlier and prior to getting into this, she was a full-fledged Goth kid. It's not that there's anything wrong with changing one's musical taste after being exposed to something new and/or better. But it was all of the ridiculous nonsense that went with it that I found repulsive. Oddly enough, right around the time that she discovered Black Metal, she started writing blogs about how no one understood her "Viking ancestry" and how proud she was to have "Viking blood" running through her veins. It's similar to how I used to hear white, suburban, wanna-be thugs talking about how they had some black in them, as a way to legitimize their interest in rap and the anti-culture that goes along with it. Having pride in one's self or one's heritage is one thing, but having pride in a false heritage is utterly foolish. I like Japanese wrestling, but I don't go around telling people that I'm part Japanese. This is another thing that I've seen running rampant, especially thanks to the internet. But it gets even more ridiculous than that.

There seems to be a lot of Hispanic people on MySpace that, surprisingly, have a lot of Nordic or Germanic pride. They upload photos of themselves that have been altered to the point where they look white and then add images of Odin or Thor to their pages and glorify their false Nordic ancestry. I'm not saying that none of them have a drop of Germanic/Nordic blood, but be realistic. Even if you have some distant relative that was from Germany or Sweden, for example, this still looks inane to be celebrating a culture that you are not a part of. This goes even further to include many dark-skinned Hispanics (obviously, with a lot of Native American blood) that are into NSBM and talk about white pride. They only thing white about them is the alterations done to their photos. It is a sign of these hypocritical times that some people are so fervent about their beliefs and a pride that is based on utter lies. If you're going to have pride in yourself and your culture, then make sure it is genuine and not some false pride in what you wish you were a part of. There's no need to claim Nordic blood to listen to Norwegian Black Metal. Mayhem's current vocalist is from Hungary and the new line-up of Gorgoroth includes an American bassist. Even the bands, themselves, aren't so picky so there is no cause to lie about your bloodline to gain some sort of credibility nor is it right to show false interest in Norse mythology when you have not studied it and care little for the subject. Again, just because a band that you like glorifies something, it doesn't mean that you must act like you care when you really don't.
 
Adopting the Beliefs of Others

Another problem is blindly taking on the proclaimed philosophy or belief system of your favourite musicians. This is one of the most frustrating things to see, as it is always good that people are inspired to read or to go beyond their own boundaries and seek knowledge. Yet most of them are out there looking for the wrong things. This is particularly prevalent in the Orthodox Black Metal movement, where so many fans are spending every last dime on various Jew-authored occult books, and also burying their noses in Judeo-Christian holy books and so on, because some band they like has done the same. This is wrong on a few levels. First of all, half the bands are only using this as the next generation of gimmick to get attention for themselves and to somehow separate from the rest. Secondly, it is ridiculous to just adopt beliefs that you know nothing about, just because someone that you idolize has expressed such views. Parroting off whatever Jewish nonsense that you've read in interviews, trying to sound evil or deep yourself is absolutely stupid. And then of course, all this does is spread Jewish mysticism and idiocy even more. Europeans have been afflicted with the disease of Christianity for over 2000 years and this does not help. Theistic Satanists do nothing but add to the belief that all of these Middle Eastern fairy tales are real. They are not. It is nothing more than a Judeo-Christian hoax that has been perpetuated far longer than reason and logic should have allowed. Promoting the spread of this type of Satanism throughout Europe is the same as white nationalists that worship the Jewish god. There must be separation of these things. This Judeo-Christian virus must be eradicated or at least expelled from Europe and anywhere that serves as a home for those of European blood. For those that are buying into this (many of them fans of newer DsO and Watain), you are being blinded by this foul Jewish plague. As for the rest, the ones claiming to be into this but not even purchasing the books and wasting their time on such research, you look twice as foolish for trying to emulate morons. 
NSBM

What can be said about National Socialist Black Metal? The very name seems to be a contradiction. If the lyrics are politically oriented and having nothing to do with darkness, or Satanic/occult themes, then it's not Black Metal. It doesn't matter if it shares sonic similarities. Black Metal is not merely fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. But this is a common mistake. That's why a lot of young kids can't understand that the first few Slayer albums and Mercyful Fate, Sodom, etc. were all considered Black Metal, based on the Satanic and dark content. It's not defined by the style of playing, though over the years people have gotten into it and only identified the term Black Metal with the second wave sound, for example.

