WHAT IS BLACK METAL?
JONATHAN SELZER, REVIEWS EDITOR AT METAL HAMMER MAGAZINE, EXPLAINS THIS FORBIDDING MUSIC SCENE
“I think black metal means different things to different people, but for me, I’d say it’s a link between the visceral and the sublime, rooted in something primitive but seeking to invoke something ancient and dormant in the modern world.
Purists will say only bands with a Satanic outlook can call themselves black metal. Its core sound is defined by speedy tremelo picking, rapid- fire drums, blastbeats and shrieking vocal, but most fans of the subgenre would agree that black metal has always been about more than the music. It’s an attitude, value system and an unholy atmosphere you need true belief to attain. It’s dedicated to nihilism and transgression, but transcendence too.
It’s important to remember that what was happening with the
Second Wave that people like Euronymous and Vikernes were part of, is it was a tiny scene at the time, so everything created ripples. As often happens in nascent scenes, there’s a jostling to lay claim to its foundations and ideology, of everyone trying to outdo each other. Tie that into a scene entwined with nihilism, misanthropy and anti- Christian fervour, but one that also operated as a cult, and it was a tinderbox waiting to ignite.
The fact that black metal is very much alive
30 years or so later is a very powerful legacy, but the fact that it’s also been very aware of its own roots has kept the narrative of metal as a whole alive, has proved that something essentially primitive can be expansive, and has also kept alive the idea of metal as both outsider music and musically charged. I have been to Neseblod in
Oslo, and if you’re invested in black metal, it’s a treasure trove. It’s pretty claustrophobic, which adds to the atmosphere, but the sheer volume of albums and paraphernalia on display could keep you there for hours. Of course the basement with the ‘ Black Metal’ sign ( as seen on page 24) is kind of like Stonehenge for metalheads. So much history surrounds it, and whether you’re projecting it yourself of not, there’s a power there that you can feel too.”