I’m not your typical blackmetal fan.
Sitting here in a grey cardigan, eating fried eggs with kale and mushrooms, reading an article on precise speech, nothing could be further from my mind than burning down churches and picking up a plastic spiky bracer from Hot Topic. But as far as rock music goes, it’s by far my favorite genre.
This particular rabbit whole (of which there are many when it comes to my musical tastes) began in the early 2000’s while I was working in a record store in Detroit. I’d recently given up an affliction for the trashiest gangster rap imaginable (with which I would flirt on and off for the next decade) for the exact music I belittled other kids in school for, perhaps because I was afraid to admit how interested I was.
To be fair, when my friend Aaron returned after summer break senior year wearing black lipstick and eyeliner, it was a little jarring.
Kids are weird though. They don’t understand that the makeup and trench coats with spikes on them belong exclusively at concerts, not a mall food court. Still, in the back of my mind I’ve always slightly regretted ostracizing Aaron after that moment. He was just a confused teenager who thought Satan was the bees knees. I was a confused teen too. It was a mess. I digress.
My love of blackmetal has been tempered well by the fact that I don’t believe the devil exists. You’re really free to explore a lot more of the art world when you’re of that mindset. Silly me, I thought all of the other fans and the bands themselves were in on the same joke. Not true, not true at all. It’s similar to the time I thought that Genocide Organ were doing it for shock value and weren’t actually a neo-nazi band. Sadly mistaken, Brian. I suppose due to my own history with the national socialism movement, I’m more keen to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they couldn’t possibly be that stupid in real life.
Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir were my introduction to blackmetal music. Now, any serious blackmetal fan will read that sentence and piss his pants with rage… they are blackmetal bands in the same way the Backstreet Boys are a rock and roll band. But when you’re 18 the chances that you’ve heard of Satanic Warmaster or Drudkh are slim to none so you pick up whatever the local shop has. I owe my liberal musical tastes to the shop I worked in because they carried a wide variety of music and I listened to it all, regardless of whether or not it was related or would make me look ridiculous! I am not the least bit ashamed to admit that there’s been a Ke$ha shaped hole in my heart since 2010. She’s a bit blackmetal in her own way, I guess.
Why do I love it so much? I’ve thought about it recently, trying to nail down my reasons (as you do). The problem is that the genre has a massive breadth of quality. You have records literally produced in garages on the one end and million-dollar metal masterpieces on the other. A lot of blackmetal fans praise the garage albums because it’s like a badge of honor to own the shittiest record you could find, I guess. “Oh man listen to this one you can’t even hear the drums!” I imagine them saying.
For me, it’s the atmospheric, ambient style guitar. It’s like a wave of noise that washes over you with slight alterations in harmonics over time… kind of the reason I was attracted to noise bands like Merzbow and Whitehouse. Blast beats are, of course, central to my philosophy of life as well. The faster and more aggressive, the better. As far as the lyrics… I’m pretty “meh” about it. I’m well past the age where I use my musical tastes to shock people in a vain attempt to look “dangerous”. Some bands, like Inquisition up above, have genuinely interesting lyrics. Some, like Agalloch or Deafheaven, aren’t Satanic in the least.
My current tastes change like the season, though. With the onset of winter, I feel my craving for the monotonous drone of traditional techno creeping up on me. I’m severely out of touch with that genre this year and have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve even begun producing my own music again, which I’ll be putting up shortly. It’s not great, but I enjoy doing it. I’ll probably get better. That’s what people say, anyway.