I have always despised the overt mixing of politics and Metal. This stems back to my younger days, finding myself irritated with a lot of the Thrash bands that were doing this. Maybe it is better suited for that style, but these socially conscious themes have nothing to do with the essence of Black Metal (or Death Metal, for that matter). Regarding the ideology itself, I can say that I understand and support some of this. Europe is being silently conquered by the waves of immigrants and there is nothing being done to preserve the European culture. Europeans, and those of European descent, seem to be a dying breed and we are allowing it to happen. That said, I still feel that this really has no place in Black Metal, so this 'NSBM' label is ridiculous. In the end, if I heard a good band from the NSBM scene, I might listen to them anyway. The problem is, I've never really heard one that was very good. All have been quite average or below average, to be honest.

Equally humourous is the idea of "Nazi" bands existing in place like Poland and Russia, though if this is all somehow a mixture of NSBM and Pagan Black Metal (see how all of these divisions become irritatingly unclear), then it may make some sense. However, I'll never understand how or why there are so many non-whites that are so supportive and proud (sometimes even playing!) NSBM or Pagan/Viking/Folk Metal. This goes back to the point made, earlier, regarding people having false pride in things that have nothing to do with them.

Being Drawn to Black Metal for the Wrong Reasons

There is also another phenomenon afflicting the modern Black Metal scene, which can mostly be blamed on the internet. Yes, this tool is very useful and has helped many true Metal fans discover even more bands and keep up with the latest news, as well as keep in contact with like-minded individuals. But it has also made this music more accessible to the wrong kind of people. There have always been two camps regarding this; one side wants to keep this underground so that it is protected and guarded from outsiders that would exploit it and cheapen it and the other side who wants to expose as many people as possible to it, in order to corrupt a greater number of people and to attract those that would be really into it, if only they were exposed to it.

Just like in the mid-90s, there were legions of lonely kids seeking acceptance by wearing flannel shirts and listening to Nirvana or the Hot Topic kids that had the baggy pants and the Marilyn Manson t-shirts, there are countless teenagers that are discovering Black Metal through the internet and using it solely as a means to shock their parents, get attention from others at school and to feel like they are a part of some group.

They live on MySpace, uploading photos that have been distorted and altered to the point where they are no longer recognizable (probably to hide acne-ravaged skin). They make them black and white, lower the brightness levels and then adjust the contrast all to Hell to make it seem more dark and obscure, to 'reflect their inner being'. Or worse, they try the do-it-yourself corpse paint jobs and post those, looking grim with their short hair, Korn t-shirts and baggy pants with all the buckles and such. This is the phase just before they start buying tons of band t-shirts from bands like Burzum and Darkthrone, though they never actually listen to those bands. Albums such as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Under A Funeral Moon are too abstract them them, since they are bereft of all the slick production and catchy hooks of modern mainstream music. That, or they're simply frightened by those bands. They prefer to listen to Cradle of Filth and In Flames, but they have read about the Norwegian Black Metal scene and want so desperately to be considered "true" (what a loathsome word), so they have to have the shirts, anyway. Naturally, they also find some real Metal fan, online, and copy his band list to paste onto their own page. Then they add either occult symbols or images of Norse gods to really spruce things up.

To continue, they use their allowance to buy offensive metal t-shirts and then upload eighty photos, taken from their webcam and sitting in the same spot, with all the different shirts. It doesn't matter if they listen to the bands or not, so long as it looks like they do. It's typically about whatever they perceive as popular, yet rebellious.

