Post Melodic Black Metal
Ah, the infamous, the blasphemous, the controversial and yet, always on the agenda: Black Metal. Since its second wave was dominated by the Scandinavian and Nordic scene in the 90s, the metal scene has never been the same.
The style ended up creating followers and a KVLT status for a long time, whether due to the ideologies or the music itself.
But in recent years (especially in this last decade in particular), Black Metal is becoming a recognized branch of what we can call “pop culture”. From mentions in clips of more mainstream singers and musicians, designers holding fashion shows using the aesthetics of the genre, in addition to gifs of Varg Vikernes smiling in his judgment being one of the most shared and memetized contents on Tumblr,
In this wave of popularity, a crop of bands emerged that were a little softer in their sound but present elements of the style and are bringing them into areas that are not very accepted. Like Deafheaven, the new favourite punching bag of the metal scene on online forums and social networks. In addition to bands like Liturgy with their Black Metal/prog/avant-garde, which, despite its frontman’s curious sound and bizarre manifestos, has been mocked more for its non-KVLT aesthetic.
However, we are not here to talk about popularization but about something else, what I like to call “postization”.
Do you know when a genre took its turn towards commercial success and got its makeover for the masses? There is always that crop of musicians from the scene who continue to make this music at its roots or try to redefine the possibilities by mixing other musical elements; “postization” refers to the second path.
In the same way that Rock Punk was a reaction to Rock Flower Power, Black metal made this same response in the 90s, reacting against the super-produced and technical Death/Thrash that was going on at that time, the pasteurization and mass emergence of bands playing with this same predictable structure. Not to mention that both Black metallers and Punks challenged the musical concepts of the time; while some played chords, others wanted to break this “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge/solo” music structure, investing in a more atmospheric and dissonant sound.
Then, in the growth of the second wave, where bands like Mayhem and Burzum created their name and then disappeared or were drowned by their controversies, the mainstream media invested absurdly in the genre’s blasphemous imagery. The creation and commercialization of bands like Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, Kovenant and others made the blasphemy of Black Metal a more pompous, accessible sound that would attract new young people who wanted rebellion, transgression and horror in their music. However, it was a more aesthetic and superficial rebellion.
In the midst of this “arena rock” appeal, other bands and scenes expanded, such as Finland and Sweden with their typical sounds (Horna, Behexen, Marduk, Watain, Dissection, etc.), France presented the isolated scene of Les Legions Noires, in addition to Deathspell Omega with its dissonant sound, Blut Aus Nord with all its atmosphere and different ambiences, increasingly explored this direction.
More established bands like Ulver and Beherit bet on experimental phases that initially shocked fans, as it wasn’t what they expected and didn’t fit into specific commercial standards. Entering this limbo of mixed reactions, but over time creating their respective cult audiences (or rather, “KVLT”)
While part of North America had the peak of Ross Bay Cult with its “war metal” (a mixture of Death and Black metal that was extremely brutal, chaotic and destructive), or bands like Krieg, Judas Iscariot and others that already had a more raw sound and certain peculiarities, in the middle of these groups two very curious bands emerged: Xasthur and Leviathan.
Both demonstrated this extremely dark Black Metal but with different elements. Be it the use of more melodic lines and a stronger concern with creating a sound atmosphere than with a raw and fast sound. Expanding the sounds and textures of black metal, like post-punk did in its embryonic phase.
With this and their extremely intimate and negative lyrics, Xasthur strongly influenced what we know today as DSBM (depressive suicidal Black Metal). Meanwhile, other bands mixed other styles, such as Agalloch and their Black Metal, with Folk, Doom and even progressive.
In Canadian lands, the crust group Black Kronstadt already made a mixture of elements from the dark side of Metal with this extremely politicized hardcore and punk, which, at the end of this group, formed a new band called Iskra, known as one of the pioneering groups of RABM aspect and the entire black crust scene that they would influence.
In the 2000s, the fruits influenced by all these movements began to emerge: A whole scene of more ethereal and ambient black metal in these immense and reverberated productions, with elements of folk and more ecological themes from groups such as Wolves In The Throne Room, Panopticon, Saor.
On the “dark” side, we have Twilight and Nachtmystium, along with Krieg joining this new movement, in addition to the emergence of bands like Woe and Cobalt. Embracing experimentalism and using themes such as depression, insanity, anguish and other discontents of contemporary human beings.
With all this evolution, around 2009, the documentary Until The Light Takes Us came out, which, with its romanticization of the Norwegian scene, focuses on controversies and a handful of images worthy of gifs and perfect soundtracks for the Tumblr of your anguished nephew of the generation Y. In the meantime, when interest in the genre resurfaced in teen culture, another scene took place that gave rise to what we mockingly call “Hipster black metal”.
