The ability to spot flavor of the week(/weak) trends in metal is a key element of elitism and will save you a load of embarrassment further down the road. Both death metal and black metal have seen their share of torrid but temporary trends in the form of herd pleasing bastardizations that quickly spike in popularity and then evaporate from relevancy as their fans move on to something even worse (usually after a period of denial and/or clinging to a safe intermediary genre). Crowdism is for losers but it’s heavily pushed in the metal scene and thus one must stay sharp to avoid it’s pitfalls.
Therefore in the interest of providing you, the reader, with the knowledge of how to identify and properly dismantle future flavor of the week trends as they appear, this two part series SMR series will focus on a trend, a selected album from that defines it’s failings, and the worst offenders for each of these forgettable movements. This week, we will focus on black metal’s most embarrassing waves of herd-fandom and sadistically dissect their unfortunate rise and much needed fall.
Cradle of Filth- Dusk and her Embrace (1996)
Trend: Gothic Black Metal (1996-2003)
Other Infamous Offenders: Dimmu Borgir, …And Oceans, Theatre Des Vampyres
The early works of Emperor and Arcturus proved that the keyboard could be a useful tool in crafting sinister black metal soundscapes. The addition of strings choirs gave an epic, cinematic contrast to the oft dissonant guitar playing that defined the genre since its schism. What was used as an accent to songs by Celtic Frost’s “Necromantical Screams” and Bathory’s “Woman of Dark Desires” worked successfully when utilized as a main instrument that played through much of the songs.
But around this time, a strange cultural development was at hand- the 90’s goth. While the 80’s goth scene was restricted mostly to wealthy children of city elites, a new wave of white trash citizens began donning the dracula-dressup like capes, all black clothes and dark makeup. Somewhat of an offshot from the Korn/Nu Metal “I’m just a freak, rawr!” types began drawn to the aesthetics of black metal corpse paint. The utter rejection of social (and especially religious) institution that was in black metal culture and aesthetics was in paraell to their desperation for a community that wouldn’t beat the shit out of them in gym class. Thus, many began infiltrated the knit-tight scene of black metal. And thanks to Mayhem’s legendary vocalist Dead, gothic romantacizm found it’s way into black metal since its earliest days.
Suddenly, black metal bands started realizing they could get girls to come to their shows by adding pornographic vampire imagry, gothic love songs, and Darkwave influences into their music. And unfortunately, this wave of shopping mall metalheads- led by Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and …And Oceans started seeing themselves labeld as “black metal.” But while some tremolo picking and screechy vocals was involved the music itself was actually a bizarre form of gothic metal instead.
Cradle of Filth’s utter bastardization of music found in their 1996 work Dusk… and Her Embrace was the most clear cut example of this. With minor scale doom metal coupled with atmospheric keyboards and the odd thrash metal riff here and there, the album presented a sonic version of Tim Burton style horror that was completely void of the aggression and utter defiance of black metal. Singing love songs coupled with the vocals/spoken word of the fattest woman in metal history, Cradle of Filth’s circus-attraction music was so offensive to fans of the metal community that they unanimously cheered when a crazed Cincinati concertgoer stabbed a bunch of their horribly smelling fans at one of their shows. Because of this group of bands, keyboards became taboo in actual black metal and remain so to this day.
The Kovenant – Animatronic
Trend: Industrial Black Metal (1999-2005)
Other Infamous Offenders: Thorns, Samael, Blut Aus Nord
When black metal in Europe went from micro culture obscurity to commercial cash cow, many of it’s early musicians started getting offered money they had never seen before to make whatever garbage the record labels thought would sell. They started partying a vampire themed goth clubs like they ones they saw in Blade and Queen of the Damned and actually got laid for the first time since they were at a place where their black eyeliner and female looking bodies were actually desired. In a rediculous binge of drugs and sex with transexuals, they started making music that reflected their newfound lifestyle and circle of friends.
