Black Metal-Abhorrent or ART? by: Mikyla Bethune
Over the years the name Black Metal has been given an infamous reputation. This could be attributed to the countless news articles, murder cases, and court trials that have sprung from this rather niche and underground scene. However, is the Black Metal aesthetic truly as murderous and abhorrent as it is made out to be? Is the fear unfounded or is it completely legitimate? Finally, is this underground scene more akin to a cult rather than a music scene.
Black metal originated in Norway and Sweden in the late 1980s. Its influences could be traced back to the early 70s with bands such as the Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, and even Alice Cooper. However, Black Metal’s biggest influences would have to be the american thrash metal bands that sprouted in the early eighties. Bands such as Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth could be seen as the most prominent inspiration on this genre of music.
This music scene truly flourished when they believed that the thrash metal scene became too mainstream and oversaturated. This has led to the movement becoming rather segregated and gated off from others because of the phobia of becoming mainstream. However, its main stylistic influences were derived from paganism and satanism. This led to the biggest bands to come out of this genre to adopt goth clothes, wear makeup, or what they would label corpse paint, and have rather depressing thematic undertones about death, the occult, and other topics that could be considered to be very dubious and dark in nature. Trouble truly began to arise in this movement around the early 1990s when church burning and murders began to be to become a frequent occurrence.
These weren’t just isolated attacks carried out by fans, but by recognizable band members such as Varg Vikernes of Burzum and Mayhem along with Euronymous of Mayhem participated in these crimes.
Moreover, this subculture’s obsession with death really came into tuition when Per Yngve Ohlin, better known as Dead, committed suicide on April 8, 1991. Throughout his adult life he was described by others as being overly obsessed with his own death to the point where he would bury his clothing underground for several days to smell like those of a corpse and would keep deceased animals under his bed to give his room the aroma of death. His suicide, however, left ripples within the Black Metal industry. This was due to when his body was finally discovered by his bandmate, Euronymous, he took a picture of the scene and made it into the cover of the band’s latest album, Dawn of the Black Hearts, and several pieces of his skull were turned into necklaces for him and his friends.
The stereotype and fear of the metal movement in general for the most part stemmed from this small and relatively unknown subgenre. However, what really forced the Black Metal scene into the spotlight would have to be the murder case revolving around Varg Vikernes and Euronymous. Vikernes was charged with killing Euronymous by stabbing him multiple times. He was also charged with arson, due to burning down several churches within the Norway. This has led to the notoriety of Black Metal with claims of it being a cover-up for a Satanic-Cult or just an excuse for promoting adolescent violence within the youth in Scandinavia. Other murders, arsons, and other crimes would also occur around this time perpetuated and carried out by fans of the Black Metal scene, however, none of them would ever gain as much attention and notoriety as this one.
At the height of the genre’s infamy many accused it of being a cover-up for a satanic murderous cult. This can be attributed to the multitude of members and affiliates within this movement being associated with violent or heinous crimes, several interviews with said members who proclaim that it is a cult, and even many mentioning that the groups hide-out and meeting place resides in a small record shop known as Helvete. However, can this really be accepted at face value? Many members of black metal bands say otherwise. Many affirm that this subculture is akin to any other music scene such as punk, thrash metal, and death metal. They also attribute all the constant media coverage to the glamorization of their “bad seeds” while asserting that all genres have their faults within them as well. Finally, many claim that this fanatic movement is actually severely unorganized, and that many of the acts are carried out on the person’s own accord. They claim no affiliation to them.
Black Metal is merely a victim of its own doing . Black Metal’s public portrayal suffers from its own hand. Its public perception leads to many to see it as a fearful unknown satanic entity instead of what it truly is, a music movement simply meant to define itself among others. Its rocky start with the public simply snowballed into a colossal avalanche that couldn’t be stopped, and an entire genre has suffered because of it.