The term Black metal was coined in 1982 whenever VenomVenom – Welcome To Hell (Live 1985) released and album of the same name. The influential bands that were in the running with Venom were: Bathory, Celtic Frost (from Switzerland)Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales, Kreator, Sodom and Destruction (from Germany). The subject matter and themes within Black metal were of a dark and more evil side than normal Heavy metal.
Venom started the phrase Black metal when they released their album Black Metal. With its title track and songs like Countess Bathory (about Elisabeth Bathory)Venom – countess Bathory (Live 1985), Buried Alive/Raise the Dead and Leave me in Hell, venom lead the rush of bands included in the first wave of Black metal. Celtic Frost were another big influence upon modern Black Metal bands with their heavier and more brutal style of playing. Another band that influenced modern Black Metal was Mercyful fate, led by the corpse painted face of King Diamond. With songs like Satan’s Fall, Evil, The Oath and Come to the Sabbath, Mercyful Fate lead the anti- Christian movement in Black metal aided by Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer (who changed their name to Celtic Frost and also changed their subject matter).Mercyful Fate – Into The Coven (Live 1983)
In the early 1990s, a Second Wave emerged, primarily of Norwegian bands like Burzum, Mayhemmayhem – Deathcrush, Darkthrone and Emperor.Emperor – I Am The Black Wizards These bands concentrated on more primal recordings and more Anti-Christian beliefs. During the time of the second wave members of bands decided to take it upon themselves to try and rid their homeland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, of what they claim were the interlopers and the ones that held back their beliefs – the Christian faith. In the early 90s happened a series of events with great media coverage in Scandinavia, mainly Norway. These events made the “reputation” of black metal and its underground status. Norwegians Øysten Aarseth (“Euronymous”, leader from Mayhem) and to some extent Varg Vikernes (“Count Grishnack”, from Burzum) are regarded as main pioneers of the black metal scene, because of their implication in the stylistic definition of the genre and through their acts. Euronymous was the first protagonist to be well-known and one of the most active in the scene. He was running Deathlike Silence Productions, which quickly became an estimated underground extreme metal label at the time
Here are some of the events that made history of Norwegian black metal famous:
Dead, vocalist of Mayhem, commited suicide in April 1991. He was well-known at the time for its self-mutilations and other macabre displays during shows. He shot himself in the head with a rifle after having slit his wrists with a knife. Its suicide was largely used by Mayhem members (mostly Euronymous) to promote the band and the newborn genre. Most notably, Euronymous took pictures of the crime scene before calling the police. One of these pictures was later used for the “Dawn of the Black Hearts” Mayhem album cover.
Faust, former drummer of Emperor, killed an homosexual in December 1993, near the olympic parc of Lillehammer. He later reported that the guy was hitting on him in the parc, and that he “simply decided to end this parasite’s life”. He was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison (now freed).
Several Norwegian churches were arsened by members of the Inner Circle (notably Varg Vikernes and Samoth of Emperor,(the latter sentenced to 2 years in prison). These arsons were the main reason for the black metal underground scene to be uncovered to the public, in Norway and everywhere in Europe and the rest of the world. They are still today a main event regarding the beginning of the movement and its development.
Euronymous was killed by Varg Vikernes on August 10, 1993. He was found dead in the stairs of his appartment, struck 23 times with a knife. Exact reasons for this murder are still ambiguous. What is certain is that he went to Euronymous’ appartment along with Snorre from the band Thorns during the night, they had an argument, and then Vikernes stab him in the stairs before running away. He will be caught soon after and sentenced in 1994 to 21 years in prison for murder, and Snorre to 8 years for complicity. He was freed in 2009 on parole and is now continuing with its band Burzum.
The bands regarded as the “second wave” of the black metal movement were not located in Norway only though. Lots of local scenes emerged around the globe in the early 90s. Although death metal was more popular in neighbouring Sweden at the time ,bands started to emerge, heavily influenced by the Norwegian scene. This included MardukMarduk – Panzer Division Marduk, Dissection, Lord Belial, Dark Funeral, Arckanum, Nifelheim and Abruptum. In Finland emerged as soon as the late 80s bands who often included death metal elements in their music (Beherit, Archgoat and Impaled Nazarene).In Eastern Europe the emerging scene was led by Graveland, BehemothBEHEMOTH – Prometherion, Master’s Hammer, etc. Across the Atlantic ocean also emerged a local scene in the USA, with bands like Von, Judas Iscariot and Profanatica.
By the mid-90s the musical genre was defined and most bands of the growing scene through the world adopted the influence of the Norwegian scene in their own music. Newer black metal bands would later expand the original sound of the music, include other elements (keyboards, mostly), make use of better production, etc. This expansion and diversification is thus regarded as the end of the “second wave”.
First black metal albums are associated with a “lo-fi” (opposed to “hi-fi”) quality recording. This was often the result of small recording budgets but also intended, so that the music matches the themes and atmosphere black metal bands wanted to create.
Most black metal bands have their music composed by high-pitched shrieks and screams (as opposed to the usual low-pitched growls in death metal), high-pitched guitar tones with lots of distorsion and tremolo picking, fast tempo and blast-beats, and bass lines following that of the guitar. The compositions can be either basic or very technical with different song structures. It can be noted that many black metal songs contain lengthy and repetitive instrumental sections though.
The most common lyrical theme in black metal is around the opposition to christianity, and to some extent to religions in general (although satanism can be promoted – either as a religion or a philosophy). Other themes are often depression, nihilism, misanthropy and death. However, many modern black metal lyrics have begun to focus more on nature, mythology, folklore, philosophy and/or fantasy
Dimmu Borgir – Mourning Palace (Live Ozzfest 2004)
IMMORTAL – ALL SHALL FALL