Monday, October 12, 2009

5 Important Bands, 1 Genre Pt. 2: Black Metal

I've been thinking a lot about black metal of late. It's a genre that I enjoy, but I really do not listen to all that often. My problem with black metal lately seems to be that it has become a little trendy and a bunch of bands have been coming out of the woodwork that sound the same and/or really are not that good.

I started getting into black metal in high school actually, but it was not until after I finished law school that I really began exploring the genre. So, similar to the earlier post on power metal, here are five bands that were instrumental in me becoming a fan of black metal. Some of them may be a little less on the black metal side of things than others, but nevertheless, here they are in no particular order, the bands that lead me over to the dark side.


I have discussed Celtic Frost at length in other parts of this blog. To be put simply, Celtic Frost was hugely influential on the early black metal scene. The band itself really was not a black metal band, but so many bands from the early black metal scenes took influence from this band that it really does not matter. For me in particular, I checked out the Celtic Frost tribute album which featured songs from black metal bands such as Emperor and Mayhem. This lead me into checking out the albums by those bands. Later on, I started checking out the band's actual music. Celtic Frost was so far ahead of its time, it's shocking. At the time, there was only Celtic Frost, several years later, other bands started to try to adapt their sound, but Celtic Frost stood alone at the time.


I love Dissection. I have also discussed this band in other places on this blog, but they deserve mention here as well. I ordered Storm of the Light's Bane through a bookstore of all places, but immediately took to the album. It is still one of the coldest, most evil sounding albums I have ever heard. As dark as it is though, The Somberlain is perhaps even darker. At the time I heard the band, I had not heard anything else like it, it was fast, evil-sounding, and terrifying. It was amazing. Dissection was on hiatus for several years while Jon Nodtveidt was in prison for murder, but they came back upon his release. Unfortunately, their comeback album did not have any of the atmosphere that the earlier releases did. Soon thereafter, Nodtveidt committed suicide and Dissection was no more.


Emperor was one of the earliest true Norwegian black metal bands I got into. I started with Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, one of the more melodic, keyboard-driven albums by the band. I was impressed by the dark atmosphere and the riffs, but the vocals couldn't be heard very well. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the album a lot and looked back into their earlier catalog, but avoided their newer stuff. The band's leader Ihsahn has released two amazing solo albums since the band broke up, and the other members of the band are doing their own projects. Emperor is one of the most well-known bands from the Norwegian scene.


Another group from the Norwegian scene, however Dimmu Borgir has been mostly dismissed from black metal circles due to the declining quality of their music and their mainstream successes. Dimmu Borgir has incorporated more and more keyboard flourishes, to the point where some have accused the band of sounding like circus musicians. At the time that I heard Death Cult Armageddon though, it was one of the most evil-sounding albums I had heard to date. I still go back to that album on occasion, but it does not hold the same high place in my listening hierarchy. Dimmu Borgir though was something of a gateway at the time to get into other black metal bands from the area.


Cradle of Filth is another band like Dimmu Borgir who has been blacklisted as a black metal band. The band is more of an extreme gothic metal band with some early black metal influences. Nevertheless, their mainstream nature makes them a suitable gateway band for those that are unfamiliar with the genre. I am a big fan of Cradle of Filth though, for their amazing lyrics and incredible storytelling talents. The band creates a impressive dark atmosphere combining elements of gothic horror and lust and depravity. The vocals can be a little grating at times, but to my ears, it just adds to the effect of the band.

From these gateway bands, I started getting into groups like Bathory, Mayhem, Satyricon, and several bands that cross several different genres.

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