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The two schools of Scandinavian black metal

The two schools of Scandinavian black metal
April 01, 2008, 11:14:16 AM
I recently read about and listened to more black metal (pre-1995 preferably) than usual. It seems there are two schools of thought within the movement.

Some are in favor of rapid drum beats, musican skills, and keyboardish symphonies, resulting in a chaotic whole (sometimes interrupted by subtle melodies). Those would be EMPEROR and ENSLAVED (FROST) for example.

Others seem not to want all the extras, but simply some basic drumming and repetitive riffs, resulting in a dark ambient style of music. Those would be BURZUM and DARKTHRONE for example.

Idealogies differ also. Some are into Satanism (could be just for their image, who knows), while others simple defend personal will.

Maybe someone here knows more about this than me or perhaps I just made some kind of discovery.
Because I am more intelligent than you are.

This division seems a bit oversimplified to me. Where is Mayhem in this? I'm tempted to put them in your Darkthrone/Burzum group, but the drumming is not "basic" enough compared to Varg. They also don't have the "keyboardish symphonies" of the first group. I'm not saying that these aren't distinct schools of thought within early black metal, but I think there are others as well.

It's probably best to just acknowledge that every group was achieving something different with their music, and some were similar in execution to others. Black metal was always a varied genre, but the music always shared a common spirit.


There's a lot of divisions in black metal.  But I always kept it in the simple : Raw/Chaotic and Beautiful/Symphonic. Havohej is the example of the former and the Emperor is the example of the latter.  But like Clef said, black metal is a varied genre with many different groups trying to achieve different things.

I think every band has a distinct style and you cannot simply divide the whole genre into two classes.
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This division seems a bit oversimplified to me. Where is Mayhem in this? I'm tempted to put them in your Darkthrone/Burzum group, but the drumming is not "basic" enough compared to Varg. They also don't have the "keyboardish symphonies" of the first group. I'm not saying that these aren't distinct schools of thought within early black metal, but I think there are others as well.

Mayhem is obviously in the Emperor/Enslaved group.  It lacks the keyboards, but the general architecture is more in line with "In the Nightside Eclipse" than "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss".

It probably helps to think of these as "melodic" vs. "ambient".

Personally, I've always felt that the genre could sort of be described into the "melodic" bands (such as Emperor, Mayhem, Sacramentum, Antaeus, Averse Sefira) and the "ambient" bands (Burzum, Ildjarn, Krieg, Darkthrone, Demoncy, Beherit).  It's a pretty big divide (the former being based on the more traditional riff-based approach, the latter being more like ambient music), and it's rare to find a band that doesn't fit pretty cleanly into one or the other (only band I can think of off hand is Profanatica/Havohej... and even that leans towards the ambient side).

This only confirms what I feel about Burzum's third album not having anything to do with Black Metal anymore.  

It's basic, but it's certainly more of a symphony than anything you would want to put in the first category.

It's hard to break up the list of seven to ten major bands into two groups.  Immortal, for instance was sort of just a Black Metal version of Death Metal.  It's easier, instead, to just find the band each band is the most influenced by.  Emperor-Merciful Fate, Burzum-Bathory, Mayhem-Venom, Darkthrone-Celtic Frost, etc, etc.

I, for one, am astounded at the diversity within BM.
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Some are in favor of rapid drum beats, musican skills, and keyboardish symphonies, resulting in a chaotic whole (sometimes interrupted by subtle melodies). Those would be EMPEROR and ENSLAVED (FROST) for example.

Others seem not to want all the extras, but simply some basic drumming and repetitive riffs, resulting in a dark ambient style of music. Those would be BURZUM and DARKTHRONE for example.


Ambient - Burzum, Darkthrone
Heavy metal - Mayhem, Dissection
Epic/Prog - Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Sacramentum, Emperor
Punk - Impaled Nazarene
Grindcore - Niden Div 187
ASBO

“Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris.” - Rush Limbaugh

then Beherit would fall somewhere in between ambient and grindcore categories
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Black/Thrash as well with Aura Noir.
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I still stick to my 2 categories, with new definitions: Minimalistic black metal and the rest.

"Drums were never fucking important for Darkthrone, not for me at least, and in black metal, drumming is not important, drumming is just supposed to be there, and guitars are the most important [...], no fucking third, fourth, fifth guitarist solo or guitar upon that or synthetized stuff, whatever... If it's cold enough and if it's dark enough, and if it's real enough, black metal feeling is supposed to suit through material, so we did."

- Fenriz
Because I am more intelligent than you are.

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I still stick to my 2 categories, with new definitions: Minimalistic black metal and the rest.

"Drums were never fucking important for Darkthrone, not for me at least, and in black metal, drumming is not important, drumming is just supposed to be there, and guitars are the most important [...], no fucking third, fourth, fifth guitarist solo or guitar upon that or synthetized stuff, whatever... If it's cold enough and if it's dark enough, and if it's real enough, black metal feeling is supposed to suit through material, so we did."

- Fenriz


On a side note, it is always nice to see a musician who is more interested in how well the final product turns out, rather than how well his own intrument is represented.  It's rare and Fenriz is one of the few.

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On a side note, it is always nice to see a musician who is more interested in how well the final product turns out, rather than how well his own intrument is represented.  It's rare and Fenriz is one of the few.


Maybe it's just because he sucks and lacks imaginative drum patterns.
Because I am more intelligent than you are.

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Maybe it's just because he sucks and lacks imaginative drum patterns.


The drumwork on Soulside Journey would beg to differ, although that isn't really Black Metal.

I am not satisfied with Fenriz's answer of drumming just, "being there". All instruments have a reason, or should have a reason, for being there.

Let's keep in mind that the above quote regarding Fenriz in this thread is from only a few years back, and not when he and his band were creating their great albums.

Maybe all that partying and getting drunk finally killed all of his brain cells.