A crop of European bands, formed by groups such as Amesoeurs and Alcest, demonstrated this more Melodic Black Metal, influenced by genres such as post-punk and shoegaze. Creating what some call “post-black metal” (consolidating the posterization of the genre in a verbal form, as we saw above), in the scene most influenced by DSBM, Lantlôs and Heretoir began to identify these new sounds and incorporate them into their music. With the growth of this new wave of bands in parallel with the success of Black Metal and all its aesthetics and culture in the interest of modern teenagers, identification with teenage angst is inevitable. It’s a matter of being at the right time and in the right place, combined with the speed of information circulating on the internet.
Não podemos nos esquecer do lado mais esotéric e avant garde. Que na última década rendeu nomes como Batushka, Cult Of Fire, Death Karma, Downfall Of Nur e por aí vai. Que fazem essa música extremamente mística, conceitual e épica em suas execuções, com elementos que variam de doom, death, arranjos e composições épicas e até detalhes de world music. Vindos com essa cultura de membros anônimos, forte apelo estético com grande influência em cultos e religiões oprimidas ou ocultadas pelo senso comum.
We cannot forget the more esoteric and avant-garde side. Which in the last decade has yielded names like Batushka, Cult Of Fire, Death Karma, Downfall Of Nur and so on. They make this music extremely mystical, conceptual and epic in its execution, with elements that vary from Doom and Death, epic arrangements and compositions and even world music details. With this culture of anonymous members, strong aesthetic appeal with great influence on cults and religions oppressed or hidden by common sense.
In addition to this movement on the old continent, we also have variants of post-black metal on the American continent. Whether by North American bands like A Pregnant Light, Deafheaven, Airs or even Brazilian bands like Shyy, in addition to elements of shoegaze and post-punk, much of post-hardcore and even screamo has been experimented with by the most current bands of this school of post-black metal. With some bands even joining the dream pop school, creating a song is just a seasoning and no longer the song’s highlight.
In addition to the current case of Myrkur, a black metal project by Danish pop singer Amalie Bruun, whose involvement with mainstream culture bothered many of her more “puritanical” fans, who sent letters with death threats to the artist.
In this media growth and the emergence of a “post” movement that seeks to expand the horizons of the genre, obviously, the negative response to all this innovation and possible maturation is seen with bad eyes. But here comes the curious part of everything: Remember when I talked about Until The Light Takes Us? So, at the time the film came out, I already had a brief knowledge of black metal and other documentaries of the genre (like Satan Rides The Media, for example). When it emerged, there was a notable growth in the teenage and pre-teen audience; some embraced the genre in a more aesthetic and funky way, while others focused on black metal as a “personification of evil”
In other words, many of these became “puritans” of the genre, with very minimal knowledge of the style. Several quotes from Euronymous and Varg, who forget the origin and “punk” influences of Mayhem that Necrobutcher himself states in Once Upon A Time In Norway, or the past “death metal” of Vikernes in Old Funeral, not to mention De Mysteriis having more singing vocals than guttural ones. Even Darkthrone has now become a unique and mixed version of all the solo projects of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, who are very fond of punk and power/heavy metal.
Bathory’s followers focus on the Viking phase because of “trees, traditionalism, Mjolnir, hatred of the modern world”. However, they ignore that even the all-powerful Quorthon had his solo career full of folk and cheesy grunge.
Which is funny because at the end of the day, many of these are the ones who reject artists like Myrkur, Deafheaven, Alcest and the general post scene. Even though they didn’t know that older groups on the US scene like Krieg, adopted these new facets and experimentalisms, maturing the genre in quite unimaginable ways. Then I ask myself: Where are they to set fire to the experimental phase of Ulver? Or what about the glamorization of bands like Behemoth and Watain? That they are getting closer and closer to appearing to win an Oscar instead of a Grammy with pretentious film productions, even where are the haters and inquisitors to take care of jokes like Semargl’s satanic pop metal?
And if we look closely, the coldest and most primitive culture of Black metal has always been about isolation and individualism. Do you think that someone who connects with the nihilistic culture of black metal will come out of their cave or individualistic universe to send hateful messages to a pop musician who made a video mocking the style? Of course not; they have better things to spend their energy on.
Whether or not the genre is mainstream and growing in popularity doesn’t matter to them; they want to create dark and disturbing music. Whether it will borrow elements from other genres? Fuck it, they will try to see the ritualistic projects of Attila Csihar, the new sound orientations of Shining, the creation of super groups like Twilight or the maturation of Krieg.
Several artists’ repulsion with the /kvlt trends has always been visible, like Impaled Nazarene and their refusal to use corpse paint, Kvaforth’s many tired comments towards childish fans, or even Xasthur in which his only member lived lost in sunny California and created extremely depressive, technical and melodic folk music.
The expansion of “Post Black Metal”, its experimentalism and the fruits of this growth and maturation refreshed the genre, presenting a prolific movement in recent decades. I would even say that we are living in a fourth wave (considering the USBM scene as the third wave) of the style, which has already yielded a very varied and interesting crop of artists and older bands reinventing themselves and establishing themselves in this new millennium. This growth and desire to expand and recreate is inevitable in the world of art, and before all the war and ideology, black metal never stopped being that: Art.