Human beings are inherently communal animals. This is our survival mechanism. So, when the masses sing hymns for a world that is against you, that disconnect becomes a Muse — and She is loud, feral, and fed up.
In the underbelly of the cold, quiet Evangelical-egalitarian societies of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, a movement spawned so loud and distorted, it merely resembled organized screams and static. But, it was beautiful in its grotesque because it spoke for those who were silenced, overpowered by the monotheistic oppression that purged their Pagan heritage and forced fed them a conformity they could not swallow.
The allure was not purely politically based. The rage is a human experience, defiance turned up to its highest volume.
Kosta Bayss of Episcopal Holocaust is a Canadian artist who wears the corpsepaint in “trve” fashion, not because he is a purist, but because he doesn’t give a shit. He also had no idea what was going on outside of his own backyard at the time before the churches were burned. “I grew up on a different shore as these guys who were making this music,” he explained. “But, we were the same age, so we grew up with the same movies, the same music, so it’s logic that we came to the same conclusion. We were hearing the same things and the same things were pissing us off. Just like Punk; it was happening in England, it was happening in NY because it was a generation thing.”
“When I started,” Bayss said, “the label was put on me. I didn’t even know what it was. My first demo was in ’94 and I would do shows and they would call it Black Metal. And to this day, I don’t think it was Black Metal, but that’s what they would call it.
Then when I finally found it, it was bad Black Metal. *laughs* I was kind of insulted! I was like, ‘Wait a minute’!”
However it was defined, it was still generally understood that the Black Metal movement was never about the music, but the desecration; this is one of the reasons why it differs from other genres. But, now, nearly 30 years later, Black is no longer that simple to define. “Black” on today’s MP3 players can be as industrial as it can be natural and take the form of shadow and mystery, as well as evil.
Schammasch of Switzerland is a prime example of this enlightened approach. Their 2014 epic, Contradiction mesmerized and left the Metal world speechless by filling the pit of emptiness of Black Metal’s darkness with a new spirit. C.S.R. had said, “I think there’s a certain kind of constructive energy to what we do, which might exclude us a bit from the whole general ‘Black Metal’ terms, which usually are rather on the destructive side. I am trying to be a positive person as much as I can. I’m done with all the negativity in life and also done with only expressing negativity because it didn’t fulfill me, it didn’t bring positive changes to my life.
There’s always got to be a certain aspect of darkness to Black Metal music, I think. That’s my personal belief because that’s the fertile ground for that music and it has to be part of it. But, what we try to handle darkness in a constructive way and as a natural part of the whole.”
Schammasch’s success aside, Jontho Panthera of Ragnarok, one of the forefathers who was there does not believe the new waves will last. “A lot of new bands are starting up now,” he expressed. “But, they are like trying to play Black Metal the way we did in the early 90’s. The difference is that the bands that start today will not last for the next 20 years. But, the older bands like us, the bigger bands, they have lasted 20 years, Mayhem, like 30. But, the bands today will not play Black Metal for the next 20 years.”
Bayss would say the same. “No, of course not,” he concurred. “I agree, absolutely. They’re jumping on a bandwagon. It’s like when thrash got big, all of a sudden there were a million thrash bands and where are they now? If they truly loved what they were doing, they’d keep doing it. They’d find a way to do it.”
“Nowadays,” he explains, “it’s [Black Metal] a shortcut for a lot of guys who can’t read music. They can’t really play well, they can’t really write music, but it’s a formula that they can follow. They get a specific sound and they can just make it repetitive and call it ‘atmospheric’ and it doesn’t take a lot of talent. I know a lot of guys that did it and there are thousands of these bands out there. And all they’re doing is oversaturating it, where the good bands are getting lost in the mix.”
However, there is no doubt that there have been notable Metal extremists in the new millennium that continue to have a profound impact on the genre. The common denominator of these acts is that they fearlessly progress while keeping their roots anchored to the original principles. One of these is inarguably the bloody Watain, whose primary engineer, Erik Danielsson – who takes its anti-conformist purity into his visual art by defying against the use modern technology – takes role as one of Black Metal’s anti-hierophants, as well as frontman.
“Art is meant to be dangerous,” Danielsson said. “I kind of liken it to the phenomenon of the birthday party…here are all these children gathered around, innocent at play, and then you give them the knife to cut the cake. At that point, anything can happen.”
So, is it possible that the genre has finally put down the knife?
With few exceptions, Bayss says yes. “Now it’s a trend. There is no individuality in it because they’re all following the same formula. That’s not Black Metal. It’s unsustainable. Once it’s done and you get copycat bands, then it doesn’t count anymore. It took guts to be the first guy to go out there and do that. So, the originators of Black Metal, that’s Black Metal. I don’t consider anything Black Metal after that. It has to progress…
I don’t think it can exist like in rock, like AC/DC where you can make basically the same album over and over. I don’t think you can have something like that in Black Metal because it was what it was. And what it was is over.”