A lot of these mental midgets are 'lost, tormented souls, floating through a darkened void and seeking a voice of their own'. No, actually, they're lonely people that spend all of their time on the PC, trying to create some sort of alternate version of themselves to present to other losers that are hiding behind their PC as well. These are the types that are so anguished and depressed because their parents won't let them have the car keys on Friday night so they have to walk to the game shop to play D&D all night, rather than drive there. These trend whores spend all of their time posturing and posing, trying to put on some image that in no way reflects who they really are. Many seek attention while others just want to fit in. They think that Black Metal is some boys' club, welcoming in any social reject, so long as they pretend to like the music.

Non-musicians Wearing Corpse Paint

Corpse paint is something that has been long abused. It is my belief that it should remain only for the dedicated Black Metal musicians and, even then, only used when it's completely appropriate and the atmosphere calls for it, not used simply as some obligatory gimmick. For example, some symphonic/keyboard band is not likely to be creating the kind of dark feeling that would necessitate something like this, whether it's used for album photos or on stage. In these cases, it's completely out of place. For bands such as Dimmu Borgir or Behemoth, the use of corpse paint is a total joke. There's nothing dark about the pseudo-atmosphere that they create with their ill-disguised pop music. To see it used more properly, refer to old Mayhem and Darkthrone, or the simpler approach used by Sarcofago and others, earlier on. One could mention King Diamond as well, but it would appear that the idea behind his paint was a bit different than, say, Dead's motivation. However, despite the many bands using this only as a sales gimmick, these days, at least they are musicians that are (even loosely) tied to the scene that gave birth to this. There can be debate on who uses corpse paint properly versus those that do not. In the end, it's all subject for debate. Yet in one aspect, there is no debate.

It may seem harmless, but the number of idiots that one encounters online that are posting horrid photos of themselves in corpse paint is ridiculous. I am contacted by these people quite regularly. For me, unless you are King Diamond himself, you need not be making such photos unless you're in a Black Metal band. I don't quite understand the mentality behind it. Particularly, the number of girls that wear corpse paint and try to look evil, when they're most likely sleeping with stuffed animals at night. It's something that, automatically, looks ridiculous on any female, whether you're in a band or not. And, of course, the worst has to be the 16 year old emo loser that discovers some modern, commercial-Black Metal band and then paints himself up to get noticed. Ah, the corpse paint and short hair, with the Manson t-shirt never fails to impress. Even better when they don't even bother to use paint, but instead choose to fake it in Photoshop or Paint. However, this is all just one step above the ones that actually put it on and go out in public seeking attention. I recall running into some idiot tourists in Oslo, wearing Cradle of Filth t-shirts and wearing corpse paint in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. Could anything look more inappropriate or out of place?

Internet Elitists

So, by now, junior finally got past the point where he was too afraid of listening to Black Metal and has latched on to some mediocre garbage like Nargaroth or Satanic Warmaster. These two, in particular, are favorites of the young Black Metal crowd. They listen to a little bit and proclaim themselves experts on the sub-genre and go on to countless forums, talking down to others and starting arguments about who is more 'true'. It must be mentioned that, at this point, they still don't even own a single Black Metal CD. No, but they've downloaded a handful of albums. Indeed, they download them and then talk about what an extensive metal collection that they have. Chances are, they don't even listen to what they've downloaded more than a few times, unless there's someone around to impress/offend. Oh, and don't forget how they will make sure to tie-in their msn with the media player so everyone knows what they're listening to though, chances are, the media player is on mute and they're listening to pop music on youtube. It wouldn't be right if they weren't trying to impress someone with their obscure taste.

