The relationship between black metal, ambient and neoclassical music

by Jon Wild
April 7, 2013 –

nordic_dark_ambient_neoclassical_black_metalIn the mainstream press, black metal has a reputation for being solely misanthropic, heavily distorted anthems of aggression and despair that are defined by their primitive minimalism.

While this may hold true for the majority of contemporary bands, this view overlooks the foundational bands of the genre, who possessed a deft sense of melody and the focus to create longer compositions that allowed for more introspection.

Just as black metal musicians created a more minimalistic form of death metal, some were able to apply the same approach to the ambient and neoclassical genres, crafting tracks that through the use of repetition, stirring melodies, and tonal variation reveal the genre’s primal elegance without need of layers of distortion.

Given the news that Neptune Towers is being released on vinyl and Burzum is releasing an album comprised entirely of electronic music, now seems a fitting time to investigate this interesting subgenre and how it arose from black metal in several instances.

Burzum

Favoring simple but expansive compositions, contemplative melodies soar over mild arpeggios; in addition to a few tracks of industrial nihilistic deconstruction. Through the utilization of modern technology, Burzum makes narrative and meditative music that like its inspiration Tolkien, takes the participant on an internal journey to another realm.

Neptune Towers

A side project of Darkthrone‘s Fenriz, in Neptune Towers haunting melodies glide over dark drones while otherworldly noises color the backdrop. Evocative tracks signal the coming to Earth of a yet-unknown alien species or perhaps the future evolution of humanity, the soundtrack to the future.

Beherit

This band fuses its earlier black metal style with the industrial, pop, and ambient genres, featuring melodies that would not be out of place on a metal album, but pairs them with repetitive trance-like drums, synths, and found sounds that coalesce into epic moments before fading away like the rays of a burned out sun. Fans of multiple genres should appreciate this one.

Ildjarn

Elegant and skillfully composed tracks celebrating the beauty of nature in their simplicity reveal a greater depth of expression than would be possible with over-produced tracks. Just as he did with black metal, Ildjarn with compatriot Nidhogg reduces neoclassical music to its most basic form and builds from it an enchanting structure.

Lord Wind

A side project of Graveland, with Lord Wind martial drumming and heroic melodies bring to mind the battles of old, while synths and choruses expand the project’s horizons, providing reach to contrast with the grounded and earthy rhythms. Well-crafted neoclassic folk music, this is the further continuation of Graveland‘s second stage.

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7 comments

  • bitterman

    Proof you don’t need to play the same genre to make great music. Neptune Towers > Darkthrone’s the Moonfog years. Remember, a lot of these artists chose not to play live. Too many Fear Factory/Pantera kids in the scene perhaps, cluelessly ruining it for everyone. No wonder they made albums outside Kerrang/Terrorizer/Metal Maniacs ad partners and readers interests…

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  • bitterman

    Metal albums and shirts as lifestyle accessory products is holding you back. Burzum clothes after prison = normal clothes. Fenriz in mid-90′s (on select promo pics) = normal clothes. Old Emperor promo rip offs that can appeal to goth kids = Cradle of Filths. Drunk and Lazy = Fenri$ now. Watch out when wearing a Slayer shirt. You might catch the attention of a Lamb of God/Gojira/Dethklok/etc. fan and end up having an unwanted conversation with someone who drove piercings through their face outside of a Supercuts. These artists removed themselves from the crowd, and rightfully so. Playing and looking the part now is unwittingly further destroying the music you love. Trust me, look at Darkthrone now – a pandering media product.

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  • Metal Command

    What’s holding metal back is that it’s trapped in the mainstream entertainment ghetto. As long as your business model is to please children who care nothing but for their own temporary entertainment, you’re dead to any higher functioning and thus as a musician, you’re going to get bored and pump out crap. Fenriz, Burzum, Lord Wind and Beherit showed a way to escape from the ghetto of entertainment for children.

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  • Syd

    These albums were a godsend to me as traditional metal started burning out mid 90s. Personally I know if I ever released an album it would have to be along these lines and would have to be at that same level quality-wise if not better. I practice keyboard all the time, but just can’t play in a traditial metal band.

    Hails to the new GOATCRAFT also!

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