Taking the few black metal techniques from their past and burying them under layers of club synths and high pitched new wave vocals, The Kovenant tried to mix black metal with the financially successful wave of industrial nu-metal found in the likes of Orgy and Nine Inch Nails. With virtually one drum beat throughout the whole album, bass that is probably not played on bass, and the most embarassing lyrics and aesthetics ever conceived, the band managed to do more for transgender rights than black metal innovation with this album. The touches of industrial hit almost every early European black metal band ranging from Gorgoroth (on Incipit Satan) to Emperor (on Prometheus- the Dicipline of Fire and Demise) but fortunately few had stapled a whole sound on it.
In any case, an immediate indicator of a false could be found with anyone who took in Samael after they limped their way back to black metal with their tail between their legs in 2011.
I’m in a Coffin – One Last Final Aaction
Trend: Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (2004-2008)
Other Imfamous Offenders: Nocturnal Depression, Shining, Happy Days
In the 2000’s a new attitude was conceived in black metal: instead of attacking the world, the blade turned inward and black metal bands began attacking themselves. In an ultimate rejection of life and society, bands began singing of suicide, sorrow, and self mutilation. And some good albums initially came about, either in theme (Abyssic Hate’s Depression and Strid’s End of life) style (Burzum’s Filosofem and Antestor’s Return of the Black Death) or both (Mutiilation’s Vampires of Black Imperial Blood and Sortsind’s Sår).
But around 2004, a number of emo-dropouts were in pursuit of music that was similarly wimpy and self destructive in theme but heavier in sound. Many of them started abusing cough medicine and other pharmaceutical products and began making what became known as DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal) in their bedrooms. With the now-doomed social network MySpace bringing teenagers around the world a more effective means of creating low-fidelity music and pretending they are actual musicians, the culture of one man “bedroom black metal” and “Depressive Suicidal Black Metal” grew hand in hand. And in short, the genre became the goofiest parody of black metal we have ever seen.
I’m in a Coffin’s laughable One Last Final Action describes this movement better than any words on this page can. Full of comical song titles and lyrics, the classic black and white cover art with the noose, and the most cringe-worthy vocals that the human voice can possibly achieve, this slow metallic emo rock is as depressing in existence as it is in theme. Unfortunately, the double negative in the album’s title did not stop this band from making more music. But thankfully, the goofy suicide metal trend offed itself within a few years and the musicians went on to create post black metal.
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Trend: Hipster/Post Black Metal (2010-2018)
Other Infamous Offenders: Liturgy, Altar of Plagues, Ghost Bath
We’ve already executed Post Black metal in a recent pair of articles and there is no need to beat that dead horse again.
Black Witchery – Inferno of Sacred Destruction
Trend: War Metal (Fleeting periods between 2000 and 2018)
Worst Offenders: Every war metal band since Beherit
War metal is always the fallback flavor of the week black metal trend whenever we’re in between flavor of the week black metal trends. The music genre closest related to nu metals, war metal is the lowest IQ form of metal and often is listened to by the dumbest fans in the history of metal. With no band able to muster more than 25 minutes on a full length and entire albums consisting of only power chords, nu metal rarely features notes outside of a one-octave registrar. The only case in exception is the random assignment of notes in it’s out of key “guitar solos.”
Like it’s nearest ancestor in nu metal, every war metal album is dumber and more simplified than the one before it, so by the time Black Witchery came around with Inferno of Sacred Destruction there was already no life, interest, or reason to listen to this music. Nothing new is offered, the lyrics are nonsense, the solos are nonsense, and it’s nearly impossible to remember any of the riffs even after 2 or 3 listens. With no memorable music, no meaning to the lyrics, and no reason to take out 24 minutes out of your life (which become a long 24 minutes when listening to this), it becomes clear that this album only exists so the band can sell more merch. It’s nothing more than salesmanship made by drunk and drugged low IQ retards. Not music, not evil, not anything more than 24 minutes of noise the band and label could use to con the mentally deficient into making a couple of quick sales.
Other trends too stupid to explain:
- Psychadelic black metal (Nachtmystium)
- Cascadian black metal (Wolves in the Throne Room)
- Inverted Triangle black metal (Watain)