Speaking of which, they'll immediately talk about how bands such as Burzum and Darkthrone are mainstream because (gasp) people have actually heard of them. This won't stop them from wearing the t-shirts and having endless arguments about the murder of Euronymous. They fight back and forth, online (as they'd never have the courage to so much as disagree with someone in person), as if they knew the people involved and like they have so much invested in it. Truth is, the only reason they think these bands are cool is because of all of the media hype that it received, years ago, though they'd never be caught dead listening to the music. Someone else has heard it, so it's tainted for them. They'd rather claim to listen to Carpathian Diabolic Fullmoon Bloodmonger's demo (limited to two copies) because it's obscure and makes them think that they're special. There seems to be a contest going on in their minds about who knows more obscure, unknown bands. It's all about belonging to some group just so that they can then try to make themselves seem above that group as if they are so elite. The world is a harsh, scary place for them so they create their own fictional reality where they are musical experts, out to impress all of their friends. This works best when they are the only Metal fan in their clique, but not so much when they actually interact with real metalheads.

But let's take a few steps back. I said they 'claim' to listen to the most obscure thing possible, yet that is only part of their image. In truth, many don't even like the harsh sounds of underground Metal. They prefer softer albums with slick production and catchy grooves. If they even listen to any form of Metal at all, and not just some sort of pop, it's typically some other harmless nonsense with a lot of synth, no balls and no purpose. These people are scared by the early albums from Mayhem and Beherit. Some write it off as poorly produced noise with no merit. Others claim to like it but never bother to listen to it; it's enough to have the band logos on their MySpace page so no need to listen to it too, right?

One-Man Black Metal Bands

Is anyone else tired of the million or so "bands" that consist of one member? A few people have made it work, but I think most are really stretching it. Everyone thinks they're the next Varg, I suppose. Well, I believe only extremely talented individuals are capable of doing everything themselves and producing anything worthwhile. Then, you have most of these modern "bands" where they simply can't find anyone else to play with so they write and record substandard material that might have had a chance to be good music if they'd had someone to collaborate with when it was being written or simply better musicians to play the music. I notice a lot of this in the USBM scene. I think if a few of these people would give up their nonsense and join together to form a real band, they might have a better shot at rising above the sea of mediocrity. I'll give an example.

Twilight was created by a handful of guys that all had their own one-man projects (for the most part). What they recorded was a pretty decent album that surpassed any of their solo projects in terms of quality. However, once they return to working by themselves, they come up with more sub-par garbage. Another example is I Shalt Become. I like Wanderings, but he could have used a session vocalist, at least. Some of them are a bit comical. I see what he's trying to do, it's just that he's not capable of doing so very well. I can't listen to "Funeral Rain" without thinking there's a train coming around the mountain. Anyone who has this probably knows what I mean.

A lot of times, it seems that these projects feature some guy that has a few interesting ideas on the guitar, but often doesn't have the capability to fully develop these into something really interesting and also has poor drumming skills (or uses a machine) and has awful vocals that need all kinds of effects to try and sound harsh and they still sound lame. I'm pointing a finger at Xasthur and Leviathan as my main examples at this moment. I believe musicians in one man bands need to exceptionally good at what they do in order to make quality music. It's not enough to simply be a good musician. They need to have a rare talent that most do not possess. A good musician can do fine in a full band. They can rely one another's talents and writing abilities. In a one man band you have to be really good at writing music, as well as playing all the instruments and you need to be able to sing well. It's a tall order that most can't fill. I do have respect for those few that can pull this off well, but I truly wish those who are not capable of this would accept reality.

