Black metal is an extreme subgenre in the realms of Heavy Metal. This extreme subgenre showcases varied musical aspects that include shriek/growl vocals, extreme tempo changes, heavily distorted guitars, blast beats and jaw dropping song structure. This article brings to life an in-depth perspective on the best black metal bands.
Black metal has gone onto become the most popular extreme subgenre of Heavy metal in recent years. Every country has its share of black metal fans. The aggressive style and fast tempos in this music genre has opened new pathways for music. A subculture that has gained significant ground over the years, black metal is known for its unconventional brutal sound encompassed with melodic elements.
History and Roots of Black Metal
The roots of black metal took shape in the 80s when a number of thrash metal bands and death metal bands started experimenting with new sounds leading to the first wave of black metal. The prototype sound back in the 80s was an amalgamation of speed riffs combined with odd time signatures in the context of thrash metal and death metal. The sound evolved in the late 80s with bands adding textural dimension and sophistication to song structure.
Bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom, Hellhammer and Mercyful Fate are considered as the torch bearers of the first wave of early black metal.
Through the 90s a second wave of black metal mesmerized audiences globally. The Norwegian black metal scene came into its own with bands like Emperor, Mayhem, Immortal, Burzum and Darkthrone leading the way. Many bands in Europe and US came into existence inspired by the Norwegian black metal scene. Through the mid 90s many Scandinavian bands emerged bringing in a fresh new sound which became an integral part of the second wave of black metal. The epic black metal sound in the 90s has lead to emergence of subcultures/subgenres inspired by this extreme genre. Since the early 90s various offshoots of black metal such as Pagan Metal, Viking Metal, Symphonic Metal, Blackened Death Metal have sprung forth to a tremendous reception among extreme metal audiences.
While ideologies and thematic interpretations associated with black metal have been criticized in mainstream culture, there is no denying black metal has the biggest cult following globally. Misanthropic views expressing anti- Christian sentiments and promoting various forms of Satanism through songs has earned black metal quite a reputation in varied circles, and the movement has spawned a movement in the black metal genre. Regardless of the whiplash black metal has received from mainstream circles, this non-mainstream genre has gotten bigger over the years.
Instrumentation and Music in Black Metal
While screaming, shrieking, snarling, and high pitched vocals form an integral part of traditional black metal, the sound has evolved. In recent times the death growl has gained prominence among vocalists in black metal bands. The heavily distorted treble guitar sound which encompasses un-muted tremolo picking forms the core impetus of song structure. Dissonance in scale patterns and intervals are used to create an atmospheric sense of gloom and dread. Alternative tunings are seldom used by guitarists in black metal bands, and largely guitar solos are in context to song structure. The bass guitar in black metal soundscapes is used heavily in obscure atmospheric melodies in stand-alone passages. Fast double bass drumming or a combination of blast beats are used in accordance with song structure.
Attire and Imagery in Black Metal
Black metal attire has had fashion aficionados taking notice. A number of black metal artists/bands appear in black during their live performances. Accessories such as bullet belts, spiked wristbands, combat boots, inverted crosses, and pentagrams are popular with band members. Many black metal bands express their anti religious or anti Christian sentiments through ritualistic stage performances or through music videos that include mock crucifixions, impaled heads, and depiction of sexual perversion. An important feature of black metal attire during live performance is the use of corpse paint. Face paint, fake blood or real blood is used by members to create a diabolic and demonic corpse-like appearance. Imagery and artwork depicted on album covers and inlays of CDs is often dark or pale black creating a gloomy atmosphere.
Black metal has grown from strength to strength since the 90s. Many new black metal bands post 2000 are bringing in varied influences to their style of music. The first wave of black metal that emerged in the 80s did lay the foundation for the future. The second wave of black metal that came into being through the Norwegian metal scene propelled black metal to another level. Scandinavian black metal bands have played a major role in getting the genre gain momentum in Europe and US. The new breed of black metal bands has incorporated melodic aspects in the brutal aggression aesthetically.
Post 2000 unbalck metal bands started emerging promoting and advocating Christianity through lyrics and imagery. While Christian Black metal has been accepted in the realms of the black metal sound, many black metal bands consider the ‘Christian Black Metal Scene’ as oxymoron. While perspectives may differ, one thing’s for sure… Black metal will only get bigger and remain the purest form of nonmainstream forever. Keep the flag waving! Black Metal is here to stay. Expression has always found freedom in music and it always will. Live free! Keep Rocking! Spread Metal!
The list below is an epic showcase of the best black metal bands. This list is not an attempt at ranking bands, but rather an attempt at celebrating the passion of black metal.
100 Greatest Black Metal Bands
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