Thrash Hits

March 1st, 2012

20 Years Of Black Metal Evolution – Part #4

In the final part of his look at the Black Metal evolution over the past 20 years, today Tom Dare is examining the murkier and more indistinct realms of “post”-Black Metal band, as well as those bands who might’ve moved beyond the boundaries of Black Metal musically, still remain within the genre in spirit, at least….

6) Post-Black Metal

The post-black metal mob (aka, the sub-sub-genre where we shove bands we don’t know how else to label) is a touch controversial, mainly because Post-Black Metal arguably doesn’t actually exist yet. Not really, at an rate. It hasn’t  been around anywhere near long enough to strictly speaking have developed it’s own generic conventions yet (although it’s getting there, slowly but surely, as derivative fodder inevitably spawns). The label is intermittently used either to describe either Black Metal-derived bands who quite clearly no longer really fit under the genre’s audio-umbrella (“nice” black metal, as it were), or for those bands that incorporate post-rock/metal elements to their sound.

Watch the video to ‘Autre Temps’ by Alcest:

Alcest are one of the former. There’s an obvious black metal influence in the tremolo picking and thick distortion, but the feel is utterly different. Alcest are beautiful, warm, welcoming, comforting and a bunch of other deeply complimentary adjectives that are the polar opposite to black metal. Neige’s (admittedly rather bonkers) vision, stemming from his childhood transcendental experiences to another world is, whatever else you think of it, a profoundly personal and individual one, and it’s hugely affecting and superbly executed. The vigour with which the grim, frostbitten fanbase has embraced the latest album from this emotionally positive band, Les Voyages De L’Âme, shows just how flexible the template has been over the last 20 years.

At the polar opposite end of the emotional spectrum is Altar Of Plagues. The Cork-founded outfit’s debut album White Tomb lumped them in with the “post-BM” tag due to the warm, ambient post-rock guitar tones that were weaved into the fabric of their otherwise bleak, cold and misery-drenched music. But with their second album, Mammal, those moments disappeared, and AoP became their own experimental beast. The reference points might be there (Deathspell Omega and WITTR both got thrown around in reviews, and not inaccurately) but the utter crushing despondency was something entirely new. It’s a multifaceted affair that takes black metal further into the 21st century.

7) Not-black-metal black metal

Around the time of the release of Addicts – Black Meddle Part II, Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd spoke out about how he was burnt out on black metal. As a result (with the exception of the first song), that album was essentially not a black metal record, owing far more to Editors and Joy Division than to Satyricon or Carpathian Forest. Yet oddly, that black metal “FUCK OFF!” quality was present in spades. They’d managed to make one of the darkest, most hateful and objectionable records that came out that year. And once more, the debate about what black metal is and isn’t was stirred up. But spiritually, Nachtmystium were quite clearly still in the same world.

Watch the video to ‘Every Last Drop’ by Nachtmystium:

Which brings us full circle – to Darkthrone. It’s been well-documented and self-evident fact that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto happily ditched the icy riffage of their earlier sound in favour of crusty, gnarly and generally very unpleasant heavy metal. It’s split opinions wildly, from those who love it to those who utterly hate it (internet moaning about extreme metal band changing direction? Never!). But there’s a key element to what black metal means that needs to be understood.

While most heavy metal carries an air of “we want you to like us, but we realise it’s not going to be for everyone”, some (admittedly not all) Black Metal instead carries a rather more stark message: “Fuck off – we don’t want you to like us”. Given that the movement was started in part due to a dissatisfaction with the perception of death metal’s burgeoning “commercial” success, that’s hardly surprising. Unfortunately for the more militant genre purists, Black Metal has ended up getting…well…moderately popular. Immortal headline metal festivals across Europe, Dimmu Borgir put on shows to 9,000 people with an orchestra, and even a label  as “overground” as Roadrunner Records can claim to have BM bands on their books.

Listen to ‘Circle The Wagons’ by Darkthrone:

Darkthrone, Nachtmystium and even Satyricon (love or hate the band’s last two records, it’s hard to deny Satyr is still making music to piss people off), in doing what people don’t want to do, are keeping that contrary attitude alive. It’s inherently black metal in spirit, even without blast beats and satanic lyrics. It has one slight flaw though, obviously – people have liked their output. Which means that the evolution of Black Metal is a long, long way from being finished.

If you missed the first three parts of Tom Dare’s essays, fear not! He hasn’t done the black metal thing of saving them to a floppy disc and only giving it to three people he deems worthy. You can find them here: Part 1 (fury and mentalism), part 2 (ambience and progressiveness), part 3 (location-specific sounds)


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