DSBM

"Depressive Suicidal Black Metal"... What a shitty term and what even shittier music. Don't get me wrong. I definitely appreciate a dark and mournful vibe in music, whether it's Black or Doom Metal (the prime areas where such a thing would be found). However, the big mistake is when a band comes along and, usually, it's one of the aforementioned 'one-man bands', since the roots are based in the fact that it's a solitary guy that has no friends and has to play by (with?) himself... The problem is that the band comes along and embraces only one aspect of the overall sound, focusing on the depressive element. If done correctly, creating a somber atmosphere, this could be good. But so rarely is this done well. Usually, it comes off as very lame and something more suitable for a Goth band. Black Metal is supposed to be dark, but not in such a weak, feeble, human way. Save that for Doom or something outside of Metal completely. A band like Burzum or Darkthrone had some melancholic melodies here and there, but they were a part of the greater tapestry of sound. Modern DSBM bands zero in on that one part and then try to make entire songs (hell, entire albums) out of that. And, of course, when there's absolutely no contrast at all, it loses the effect. But that's not even the main problem. It's the continued pussification of Black Metal. More and more, bands come along and think this is the sub-genre for them, so they can write songs about how their girlfriend cheated on them with the milkman or how they had a large zit on prom night. When younger listeners search for depressing music, Black Metal should NOT be the first place they look. Somehow, it's gotten the reputation for being where all the loser goth fags go when they need something a little more underground. That's what Doom Metal should be for. Not every band can be as good as Strid, for example. And anyone that knows that band is aware of the previous incarnation of the band, known as Malfeitor. Strid was simply an extension of that. However, the imitators are usually unable to replicate the same feeling. Nine times out of ten, when someone younger tries to recommend a newer Black Metal band to me, it turns out to be another one of these pathetic DSBM bands. This makes it seem as if the whole sub-genre is going this route; whining faggots crying about their feelings, throwing on some corpse paint and making a shitty album of droning, boring sounds and claiming that it is Black Metal. This is not the legacy of Venom or Bathory.

Mayhem v. Burzum

Spend any time speaking with young Black Metal fans, or even reading through threads on a music forum, and you'll see the conflict between fans of Mayhem and Burzum. This has to be one of the most ridiculous things going on. With Varg's impending release, it will only get worse.

The murder of Euronymous took place in August 1993. This was nearly sixteen years ago. Curiously, most of the people taking part in these debates were either in diapers or not even born yet. Well, perhaps, they were starting kindergarten. Regardless of the specifics, a large majority of those that engage in these futile arguments were completely oblivious to any of this, at the time that it happened.

I'll take this even further by saying that even those who were old enough, to have gone beyond training wheels for their bikes, still didn't care. Black Metal is quite popular, these days, and has been for some time. However, a lot of people have forgotten (or never knew) that it wasn't so acceptable, early on. And I'm talking about the Second Wave, obviously. I'm also taking aim at Americans, for the most part, since they are the ones who populate these forums and such. In America, around 1993, Black Metal fans were in the minority. Their number was far less than one might think. Death Metal was held in higher regard, at the time, with Black Metal often being considered 'weak, faggot music'. It wasn't heavy enough and was quite misunderstood, back then. By the mid-to-late 90s, quite a bit as a result of the media attention, Black Metal became more popular and accepted among these crowds who, then, more fully embraced the sub-genre. Unfortunately, not only did many people begin to embrace Black Metal; too many tried to revise history and claim that they had been into it 'since day one'. These are the sad and pathetic losers who pissed all over Black Metal, when they first heard it in 1998, but then later claimed that they were eagerly anticipating early Norwegian releases, back in 1992. All of this posturing is incredibly lame.

Back to the point at hand; only a very few individuals even have a right to care about the Mayhem/Burzum situation, and that is reserved for those who actually knew the parties involved. If you didn't, personally, know either Varg or Euronymous, then your opinion is irrelevant (though one could argue all opinions to be irrelevant, since no amount of discussion will change what occurred). The fact that people take sides in something that had, long ago, become a closed case is beyond stupidity. One can stretch this a bit, to include those that were fans of these two bands, at the time the murder took place. For those who were hardcore Mayhem fans, already in 1993, it is acceptable that you might have been angry that one of your favourite musicians was killed. Similarly, if you were a die-hard Burzum fan, you have every right to express disappointment that he would no longer be free to make music as he previously was. But for someone who never even heard of either band until 2006, for example, to play 'internet tough guy' with others and argue this subject as if they have some stake in it, when it had already been over and done with many years before they were even aware of it, shows a lack of intelligence that cannot be forgiven.

To summarize this; get over it. It had nothing to do with you, so you have no place getting twisted out of shape about it. Chances are that you read about it, online, long after the fact.
















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